Making your CASE

EVERYTHING YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES NEED TO WRITE COMPELLING, LEAD-GENERATING CASE STUDIES

JONATHAN KRANz



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MAKING YOUR CASE

Copyright © 2009 Jonathan Kranz

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/ by-nc-nd/3.0/us/or send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.



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MAKING YOUR CASE

CONTENTS

Why Case Studies ............................................ 04

Visit the Water Cooler Video: Why Case Studies? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 04

How to use this ebook . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 05

Can I get even more help writing case studies? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 05

Writing the Challenge ....................................... 06

Setting up the context, problem and stakes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 06

Advanced Challenge Tip: Find the Right Focus . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 07

Visit the Water Cooler Video: Facing your Fears . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 07

Writing the Solution ......................................... 08

Putting your products or services on stage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 08

Advanced Solution Tip: Turn Generic Phrases Into Target Points . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 09

Writing the Result ............................................ 10

Making the payoff . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

Advanced Result Tip: Push your People . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

Writing Headlines and Subheads for Case Studies ...... 12

An easy headline formula . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Writing successful subheads . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Advanced Subheads Tip: Sum Up Your Story . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

Frequently Asked Questions ................................ 14

What if I can’t get the client to collaborate? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Can my case study be longer than one page? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

How should I distribute my case study? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Advanced Web Distribution Tip: Stop Hiding Your Content . . . . . 15

Worksheets ................................................... 16

Section 1: The Challenge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16

Section 2: The Solution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Section 3: The Result . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Visit the Water Cooler Video: Giving Feedback—Some Food for Thought . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

About Jonathan Kranz ....................................... 19



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MAKING YOUR CASE

WHY CASE STUDlES?

Case studies are the written equivalent of the in-person demonstration, an opportunity to illustrate your product or service in action. The more complex or abstract your offer (attention all “solu- tions providers” out there) the more valuable your case studies become: their specificity has the power to cut through the fog of business rhetoric. Better yet, they allow your prospects to see them- selves in your customers’ shoes, encour- aging them to imagine what it would be like to enjoy the benefits of buying your product or applying your service.

You can think of the case study as a cross between the testimonial and the business article. Like the testimonial, the case study features a satisfied customer who “speaks” on your behalf. Like the article, it’s struc- tured dramatically, with a clear beginning, middle and end that holds your audience’s attention through the tension of conflict and the anticipation of resolution.

In format, the case study is simplicity itself. Many are limited to just one page—

Visit the Water Cooler Video: a brevity that makes them especially

Why Case Studies?

useful as trade show handouts, direct mail inserts, supplemental pages to Web sites, and as sales collateral that can be faxed to hot prospects. Most are conveniently divided into three or four labeled sections that telegraph the case study structure to readers, guiding them quickly to the happy ending. These labels go under any number of names, but for the purposes of this ebook—and to illustrate the prin- ciples of case study writing, regardless of length—I’ll stick to three: Challenge, Solution, Result.



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MAKING YOUR CASE

how to use this ebook

I’ve created Making Your Case for two kinds of people: individuals who want to write case studies for themselves or for their organizations; and professionals who want to teach their staff, colleagues and/or associates how to prepare case studies. Either way, Making Your Case has everything writers and learners need to craft successful cases, including:

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step-by-step

instructions that cover every stage in the case study process

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Examples

that illustrate the instructions

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Advanced tips

that expose trade secrets for more effective writing and marketing

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Hyperlinks to informal

video clips that explore key ideas in greater detail

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answers to the most

frequently asked questions

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Worksheets

you and workshop participants can use to craft your own case studies

Can I get even more help

Of course you can. I can help you in two ways: writing case studies?

You can hire me to teach you and your staff how to write case studies and other marketing materials—Web pages, ebooks, direct mail, articles, collateral, whatever you wish. I bring the training directly to your organization, in-house. And every participant receives a custom binder loaded with worksheets and other reference materials so that the learning remains long after I leave.

You can simply hire me to write the marketing materials you need.

Getting started is as easy as contacting me at jonkranz@kranzcom.com or calling (781) 620-1154.

Good luck with your case!

Jonathan Kranz

Kranz CommuniCations www.kranzcom.com



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MAKING YOUR CASE

Ch apter

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Think of The Challenge as the first act in a three act opera: this is the place to set the scene, introduce the lead character—your client or customer—and present the problem or challenge that puts your story in motion.

Introducing the character and establishing context is easy— just state the facts. In this ebook, ProjectMaster is the company creating the case study (the stand-in for you or your organiza- tion), and Widgets is ProjectMaster’s client, the customer ProjectMaster wants to write about.

Here’s what ProjectMaster might say to introduce its client to readers: “Widgets, Inc. is a $50M industrial design firm serving extrusion plastics concerns in the southern United States.” When you write your case study, you may incorporate the facts into a lead sentence, as in the previous example, or literally present them in a list that precedes the body of the case itself. These lists may include:

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name of the company/organization/client

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Location

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industry

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annual revenue

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Number of employees

WRlTlNG THE CHALLENGE

setting up the context, problem and stakes

The latter two bullets, revenue and employees, give readers a sense of scale—the size of the company and, therefore, the rela- tive significance of the case challenge. Should the client prefer to withhold revenue figures, you can say that the number is confi- dential, or simply not raise the issue altogether.

For the challenge itself, present both the problem to be solved (or the opportunity that may be reached) plus the stakes—the reason why the problem or opportunity matters. It’s important to understand the difference:

the challenge is the engine that drives the case; it’s ultimately what led the client to buy your product or service. it could be a need to integrate account data into an ErP system; an initia- tive for training new employees; a faulty high-pressure valve that needs replacement.

the stakes are the “so what?” of your case; it’s what the client hopes to gain by overcoming the problem, meeting the chal- lenge or seizing the opportunity. For each of the examples above, it could be a demand for improved cash flow; a desire to accelerate employee productivity; or an urgent need to restore production delayed by mechanical failures.



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MAKING YOUR CASE

It’s not enough to say that Widgets, Inc. had an ineffi- cient project management system. So what? You need to articulate the meaning of the challenge and to do so, you have two fundamental choices:

a negative consequence the client wants to over- come, defeat or avoid, such as excessive taxes, customer attrition or broken production facilities.

a positive consequence the client wants to obtain, achieve or reach, such as greater customer satisfac- tion, higher profits or larger market share.

For the purposes of your case study, both options are good. Your choice of a negative or positive stake entirely depends on the nature of the available facts and the client’s ultimate goals. In the Widget’s example, the stakes could be posed either way:

Negative: “Widgets CFo Lex Palmer estimates that the company lost approximately 25,000 man-hours a year—or $1,875,000 in wasted resources—through the mismanagement of project-team time, talent and focus.”

Positive: “according to Widgets engineer rufus manchester, a fifteen percent improvement in man- agement efficiency would cut the average project time from six weeks to four, and lead to $0.75m to $1.25m in additional profits for the company.”

ADVANCED CHALLENGE TIP F I N D T H E R I G H T F O C U S

The whole point of your case study is to establish credibility. That’s why it’s essential that the focus of your case be on your client, not on you or your company; on what your product or service did for that client, not on the product or service per se. If you fail to resist the temptation to sell your company, product or service, you’ll un- dermine the empathy you want to construct between the reader and featured client. Any self-aggrandizement will be readily transparent to your readers, who will reject your piece as just another example of blatant self-promotion, rather than respond with the sentiment that leads to sales: “Hey, your company has really helped someone like me; maybe I should give you a closer look...”

Visit the Water Cooler Video: Facing Your Fears



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MAKING YOUR CASE

In the middle or second act of your study, The Solution, you introduce the hero: the product or service your company pro- vides that solves the customer’s problem or helps them achieve their goals.

This is the scene that brings your company on stage, but remem- ber: your company is not the star. Even its product or service, in itself, should not be the true center of attention. The real hero is not a noun (people, place or thing), but a verb (action): what the company, product or service does to meet the challenge; what it does for the client.

Ch apter

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WRlTlNG THE SOLUTION

putting your products or services on stage

Here, your objective is to paint a picture, to illustrate the action so graphically readers can “see” the evolving events in their imaginations. Specificity is critical: every detail you contribute makes the solution more tangible, more real. That’s why a broad, vague assertion is insufficient:

“Widgets, Inc. deployed the ProjectMaster solution

across its departments.”



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MAKING YOUR CASE

Instead, build the description piece by piece, fact by fact:

“ First, the ProjectMaster team of workflow analysts, IT network developers,

and systems engineers spent a week on-site analyzing Widgets’ work processes. The team’s subsequent report, reviewed by senior managers at Widgets, formed the basis for a new workflow design. ProjectMaster recom- mended a wireless networking infrastructure, new collaborative management software applications, and a set of specific policies—tailored to Widgets’ unique circumstances—to reduce meeting times and streamline product development. After a one-month trial period with one Widgets department, ProjectMaster deployed the complete solution across the entire enterprise, and established regularly reporting protocols to monitor progress and make adjustments, as required.”

ADVANCED SOLUTION TIP T U R N G E N E R I C P H R A S E S I N TO TA R G E T E D P O I N T S

After you’ve written your first draft, go on a search and destroy mission to identify unnecessary adjectives and vague generalities such as “cutting-edge technology” or “best practices.” Circle them. But instead of mourning the number of ovals in your Solution section, use them as an opportunity—each one represents a place where you can insert a fresh, specific piece of concrete information that deepens your description.

In the previous example, there are at least two general statements that could be improved through greater specificity: “new collaborative management software applications” and “a set of specific policies.” I might replace the former phrase with, “collaborative software that integrated far-flung teams, regardless of distance or time differences, and facilitated simultaneous cooperation on centralized documents, eliminating redundant (and confusing) spreadsheets.” For the latter, I could define or describe some aspects of the policies, e.g. “procedures that established common workflows, assigned responsibilities and created standard reporting formats.”



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MAKING YOUR CASE

At this point, your case study should positively tremble with tension. The Challenge established a conflict between “what-is” and the desired “what-could-be.” Then the Solution detailed a response to the Challenge. Now every reader will want the pay- off: did the Solution work? And what change did it bring about?

The Result is, as its name suggests, an articulation of the results; your job is to present the consequences of the Solution. As you had in your description of the Solution, make the Result as spe- cific and detailed as you can. If the data is available, quantify the results with numbers, perhaps with an amount of money saved (or earned), a percentage increase in productivity, or a dramatic reduction in time or waste.

Ch apter

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WRlTlNG THE RESULT

Making the payoff

But whenever possible, put the most important result in your client’s words. If you can get permission to use a direct quote, use it—it’s the most credible source of information. A great Result quote might look like this:

“ In just six months, we cut our average design-to-imple-

mentation time from six weeks to seventeen work days,” says Bill Sharpton, Widgets COO. “With ProjectMaster in place, we’re on track to realize an additional $1M in profits this year and an additional $2M next year.”