So, You Want to Write a Case Study?

July 27, 2021

Marley Wagner

Category: Customer Adoption, Customer Experience, Customer Onboarding, Customer Retention, Customer Success as a Service, Customer Success Strategy

You did it! You’ve done incredible, meaningful work with your customer, and they clearly love you, your product, and your company. Getting customers to that stage is really the ultimate goal of Customer Success, so this is a moment to be celebrated (cheers!) and documented.

Documenting these success stories can be done in several different ways, including written or video customer testimonials, asking that customer champion to take a reference call with another new perspective customer, or by the simple act of providing an introduction between your company and someone else they think could benefit from your products or services (just like they did). But my favorite way to showcase your past successes and your current abilities to the world is by telling a customer’s success story with a case study.

Case studies can be some of the most powerful content because they tap into one of the most powerful methods of communicating – storytelling. Our brains love stories. From the earliest days of people walking the earth to the crazy digital landscape of today, storytelling is the best way to engage and enthrall an audience. Case studies are unique because they aren’t simply presenting an idea or making an argument. They are real-life stories of triumph with a beginning, a middle, and an end.

Customer Success is often tapped to assist in creating case studies because of their close relationship with the customer. Helping write an excellent case study might require a little extra effort, but they are well worth the challenge. Here at ESG, we regularly create case studies focused on our successes building and implementing Customer Success initiatives for our own customers. So, I wanted to share a few tips and tricks for the next time you’re asked to get involved in sharing your customers’ successes.

The part Customer Success plays in the story

CSMs know a ton about your customers. Whether they’ve been with a particular customer from the very beginning or jumped in to build that relationship somewhere along the journey, you can bet that a CSM has deep insight into each of their customer’s pain points and how your business is solving them. They can elaborate on the specific challenges the customer faced before implementing your solution, and assuming you’ve got your sales to CS handoff down pat, they’ll also know at least a little bit about why your customer chose your solution in the first place.

All of this is critical information for any case study. CSMs may also have gathered some pretty essential data from the customer’s point of view – ways to demonstrate (with concrete numbers!) that your product made your customer’s life easier. And finally, CSMs know how your customers are doing in the here and now. For example, if marketing is barking up the wrong tree, writing a case study on a customer who might not be as happy as you think, their CSM can raise that red flag, and hopefully, steer you towards the super users whose stories would make for fantastic case studies.

If you are a CSM who has been asked to help put together an outline or idea for a case study, you can use all of this knowledge to great effect. Whether you’ve been tasked with writing the case study yourself, or you’re collaborating with someone else in CS or marketing to create it (and yes, even if writing isn’t your strong suit, or you’re still a little hazy on what a case study is or what it’s for), you have a ton and a half of insight about your customer that you can mine to make this case study a huge success.

The components of a (really good) case study

It might be tempting to say, well, X was a problem, and Y fixed it, end of story. And there are plenty of case studies out there in the wilds of the internet that only give the bare bones of the story, X + Y = Z. Sometimes, this is because whoever wrote it didn’t have a choice. If a customer isn’t available to help you write the case study or can’t get their legal team to agree to include their name, the bare minimum might be all you are going to get. There is nothing wrong with using what you’ve got to put together a mini case study in these circumstances – something is still better than nothing in this scenario! But, if you have the ingredients for a truly great case study, you can put together a customer story that packs quite a punch!

Like the traditional structure of a story, there are three key sections in a great case study. To fill in your story, you’re going to want to interview your customer. During this interview, you’ll be collecting information for each section and, hopefully, some good customer quotes. Let’s go over each section so you know what Customer Success knowledge you can bring to the table for each.

In the beginning…

The first part of your case study will cover your customer’s initial challenge. What problems were they trying to overcome when they came to you for a solution? What prompted them to look for a solution in the first place? During the customer interview, ask questions for this section about their goals and how the issues they faced were impacting their business. Digging deeper, you could ask your customer how they were trying to resolve this problem before they found you and what other solutions they explored before landing on yours.

In the middle…

This section of the case study is the meat of your story. Once your customer found you, go over the steps it took to implement the solution. Be honest about any roadblocks you and your customer encountered in the early stages of your relationship. Not everything will have been hunky-dory, and readers crave drama! CSMs are a font of knowledge when it comes to your customer’s plights and everything it took to drive their success. Here, helpful questions involve asking for more specific details – How many people did the product implementation affect? Who was using the solution? How quickly were users able to begin seeing benefits? Is there a specific instance where the solution made a big difference?

CSMs will be invaluable for finding the all-important data a case study needs to back up the entire Customer Success story. If your product contributed to 3X sales growth or resulted in a 200% increase in efficiency for your customer, you want to highlight that number. Stick it in the headline of the case study too. If you’re not sure what numbers to use, chances are the CSMs have some handy insight from their Quarterly Business Reviews.

In the end…

The final section of the case study is not a conclusion but a look to the future. Highlight all the results of working together and talk about what you’ve planned together next. If your customer is happy, are they expanding the use of your tool into other departments? Are there lessons learned from this customer that you are applying to other accounts? Is your customer going to go for longer contract terms because they know they just can’t live without your solution?

Ask your customer questions about how they are using your product today. What are the top benefits they get from utilizing your product? How much time are they saving, and what does saving that time mean for them in terms of financial value and resources saved? Again, aim to collect as many measurable results as possible.

How Customer Success can use case studies

Case studies have traditionally been viewed as marketing and sales assets, but do you think CS does all this work for their pre-sales friends and gets nothing out of it? Pshaw! Customer Success teams benefit from case studies too! Once CS is all done helping to create these beautiful masterpieces, here are some ideas for their use:

  • Customer communications (it’s ok to toot your own horn every now and then, and may even inspire less-than-thrilled customers to try your product in a new way or view you in a new light)
  • Onboarding how-to examples (show your newer customers what successful adoption could mean for them down the road)
  • New hire or ongoing training (a customer story can be fun to read and offer a tangible example of success to new members of the CS team or those that are in need of a little inspiration)
  • Events (adding a little fun and drama to webinars, podcasts, etc.)
  • Social media posts (If you have any input in your company’s social media, do a few about your case study. Or, you can showcase your success as a brilliant CSM by sharing on your personal social media – build that resume!)
  • Cross-sell/Up-sell (Even if you aren’t directly involved in sales, CSMs should always be part of the revenue conversation. Case studies can show current customers add-ons they may need.)

Clearly, case studies are highly effective content that can be leveraged in countless ways, and it just makes sense to harness the insight and experience of the Customer Success team to create them. So go forth and celebrate your successes!


Psssst… if you want to read our case studies, check them out here .