Case studies are a highly-effective selling tool for your products or services. You take a success story where your company’s products or services provided a successful solution for one of your clients — and write a 1-to-5 page summary of how you were able to solve your client’s problem. In doing so, you demonstrate the value and effectiveness of your products or service solutions.
Potential clients are hungry for this kind of information. A success story with a previous client provides evidence of the value of your products or services. The potential client wants to know how your products or services can solve their problems as well. A case study may make the difference in convincing a potential client to do business with you.
That’s why it’s best to use a Reader-Centered Approach to write your case studies. With this approach, you write your success story from the point of view of the reader — that is, the potential client — who will read the case study.
What Is Your Market?
First, define your market(s) for the case study. Which customers, in which markets, are you trying to impress with your success story? Will your case study be a general case study about your work for a large, high-profile company or organization? Or will your case study target customers in a specific market, or sub-set of a market?
It’s important to have both kinds of case studies. General case studies show the versatility of your company in providing solutions to different, high-profile industries, hospitals, universities, government organizations, etc. Market-specific case studies let you target potential customers within those same markets.
Once you have defined the markets for your case study, select a success story for a client company that appeals to those markets. For example, if you are targeting high-tech customers with your case study, select a success story where you provided a solution to a high-tech client.
Who Is Your Reader?
What position will your reader hold at the company where they work? Are they the CEO? The CFO? The Chief Technology Officer? The Director of Business Operations? The VP of Sales and Marketing?
Ask yourself, who have you dealt with in the past? Look at the client company that is the subject of your case study. Who did you work with there? Which executive or manager made the first call to engage your company? Who made the decision to buy? These same kinds of executives and managers at other companies will be the people who will read your case studies.
One trick I’ve learned is to go to your client company’s web site, and read the short biographies of the executives and managers that you will mention in the case study. It’s probable that readers of your case study will have similar backgrounds, duties, and responsibilities.
What Does Your Reader Know?
How familiar is your reader with the basic concepts of your products or services? What do they know about the solutions you provide? What do they NOT know? How much will you need to explain to them?
If your readers are familiar with your products or technology, you probably won’t need to explain the basic concepts. You can focus instead on the technical features of your products or services, and how those features provided benefits to the client company.
If your readers are CEOs or other executives, they will be focused more on the “bottom line” — the problems you solved for the client, the cost savings, ROI, TCO, etc. You don’t need to go into too much technical detail. But be wary of assuming that a CEO or other executive automatically understands your products or services. You may need to explain some basic concepts to them.
Once, a high-tech executive returned a case study draft to me with a section crossed out. He added a margin comment: “We don’t need to explain this. Everyone already knows this part of the technology.”
I wrote back to him: “Everyone in your industry knows this part of the technology. But we are targeting your high-tech solutions to business CEOs, real estate executives, and hospital boards. They have no prior knowledge of this technology. Therefore, we need to explain the concepts to them.”
Anticipate Your Reader’s Questions
A case study should answer specific questions that your reader may have about your product or service. As an example, say you are writing a case study for a network software product. The reader may have the following questions:
How is this software product installed on a company network?
How will the features of this software help our employees to do their jobs better?
What kinds of benefits can we expect from using this software product?
You can easily adapt these questions into an “interview questionnaire,” to use when you interview the people at the client company that is the subject of the case study. For example:
How was the software deployed on your company’s network?
In what ways did your employees use the specific features of the software? What tasks or goals did they accomplish through the software?
What benefits did your company experience from using the software? (Increased productivity? Faster time-to-market? Etc.)
Tell Them A Story
The information in a case study should not be a bland listing of facts and bullet points. The reader is looking to see how your products or services work in a “real world” scenario. Therefore, as you write the case study, you want to tell the reader a story.
The trick here is to keep the story focused on the client company. You want to focus not on the various features of your products or services, but on how those features were used to the client’s benefit. How were the features employed to help the client company achieve their goals? What tangible benefits did the client company receive as a result?
Describe how individual people or departments at the client company made use of your solutions. Use real names if you can; or, if not, use titles like “the Director of Product Management.” The more personal you make the case study, the more readers will begin to trust that your solutions can help their company as well.
Organize for Maximum Effect
Organize the information in your case study into sections according to a basic template. This allows you to present the information in a logical format, so that the reader can follow the story and understand how your solution worked.
Use headings and sub-headings to guide the reader through the various sections. The template I use for a case study is:
Company Overview — A short description of the client company.
The Challenge — The problems that the client company faced before they employed your company’s products or services.
The Solution — The product or service solutions that your company provided to the client company.
