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A Winning Formula for Powerful Case Studies

A Winning Formula for Powerful Case Studies

June 24, 2013 | By Ed Gandia | 2 Comments

There’s a secret that the most successful copywriters know.  In fact many of them attribute their ability to make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year to this one thing.

It helps them write more persuasive copy that pulls the reader in and motivates them to act.  It helps them write more quickly so they are more productive and can produce more work that seems humanly possible.  And it helps them make more money than most of their colleagues.

So what do the legendary copywriters like Michael Masterson, Dan Kennedy, and Clayton Makepeace know and use every day to be more successful?

It’s that copywriting has a formula.  If you’ve taken AWAI’s Accelerated Program for Six-Figure Copywriting you’ve been exposed to a few of copywriting’s valuable formulas such as the four-legged stool and the 4 P’s.  These formulas are the foundation of copywriting success.

Ed Gandia, has established himself as a case study expert by employing his secret formula for writing powerful case studies.  Using this formula has allowed him to consistently deliver stellar results for his clients while taking less of his time to write.

Want to know more?  Here’s Ed with his proven formula for writing case studies that wow his clients and get results.

Charlotte Hicks,
Managing Editor

I’m naturally lazy.

If there’s a shorter or faster way to get something done — and as long as quality doesn’t suffer — I’m all ears!

Call it lazy. Call it working smarter. All I know is, ever since I was a kid, I’ve constantly looked for ways to get my work done faster so I can go out and play. (Hey, life’s too short to do everything the hard way!)

That’s one of the biggest reasons I love writing case studies.

Case studies are one of the most “formulaic” types of projects in B2B copywriting. By “formulaic” I mean that there’s a proven structure behind a good case study. It’s a structure that hasn’t changed much since case studies were first written.

Follow the format and your chances of ending up with a powerful case study skyrocket. It’s that simple. (Now, that’s my kind of project!)

There’s a reason why this formula or sequence works so well. At its core, it follows an age-old dramatic plot structure used in most great novels, movies and plays.

First, the main characters are introduced. From there, conflict arises. This is where your hero (meaning your client’s customer) faces one or more challenges they must face and deal with.

Finally, the hero overcomes these challenges — in other words, he slays that “dragon,” thanks to your client’s product or service — and lives to tell the tale.

Dramatic conflict is an absolute necessity in any form of storytelling, and case studies are no exception. So with this context in mind, here’s the winning formula (or sequence) for a “traditional” case study:

  1. Customer Background
  2. The Challenge
  3. The Solution
  4. The Results

Essentially, you introduce the customer — who they are, what they do, whom they sell to. From there, you introduce the challenges the customer was facing and explain the impact those challenges were having on the business, department or division in question.

Next, you discuss the product or service the customer used to solve this challenge or set of challenges. And you end by describing the results the customer has enjoyed from buying and implementing that product or service.

Let’s go through these in a little more detail so you can see why the formulaic nature of case studies makes them such lucrative (and fun!) little projects.

Customer Background: Who Are They?

This is the section where you describe the customer and provide some useful background or context for the story. Some bits of information you may want to have in this section include:

  • Where the customer is based
  • What they manufacture or sell
  • What types of customers they target
  • How long they’ve been around (or when they were founded)

Depending on who the target audience is for your case study and what the story is about, pick the facts that make the most sense. You want to end up with 50 – 100 words here, so choose carefully.

Challenge: Dragon Captures Princess

Next, you want to introduce and expand on the key challenges the customer was facing, as they relate to the products or services your client sells. This where we introduce conflict into the story and expand on that conflict so the reader can better appreciate the impact these challenges were having on the customer.

That’s key. You don’t just want to rattle off a list of obstacles here. You want to pick two or three key challenges and delve deeper into each one. You want to explain why they were important, why they were impacting the customer and to what degree they were having an impact.

By the time you’re done with this section, you want to leave the reader feeling that something must be done about these challenges. They’re just too important and too meaningful to ignore.

The Solution: Finding the Ideal Weapon

Which leads us to the next section: the solution. How did the customer solve their problem? What solution did they buy? What does it do? How did they go about looking for the right solution? How did they make their final decision?

After all, the solution didn’t just fall from the sky. There was work involved in finding the right product or service. This is what my friend and colleague Steve Slaunwhite calls “the journey.” Here again, we’re borrowing from classic mythology and storytelling. Your hero doesn’t just show up and slay the dragon. He has to find and assemble the right weapons. He has to travel to faraway lands to look for the dragon. In other words, there’s a quest involved.

This is an area most case study writers ignore or forget about altogether. But that’s a mistake. Great case studies always include a bit about the journey. So make sure to include a few sentences that describe the customer’s quest for the right solution. Not only will it add more depth and credibility to the story, but it will also better position the chosen solution.

Also, whenever possible, it’s important to include some information on how the solution was implemented. How long did it take? How difficult was it to implement? What challenges did the customer encounter during this phase? How did your client resolve those issues?

The Results: The Dragon Has Been Slayed

Which takes us to the final section of the narrative: the results. This where you now discuss, in detail, how well the product or service solved the customer’s challenges. You want to focus on result metrics that are both specific and relevant to the target audience of the case study.

Use tangible and detailed figures whenever possible (for instance, “increased sales by 17.5 percent” is better than “increased sales”). Also, you want to put those results in their proper context by explaining why they’re important to the customer. In other words, you want to explain the benefits of these results to the customer in relation to the challenges the customer was facing.

For instance, rather than just saying that the customer was able to increase production capacity by 12.3 percent, you could add that because of this, the customer won’t have to add another costly production line to the factory or even build another factory. And that means they can avoid incurring a costly and risky capital expense in a difficult economy.

A Winning Formula

Simple, right? Now you see why I love writing case studies. This formula I’ve just given you will enable you to connect with the reader at a deeper level. And it will allow you to write these pieces faster, driving up your hourly earnings as you keep your project fee steady.

Now that’s a great formula for success!

About the Author

Ed Gandia

Ed Gandia is a successful B2B copywriter, business-building coach and strategist who helps freelancers earn more in less time doing work they love for better-paying clients. To download his free tips and resources visit

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  • I’ve just started looking into Case Studies and this was the perfect beginning piece, so I’m looking forward to taking your class!

  • Another great article… I too hope to offer case studies as a niche service. Though I’ve completed the ‘Writing Case Studies’ course and will regularly review it, short articles like this help reinforce the basics. Thank you!

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