The Ultimate Case Study Blueprint – Learn How to Build a Great Case Study for Your Website
You know that your client-focused business provides great results... but how can you prove it?
How do you convince your website visitors that you’re the real deal?
Do you know how to write a case study to convert lukewarm leads into paying clients?
You’re missing a crucial piece of the puzzle – compelling content that will make a visitor go from "I need this kind of service" to "I need to work with these guys!"
You need case study pages!
They’re perfect for agencies, trade services, coaching, membership sites, and any other business model that showcases client success stories to convert new leads.
But it’s not enough to throw together a PDF or boring blog post!
In today’s epic post, we’ll look at 7 examples of real case study pages, to discover what works and what doesn’t.
To make this super-actionable, you’ll also get our new Ultimate Online Case Study Blueprint to help you showcase your services, and convert leads into paying clients.
When you're done reading, don't forget to read out post on how to create beautiful, reusable and conversion focused client case study templates fast using nothing but the Page Block designs available inside Thrive Theme Builder & Thrive Architect.
Case Studies: The What, Why and Who
Before we get into the meat of this post, we should answer some top-level questions about case studies.
Just so we’re all on the same page moving forward…
What is a Case Study?
Case studies showcase how your business helped a client to overcome a particular need or frustration, and achieve an impressive result.
The name case study sounds a little corporate, so you might see them under different labels:
- Case studies
- Customer results
- Success stories
- Our work
Although there’s often some overlap, case studies are not testimonials or reviews…
Julian came to us with this challenge.
Here’s the solution we suggested.
Here are the results.
I had a problem and found a professional to help.
They made a huge difference to my life.
I recommend them.
I bought this product or service.
It had these good and bad points.
I recommend it.
Why are Case Studies Important?
We all need to feel comfortable and reassured before dropping money onto a professional service. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big budget marketing campaign, or a home kitchen refit.
Any business can claim to produce great results – case studies prove it.
Case studies are also fantastic conversations for sales calls, allowing you to discuss ways to approach similar goals, strategies and results.
Finally, interesting case studies are also amazing content marketing to promote on social media, ads, SEO and email. In other words, they can help your business at both the top and bottom of your marketing funnels.
- Case studies are compelling content that can attract new visitors to your website for the first time.
- Case studies can be the final nudge that visitors need to read before they choose to work with you.
Who Should Use Case Studies?
Most professional services will benefit from showcasing their past work.
- Landscape gardeners
- HVAC installation
- Event planners
- Marketing agencies
- Membership sites
- Tour guides
The list really is endless!
Case Study Showdown
OK, enough of the 101. Here’s how we’re going to do this...
In order to learn what works and doesn’t, we’ll explore 7 case study pages from different brands, looking at everything from design and layout, through to copywriting and calls-to-action.
Here’s our lucky brands...
So why have we chosen these brands?
It’s easy to find case study pages for marketing and design agencies, but I know that you may be building a business that relies on a different model.
To really show the value of case studies across different industries and business types, I selected a range of niches: office designers, agencies, event organizers, IT and fitness coaching.
And here’s our criteria…
Each case study we’ll explore today features a different layout, design, and content flow. That’s what makes this so valuable.
But it can also make for a confusing article as we jump around. To compare brands fairly, and squeeze every last drop of value from each website, we need a helpful and consistent structure.
This is how we’ll break down each case study example, so you can more easily follow:
Do you enjoy reading boring blog posts? Or stuffy, corporate PDFs?
Of course not.
It doesn’t matter how amazing your case study content is, if it’s tedious and uninteresting to look at!
What potential clients experience with your web design, they start to build a similar opinion of your service – good or bad.
People read the headline long before they even visit your case study page. Headlines appear in search results, social media, and referral links, so it’s critical they encourage people to click through.
Once on the case study, your headline reassures readers, sets expectations, and compels them to continue reading!
A great case study shares a before-and-after story of how your business helped to transform a client’s needs into a successful result.
The challenge sets the ‘before’ scene, and defines how successful your project was.
This is the “what we did” part of the story.
It’s easy to overlook in your eagerness to share the great results, but it helps potential clients see how you approach similar challenges, and the level of personal service they can expect from you.
