The Insights Blog

Elements of a Great Case Study

Elements of a Great Case Study

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Written by Stephen Boehler & Lindsay O’Neil

Putting together an effective case study can seem like a daunting task. Instead of seeing it as a spotlight on your agency’s success, imagine it as template in which potential clients can start to see you as a possible partner to address their business issues. Imagine all the details they would want and need to see in order to be moved closer to that “yes.” 

Elements of a Good Case Study

While it obviously needs to be aesthetically pleasing and on-brand for your agency, the real strength of a powerful case study lies in the details and how they are presented. There are five key pieces that should be included:

  1. Definition: Start by defining the business issues and marketing challenges that were addressed for the client as well as the key objectives.
  2. Analysis & Insight: Next, describe key areas for learning and opportunities, show how research was conducted, and share the insights identified. These insights are the key piece to the whole case study and oftentimes represent that “aha moment” that shows a prospect why your particular agency has the right thinking to solve their particular problem.
  3. Strategy: Through a plan of action that is clearly built directly from the insight, explore how the analysis impacts the issues through a strategic brief pinpointing how this tactic applies to the business needs and will drive the execution. 
  4. Execution: Showcase how the insight driven strategy became an efficient and effective plan with clear and measurable breakthroughs, improvements, and growth. 
  5. Results: Outline all the measurable results, as well as the ongoing optimization and key learning opportunities discovered throughout the experience. Be sure to highlight how these results ladder back to the original challenge. 

Once you have all of the pieces in place, find an engaging title and an engrossing overview statement that outlines the journey of the case study. Look for ways to include creative throughout the study instead of having a separate paged dedicated to a creative collage of pictures. The most successful case studies we’ve seen have woven creative throughout as it’s symbolizes what it was created in a particular way to address a specific challenge. 

To summarize…

Utilizing all five of these elements creates a direct and easy-to-follow case study that reads like a story and allows for expectation, anticipation, and payoff as it moves along. It also helps answer the question of “what exactly should be included?” If any one of these elements is missing or any “chapter” carries on for too long, you’re going to lose your audience, and perhaps the chance to step closer to the spotlight. 

Steve Boehler, founder and partner at Mercer Island Group, has led consulting teams on behalf of clients as diverse as Nokia, HP, Microsoft, Sprint, Nintendo, Abbott Laboratories and numerous others. He founded MIG after serving as a division president in a Fortune 100 when he was only 32. Earlier in his career, Steve Boehler cut his teeth with a decade in Brand Management at Procter & Gamble, leading brands like Tide, Pringles and Jif.

Lindsay O’Neil, a Senior Consultant at Mercer Island Group, has participated in extensive research across all marketing practices including Media, Digital, PR, Advertising, and Social. She has led and participated in numerous agency searches for clients like Envestnet, Zillow, Barre3, TrueCar, Brooks Running and Hitachi Vantara. One of her key strengths as a consultant is her deep understanding of marketing strategy and agency new business development practices.