When tender writing, case studies are one of the best ways to make your company stand out. They are an opportunity to really set your business apart and show your achievements.
A well written case study does more than just show a product or service, it does something much more important (and persuasive). It tells a powerful story about how your business has transformed something for the better.
This is important because stories are powerful. Psychologist Jerome Bruner suggests that stories are 22 times more memorable than a list of facts alone. A well told story will stay in your ideal buyer’s mind long after they have left the office.
However, writing powerful case studies can be a tough part of the bid management process. It can be difficult to decide on subjects, select examples and craft a winning narrative.
So, here is a simple, six-step, bid writing formula that can be easily applied to any case study.
Introduce the place your customer was in when they purchased your products or services. In particular, focus on the problems and challenges they were facing and why they chose your product. Frame the problem as something urgent or vital that needs to be solved.
The situation is also an opportunity to bring in two key elements of storytelling: characters and stakes. Where possible, bring people into the story. This is powerful as it helps readers visualise and contextualise the situation. When you have introduced the people, show what’s at stake. In particular, show what the organisation had to lose.
For example, let’s say you are a business consultant working with a public body to help make savings. A standard opening may go something like:
“We were commissioned by ABC Council to save £500,000 over a one-year period”
But applying the above principles of characters and stakes may get us to:
“The Finance Director of ABC Council asked us to save £500,000 within twelve months. The organisation was experiencing financial difficulties and without the savings would have to make staff redundant and reduce services which would affect local residents”
The reader can now clearly see the problem at hand and has a good reason to care about the outcome.
2. Initial Solution
Once you have hooked the reader with the situation, this is where you show what you can do. Describe the approach that you took to solve the problem and point out what is unique to you and your business.
An important tip is to root your description of the approach in the specific customer’s needs. Show how your product or service was designed especially for them and their problems. For example:
“We used our proven methodology to assess ABC Council’s current spending and identify the key areas where savings could be made. We tailored this methodology to meet the Council’s needs and held three internal meetings with the Finance Team to get a full and detailed view of the Council’s current activities.”
This is where you get to show how your products and services have worked. It’s the storytelling equivalent of the hero overcoming the first few challenges.
This will be different depending on your subject matter. But, the key information to consider using is:
• Timescales and how soon your customer benefitted
• Their key success measures (e.g. cost, customer satisfaction)
• Any added value that you achieved above and beyond the brief
An example of this would be:
“Within the first six months we saved ABC Council £300,000, which was 10% more than our target at that time. This resulted in the Council being able to fund vital services for longer.”
4. Risk (optional stage)
You have made good progress, but you are not out of the woods just yet. The forces of darkness are rallying and ready to throw a spanner in the works when the hero least expects it.
Of course, your case study may not have this section, but if it does, it’s a great way to show your ability to solve problems and deliver excellence in the face of challenges.
Describe the additional challenge and how it affected your service. These challenges could be related to any of the following areas:
• Environmental. An unforeseen event (think Beast from the East) that threatens normal service
• Organisational. Something within your customer’s organisation changes (e.g. new ownership, change of budget)
• Customer-Specific. Something changes specifically with your brief (e.g. new timescales, increase in scope)
To continue our example:
“During the project, ABC Council asked if we could bring the project timelines forward to accommodate an unforeseen change in internal governance.”
5. Intense Support (optional stage)
The hero is undaunted. They are ready to roll up their sleeves and overcome the challenge.
In this section, show how you were able to meet the new requirement. Detail how you assessed the impact, planned a response and delivered a revised service that overcame the issue and added value to your customer. For example:
“To meet the new timescales, we accelerated our programme and appointed two extra staff members to work on the project. This gave us the capacity to meet the new timescales with no loss of quality to ABC Council.”
6. Positive Outcome
You’re at the end. The hero has slain the dragon, and all is good in the world. This section is your opportunity to really show the value that you have given your customer and prove that you are an excellent choice. Key areas to consider in this area are:
• Your short and long-term achievements. Have you followed up with your customers to see how they are getting on after the project had finished? Have they realised better results than originally perceived?
• Client testimonials. These are excellent “social proof” that prove to your prospective customers that you can really deliver
• Where your customer is now. What impacts have your services had?
To complete our example:
“ABC Council achieved their savings aims and now have a clear and stable financial plan for the next three years. This plan enables the Council to operate without the need for redundancies or service cuts.”
Use this simple formula when writing your next case studies to sketch out your approach. You will give your readers something powerful, compelling and memorable when considering your company for their next contract.