The solution turns a self-gratulatory pat on the back “case study” into a compelling read that demonstrates your unique approach.
Every case study needs to show results. After all, that’s why clients hire you.
Results can be expressed in terms of tangible metrics, or in softer benefits that appeal to our emotions.
The best case studies include both.
The Social Proof
A case study without social proof is like a film director writing their own reviews.
Quotes, testimonials and videos are essential tools for showing readers that your case study is authentic, and that your past clients are real people just like them.
What’s the point in a case study if your readers are left hanging?
Calls-to-action are a critical part of all content marketing, and case studies are no exception.
If you want to turn readers into leads, and leads into clients, you NEED a compelling call-to-action to guide them to take action.
Finally, we’ll put everything together into our recommendations on how to create the ultimate case study page for your business. If you don't already know how to write a case study, this article should give you everything you need to get started.
One quick note before we start!
It’s important to remember that it’s easy to highlight issues in someone else’s design. It’s much harder to actually do the work and publish something. These brands have had the foresight and work ethic to create these case studies, which puts them ahead of many websites.
Ready? Let’s go.
Flow Office specialize in creating and refurbishing office spaces. They design layouts according to the needs of their clients, and source all the necessary furniture.
These are big ticket projects, so Flow Office needs to demonstrate they have what it takes. Luckily, they’re in a very visual industry so they have the benefit of gorgeous final result photos to show off the finished projects of previous, happy clients.
This case study shows an office design and installation for Lightbox, a digital agency who wanted a space to accommodate 20 office staff, a meeting room, an informal meeting space, project tables, soft seating and a games area.
Flow Office’s case study page features a clean, cohesive design. They use a modern, full-width template with great use of whitespace to showcase each element.
The use of page sections helps to break up the visual flow, saving readers’ eyes from what would otherwise be a huge block of white. Good call!
What really jumps out from Flow Office’s web design is their use of a brand color palette. They apply the same teal brand color across several key elements including primary call-to-action buttons, section backgrounds, headings, and links.
Flow Office has opted for a factual headline, rather than a benefits-driven one. This isn’t a bad call, given their project results are best summed up in photographs.
Other businesses that focus on result metrics – agencies, weight loss coaches etc. – might be more effective leading with a hard-hitting benefit in the headline instead.
Directly below the headline is a jump link to those photos I mentioned.
“Flow was tasked with creating a new space that would accommodate 20 office staff, a meeting room, an informal meeting space, project tables, soft seating and a games area.
Lightbox required a new space to not only cater for their recent growth in people but to enhance the company’s image, to improve their position in the market and reflect their values as a company fully invested in their people and clients.”
Flow Office teases us with a very high-level view of the project aims. It’s enough to build a case study around, but not enough to communicate the pressing need or opportunity that pushed Lightbox to hire them.
Why is this project valuable for Lightbox?
How did their previous office look?
It’s also a chore for the reader to pick out relevant information from the wall of light grey text. This could be improved with more focused copywriting, and some more confident styling – perhaps a styled content box or styled list.
“... a range of services including ideas, design consultancy, office furniture installation, bespoke purchases and fabrics.
... When we found out Lightbox was let down by a supplier not recommended by us, we stepped in immediately to resolve the issue, ensuring that deadlines were not compromised.
... It was completed in January 2019 once bespoke made-to-order furniture had been completed and was ready for installation.”
Again, the message needs extracting from the wall of text – it’s currently hiding in full-width paragraphs of grey text.
There’s definitely a place for blocks of descriptive text in case studies, but people don’t read web pages word-for-word. They skim, scan and jump around, looking for information that feels emphasised and relevant.
As designers and builders, the results of Flow Office’s work is best showcased with a professional image gallery. Clicking on any image opens a full-size slideshow.
They also sprinkle some client quotes into the results text, which helps to make the empty photos less sterile.
Lightbox described the experience as “seamless” and “stress-free” despite expecting the exact opposite. They said they “couldn’t recommend Flow enough” to “everyone and anyone”.
The Social Proof
Flow Office features an embedded video testimonial on their case study page. This lets happy clients share their experiences and provides powerful social proof that Flow Office can use to encourage new leads.
If Flow Office’s case study format falls down anywhere, it’s with the lack of an obvious call-to-action.
