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Case Study Templates

Learn how to showcase your company's success using compelling case studies.

When you're thinking about buying a product or a service, what's the very first thing you do?

Chances are, you'd ask a friend whether they recommend it and do some online research to see what others are saying.

Why? Because you know that a little online research could spare you from a bad experience or poor investment of your budget.

Your customers are the same way. They know that you think what you're selling is great, but they want to know what others think about it.

Case studies give you the chance to show – instead of just tell – those real-life stories of how you were able to help your customers succeed.

They're invaluable assets when it comes to establishing proof that what you're offering is valuable and high-quality. Ideally, this will help persuade your potential customers to buy from you.

But creating them requires some coordination and planning. Keep on reading and you'll find:

  • Tips on finding the right candidates for your case studies;
  • Advice on how to reach out to them for permission to feature them as a case study;
  • Sample interview questions to inform your case study content;
  • Interviewing techniques;
  • A case study template that shows you the sample structure from top to bottom;
  • A series of business case study examples for inspiration.

Let's start with why case studies are such powerful assets in soliciting business.

The Importance of Case Studies

When shopping for a new product or service, you'd trust the customer who's already used the product or service over the sales guy. Getting a real-life opinion from someone is always more helpful, because it’s both unbiased, and often rooted in a common experience. In fact, according to Search Engine Land, 9 out of 10 people are looking at online product reviews and posts on social networks before making a purchasing decision.

Case studies add authenticity to your business, as well as credibility and social proof that your product or service has truly helped others overcome their challenges and achieve their goals.

Case studies help your leads envision how your product or service would fit into their lives, and often act as that missing piece that moves them to take purchasing action.

They think, “If this person had these results, just imagine what kind of results I could see!”

While each of your case studies will tell a slightly different story, they will each have the same core components that let your leads envision themselves using your product or service.

In this case study creation guide, we’ll break down those case study components and give you everything you’ll need to create case studies that will help your sales team close more of the right deals.

Let’s start with how to find the right customers and how best to reach out to them for doing a case study with you.

How to Get Testimonials

What to Look For in Good Case Study Candidates

Resist the temptation to ask anyone and everyone for a case study testimonial. Testimonials should address the concerns that potential customers with reservations might have, so be selective. Here are eight proven methods in finding the perfect case study candidate for your testimonial.

Product Knowledge

Look for customers who know your product or service front and back -- they’re probably happy because they’re leveraging features and functionality to their fullest so they can speak about their experience fluidly. Also, if there’s a specific part of your product that you’re trying to promote, you can look for customers who are seeing success with it and focus your story on that.

Switchers

If you have customers who used one or more (more is best) competitive products or services before they came to you, these stories are like gold dust. Getting them to tell your prospective customers why you’re better than your competition will hold far more weight than your own brand saying so.

Exemplary Results

Look for customers who are seeing great results – these people are usually eager to share it with the world, and make for plenty of great quotes and sound-bites, not to mention the enthusiasm necessary to create engaging content.

Big-Name/Recognizable Brands

If the big players in an industry are vouching for your product or service, this lends credibility that the smaller companies can’t offer.

Where to Find the Best Case Study Candidates

You probably don't know which of your customers will make the best case study candidates off the top of your head. Use the resources you have available to you. Make sure you turn to:

Your Sales & Services Teams

Ask your sales reps what they need, first. Where are they struggling to close deals, what are your top verticals? What part of your offering is in demand and what do you need to prioritize? As for your services team, they hear from your customers all the time and know the types of projects they are working on and the success they have seen so will be able to make great recommendations for case studies.

Review Websites

Check the review sites that are relevant to your industry and see if you have been reviewed by any of your customers already. It’s a good idea to keep a backlog of these to use in sales pitches but also to reach out to those customers to create a full case study. The best B2C business and product review websites include Amazon Customer Reviews, Angie's List, and Choice. For B2B, your best bets are Better Business Bureau and Glassdoor.

