Not many professional and financial firm websites feature them, which is both surprising and astounding. Why? Because on sites with easily-found, searchable and readable case studies, typically they are the third-most read items after a practitioner’s bio and blog.
Put bluntly, prospective clients like knowing that a firm they’re considering retaining has handled similar problems or opportunities for other clients. A well-written case study can help confirm that you are the right person for the assignment.
“It shows that I have a lot of experience,” one practitioner told me in defending the exceptionally long list of files at his profile, which he was adamant about wanting to keep.
“No,” I replied. “It just shows that you’ve been in the business for a very long time.”
Case studies make the abstract meaningful to prospective clients, and help humanize the a firm.
Form and Format
Meaningful case studies can take one of several different formats.
A long-form narrative such as those summarized at my LinkedIn profile under “Projects” provides a detailed explanation that encapsulates the situation and opportunity, what was done to address the problem and the final outcome. In a few hundred words, a reader gets an overview of what makes the lawyers who worked on the file unique.
The downside of a long-form case study is that someone has to write it who knows how to write the way non-lawyers read, absorb and remember information. Only the very largest firms have someone like this on staff which means bringing in a free lancer to do the wordsmithing. While not an expensive proposition, it is something many firms or marketing departments think is necessary. Outsourcing the effort can be a cost-effective way for smaller firms and solo practitioners to ensure that their case studies are readable and useful for visitors.
Another effective approach involves a simpler outline format.
It involves laying out the situation, the problem or opportunity, how the lawyer or firm found a solution, and a description of the outcome. Only four or five sentences is needed for each section, but they need to be clear and concise.
Once each case study is posted, it should be listed in an archive that provides a headline and a one or two sentence description of what the case study is about so that a visitor can find what they’re looking for easily. After 10-to-12 case studies get posted, it’s important to build a simple archive arranged by subject area or industry group. Firms should resist the temptation to set up an archive by practice area because the group names often are meaningless to a visitor and, frequently, don’t align with what the case study really is about in any event.
Social (Case) Studies
Beyond their value of explaining how a professional has helped an individual or business in a similar situation, case studies can be cross-purposed on social media.
Whether it is including summaries at a LinkedIn profile and promoting them on a news feed or in groups, or using them as a post on Twitter, case studies are another tool to invite engagement with clients, prospects and referral sources. At the same time, promoted properly on social media they are a subtle way of expanding the scope and reach of a firm’s marketing efforts without simply shouting “ME!” at the world.
Beyond social media, relevant case studies can add depth to a proposal by including some in an appendix. They’re also ideal as a leave-behind at a new business pitch – the proverbial and dreaded beauty contest. It doesn’t matter whether one is included or a half-dozen, as long as they are relevant to the prospective client.
The key to creating effective case studies is to think like readers – the clients you have and the ones you want to attract. The purpose isn’t to tout your expertise, at least not directly or overly, but to showcase how you’ve helped other clients facing similar problems or to seize comparable opportunities.
I have spent most of my career working in and with professional and financial services firms on marketing and business development issues, and work with clients of PSM Marketing LLC on strategic marketing and communications strategies.