How to Show Compelling Results in Your Case Study
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August 12, 2019
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How to Show Compelling Results in Your Case Study

Data is key to compelling results in a case study

Data is at the heart of every case study, because you’re telling a before-and-after story. 

So when you talk to your client, you need to look at two different points in time:

  • What was the situation like before your fantastic service or product saved the day?
  • What was it like after?

Not only that, but the results section of the case study must reinforce the client’s goal stated in the beginning, such as increasing revenue or reducing turnover. If the data doesn’t reinforce that goal, then you haven’t shown that you’ve solved the problem that your client came to you for.

What does data look like?

Sometimes it’s raw numbers. Other times it’s a percentage, especially in cases where clients – for good reason — don’t want to reveal hard data. 

Data is key to compelling results in a case study

For case studies I’ve written, examples of hard data include the following:

  • A company used Excel to track the individual healthcare accounts for more than 40,000 people. Importing and validating new data into Excel took days. With a new customizable database, the process was reduced to just hours.
  • A digital marketing campaign and new website landing pages increased social media conversions by 37% and website visits by 106%. Meanwhile, the cost of conversions decreased by 50%.
  • At an annual brewers’ conference, 84% of participants who took a client’s craft beer quiz completed it. 50% of these qualified leads then RSVP’d to attend a happy hour hosted by the client.

The magic question that gets you data

When talking to the client, they might not cough up the data. Or they give you vague information.

That’s when we need to dig deeper and ask questions that begin with “how.” How many? How much? How long?

To show results, you’ll want to compare the latest data with data compiled prior to implementing your solution. So a key question to ask when you have the final data is this: Compared to what?

Take the example of a hotel chain that implements new software to streamline the check-in process at the registration desk.

Here are some questions you might ask to extract some solid numbers:

  • How did it impact the check-in process at the front desk? Were hotel employees able to check in more guests faster? How much faster? How many more guests per hour/day/week? How does this compare with previous numbers?
  • How has this improved retention of front desk employees? By how much?
  • How has this improved morale of front desk employees? By how much? (This info would most likely come from an employee engagement survey.)
  • How did it improve the hotel guest experience? Prior to the new software, how much time did they have to wait before getting checked in? How much time do they have to wait in line now?
  • How has this increased the number of bookings? By how many?

As you can see, “how” is part of almost every question.

What if you don’t have actual numbers?

For some case studies I’ve written, the result can be as simple as this: The client had an old website. Now they have a new one, it looks spiffy, and it works on mobile devices. The client is happy with your work.

If you can wrangle numbers from a customer like that, great. But maybe they didn’t have Google Analytics (hard to believe, but situations like this still exist). That doesn’t mean you can’t make a case study out of it.

Failure to track progress isn’t the only reason a customer can’t share real numbers. Maybe they don’t want to or can’t, for legal or proprietary reasons. You may still be able to make the case study work.

Let’s look at other examples of results that may not have hard data.

Improved Reputation

  • Your agency completes a rebranding effort for a client, including a new logo and website. The client no longer embarrassed to point people to their website, because it looks awesome. Bonus: You saved the project, because their first designer bailed.

Met Important Deadlines

  • Your accounting business helps close out a major client’s messy books in time for tax filing, ensuring they avoid penalties. And next year will be a much smoother process. Bonus: How much money did you save the client in penalties?
  • Your agency creates marketing collateral in record time so a client can use it for an upcoming conference. Dig deep for numbers: How quickly did you create that collateral? How many types of collateral did you create?

Streamlined Processes

  • You developed a custom software solution for a client that posts results for marathon race participants. Now participants can easily view their times on mobile devices. And they’re happy about it.

A case study without results is just a puff piece

Results are critical to a good case study. Without some data or indication that what you did for a client made a big difference, you won’t have a real case study.

Remember that case studies have three main parts: Problem, Solution, Results. Your product or service helped move the needle for a client. One of the best ways to show that is to compare what life was like for the client before (problem) and after (results) you arrived.

Without that piece of information — the results — your case study isn’t a case study at all. It’s just a puff piece.

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Bonnie Nicholls on Linkedin
Bonnie Nicholls
Bonnie Nicholls is a freelance writer specializing in thought leadership content: case studies, articles, white papers/ebooks and blog posts. She supports industries such as Agile/Scrum, defense and leadership training.