7 Essential Elements of Successful Case Studies

Case studies are essentially problem – solution narratives. However, to flesh out a case study and make sure it communicates the messages  you want to get across to  your target audience, your case study must include these 7 essential elements. 

1.  The problem or challenge
Define the problem clearly. Detail the situation the company (or customer) was in. What does the customer have to overcome? What stood in the way?  Grappling with a problem adds conflict – an essential element to any good story. To heighten impact, conflict needs to be meaningful  so highlight the stakes involved. Why was it so necessary for  the company  to overcome this challenge?

2. The customer or company
Whether the case study centers on a person or a company, they become a character a protagonist in the story. Add details that develop the character. How long in business? Does the person have an intriguing background? What about setbacks, ups and downs?  When the reader becomes interested in a character (person or company) the chances for a successful case study are much higher.

3. Process
What did the customer go through to find a solution? Highlighting the solutions that did not work is a way to contrast your  product or service with the competition.

4. Discovery 
How did the customer find out about solution? The discovery moment is not just another fact. It’s a classic moment in storytelling that adds dimension to the journey the protagonist went through to find an effective solution.

5. Solution 
Here is the opportunity to put a spotlight on your product, service or company. Show what it can do. Detail some of the top features and benefits, but be careful to keep it educational instead of promotional.
6. Implementation
How long did it take before the solution was up and running? How much training was involved? Were there any rough patches? These are details your potential customer wants to know and answering them honestly will only add to your credibility in their eyes.

7. Results
Of course this is the part of the story that people really want to see. Be as concrete as possible. Use measurements that are  meaningful to the audience or which paint the solution in a brighter light. For instance, EBITDA may be very important for some audiences while revenue gains may have more impact to others.
The specifics of  case studies will differ, but  making sure your case studies  contain all these essential elements can help ensure  they do the job you want them to do.

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Case Studies: Traditional vs. Feature Story Format

Most case studies follow one of two main formats. Either a traditional or a feature story format. Each has its advantages.  It’s important for the company to either pick one case study  format and have the writer follow it or have the writer choose one that seems appropriate for the company’s purposes.

Traditional format

The traditional format follows a basic progression and generally uses a set pattern of subheads: Company/customer profile; background; challenge; solution; results.  There can be variations on the exact wording of the subheads and sometimes “challenge” comes first, but it is essentially a set formula.

The main advantage of this format  is that the reader knows exactly what to expect and where to find specific  information.  Company info is here, challenge is there, etc.  This format makes works with   either short or long case studies.

Feature story format

In the feature story format  the same elements appear in generally the same order. However,  the case study reads more like a feature story in a magazine. The lead ( first sentence and paragraph) take you right into the story. It is meant to capture your attention from the beginning and get you engaged as a feature story might do.

Rather than follow a formula, the subheads are more descriptive and story oriented.  They develop the narrative and pull the reader through.

The feature story format is usually more engaging and more interesting to read.  The reader can also glean much of the story by  skimming through the subheads since they are part of the narrative.

The disadvantage of the feature story format  is that they take more skill to write. So the company must make sure to use writers who can communicate the case story in this way.

Whether you use a traditional or feature story it is important to stick to one format  when presenting multiple case stores within a document or web page. The consistency makes it easier for the reader to go through a number of case studies in one sitting and absorb the points the company wants to communicate.

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Developing a needs assessment platform for a white paper

Needs assessment research is a crucial step to complete before writing a white paper. It will enable your writer to better focus and execute exactly what you’re trying to accomplish. It can also head off many problems that can occur later on in the development of the white paper. Here are the main steps to keep in mind:

1)Identify the primary and secondary audiences.
industry, niche, typical title, basic job function, age,

2)What is the objective of the white paper?
Generate leads? Educate? Introduce? Establish market position?

3) What is the main challenge, problem, issue the target audience faces?
Since most white  papers use a problem-solution approach this is important to agree upon before even an outline is written.

4) How does your product/service address this problem/challenge?
While a white paper is not overtly promotional you should  integrate your solution into the main argument.

5) Who are the key people who must be interviewed?
While company documents and research are important to development of the white paper, interviewing key people to get the company’s perspective is crucial.

6) What is the schedule and timeline?
Make sure all the players involved in the development of the white paper are aware that there is a schedule and deadlines need to be met.

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Headlines that make you click – from the Huffington Post

I’m really liking the short attention-getting headlines at the top of the Huffington Post. Whether or not you agree with their politics, the short quick headlines pull you in – and the long, clickable subheads tell you the details. Good 1-2 punch to attract lots of clicks.

For instance: when the stock market rallied a couple of days ago after a weeklong nose dive – The HP headline read: It’s Alive!

Right under that was the stock chart for the day. Good grabber.

On a headline about BofA chief and other bank execs refusing to talk to NY Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, HP ran a big this one-word headline:
Omerta ( the Mafia code of silence)

Good stuff.

For Headline templates that attract clicks and more sales, click



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The Right Keyword Density Can Drive More Traffic to Your Website

Keyword density sounds like one of those geeky Internet concepts. But it’s actually quite simple, and can make a big difference in your bottom line.

One of the reasons for its growing importance is Google’s landing page quality score. It’s almost impossible to make money on a Google pay per click campaign without a good landing page quality score. With a low score, your cost per click will be jacked up  sometimes many times over.

One of the ingredients of a good landing page quality score is having the right number of your targeted keywords on the web page, in the right places, e.g. the headline. If this sounds a lot like SEO – it is. Many of the same principles that make for good search engine optimization make for a good landing page quality score.

So what’s the right keyword density (number of words on a page divided by the keyword or phrase you’re targeting). The ratio has shifted somewhat. Today, it’s pretty much accepted that 2-4% is good. I would opt for closer to 2%, and it could be even lower if your keyword is in your headline and the beginning of the title of your page.

Usually, when the keyword density gets to be over 2% your score may be good, but the page reads awkwardly. And in the end your page must engage the reader.

Here’s the way I recommend getting the right keyword density. Have the keyword you’re targeting in mind when you’re writing the page. Try putting the word in the headline. Then write as best you can for the reader. And put in the keyword in the places where it makes sense.

When done, copy and paste the text into Article Analyzer, a handy keyword density tool. Instantly it tells you what your keyword density is. If it’s close to 2%, let’s say 1.8% – eave it. If it’s way short, say, less than 1%, go over the page, and see where you can put in the keyword without disrupting the flow of the page.

Then check the density again. By now your ratio should be close enough. If not, go back and add your keyword until you approach an acceptable ratio.

Keyword density is not one of those things to obsess over. All you need is just enough. And if you’re getting most of the people to your pag  by email, it’s not an issue. But if you’re driving people to your page through pay per click or natural search, getting the right keyword density will be a big help.

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