Key Benefits — The key benefits that the client company received by implementing your solutions.
The final section, “Key Benefits,” should be divided up into four or five sub-sections, with one or two paragraphs each that examine each benefit. Examples of the sub-sections for “Key Benefits” might include:
Lower Production Costs
Easy Tracking of Production Data
Whatever template you use, make sure that all of your company’s case studies follow the same standard template.
Use Illustrations, Photos, Graphs, and Quotes
Whenever possible, illustrate concepts in your case studies using illustrations and photos. Use graphs to provide statistics and analytics on the effectiveness of your solutions (i.e. increases in sales, etc.). Readers appreciate visual input to help them understand concepts and benefits, and to break up the large blocks of text they have to read.
Also, be sure to highlight quotes from executives at the client company who describe and praise the effectiveness of your solutions. (Example: “Acme Company’s solution allowed us to reduce our time-to-market by 66%.” — Ron Jones, VP of Operations.) A good place to put these quotes is in text boxes in the left-side margin of the case study, so the quotes are highly visible to the reader.
Give Them the Numbers
Readers are looking for statistics. They want some idea of how effective your solutions have been for other client companies. Some common statistics to use in your case studies include:
Increases in productivity
Time and cost savings
Decreases in waste and unnecessary expense
Return on Investment (ROI)
Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Increased sales or revenue
Provide an Abstract
Provide a one-paragraph abstract at the beginning of each case study. This makes it easy for the reader to find out if the case study relates to a client company similar to theirs. Also, a short abstract may attract the reader to read the case study, especially if it concerns solutions your company provided for a well-known, high-profile client.
In addition, be sure to print the case studies on a company letterhead that includes the company’s address, web site URL, and phone number.
Think Outside the Company
The most important thing in writing a case study is to put yourself in the place of someone outside your company. You want to write the case study from the point of view of a reader who is not familiar with your company, and who wants to know how your products or services can solve their problems and help them achieve their goals.
It’s not always easy for people inside your company to see things from the perspective of the potential customer. That’s why it’s sometimes better to have a professional writer to write your case studies for you. A professional case study writer has a better view of things from outside your company. They can see your company from the point of view of the would-be customer, ask questions that a would-be customer might ask, and write a case study to answer those questions.
PSYCHOLOGICAL TIPS FOR EFFECTIVE STUDYING
q Revise regularly- Revision should be continuous if you are to gain a deep understanding of the subject. It should not be superficial and rushed. Cramming might help you remember a few facts but it will not give you the overall understanding of a subject, which you should be studying for in your University Education.
q Be systematic- You should begin organizing a study schedule as soon as possible in the start of the semester
q Use varied techniques- besides making summaries of your lecture notes, use varying strategies for your revision. Draw up schemes showing the relationship between the concepts you have studied in your subjects or form study groups with your fellow students to discuss the different topics and the relationships between them to reinforce both understanding and recall.
q Use relationship to memorize- Understanding the relationships between pieces of information, such as their similarities and differences, and using their relationship to information already known is a definite advantage during stress of an examination.
q Practice previous exam papers- You should obtain copies of previous exam papers as early as possible in the revision process. Doing these exams in the required time limit will give you practice in applying what you have learnt to specific topics and practice in examination techniques. This will also give you a good idea of the format, time limit and the number of questions in the examination.
q Attend lectures- Pay attention in lectures and tutorials and so on for information relevant to exams. For example what topic might be expected in a test etc?
Stress the following areas in your revision:
Points emphasized in class or in the text
Areas the Professor has advised for study
Questions in study guides, past questions and reviews at the end of textbook chapters.
q Decide what to study (choose a reasonable task) and how long or how many chapters, pages, problems, etc. Set and stick to deadline.
q Do difficult tasks first. For procrastination, start with an easy interesting aspect of the project.
q Have special places to study. Take into consideration, lighting, temperature, and availability of materials.
q Study 50 minutes and then take a 10 minutes break. Stretch, relax, have energy snack.
q If you get tired or bored, switch task/activity. Stop studying when you are no longer being productive.
q Do rough memory tasks and review, especially detail, just before you fall asleep.
q Study with a friend. Quiz each other compare notes and predicted test questions.
Physical environment- Choose situations, which make you feel comfortable, for example a particular space in the library, in your own home or study room in halls of residence.
Plan a time table- Use a time schedule to prioritise study times and try to stick to your schedule.
Mental activity- Remember that your concentration span is limited. So do not sit for 3-4 hours at a time starting at one page of notes. Wait for an hour or so reading and making extra notes. Draft out or use real exam questions from past papers and consider how little you know and understand
Stop to take a break- Have a coffee or short walk and mentally review what you have achieved. Return to your studies.