Sure, their contact details and brochure download are always visible in the sticky header navigation and footer, but they don’t specifically tell visitors what action to take next.
If prospective clients are impressed by the case study, there's no simple way for them to enter Flow Office's sales funnel to continue the conversation.
Key Takeaways from Flow Office
A modern, coherent design matters in 2021.
It should be clean, readable and professional. Consistent color palettes, typography and whitespace makes a huge difference.
Case study results should be presented in a way that best fits your industry.
Visual outcomes really need images, while business results might be more compelling with before-and-after metrics.
Don’t make me think!
Offer a single, clear call-to-action to guide visitors towards the next step in finding a solution for their needs.
Capptive8 are a direct marketing agency, running online campaigns for eCommerce and mobile apps. Their client projects focus on tangible business results: leads, sales, growth, cost savings.
This case study showcases Capptive8’s work for Lifeboost Coffee, an eCommerce client who sells organic, low-acid coffee.
And if you didn’t think there was much money to be made in the low-acid coffee sector, just you wait...
White text on a black background is a design choice that risks sacrificing readability for style points. And Capptive8’s inverted contrast case study page is so dark, Batman would be proud.
Whether you’re a fan of this style or not, you have to admit it’s consistent, branded and confident. Capptive8 chose a creative direction and ran with it.
The case study follows a linear structure, using numbered dots on a ‘timeline’ to guide the journey. It’s a great way to add some navigation cues without breaking the page into sections.
I love this results-driven headline.
It’s so much more compelling than a purely informative headline like Lifeboost Case Study.
You can bet that similar clients will be mentally multiplying their revenue by 4,400% as they continue reading.
Capptive8 are super light on details here.
"Our goal was to help them achieve profitability and scale their revenue on Facebook and Instagram."
That doesn’t tell us why this was important to Lifeboost.
Or what strong feelings and decisions drove them to hire an agency.
Great case study results need a challenge to overcome. It doesn’t have to be a major pain-point, but it should paint a picture of life before Capptive8 worked their magic.
Capptive8’s case study page goes into surprising detail on exactly how they achieved such great results for Lifeboost.
As a side note, it’s easy to underestimate niche markets. This case study shows us that coffee connoisseurs are willing to drop $399 for 12 bags of low acid coffee. If that’s an eye-opener for you, I recommend checking out our guide on How To Find Your Niche Business Idea.
We have created over 389 videos and did 77 creative tests in 12 months. As a result we increased ROAS +55% and reduced Cost per Purchase -64% while scaling revenue from $17K per month to over $765K per month.
Capptive8 demonstrates some impressive copywriting skills.
No waffle or pointless buzz words – Just “we did this” and “these were the results”.
Language like this feels more likely to connect with their target market: managers and directors who focus on spreadsheets, budgets and key performance metrics.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it.
A case study is nothing without impressive results. The more concrete and tangible, the better.
And Capptive8’s results are seriously impressive.
So I question why they hide them in tiny bubbles?
But they redeem themselves with compelling charts and graphs, all in brand colors.
These show real dollar values increasing over time – the kind of information that proves Capptive8 can produce tangible benefits for their clients.
The Social Proof
Again, Capptive8 is coming in hot with a very convincing video to encourage social proof.
A satisfied client shares his experiences of working with them, and how they’ve become a trusted partner for his businesses.
Here’s a paraphrased quote from the video...
“Most agencies are happy to spend your money. Capptive8 is the first one I’ve seen that actually wants to protect our money. We feel we can trust them.”
Sometimes that’s all it takes to make the sale: someone else to test the water first and report back.
For visitors who aren’t yet ready to start a conversation, Capptive8 offers more case studies to read through.
If you have multiple case studies published, you should do this too!
And now, perhaps the largest contact link I’ve ever seen...
Despite its size however, it’s still rather missable. There’s nothing to distinguish it from the overall white-on-black design, and it’s banished to the very bottom of the page.
I’m also not sure “CONTACT US” is a compelling call-to-action.
This is where a different color page section could really work well – a call-to-action should catch your attention and communicate a benefit.
Some suggestions might be:
- Let us know what you’re working on
- How can we help you?
- Start a conversation
- Do you want similar results?
