Don’t Fear the Case Study: Why Professional Services Shouldn’t Hesitate to Share Their Work

November 08, 2016 Olivia Koivisto

When it comes to professional services organizations (PSO’s), it can be nerve-racking to publish case studies. Firms aren’t selling goods that either work or don’t work. They’re selling people, perspective and skillsets. It can oftentimes be difficult to capture the work put in that leads to success and even more difficult to quantify those results.

Not only that, but the nature of client-privilege creates hesitation when it comes to calling out specific names in case study projects. This reluctance can lead to vague content, only showcasing ambiguous, overarching themes. Instead, case studies need to distinguish one firm from another, separating great work from a sea of sameness.

What You’ll Need:

1. A Perspective
Consider the goal of your case study. What would other people take away when reading it? Reflect on the skillset, expertise or unique perspective that you want clients, prospects and the media to know about your business when outlining the piece.

You don’t necessarily need to create a massive, 10-page case study that exemplifies every skillset you have. Rather, creating bite-size portfolio pieces that fit within strategic categories will not only help guide how your content is written and structured, but also allows you to use that content in targeted campaigns or as consumable accessories to proposals.

While it’s great to generally promote projects that were accomplished particularly well, one must think about what it was specifically that lead to a success. Did teams across specialties collaborate to create a solution? Was innovative technology applied? Were impossible deadlines met?

Pinpointing the unique perspective of the project that made it extraordinary and highlighting those ideas creates stronger, more influential case studies that can make a greater impression on prospects than huge pieces that try to touch every facet of your business.

2. Hard Facts
Being able to demonstrate your firm’s capabilities through hard data can make a huge impact on decision makers. According to a new survey conducted by Greentarget, “past experience” was chosen 88 percent of the time over “promised results,” when decision makers were asked which attribute was more important when evaluating a professional services firm.*

Want to learn more about our research on PSO buying decisions?

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Proving your expertise through statistics, like the percentages of cases won in the energy sector or the growth of a client’s portfolio, as examples, can build upon your firm’s reputation (and can make for great infographics to plug into social media) in a concrete way.

Talking a big game really doesn’t mean much when you can’t back it up, so be sure to think critically about the claims you make and how you can prove them. Challenge yourself to think creatively about a project and how your firm can show concrete evidence of its successes.

3. A Human Touch
Case studies not only showcase great work, but are the perfect opportunity to express a firm’s brand identity and relationship story. Because PSO’s work so closely with clients, a case study should reflect how a firm interacts with its clients and the trust built during projects.

Testimonials are an easy way to express a rich relationship story, because a third-party voice adds a sense of transparency to a case study. Not only that, but a client may pinpoint unique identifiers that you may not realize are important. Perhaps your team brings innovative solutions to the table, or maybe you’re just downright fun to work with. Either way, hearing about those identifiers from clients can be especially influential to others. 

Combining client voices with the company’s brand narrative can create a unique voice that helps your case study stand out. Use language that reflects the company personality, and make sure it can complement other work or stand strongly on its own as an informative and interesting piece.

While the idea of creating a case study for your PSO may seem stressful, it is an essential tool to prove your worth to prospective clients. Creating unique studies that reflect your brand narrative and encapsulate the rich relationships you’ve developed are powerful ways to diversify your content offerings and display your expertise in specific fields. Using hard data, relevant statistics and concrete takeaways are important reputation builders.

Your case study doesn’t need to span across your firm’s entire offering set. In fact, short, strategically targeted studies can be more impactful and more flexibly used for business development and marketing purposes.

Think critically and creatively about the work you’d like to display and don’t be afraid to start small. The right story with a strong perspective can make all the impact necessary to help you win new business.

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*Find out what we learned after surveying lead decision makers at Fortune 500 companies and beyond on what influences their PSO purchasing behavior here.

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Olivia Koivisto Marketing Coordinator

As a Marketing Coordinator, Olivia works closely with the experience design, technology and digital strategy teams to develop strategic content and marketing campaigns to enrich One North’s messaging and brand voice.  She also collaborates with the talent and recruitment team through event planning, content creation and message strategy.

  • Favorite movie quote: “That doesn’t make sense to me.  But, then again, you are very small.” –Treebeard, Lord of the Rings
  • Favorite breakfast food: Vegetarian breakfast burrito…yumm.

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