What to look for in your case study writer

Your search for a case study writer will be quicker and more successful if you have a clear vision of your ideal. First and foremost, he should have engaging case study samples that make smart use of subheaders, balance narrative with client quotes, focus more on the client’s story and less on B2B SaaS solutions, and spare the reader from tangents. The people who’ve recommended him on his website and LinkedIn profile should be willing to endorse him over a short call. Familiarity with your specific industry will be helpful, but a curious, strategic mindset will be essential.

Firstly, the essential credentials. How much experience does the writer have? Is he someone who shows an interest in your industry? Find proof in his blog posts, videos that he has published, LinkedIn articles, and guest appearances on podcasts or other blogs.

The proof is in the pudding—look at the writer’s samples

The writer’s samples should be engaging, with a personable tone that aligns with your brand. If you find his samples uninspiring, guess what he’ll produce for you…

It’s a delicate balance. On the one hand, your writer needs to communicate complicated ideas clearly, with minimal technical jargon or insider terminology. On the other hand, he must weave in at least a few elements of the hero’s journey: the original problem and its potential consequences if left unresolved; a clear explanation of why the hero chose one solution over its competitors in their own words; and a compelling conclusion that relieves the tension of the original problem and instills a sense of urgency in the reader.

Along the way, your writer must avoid an over-emphasis on the solution. Readers want a story of how you helped your customer to fix a problem. They can always read your marketing material for details about your solution.

Your case studies will fail if they focus too much on your solution. Prospects expect a story of how you helped your customer to fix a problem.
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That’s why good structure is so important. Case studies must address the prospect’s reasons for reading the case study in the first place. They want to know that the case study hero had a similar problem, what they were trying to achieve, what obstacles they had to overcome, and what they would do differently if they had a second chance.

Most importantly, it should describe what it is like to work with your team, from implementation to support. Everyone knows there are hiccups in technology processes. By addressing them in your case studies, you can get out ahead of competitors’ criticism and significantly elevate the credibility of the hero’s results.

All B2B SaaS buyers know that implementation involves hiccups. Addressing them in your case studies. You’ll significantly elevate the credibility of your results.
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Quantitative results are the ideal, but if they aren’t available then qualitative results can still serve a purpose. The case study writer should frame the client’s problem in terms of the qualitative results in the introduction of the piece. That setup lays the groundwork for the conclusion. For example, if the results involve a greater operational efficiency, the introduction should detail how the hero company’s operations were impacting the business. Done well, the reader can still be made to appreciate qualitative results.

Clever but clear subheaders draw readers in

Readers tend to skim subheaders before committing to reading the whole piece. A good subheader will capture the reader’s interest. They should also summarize each segment of the case study to provide context for skimmers. (Find more details about the effective use of subheaders in this case study critique.)

Look for a good prose-to-quote ratio

Case studies are a substitute for a conversation between your prospects and your customers. As such, the customer’s voice should come through clearly and powerfully. However, you also need to describe your product enough so that readers understand how it helped. That’s when it makes more sense to use prose.

A good case study will have close to a 50/50 split between quotes from the case study hero and a supplementary narrative.

Get the ‘us-to-them’ ratio right

Case studies are notorious for focusing too much on the sponsoring company and its offering and not enough on the case study hero. They end up just rehashing other marketing material. Your readers are smart people—they can see through a thinly veiled marketing article and won’t appreciate it.

A good writer will understand this and skew his draft towards your customer’s struggle and ultimate success.

Separate the wheat from the chaff

A discerning writer will know what information to include and what to leave out. One case study can only highlight 2-3 key messages effectively, and just one use case.

Trying to address more in a 2-4 page case study will lead to ‘kitchen-sink dilution’—your readers will forget the content quickly.

Help your case study readers remember your story. Limit each case study to 2-3 key messages, and just one use case. Any more will lead to ‘kitchen-sink dilution.’
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By concentrating on one use case and a few key messages, you can provide greater detail about the problem, the chosen solutions, the path to resolution, and the outcomes. Readers with that same challenge will find it more relevant, interesting, and memorable.

Dig into the writer’s past

Contact the writer’s past clients. They should be visible in his LinkedIn recommendations or testimonials on his site. You could ask them:

  • “Would you work with this case study writer again?”
  • “Were you comfortable with the way the case study writer interacted with your clients?
  • “Were you satisfied with the quality of his writing?”
  • “Was he receptive to feedback?”
  • “Did he deliver on his deadlines?”
  • “Was he willing to ask ‘dumb’ questions?”

Your writer should display excellent communication abilities. Someone who takes care with their emails and website copy and gives prompt, thoughtful replies to correspondence is a must. He should have a friendly, inquisitive tone, while also being willing to push for clarification.

It’s important that he has the confidence to respectfully push your clients for answers. He’ll need to dig deep to get those golden comments that make for an effective case study.

Ideally, he’ll show a genuine interest in the subject matter. This will help him to build rapport with the client quickly and earn him greater latitude to ask more probing questions.

He must be business minded

Above all, your writer should demonstrate great business strategy. You do not simply want an order taker who lacks initiative. He should have a clear plan of how your case studies will be structured, and offer ideas on how to reuse them in other marketing and sales efforts.

That strategic thinking will also extend to his awareness of external factors, such as legal issues, or sensitivity to current events. You must be able to trust that your writer will account for these issues in the first draft.

Case studies tend to be unpredictable due to the customer’s involvement. That said, from the completion of the customer interview, it should take your case study writer 5-10 business days to deliver a first draft. Any less than that, and he might be trying to satisfy your expectations without being realistic about his work load.

His pricing should show that he understands the value that a well-written case study can have in the enterprise SaaS sales process. At the same time, he should be willing and able to negotiate an equitable arrangement that suits you both. It is a good sign if your writer’s contract shows that he has invested in legal counsel.

Pick his brains for all he’s worth

Ideally, your writer will display good knowledge of the topic and target audience. That way he can get started on the work faster, and ask smarter questions during the interviews. He will also be aware of any clichés, tropes, or taboos to avoid.

Don’t despair, however, if you can’t find a case study writer with domain knowledge in your industry. An individual coming in as a ‘blank slate’ is more likely to ask the ‘dumb questions’ that your prospects may also wonder about.

Also, by displaying a lack of knowledge on the subject, he may put your customers more at ease, as they are placed in the position of the expert.

A lack of background knowledge will also mean that he will be more thorough with his on-ramping research, and will bring a fresh outsider’s perspective that could lead to more content ideas.

Either way, your writer should show genuine interest in your industry, solutions, and subject matter. The best case study writers are lifelong learners. They’re curious. They seek new knowledge in their personal time. They have to stop themselves from getting lost in background materials.

That enthusiasm will infuse your case studies with fresh energy that your readers are bound to find engaging.

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