Thankfully, clicking on the link doesn’t lead to a boring, generic contact form.
It opens a Typeform questionnaire, helping Capptive8 to pre-vet potential clients...
Key Takeaways from Capptive8
Don’t gloss over the challenge.
Great case studies tell a story, starting with a clearly communicated need, frustration or opportunity. After all, if the result was easy to achieve, the client wouldn't need you.
Why was the project so important to the client?
What does their life look like without your help?
It's 2021 – video is everywhere. It's especially effective for mobile readers, where it can communicate so much in an engaging and easily consumed format.
Capptive8's video is a great example of what you should aim to include on your case study pages. If you've never shot a client testimonial video before, now's the time to step out of your comfort zone (or hire a specialist).
Headlines are really, really, really important.
A great headline like Capptive8's hooks in readers. A bad headline can make them lose interest before they get the chance to read more.
Remember that headlines can show on case study index pages, search results, and on social media, where they determine if people even click through.
Big Brand Ideas
Big Brand Ideas is a creative digital marketing agency – they offer the full range of services including strategy, design and development, SEO, and social media.
If that wasn't impressive enough, they have a cute origami elephant as a logo.
Big Brand Ideas was asked to come up with a new customer loyalty scheme, designed to “connect, engage and build repeat business throughout the [World Cup] competition”.
The result was a case study on the successful Fosters Beer World Cup Match Predictor.
The overall design isn’t flashy or exciting, but it works.
It’s clean and readable, and a good example of minimalistic design.
Structure is maintained with page sections and solid color blocks, ensuring the reader doesn’t feel lost in a white canvas.
I’d suggest extending the content and supporting navigation with a sticky table of contents.
This isn’t the most compelling headline for a client case study page.
It doesn’t communicate any benefits or results, and even introduces some confusion between Fosters and Marston’s.
A better headline would be:
The Fosters World Cup Predictor: How we designed a successful customer loyalty scheme
Big Brand Ideas features an opening paragraph on the challenge they were hired to solve, but it’s just too meager at 45 words.
There’s no story or frustration communicated. Just vague terms like “connect” and “engage” which make the aims less tangible to the reader.
But hey, I’m a writer, so perhaps I’m a little sensitive to this. They still get some internet points for leading with the challenge!
I love these images that showcase the final app. They demonstrate Big Brand Ideas' expertise in strategy and design skills, and they show visitors a tangible product.
This is also a great example of a picture being worth a thousand words.
It’s at this point that visitors hopefully say “Ah, I get it now. That’s actually quite clever!”
It’s not enough to show soft or creative results in digital marketing campaigns. Visitors want to see metrics that prove a project was successful.
Big Brand Ideas showcase these metrics loud and proud.
They’re a little light on the details, but that might be a great topic for discussion on the phone with new leads.
The Social Proof
The case study features a short written testimonial from the client, helping to show the satisfaction from the other side of the agency-client relationship.
It’s definitely missing a photo or video to add that human element. A text block is so easy to skip.
Another case study without a closing call-to-action.
Big Brand Ideas relies on the contact information in their footer, forcing visitors to make decisions and take the initiative.
But what happens if someone reads this case study on the bus, or waiting in line at a busy coffee shop?
It’s unlikely they’ll choose to call or send an email.
The more likely outcome is they put away their smartphones to focus on the immediate task at hand.
Key Takeaways from Big Brand Ideas
Screenshots, images, wireframes, and prototype sketches look great in a case study. They show a logical and personalized approach to solving the client's problem.
No one likes to think a service provider is just following the same formula with every client.
Social proof is an important part of an effective case study.
A client quote is the bare minimum. Consider adding videos, social media posts, and images of real people enjoying the results.
Statistics and growth metrics are a great way to showcase positive results.
Big Brand Ideas don't hide their achievements in a rambling paragraph. Neither should you!
Single Grain is a full-service digital marketing agency – SEO, PPC, social media. The full works.
This case study focuses on their work for Twenty20, a stock photography business that offers authentic, real-world images. So hopefully no more laughing women eating salads.
Let’s read their story...
