• Katy McKay

Does my service-based business need case studies?

If you’re in the marketing or online business game, you’ve heard of case studies.

I have news for you - case studies aren’t just for B2B or product-based businesses

Do you have case studies for your service-based business?

If you do, are they working hard for you? Read on to find out.

You’re a marketing professional, freelancer or online business owner. You spent years in your early career climbing the greasy pole (!) to get to the top of your game.

Then, when you got there, you realised that it wasn’t as great as you thought it was going to be.

You were working all the hours, with all the responsibility for your team. You had to be in every meeting and juggle 10 or more projects at once.

Throw in a commute and managing a life outside work and now you’re thinking - “is this it?”

Well, same.

I got to a point in my career where I couldn’t see how I was going to maintain this madness for the rest of my working life. Or I could, but it would have meant moving into a flat above the office and only seeing the kids on weekends.

So, I did the only sane thing, and that was to go freelance. Launch my own business. Be the master of my own destiny. And I’m not the only one - it’s a familiar story for so many.

Great news! - the service you offer is in demand. Having a service-based business is different to having a physical product to sell.

But instead of positive Amazon reviews that generate sales, your only currency is what your past clients say about you, AKA social proof.

Positive reviews and testimonials are nice an’ all but when you want to sell a premium service, you need to show proper evidence.

When your ideal client is thinking about investing in you, you need to be ready with details.

How you helped someone solve their problem is a highly effective marketing and lead generation tool for your business.

What are case studies?

OK, I’m sure you’ve heard of case studies- but even in the marketing world, I regularly see professionals making mistakes. So this is the short version.

A case study should include:

  • the customer’s challenge or problem. What led that client to you?

  • how you provided the solution

  • plenty of quotes from the client you interview for the purpose of this case study. These need to be almost verbatim

  • what you did specifically

  • the end result. This is the most important element, and a lot of people skip it because you don’t know how your work performed

FYI: you can use “case study” and “success story” interchangeably

We hear a lot about the power of storytelling in the marketing industry and how it’s used as a tool for persuasion. Used well, you can immediately create empathy with your customer.

Why use case studies?

A sure-fire way to make your business the authority in your sector is to big-up your customer’s positive experiences.

Case studies are the number one way to build trust in your service because they’re based on actual events with actual clients.

The majority of sales decisions are based on believability – and trust.

The aim of a good case study is to tempt the reader into finding out more about you. To ask for more information, and to get them one step closer to buying from you.

A case study helps with lead generation

Using the voice of your customer - literally by interviewing them - reinforces how you met their needs and solved their problems.

And, adding specific results such as savings, revenue gains, or ROI illustrates the value you’ve offered your client.

Case studies work because they combine two elements that work incredibly well in marketing: storytelling and social proof.

Being able to see how other clients are using your products or services will reveal ways they can use your products or services.

Essentials for a good case study

Customer Interview

THIS IS NOT NEGOTIABLE! Case studies are all about bringing your client to centre stage. You need to speak either face to face or over the phone with your interviewee. At the very least, (and I really would try and persuade you not to) you need to have your client fill in a comprehensive questionnaire.

I’ve seen countless websites that include ‘case studies’ that just describe a project and how it was successful from the service providers point of view. Sorry to shout but THIS DOES NOT COUNT AS SOCIAL PROOF and IS NOT A CASE STUDY!

For example: “We worked with X company because they wanted to gain more followers on Twitter. So we made them a marketing plan and they got more followers and now we think they’re happy because we say so” - DO ME A FAVOUR! *Steps down off soapbox*

A good case study will include quotes, facts, and data from at least one client.

Specific results

A strong case study is results-oriented. The more specific results, the better.

How many leads were they able to capture with the PR plan you designed for them? How did views increase on their blog once you took over? How did conversion rates change when you rewrote that sales page?


If possible, get your top three case studies professionally designed. You can get by with just a few case studies if they’re strong, but they are supposed to show the best work you can do.

Have a clean layout, then highlight the best quotes and use infographics to show off your results. Draw attention to the points you want your potential clients to notice most.


The case study is one of the most important promotional pieces to have to win new clients. They have a long lifespan, and they’re multi-purpose. So, freelancers, solopreneurs, online business owners - if you’re not using them, or you’re not making the most of them, how come?

Genuinely, please tell me what’s getting in your way - drop me a line, I always reply.

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