CRM Dashboard

Use your CRM system or customer database to do your own research. What industries do the majority of your customers fall into? What is your most/least popular product or service? Where is the most of your revenue coming from?

Social Media

Have a look on social media to see which of your customers are talking about you and what they’re saying. Chances are if they’re happy to talk about you publicly on social, they’ll be happy to do a case study, too.

Having trouble tracking how happy your customers are? HubSpot’s “Social Inbox” tool links social interactions to real customers in your database.

How to Reach Out to These Candidates

Now that you have decided who you are going to reach out to, the best way to start is sending out a short email congratulating the customer on their success, and then explaining why you want them to be featured in a case study.

Here are some tips for how to recruit case study participants via email.

Bonus Tip: How to Write an Effective Email

Here are a few tips for writing effective emails to customers asking them to work with you on a case study.

  • Be complimentary. Boost their ego and make them feel really special so they will be more likely to say yes to going public with their experience.
  • Keep your introductory email quick. Don't include the nitty gritty details. Simply suggesting a time and date to chat further is a good way to broach the subject without overwhelming them.
  • Attach the questions you’d like to ask. That way, they can look over them as they decide whether or not they want to participate.
  • Mention them by name in the email if you received them as a referral from someone on your sales or support team.
  • Include your own name, too. It will make your customer more comfortable seeing the name of someone they know.

Remember: Your customers are just as busy as you are, so don’t expect every customer to respond to you as soon as you email them. However, you need to communicate deadlines for completion so that it doesn’t drag on forever and become a nuisance for everyone involved.

When you do get a response to your initial email, schedule a time for a phone conversation to conduct the interview -- your questions need to be open-ended so doing the interview in-person or over the phone will get you the best answers.

Be aware that you may need to speak to multiple people within the organization to get the full story.

Below is an example from one of our initial case study emails that we send out to set expectations early on:

Once they've agreed to answer your questions, schedule a call with them so you can have a fluid conversation. We recommend using an online meeting tool so you can schedule it without a lot of back-and-forth, and also record the conversation for your reference later -- with their permission.

Want to book meetings easily without all the back and forth? HubSpot Meetings lets you share a link with others so they can choose a time that works for everyone. Works with Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, and HubSpot CRM.

Free Case Study Templates

Ready to create your own case studies?

Sharing the success of a client is a sure-fire way to get you new customers, so we've put together a template that you can use to showcase your company's successes.

Click the button below to download our case study template for Microsoft Word. (You will not have to enter any personal information to get access to this template, and it's completely free.)

Get Your Case Study Template

This template will give you a sample structure for a case study, from the executive summary to key takeaways. Keep on reading for advice on how to fill out these sections.

Customer case studies are an excellent resource for me in sales. They allow my prospects to understand how other marketers are using HubSpot to solve similar challenges and achieve the same goals that they are trying to reach.

Olivia Kirwan

Corporate Enterprise Territory Manager

HubSpot

How to Write a Business Case Study

Now, let's get into how to write your case study from start to finish.

Prepare Your Case Study Questions

To write a great case study, you have to ask the right questions. Always ask open-ended questions to keep the conversation fluid, but direct the customer to the topics you want to cover. The questions you ask should help tell a relatable story using impressible and believable results.

Ask about ...

Their experience before using your product or service.

  • What were you using before this product/service?
  • Summarize three points of frustration you faced.
  • What was the big ah-ha moment when you decided you needed to try something new?
  • What were the top reasons you selected this product/service?

Their experience using your product or service.

  • How easy or hard was it to get started with this product/service?
  • How has it helped you to overcome the challenges you had before?
  • How is it different than other alternatives you've tried?
  • What is your favorite feature? Why?
  • Tell me about the most positive experience you've had using this product/service. (Probe for specifications.)

Their results with your product or service.