Single Grain’s case study page feels friendly and vibrant. It’s logically laid out and has many of the features we like to see in a modern website:
- Featured images
- A sticky navigation
- Embedded videos
- Page sections
- Attention to typography
If I have one small issue, it’s with the full-width paragraphs that negatively impact readability.
The Goal and Strategy sections would scan better in half-page columns, either next to each other or with accompanying images.
Overall great job, two thumbs up.
Another benefits-driven headline!
Single Grain’s case study headline focuses on improvements to a key growth metric… basically more customers.
And what business doesn’t want more customers?
Another challenge section that’s light on words.
However, this one provides some clear pain points for Single Grain to solve.
- Reliance on in-house sales
- Differentiation in a crowded market
These are real opportunities that can impact sales and revenue.
But I wonder, is the need and frustration adequately communicated?
A short “before story” could help to set the aims, written from the perspective of Twenty20.
Unfortunately, there’s nothing solid to get hold of in Single Grain’s case study solution block.
The copywriting is deliberately abstract – it’s impossible to find any factual strategy.
By the time we read “Alpha-Beta-Gamma campaign”, it has, quite literally, become alphabet soup.
What exactly did Single Grain do to achieve the case study aims?
Single Grain’s results section is split into 2 sections:
- A summary paragraph
- Some impressive metrics
Notably better copywriting here, with clear references to the metrics that matter to Twenty20: traffic, revenue per session, free-trial volume, advertising costs.
But the reader’s eye is drawn more to the engagement statistics below...
Cutting through all the waffle, these colorful statistics elements stand out to tell a powerful story.
- Over 400% volume of web traffic
- 16 times increase in marketing qualified leads
- 72% cheaper leads
Wow, that’s impressive!
These are the kind of results that should lead an effective client case study.
The Social Proof
Single Grain features a professional case study video right at the top of the page.
Some case study videos are narrated by the agency or consultant, but this one is entirely narrated by the client.
He explains the problems they hope to solve, why they chose Single Grain, and what benefits they see from the relationship.
It’s a fantastic testimonial video and a great addition to any case study page.
This is our first call-to-action that is clearly aligned to a case study visitor.
The addition of the phone number is a smart move. Some people prefer to just pick up the phone rather than fill out a form.
And speaking of forms, here's the lightbox that opens when you click on the “Give us a few details” option...
Note the headline: Let's set up your free consultation.
This refocuses the request of information towards a benefit for the lead.
Key Takeaways from Single Grain
The absolute worst thing copywriting can do is bore the reader.
Vagueness and corporate buzzwords don't win clients. Empathy, professionalism and results do.
Web page readers don't read. They skim and scan.
They rely on you to tell them what information is most important.
Use bold colors and larger fonts like Single Grain, to emphasize key information.
Call-to-actions should be streamlined, benefits-driven, and work well on mobile devices.
Don't ask your visitors to choose between emailing, calling, filling out a generic contact form, or downloading a brochure. Tell them what they should do next.
Julia Charles Event Management
Julia Charles Event Management offers both large and small scale event services – whether that’s a corporate dinner, or a fun 60th birthday party.
Julia Charles was asked to plan and organize an outdoor Easter event for Newmarket (a small market town in England). They were tasked with creating a competition to increase the flow of people and grow social media reach.
I’ll start by saying how refreshing and friendly I found this case study design.
It’s so vibrant and full of life!
The layout makes great use of alternating columns and background colors, to maintain flow and keep the reader engaged.
It’s clear that Julia Charles understands how important images are in conveying their events. They make great use of photos, not only to add a splash of color, but to show real people having fun as social proof.
Unlike online marketing agencies, event organizers aren’t generally judged on performance metrics. A successful event is generally one without hiccups, one where the guests aren’t aware there was an event organizer.
With this in mind, I think a factual headline works well for Julia Charles.
It also increases their chances of showing for search terms like “easter event planners”.
Not all case studies need a catchy benefits-driven hook in the headline.
Julia Charles’ case study offers a succinct and solid description of the goals of the project.
The focus on a 3-week turnaround shows potential clients that Julia Charles can get them out of a jam with a tight schedule.
The copywriting feels authentic without unnecessary corporate padding.
As with the Challenge section, Julia Charles’ case study shares a no-nonsense account of how they supported the Newmarket Easter event.
