Updated December 2023

Year after year, content marketing surveys and other research show that case studies are popular and effective content marketing tools. To write case studies that get results you need a solid framework and focused information. Here's how.

Don't want to do it yourself? We can help! Click here to see a case study we created.

Case study writing tips

1. Create the contextual framework

Of course we're creating case studies to show our product or service in action. But the most effective cases are focused on the sweet spot where organizational goals and audience needs meet. That's why I recommend a quick brief using the People-Information-Goals Strategy™ to focus on the content that serves the audience and the client. Here's what it looks like:

Download your own PIG at bit.ly/PIGworksheet

People: We describe the audience in detail and list the top 5 or so questions, objections or concerns they have about the topic (based on research or background knowledge). We also determine a tone of voice that will resonate with them.

Information: Then we get to the ideas. What's the most important take-away we want the audience to retain after they read the case study? This is the main idea you want to convey. Then we create a few key details that support the main idea and address some/all of the questions, objections and concerns. This is a short list -- 5 max. Creating the key points with both our message (the main idea) and the audience's information needs increases relevance for the reader.

Goals: Finally, we quantify what we want the audience the think, feel and do after reading. This includes both the explicit call to action to click, call, whatever, along with perceptions and feelings we want to instill. We quickly revisit the voice and the key details to make sure the content leads to these results. If not, we quickly revise.

The process works because it covers all the big issues right up front before we invest time in researching and writing the case. And because we deliberately consider the audience and results in advance, the case study is far more likely to be on-target.

2. Plan out the case

With the context established, we can focus on the particular structure of the case or client story.

Format: Case studies follow a few well-established patterns: Problem-Solution, Misconception-Reality, Challenge-Results. Choose the one that best suits your topic and your audience. Then choose a formula. The traditional narrative formula's great, but you can also structure cases as Q&As (written, video or podcast) or infographics. Again, select a format that showcases your information most effectively. Bonus tip: Create a case study template for the pattern(s) you use most. 

Content: Remember case studies are real-life examples of results--how your product or service solved a problem, filled a need, etc.--so readers expect concrete details no matter what format you choose. Increase trustworthiness and authenticity with data points and direct quotes from customers, respected third-parties or independent subject-matter experts. Because people have different information requirements, use a mix of evidence (data), explanations and examples (the 3 E's). Learn more about using the 3 E's for content marketing.

Focus: As you research and write, refer to the PIG to make sure you're staying on track. We often use the key details as an outline of sorts to guide information-gathering and writing, and use the "do" to construct the conclusion and call to action. We often submit the PIG when we turn in the case study, to remind reviewers of the context in which we're writing.

Case study examples

Here are a couple of cases we've produced using this process:

Next time you're tasked with writing a case study, try this approach for faster production and more targeted results.

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