  • How has this product/service helped you achieve your business or personal goals?
  • What specific metrics can you share about the impact it has had? Ask for percentage changes if they are hesitant to give you raw data. (You may need to follow up to get these.)

Why they would recommend your product or service.

  • What is the single biggest reason you would recommend our offering?

Conduct the Interview

It’s important to conduct your interview in such a way that makes your customer feel comfortable and confident to share their story as well as encouraging them to share the details that will make your case study a convincing one for similar companies looking at your product/service.

Case Study Interview Tips

  • Ask if you can record the interview. Once you've gotten past the small talk, ask if the customer would feel comofrtable with you recording the interview so you can reference it later. That way, you can focus on the high-level questions while you're talking and refer back to it for the details and numbers. Try a recording software like WebEx or GoToMeeting.
  • Keep the interview conversational. That way, you'll encourage them to chat more openly about their experience, which can bring them down avenues you didn't expect and can result in some really unique and interesting soundbites. 
  • Follow up for clarification. Sometimes, customers have a hard time articulating what they're really trying to say. If an answer doesn't make sense, make sure you get clarification so you can get their story right. They'll appreciate you taking the time to ensure they sound coherent.
  • Ask follow-up questions. You may have noticed that a customer touched on a really important point your company is trying to emphasize. It's okay to ask a few more follow-up questions about that point, too.
  • Keep the need for quotes in mind. Knowing you'll need soundbites to highlight in your case study when you pull it together, make a note of anything you hear throughout the interview that you think would make a good quote. To do this, try re-phrasing what the customer has said right back to them in a way that makes sense for the case study. For example, “When you say X, did you mean XYZ?” helps you expand on their points.

Case Study Checklist

Now that you’ve carried out the interview and you’ve gotten a tone of useful information from your customer that will make a great case study, you need to lay it out in a way that makes sense for the reader. Here’s the format we’ve found to be the most effective:

  1. Executive Summary
  2. About the Client
  3. The Challenges
  4. The Solution
  5. Show the Results
  6. Call-to-Action

Let's break that down.

1) Executive Summary

To write a case study summary, first provide a mini headline to grab your reader's attention. Then, underneath this headline, write 2–4 sentences (under 50 words) summarizing the whole story, making sure to include the most relevant points of the case study.

Here's an American telecommunications case study from HubSpot:

Helpful Resource Alert:

Having trouble coming up with a compelling headline for your case study? It can be hard to narrow down an entire case study into a few words -- especially ones that will drive people to click on it and read or watch the content. Download our ebook, Data-Driven Strategies for Writing Effective Titles & Headlines, to learn what makes headlines successful, based on research of over 3.3 million headlines.

effective-headlines-tablet

  Learn How to Write Better Headlines >> 

Be sure to tag your case studies so it's easy for prospective customers (not to mention your sales team) to find them, as shown by the "Topics" section on the right in the example below. The executive summary is also a great place to showcase 2–3 metrics that highlight your customer's success so you can grab your reader's attention from the get-go.

2) About the Client

Pull a short description of your customer from LinkedIn or their company website, and link to their homepage. For example, for ShoreTel, the "About the Client" section reads:

About ShoreTel
ShoreTel, Inc. is a leading provider of brilliantly simple IP phone systems and unified communications solutions. Its award-winning on-premises IP-PBX solution and cloud-based hosted phone system, ShoreTel Sky, eliminate complexity and improve productivity. ShoreTel is headquartered in Sunnyvale, Calif., and has regional offices and partners worldwide.

3) The Challenges

What challenges was your customer facing before using your product or service? Write 2–3 short paragraphs (under 100 words total) describing what your customer was doing before they bought from you, and the challenges this presented and/or what goals were trying to be achieved.