There’s not much to say here, except well done!
While the success of most events comes down to how much people enjoyed it, there are other outcomes to consider adding to a case study page.
Here, Julia Charles shares some more tangible results: every shop reported an increase in revenue, and all the printouts were used on social media.
Perhaps you can find a mix of feel-good results and measurable benefits for your case studies.
Here’s some examples...
Photos of the finished project.
Clients report seeing an increase in wildlife. Birds, honey bees, butterflies.
Photos and videos of the event.
Increased footfall, local business revenue, feedback forms left, drinks sold.
Testimonials of feeling healthier, happy photos.
Weight loss, BMI, healthier skin, playing football with children for first time.
And here are Julia Charles' softer, feel-good results...
Speaking of feel-good results, the photos are the real star of this case study!
A lot of this case study page is dedicated to showcasing these fantastic images, including social media screenshots and event printouts.
The Social Proof
The case study claims a big uptick in social media engagement, so it’s a little disappointing there’s no Facebook and Twitter screenshots or quotes.
There are some Facebook posts hidden in the image gallery, but these are from the organizers, so they’re less effective social proof than individual users.
How could Julia Charles improve their social media proof on this case study?
- Add featured quotes from the Newmarket authorities, sharing how happy they were with the event planning.
- Add a video with positive feedback from happy event participants and the Newmarket authorities.
- Feature some positive social media posts.
Here’s another call-to-action that has been crafted for case study readers.
A friendly question is often effective – it suggests a conversation rather than a sales pitch.
Key Takeaways from Julia Charles
Not all case studies need a benefits-driven headline.
Sometimes a clear, factual title is more appropriate and beneficial for SEO keyword targeting.
Mix soft 'feel-good' results with hard metrics to paint a picture of the benefits you provided.
Success isn't defined only by what you achieved, but also the value perceived by the client and stakeholders.
Include photos of real people impacted by your work.
We're naturally drawn to images of people, as we look for connections and similarities with ourselves. Avoid stock images however, as authenticity makes a huge difference.
Salesforce is a cloud-based software company with annual revenues of 17 billion dollars.
It turns out they have a great selection of case study pages focused not only on their clients, but also on their philanthropy and charity partnerships.
(RED) is one such case study.
(RED) is an organization working to fight the African HIV/AIDS epidemic. They partner with iconic brands to fund and support their vital work and educate people that AIDS still affects over 38 million people worldwide
We selected this to show you that case studies aren’t limited to paying clients… any inspiring project can be built into an effective case study!
Salesforce makes great use of modern design elements and layouts.
The design is appropriately corporate, given the enterprise-level clients who work with Salesforce, but it avoids feeling too impersonal by including friendly faces, vibrant graphics, and a cute racoon with a clipboard.
We approve of Salesforce’s choice of design elements:
- Hero sections
- Feature boxes
- Embedded videos
- Full-width sections
- Professional responsive web design
To really understand this headline, you need to know that Salesforce runs a social responsibility programme called Trailblazers. Even without this knowledge, the headline doesn’t fall apart too much.
It does feel like a press release headline however: safe and uninspired.
I’d like to see an implied transformation – what impact or benefit has Salesforce produced for (RED) and the AIDS epidemic?
“It’s really not about charity. It’s about justice, and that each life has equal value,” said CEO Deb Dugan. “AIDS has taken 35 million people. That’s like all of Canada being gone.”
"(RED) is collaborating with Salesforce to power communications and data management, enabling its team of just 18 people to make a profound, measurable difference in the world."
It’s hard to put into words exactly how devastating AIDS is for sub-Saharan Africa, especially when it’s lost a lot of media attention over the years. Salesforce/(RED) give it a good try, but I fear the scale of the problem is too large to be understood by average people.
It would be better to frame this colossal challenge with a localized example, like a story of a village decimated by personal loss and inadequate medical care.
Most people are incapable of caring about 35 million people in a different continent. That’s just another statistic.
But show us the faces and stories of real people, and suddenly the goals are more relatable.
“Salesforce has not only given multimillions of dollars to the cause to get the job done, but Salesforce employees have also come in and worked with (RED) as though they were part of the team — and now have really become part of the (RED) family.
