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How to Write a B2B Case Study: 4 Steps

B2B case studies are powerful marketing tools. But the process of creating them can be quite challenging. In this post, we break down the four steps you should follow to create a great B2B case study.

B2B case studies – also known as client success stories – are one of the best types of marketing content you can use to market your business. They add credibility to your solution, demonstrate ROI and provide significant lead generation, PR and paid media value.

But to enjoy all of those benefits, you’ll need to create one. What makes case studies unique is that actually writing them is easy. It’s all of the other work that goes into them – interviews, approvals, design – that can make them a challenge to produce. Without a clear plan to get the case study written and approved, you could spend months trapped in the editing stage.

Here are the steps you should follow to keep your case study on track.

Steps for Writing a B2B Case Study

  • Step 1: Conduct Interviews
  • Step 2: Structure Your Story
  • Step 3: Add Titles, Headlines & Quotes
  • Step 4: Get Approval & Post!

Step 1: Conduct Interviews

Unlike blog posts, case studies aren’t something you can independently research. They’re real-life stories about businesses, so the only way to write one is to hear from the people involved. Most of the time, that involves conducting interviews.

In a perfect world, you’d schedule two interviews, one with a subject matter expert at your company and another with the client. That’s not always possible, though. Sometimes you’ll only get one interview, or none at all. It’s possible to make it work without following the usual steps. But one thing to be mindful of is that the fewer interviews you conduct, the more likely you are to not have enough information to write a good case study.

During the interviews, your objective is to gather all of the information you need to write the case study. This involves asking a ton of questions.

Here are the questions I usually ask:

Questions for Interviewing an Internal SME

  • How did they find you?
  • How long have you been working with them?
  • What were they looking for when they reached out to you?
  • Who were the people involved in the project?
  • What were the solutions or services you ended up providing?
  • What’s changed since they brought you on?
  • Are there any immeasurable or feedback the client has shared with you, like what they’ve said about the experience?
  • Why did you choose them for a case study?
  • Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you think is important to cover?

Questions for Interviewing a Client

  • Give me a brief introduction to yourself; what do you do and how do you do it?
  • What challenges drove you to look for a solution? Paint me a picture of what your process looked like before.
  • What was the effect of these challenges on your business?
  • What, specifically, were you looking for in a solution?
  • What have been the visible impacts on business as a whole?
  • Is there anything I didn’t ask about that you think is important to cover?

Be sure to clarify the timeline. You’ll eventually need to know the order things happened in for the case study to make sense.

Lastly, you’ll need to figure out if you can name the client in the case study. Often a team member who has a relationship with the client will take care of this, but it’s always a good idea to double check.

You should always try to name the client. It makes the story much more tangible and impactful. And if they’re well known in your industry, it will drive interest in the content you end up creating.

Naming the client isn’t always possible. Sometimes red tape and non-disclosure agreements get in the way. In this case, you’ll need to do a “blind case study,” without naming the subject.

Step 2: Structure Your Story

Once you have all the information, you’ll need to figure out how to tell the story.

The best case studies are compelling short stories that show your client overcoming a problem and transforming their business. The client is the hero of the story, and you are the tool they use to overcome their challenges. This gives prospects a way to imagine how your solution might solve their problem.

To get people to start and keep reading, you’ll need to create a tightly defined story structure. And the best structure is one that’s been tried and proven thousands of times.

The three-act structure is a timeless storytelling model that designs a story into a familiar and easily digestible format. It’s simple, consisting of a beginning, middle and end. Ninety-nine percent of movies made in the last 120 years have followed this structure, so it’s easy to write and easy to read.

Here’s how to structure a case study into three acts.

Act 1: Setup

The first act of your case study will introduce the key characters and the central conflict of the story. You should explain the basic concepts someone will need to know to understand the rest of the story:

  • What’s the name of subject?
  • What industry are they in?
  • What products or services do they sell?
  • What problem were they running into?
  • What was the financial impact of that problem?
  • Who decided to address this problem?

Answering these questions is fairly straightforward. The real challenge is knowing where to start the story. Where does Act 1 begin?

It’s common to start the first act at the very beginning, covering the client’s backstory. Hollywood has a word for that: exposition. And exposition is boring.

The best stories start at the most interesting part and deal with the backstory later. The technical term for this is the inciting incident, which sets the story in motion.

Think about it. Raiders of the Lost Ark starts with Indiana Jones exploring an ancient, deadly temple in Peru. Only after he’s escaped certain death do we learn he’s an archaeologist.

(Obligatory Raiders GIF:)

When writing a B2B case study, don’t start the story when the problem first happens. Start the story when the problem has drained the client’s bank accounts and pressure that couldn’t be higher. That’s an introduction.

Once you’ve established the problem and supporting information, you’ll need to transition into the next act. An effective way to do that is to show your client making a decision to address the problem.

If the first act starts with your client in need of a solution, it should end with them resolving to find one.

Act 2: Confrontation

The second act should start by showing your client confronting their problem by searching for a solution. Then you’ll describe how they found your company and the solution you ended up providing.

Without getting too technical, break down the product or service you provided into parts, explaining how each component solved your client’s problem.

I find this section to be the easiest to write. Just describe your company and how you helped the client.

Act 3: Resolution

The third act is where you wrap up the story. There are four narrative components you’ll need to cover in this section.

First, explain the final events of the story. When did they finish implementing your story? What did rollout look like? What work still needs to be done?

Second, introduce the quantitative results of the solution. Ideally, you’d provide return on investment (ROI) on the solution you provided. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to provide other data to suggest an ROI. Time, labor, liability and financial savings all accomplish this.

Third, share qualitative results. How did working with you impact intangible outcomes, like morale and customer satisfaction? For example, if you sell labor automation technology, you could highlight how much more time your client has to focus on mission-critical tasks.

Finally, you should end with a closing paragraph that gives a tone of finality to the section. Relate this story to the problems the industry is facing, and what this means for the future.

Step 3: Add Titles, Headlines & Quotes

Now that you’ve written a first draft of the story, you’ll need to add in the structural elements that make it look like a case study.

Writing a Title

A strong title is one of the most influential factors in whether someone actually reads your B2B case study. As such, a great title will create interest while providing an overview of the story that follows.

Writing titles is an art in and of itself, but here are two basic templates that you can use as a starting point:

  • How {Client Name} {Past Tense of Verb} With {Your Company Name}
  • How {Client Name} {Past Tense of Action Verb} With {Solution You Provided}

Here’s an example of what that looks like filled in:

  •  How ABC Company Improved Their Net Operating Income With XYZ Company

A quick note: if you can’t name your client, you’ll need to be creative about how you refer to them in the title.

Headlines

When we structured the story of this case study, we used screenwriting terminology as the heading for each section. Now we’ll need to replace them with headlines that speak to the specific content in each section.

You have some flexibility here, but these headlines usually work for the three sections:

  • Challenge
  • Solution
  • Results

Client Quotes

After writing a case study, it’s best practice to add in quotes throughout the content that highlight important points. There are two ways of doing this.

  • Using quotes in paragraph form to have your client tell a portion of the story
  • Calling out quotes in the design to emphasize a theme or message

If possible, you should use a combination of these two methods to make your story even more dynamic and engaging.

Step 4: Get Approval & Post!

The case study approval process is lengthier and more complex than the review of other types of content. Because there are more parties involved and real stories being told, it’s natural that the process would take some time.

The approval process varies from case study to case study. However, most will follow some variation of these steps:

  • Internal review by another writer in your department
  • Review by a stakeholder at the company creating the case study
  • Review by the client that’s the subject of the B2B case study

If you’re planning to have the case study designed into a PDF format, you should expect additional content edits to come up during the design process.

How to Write a B2B Case Study: Conclusion

Once you’ve secured approvals of the content, the writing of the case study is complete. But your work isn’t truly done. To maximize the value you get out of your case study, you’ll want to do the following:

  • Design a downloadable PDF of the case study
  • Provide support on any content edits that come up during design
  • Upload the content to your website and include a link to download the PDF
  • Share the content through social media and email marketing
  • Use the case study to generate leads through relevant channels, like digital campaigns, ABM mailers and paid media programs

If you’ve put in the work to create an awesome case study, the value you can generate during this stage is significant. Millions of dollars of leads and brand exposure are within reach.

Because when you create a case study that adds story and humanity to your business solution, the number of people you can reach is limitless.

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