How to hook your prospects with a captivating case study

How to hook your prospects with captivating case studies

Is your sales team angling for a case study to leave with prospects? 

Or are you keen to showcase customer success stories on your website? 

Great idea. 


According to DemandGen's 2016 Content Preferences Survey Report:

73% of B2B buyers seek out case studies when researching a purchase.

And the B2B Technology Marketing Community’s 2016 B2B Content Marketing Report found that: 

55% of B2B marketers described case studies as their most effective type of content.

But does a niggling voice prickle at you: case studies are often boring?

Do you worry about creating one that fails to help convince prospects to buy?

Here’s the thing. No case study needs to be boring.

Get the building blocks right and you can craft an engaging case study.

One your prospects enjoy reading.

One that helps your sales team close sales.

Want to find out how?

Who’s the hero of your story? 

Imagine your prospect's an IT manager at a SaaS company.

Sales have soared. His company’s expanded to several branch offices.

But as it’s done so, conference calls have become a regular source of pain. Torture to setup, once live, callers bewail not being able to hear each other.

He’s searching for a videoconferencing suite that’s child’s play to use. And that helps his colleagues get work done.

What do you think he’d care about when he reads a case study?

Probably not just being told how great your product is.

Once he’s found a product matching his needs, he'll crave reassurance he’s making the right choice.


So let your case study reassure him.

Your case study as hero's journey 

Have you heard of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey?

It describes a classic storytelling structure in which the hero of the story receives a call to adventure. He must step out of the comfort of his ordinary world and face dangerous challenges. Guided by a mentor, the hero finally succeeds in his quest before returning home with transformative power.

Make your case study tell a hero’s journey.

Tell a story in which, as Nancy Duarte suggests:​

You’re the mentor. You’re not Luke Skywalker

Be Obi Wan offering your prospect a lightsabre and expert guidance.

Let your prospect imagine himself as the hero.

Don’t make your case study all about you. Make it about your customer.

Because what happens when your prospect reads this tale of someone choosing your product and becoming a hero to his colleagues?

Won't he warm to the idea of working with you?

And feel more comfortable that if he buys from you his company will reward his decision?

Capture attention with an emotional hook

But how can you entice your prospect to read your hero’s tale?

Imagine he picks up your case study and starts to read.

You give him some background on your customer to set the scene. How do you capture his attention and make him hungry to read on?

Look at how Oncam Grandeye’s Leeds Metropolitan University case study dives in to a moment of tension involving real people:

A man at a campus shop tries to pay for his goods with three fake £20 notes. Though in this instance the clerk doesn’t accept the forged notes, the man remains confident that the attempt won’t have any repercussions — while paying, he has kept his head down to avoid the fixed camera over the till. What he hasn’t noticed are the two inconspicuous Oncam Grandeye 360-degree cameras in the retail area.

Or how Cisco’s Ansell case study introduces you to George Michalitsianos and the mountainous challenge he faced:

George Michalitsianos inherited a tall task when joining Ansell. The Board of Directors had made cybersecurity a priority to make sure it reduced its intellectual property and technology risks through beefed up security. Board members had seen hacking, phishing, and ransomware attacks that led to significant security breaches at other companies. Michalitsianos knew the company wasn’t willing to see the same thing happen to it.


No pressure, right?

Then compare it with this characterless opening gambit:

RA’s Employee Screening service wanted to introduce an enhanced service to clients providing online self-service facilities including allowing clients to view cases as they progressed through the screening process. The new system needed to support a complex case work flow and to provide simplification and automation of the back-office processes.

Which of these case studies grabs your attention and inspires you to read on?

Your case study needs to fight for attention against project deadlines, new emails, social media updates.

So kindle your prospect’s imagination early.

Spark his emotions so he cares about reading on.

And get him burning with curiosity to find out what happens next.


Start with people rather than processes.

With a moment of tension. Of intrigue.

Describe the moment your client realises things have gone south.

And he needs to act.

Fire imagination with credibility-building details

Want to know one of the secrets of an inspiring case study?

Educate your prospect on using your product.

Don’t skimp on the details.