You will find that the process of activity and review will be useful and will help you to set a pattern of study.
Quality of study- Remember that it is not time itself spent on studying which matters, it is the quality of the exercise of studying. Develop an understanding of the material you are working on. Information simply committed to memory will rarely see you safely through your exams.
Choice of material- Don’t shy away from material which you find most difficult to understand because if you do it will be precisely this material which will be problematic for you in the exam. Take this material first.
Problems- If there are sections of the syllabus, which you cannot understand, try to find the appropriate lecturer to help you. But try not to leave this until the day before the exam. Ask someone on the same course as you. If these strategies don’t work for you try using a variety of different textbooks, some authors explain difficult concepts better than others.
Concentration is the ability to direct one’s thinking in whatever direction one would
intend. We all have the ability to concentrate sometimes.
Think of the time when you were engrossed in super novel or in a cinema-Total
concentration. But at other times your thoughts are scattered and you mind races from
one thing to another. Learn and practice concentration strategies.
Poor concentration- External causes
External causes Internal causes
Noise–Conservations voice from TV Boredom, Dislike/ anxiety about
music that interest you. Subject being studied.
Environment Day dreaming while studying.
Which has highly distracting things TV, Worries and personal problems.
Chairs, snacks, people. Awesomeness of the study task.
Find a place to study and study only. Study according to your biorhythm.
Clear away distractions. Have concrete goals.
Light. Set aside certain time to begin
Chair and table. Studying.
Posture. Control daydreaming.
Keep a reminder pad.
Revision is a process of looking over past work as preparation for examination. It is an activity which can produce good results and reduce ‘exam nerves’ if it is carefully planned and carried out in a systematic way. Black coffee and sleepless nights just before your exams rarely allow you to do justice to your talents.
Towards end of a course, a review of your completed written work and of past examination papers will often indicate the existence of close links between exam questions and essays, assignments and project work. On this basis, you select your own best work and use it for revision. Work, which has been less successful, should contain advice from a tutor and this can be followed up.
What revisions can do for you:
v Extends your ability to assess your own knowledge and understanding.
v Provides an opportunity to analyze this in relation to the requirements of the examination.
v Enable you to pass examination and gain recognition for your talents.
GUIDELINES FOR SUCCESSFUL REVISION
ü Make sure you know well in advance the topics to be covered in the particular exam.
ü Keep copies of all course documents, projects, essay questions, title of assignments and reading list on file.
ü Make this the basis of your revision. Resist the temptation to try to start your course all over again from the beginning.
ü Review your own the assessed work, making a selection of that with the best grade.
ü Compare your own work with the question asked as past question papers.
ü At this stage it is vital that you will have enough material to answer all the likely questions.
ü If you decide on to expand what you have already got, look at less successful papers and see if you can improve them by careful editing, filling in gaps, correcting errors of fact or understanding.
ü Reduce each piece of work to note form.
Organize your hours to include ample time for rest, relaxation, sleep, eating, exercising and socializing.
Break the study time into manageable amounts of time to avoid boredom and loss of concentration. Sessions lasting 20-30 minutes are the best Studying for six half hour sessions is much more effective than studying for 3 straight hours.
Don’t put everything off until the last minute.
PRACTICE EFFECTIVE STUDY TECHNIQUES
Have appropriate study environments.
Split large task into more manageable tasks.
Read for comprehension rather than get to the end of the chapter.
Be prepared to ask questions as they come up during study, rather than waiting until just before and exam.
Don’t wait until the last minute to complete your projects.
Read the syllabus as soon as you get it and note all due dates( and milestone times) on your calendar.
Be a model student.
Be attentive and participative in the class and punctual, prepared and eager to learn.
BE ABLE TO BE FLEXIBILE
The unexpected happenings, e.g. Sickness, need to be able to fit into our schedule.
Know how to rearrange your schedule when necessary (so that it doesn’t manage you, but you manage it).
HAVE A VISION
Don’t forget the big picture.
Why are you doing the task? Is it important for your long-term goals?
Have and follow a personal mission statement (personal and career) Are your activities ultimately helping you to achieve your goals.
Know what is important to you.
(What do you value most)
Have a positive attitude.
Dr. Hari S.Chandran, M.Phil (Psy), Ph.D, PGDPC is working as Cons. Psychologist ,Department of Deaddiction&Mental Health,St.Gregorios Mission Hospital, Parumala.Kerala, firstname.lastname@example.org