In our example, we wrote:

“Last Generation” Marketing Tools Limited Their Ability to Execute
Michael Freeman, Senior Manager of Search & Analytics for ShoreTel, was frustrated by how the limitations of the marketing tools used by the team impeded their ability to execute their ideal strategies. The main system they used to support shoretel.com and shoretelsky.com was Eloqua, which they found to be inflexible, slow and not user-friendly. “You either had an extremely limited set of tools to work with or you had to go hire a custom developer to implement a basic landing page... It became something I dreaded logging into,” says Freeman.
The whole team believed in inbound marketing, but didn’t have the right toolset to implement it.  When the opportunity came up to evaluate other marketing software options, Freeman jumped on it. 

Quick tip: Write about the challenges that are most common within your target audience so this part resonates with the most people.

4) The Solution

Write 2–3 short paragraphs (100–150 words total) describing how your company worked with your customer to find a solution to their challenges and implement a winning strategy. Use this space to describe how they are now using your product or service to solve their challenges from the previous section.

He required a system that would grow with the business; this eliminated many vendors when combined with his desire for software that is easy-to-use.    His decision came down to HubSpot and Marketo.  “We felt that [Marketo was] a new and improved version of marketing automation but that’s only a part of what we were trying to implement with inbound marketing... We chose HubSpot because we felt it was the most complete solution available in the market, and more importantly, would continue to innovate in the market because someone at HubSpot is always asking: how does that fit into inbound marketing?”

This is a section where you can make your offering shine, so don't be shy!

5) Results

Write a 2–3 paragraph conclusion to prove that your product/service impacted the customer’s business and helped them to achieve their goals. Feel free to repeat the metrics from the bullet points in your introductory section as part of the text, particularly if they’ve been able to quantify or speak to the ROI of their investment.

Then, if appropriate, end your story on your client’s aspirations for future growth with your company.

ShoreTel Responds to the Market Faster with HubSpot

Freeman is a stickler for analytics and has the metrics to show that ShoreTel’s decision to take a more inbound marketing approach and use HubSpot has paid off. Year-over-year, he has seen a 60% increase in organic search traffic, a 36% increase in leads, and a 110% increase in qualified leads.

Most of all, Freeman finds having an all-in-one marketing platform helps him to execute his marketing campaigns more quickly. "Part of being successful at inbound marketing is to be fast and agile and have analytics… too many systems just create hurdles for you. Having one integrated system helps me create campaigns faster and address the needs of our market."

6) Quotes

Pick one or two quotes that you would feature at the bottom of one of your case study’s sections. Include a head shot of your customer alongside the quote.

Feel free to insert additional quotes into the body of your case study if you feel you have enough and they are compelling.

7) Visuals

If you could have one visual to support the story, what would it be?

Highlight Case Study Data

Use an image that highlights your product or showcases how that customer used it – not just an image of your product – it should show how happy it made their team, the success they saw and bring the story to life.

A real life example of case study data

Helpful Resource Alert:

The data you use in your case studies is only as good as your ability to understand and communicate it. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a statistics whiz to design compelling charts and graphs to use in your case studies. Download our free guide, Data Visualization 101: How to Design Charts & Graphs, to craft compelling customer stories from your data.

data-visualization-ebook-cover

  Get the Data Visualization Ebook >>

Video Case Studies

While simple, written case studies are the easiest to pull off with few resources, you can also think about video case studies which can be really effective. Video has become a powerful tool for brands looking to communicate more easily with their audience -- and a compelling way to tell your customer's story.

8) Call-to-Action

One of the most important -- and most overlooked parts -- of a case study is the call-to-action (CTA). Now is the time to invite your reader to fill out a form and/or talk to your sales team.

Use your CTA to lead your prospect to a landing page or a contact form. This will give you more information on who's reading your case study and who's interested in your company.

Business Case Study Examples

Need some more inspiration?

Check out some of our favorite case studies below. You can see all of HubSpot's case studies in our case study library here.

Did our case studies work on you? See how you can increase your company's revenue with our all-in-one marketing platform.

Want to Create Really Good Case Study Videos?

Download our free ebook, "How to Use Video in Each Stage of the Buyer's Journey."