"Salesforce supports this ambitious initiative through its 1-1-1 model, which dedicates 1% of Salesforce’s technology, people, and resources to social impact organizations.”
This sounds really interesting, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, this is the only information we get about exactly how Salesforce supports (RED)’s fight against AIDS.
- What technology does Salesforce contribute?
- What do the Salesforce people do?
- How is the 1% of resources used to achieve such an inspiring goal?
Like the solution, the results of Salesforce’s partnership with (RED) are impossible to find among the blocks of text.
We never really discover what this $465 million figure refers to, or what the 20 employees achieved.
The Social Proof
Salesforce features a great video on their case study page.
It paints the picture of the challenge (RED) is trying to solve with on-the-ground footage in AIDS-affected villages, and the amazing work they’re doing to give people a future.
There’s emotional piano, drone footage, and slow-motion shots of (RED) branded merchandise.
Unfortunately, there’s not a single mention of Salesforce’s work.
This all leaves me with the impression that – despite the excellent design and layout – this “case study” is a PR advertisement in disguise.
The Salesforce case study does include some well-designed feature columns, with links to the products they claim help (RED) in their mission.
Showcasing related products and services on a case study is a nice little touch.
The page closes with the cute racoon, on a full-width page section call-to-action.
The design is unmissable (exactly what you want with a CTA), and the headline is a good fit.
It does feel like a generic call-to-action, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’ve got your message and audience correctly dialled in.
Finally, the case study page features a chat widget.
I don’t know if I love or hate these pop-ups, but recent studies suggest that visitors who use live chat are worth 4.5 times more than visitors that don’t. This is a good page to test tools like chat widgets; presumably, visitors reading case studies are seriously considering your services against their needs – a little human contact might nudge them towards a decision.
Key Takeaways from Salesforce
Define the challenge and goals of your client project.
If they're too broad, vague or lofty, it's hard to make readers relate to the needs and aims. Effective case studies work because potential clients recognize their own needs in the stories of others.
Consider promoting your products and services if they are closely aligned to the solution provided in the case story.
But don't be tempted to turn it into a generic shop tour.
If you install solar panels, for example, showcase the specific systems used in the case study.
If you provide digital marketing, showcase the exact services used in the case study.
Don't mislead your readers.
Partner advertorials and press releases are not case studies.
Thrive Hot Yoga
Unfortunately, Thrive Hot Yoga isn’t the name of our latest WordPress plugin!
They offer yoga coaching and retreats, including virtual classes and on-demand videos. They’re a great example of how coaching and membership sites can share stories of personal transformation as case studies.
Of course, there’s some overlap between a testimonial and a case study – both show a before-and-after transformation. It’s really a matter of perspective...
A pure case study would be: “Sean came to us with this problem. This is how we fixed it. Here are the results”.
A pure testimonial would be: “I came to Thrive Hot Yoga with this problem. This is how they fixed it. Here are the results.”
In reality, the difference isn’t always so clear or important. Most case studies greatly benefit from the personal experiences of the client in their own words. This one is entirely in his own words.
Straight away, we can see Thrive Hot Yoga is using a standard blog post design.
The case study includes a category link, a comments section, and a previous-next pagination element. None of these add value to a case study.
Thankfully, the structure and content are top quality.
We see a compelling headline, featured quotes, a challenge-solution-results structure, and some really impressive images. All this page needs is some modern, focused design to break up the wall of text.
And a call-to-action!
Rather than opting for the easy “Sean Chamberlain” headline, Thrive Hot Yoga have selected interesting quotes to use as headlines for each page.
It’s intriguing and emotionally-driven. I want to know more and keep reading.
Here’s some headlines from other pages:
That last one is super powerful. It tells a story before we’ve even read the content.
With no design to speak of, we’re judging Sean’s challenge purely through a copywriting lens.
And wowee, it’s perfect!
- He touches on pain points (literally!)
- He describes previous, failed attempts to fix the problem
- He paints a bleak future without an effective solution
This is a compelling “before” story that communicates a level of need that would work well in many case studies.
Sean’s solution was to start Bikram Yoga.
“It was one of the most important and impactful days in my life.”