See how HubSpot walks us through the steps Laurent Fontaine took to achieve a sixfold increase in leads:

Laurent got started by creating personas for Exodata’s different types of clients and then began targeting them with content that they would be interested in reading. He set up ebooks and whitepapers on Landing Pages, adding Calls-to-Action and Forms to drive user engagement. He used the Social Inbox to increase Exodata’s profile across the social networks and to encourage followers to visit the company’s Blog.

Describe what your client did so your prospect can visualise what happened. Then your prospect can see himself rolling it out in his own company.

But credibility-building details are not the only kind of details you need to include.

What else do you need?

Keep it real to persuade and convince

How often do your clients install your products without a single hitch?


Let’s return to our IT manager ripping out his crappy old on-the-blink audioconferencing equipment.

What happens?

He'll discover unexpected gremlins creeping out to meet him as he starts installing his new kit. Bugs crawling into view when people dial in for the first time.

Your prospect’s been around the block a few times. He knows how these projects go.

If you don’t mention your customer hitting any bumps in the road, your case study risks sounding phoney.

What’s more, you miss a golden opportunity to show how you’re a great mentor. A chance to show you help your customers get back on track when they hit unforeseen snags.


Look at how GraphAware shows its flexibility as it helps its client, InfoJobs, overcome an unforeseen stumbling block: overloaded internal server infrastructure.

Marc Pou contacted GraphAware to help his team further test and optimise their code as well as to migrate the contact recommendation feature into Amazon Web Services to improve performance. ‘We had not specified deploying our recommendation service into the cloud in our contract with GraphAware,’ says Pou. ‘But when we were faced with needing this to happen, they delivered.’

Show your prospect how you had your customer’s back when things went wrong.

Then he’ll feel confident of delighting his boss when he works with you.

Seal the deal with hard numbers

Your prospect has to sell your offer to other people within his firm. Colleagues who demand numbers to justify investment.

Have you equipped him with the ammo he needs?

When you interview your client, ask for hard numbers that show the results you’ve helped them achieve. (These will make your featured customer look great too.)

Push to find out specifics on, for example:

  • Sales
  • Costs
  • Profit
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Time-to-market
  • Order activation times
  • Customer satisfaction.

Ask for details. How much did these change?

Birst’s case study of Citrix, for example, pulls out four specific results:

  • Reliability up 10 percentage points
  • On-time Delivery exceeds 99%
  • Inventory Turns increased 5-fold to >12 turns
  • Days in Supply reduced by 35%


Recall how you started your case study with emotion to entice your prospect in?

Make sure you close with logic.

That’s how you persuade them to act.

Kindle intrigue at a distance

One last thing to give your case study a fighting chance…

Your case study has got to catch your prospect’s eye from a distance.

Remember, it faces a lot of competition for your prospect’s attention.

What does he see when he glances at it across his desk?

Make sure he sees enough to catch his attention and read your carefully crafted opening.

Invite your prospect to read with:

  • An eye-catching benefit-focused headline
  • An attractive layout with plenty of white space
  • A strong pull quote to whet your prospect's appetite
  • A concise description of the challenge up front
  • A summary of the hard results with numbers write large
  • Body text that's big enough to look easy and friendly to read.

Once your case study is back from your artworker, print it out and glance at it from a few feet away.

Imagine yourself in the shoes of your prospect: would he see, at that distance, enough to get him intrigued and want to read more?

Don’t be afraid to tweak the design until you’re happy. Because a case study only works its magic if it grabs your prospect’s attention.

Inspire your prospects

Case studies are often dull documents that shine no light for readers.

They regurgitate information from product pages and brochures. Using the same words. Thoughtlessly.

They might feel easy to create. But end up a waste of effort. A missed opportunity to engage readers.

They scream lazy.

But it isn’t so hard to create a compelling case study that converts prospects. And delights your sales team.

Start by imagining yourself into their world.

Find the story they yearn to hear. Then narrate your customer’s epic journey to that remarkable destination.

With warmth. With empathy. With care.

And inspire your prospects to become heroes.

Leave a Comment: