How long’s a good case study?

3rd November 2009 | Posted in Content creation

We’ve written probably hundreds of case studies, and by far the favourite style is the 2-sided A4 sheet, destined to be a handout or a download. We generally settle on a pretty standard format too: introduce the customer, explain their business/technical issues, describe the solution, and then focus on the benefits, now and into the future.

Occasionally we see case studies of 3-4 or even more pages, but you need a really committed potential customer to read that, even if it is all good stuff.

The ideal role for a 2-pager is an accompaniment to product/services information. One gives the detail of the solution, the other explains how it is used to great effect in real situations. Sales staff tend to love case studies, especially if you’ve got a good spread of stories to reflect the different interests of your customer base.

Increasingly we are seeing much shorter case studies being published on web sites. These are really the highlights of your story, perhaps with some highly pertinent quotes. The benefit of these shorter stories is that they are more accessible to browsing visitors with no need for downloads, you can mention a wider number of customers, and potentially they are easier to put together and gain permission to publish them.

A bit of forward planning suggests that when you talk to a customer about a potential case study, you sound them out for permission to undertake a short version for the web and a longer version if possible for downloading and hard copy, as well as use of quotes in other documents, and use of the story itself in articles for publication in magazines, and for press releases. That gives you plenty of options for making as much use of your investment in the interviewing and writing process as possible, as your writer can put together all the collateral at the same time.

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