Most of a bid is dedicated to projecting the future – how you will help your prospect if you’re chosen to work with them.
In contrast, a case study lets you base your argument on something more concrete – what you’ve proven you can do in the past. And few things establish your reputation more effectively than reliable, relevant information about your past actions. Think of a boxer being announced with the record of their previous matches. An introduction like ’38 wins, ten by knockout’ leaves a big impression in very little time.
But to make a case study as persuasive as possible, you can’t just describe what you did. You need to show off your organisation’s strengths and achievements in a way that will resonate with your prospect. This article will show you how.
How to begin writing a case study
The best way to get started is to get your research and planning done before you begin. It’ll make the writing process much more straightforward.
Getting relevant information about your previous client is key. If you’re not client facing yourself, it’s a good idea to talk to someone who is (eg someone in sales or account management).
Ask them why the previous client liked the work you did. If they liked it, there’s a good chance it will resonate with your new prospect, too (as long as you’ve picked a suitably similar organisation for your case study).
Your client-facing colleagues should also have access to the relevant facts and figures that illustrate the benefits of the work.
Basic information to include
Make sure to give your case study a specific title, such as ‘Training 100 people in technical writing at HP’. This immediately gives your readers an idea of what you’ve done before, even if they don’t go on to read the rest of the case study.
After the title, give basic information such as the name of the contract, whom it was for, what it delivered, its value and when you did the work. (You can set this out as a list.)
And if you’re using the case study as a reference – as some PQQs (pre-qualification questionnaires) require – then include some contact details for the previous client. (Obviously always ask permission of your previous client before you name them as a referee.)
Giving your case study a logical structure
There are lots of ways of structuring a case study. And, of course, if you’re writing to a short word count, or to a particular bid or tender template, you’ll have to adapt to that.
That said, a common and logical structure is to explain how you helped a client, step by step (if you’re a regular reader, you may notice this is similar to the best structure for executive summaries).
Begin with a short, factual background. Don’t put too much detail here. You just need to make sure your prospect understands the basics of what you were doing. Include information like whom you worked for, and what the contract was for.
Outlining the problems
Then you can talk about any particular challenges or problems that your previous client had. This is where you can really emphasise the similarities between your previous client and your current prospect.
With the problems sketched out, you’re well placed to talk about the actions you took to solve those problems.
Many case studies fall down at this point, because they become just a description of facts. But to make your case study stand out, you need to show what benefits your work had for your previous client.
Remember to spell out these benefits. Did your previous client become more efficient because of your work? If so, how much time did they save? Or were you able to make them more profitable? If so, how much more profitable and over what amount of time?
Which benefits you need to detail will depend on the sector and the kind of work you’re doing. But the main thing to keep in mind is that you do need to highlight the benefits of your work and provide good evidence to support them.
Finally, there are some other things you can include to make your case study really stand out. A good testimonial quote from your previous client can make your case study seem much more authentic (again, ask permission to use this). You can also consider using a particularly compelling graphic or image if it illustrates a key benefit of your work with your previous client.
Things to avoid
Try to avoid writing case studies at the last minute. It can take time to put all the relevant information together – and that may not be time you have when you’re actively writing to a deadline.
Be careful as well about putting in too much irrelevant detail (this is all too common). You’ve got to ask why your prospect would care about whatever it is you’re telling them. Do they really need to know when you first responded to the ITT or RFP? Or how many of your staff worked on part of the project?
When you have detail you’re sure will be relevant to your prospect, use it. Avoid being vague. Don’t write general statements like, ‘We dramatically improved conversion rate on PPC campaigns and boosted sales.’
Instead say, ‘We increased conversion rate on PPC campaigns by 50 per cent – while reducing the overall ad spend by 10 per cent. This resulted in over £10,000 in net profit for our client.’ (You may also want to highlight these key benefits by setting them out in bullet points.)
Showing your strengths
Above all, remember that the person reading the case study is trying to find evidence that you’re the best organisation for the job. Make it as easy as possible for them to do this.
If you keep the reader in mind throughout your writing, you’ll be much more likely to write a case study that resonates with them. And that could be the extra nudge you need to win them over.
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