Again, the lines between case study and testimonial are blurred here, so unfortunately we don’t get any perspective from the Thrive Hot Yoga team. I feel this is missing a professional assessment of Sean’s needs and a recommended program, and that can only come from the professionals.
The dual perspective of both professional and client would elevate this ‘casetemonial’ to a powerful piece of content marketing.
Thrive Hot Yoga features both measurable and feel-good results.
First, we read Sean’s achievements in balance, flexibility, strength and golf performance (yes, I had to Google clubhead speed!)
These are the hard results that make a positive impact in his life.
Next we see the feel-good results; seriously impressive photos of yoga poses.
Here’s the mental conversation this evokes in readers:
- Sean looks so happy and satisfied.
- I wish I could do that!
- I wish I had the core strength to hold those poses.
- I wish I looked and felt as fit as Sean.
- How do I achieve this?
Remember that coaches and membership sites aren’t really selling a product. They’re selling the promise of a personal transformation.
The Social Proof
The only social proof is that the entire page is written by Sean.
I’d like to see a video featuring not only Sean, but also other yogis who train with him.
Perhaps some quotes from friends and family, commenting on the improvements they’ve seen in Sean since his journey with Thrive Hot Yoga.
Remember the question “How do I achieve this?”
Unfortunately, Sean’s story kind of leaves readers hanging on exactly what they should do next.
We see a comments box (and no comments) where a clear call-to-action should. A better option would be a full-width page section with a headline “Join us on our next Yoga session!” or “Are you ready to visualize the best YOU?”
Key Takeaways from Thrive Hot Yoga
Every case study needs a call-to-action.
A generic CTA is acceptable in a pinch.
But an aligned CTA is so much better. It will connect with your readers and increase conversion rates.
The core aim of an effective case study is for the reader to think:
"I have a similar need! How can I achieve results like these?"
You can achieve this by letting your clients describe – in their own words – the pain-points and frustrations that pushed them to hire a professional, and the benefits they've discovered since.
Case studies deserve better than a standard blog post or page template.
Thrive Hot Yoga's case study would look more professional with page sections, columns, and other elements to aid focus and readability.
What Else Can We Learn from These Case Study Pages?
Lock in the Structure
You’ll notice that effective case studies follow a similar structure:
- Introduce the players
- Explain the challenge
- Describe the solution
- Showcase the results
- Encourage action
Unless you’ve got a really good reason otherwise, you should use this formula too.
Copywriting is Critical
So much about case studies comes down to effective writing skills.
Good copywriting encourages attention, interest, desire and action.
The single, most important rule of business case study writing is this… It’s not about you.
Case studies aren’t really about your business. They're not even about the client you’re showcasing. Case studies are about the reader – how they relate to the story, and how they can achieve similar results... results that only you can offer.
This is perhaps the most critical part of how to write a case study.
We all know design is important.
A terribly designed case study simply won’t get read, and it will struggle to convert new clients.
I won’t list individual design elements here, but try to consider the following while designing your case studies:
Video is the Ultimate Social Proof
Who buys an expensive product on Amazon before reading the reviews?
It’s not enough for a company to claim their customers are happy; we want to see it for ourselves in their own words.
The same applies to case studies!
A client testimonial video is a powerful social proofing tool that can convert on-the-fence leads.
If You Want Someone to Take Action, Tell Them!
Phone numbers in the footer? Generic contact forms?
You can do better than that.
Give your readers an obvious call-to-action – the more aligned to the case study the better.
Keep it simple, focused and easy to achieve on mobile devices.
Putting It All Together into the Ultimate Online Case Study Blueprint
We’ve seen what works and doesn’t across these 7 case study pages.
Now it’s time to put it all together into an a helpful blueprint, to make it easier for you to publish impressive case studies
Think of it as a helpful starting point. You should also add your own voice and creativity to make your client case studies unique and interesting.
Time to Turn Your Success Stories into Case Studies
Remember I said never leave your readers without a call-to-action?
Well here’s yours…
It’s time to create your own case study page for your website.
Think about what client results you can package up into a compelling story, and follow the blueprint above to get your first case study published this week.
When you’re done, come back to this post – Ctrl+D or ⌘+D to bookmark it! – and post a link to your published case study in the comments below.
We’d love to see what you’ve been working on.