I was sat with our Marketing Manager this week, developing a marketing strategy for targeting organisations that might require our career development and winning-work expertise, and we started putting together a series of case studies to showcase how our programme works and the results it can achieve. It highlighted to me how powerful case studies are and inspired me to write this article on how contractors can leverage case studies to win work.
The best way to explain this is to think of Aesop; the chap who wrote those fables we were read as kids such as ‘The boy who cried wolf’.
Now, this is a great example of how stories deliver a message in a more powerful way than a statement. You can tell a child not to lie and it will have little impact, but read them ‘The boy who cried wolf’ and aside from the mental anguish that worrying about being eaten by a wolf might cause, the story is much more powerful in driving home the perils of dishonesty.
This is precisely why case studies are so powerful – they are essentially stories that describe the great work that any business has done for its clients. They paint a much more vivid picture than simple statements about a company’s proclaimed abilities.
In short, everywhere. I recommend using them in your CV, on your LinkedIn profile, as part of your LinkedIn business development activity, on your website (if you have one), as part of your thought leadership strategy, and during client meetings/interviews.
With regards to your CV, it’s a great strategy to have several case studies written about different projects/assignments that you have delivered and to select the best and most relevant three to sit on page one of your CV for each role you target. You can swap the case studies you use depending on the role.
You may also choose to have a CV that is entirely predicated upon case studies, where you replace what is traditionally called a career history with a selection of case studies. This is a great option for post-IR35 reform if you want to strengthen your outside-IR35 status.
The same applies to LinkedIn. You can populate the ‘Projects’ section (which needs to be added to your profile) with a selection of case studies to showcase your client work. You can also share case studies with decision-makers when touting for work. Assuming that you’re using LinkedIn Business Premium or Sales Navigator to connect with and contact potential clients, sending them a case study is a much softer way of selling than simply blurting out how great you are.
If you have a website (which is a great idea to promote your outside-IR35 status), a page dedicated to your stand-out client projects works extremely well. Think about large professional services organisations such as consulting firms, most of them have case studies on their websites to showcase their client work.
Client meetings/interviews are effectively a sales meeting where you can also showcase your talents and track record. As with any other sales meeting, it is usual to talk through examples of the work you have carried out for clients. Talking through these in case study format is the most effective strategy and if you apply the correct technique (STAR), it will prevent you from rambling and make sure you home-in on the benefits you delivered to clients.
Thought leadership is a more in-depth topic that we will discuss in our upcoming webinar, but in short, it is the endeavour of manoeuvring yourself to the status of the go-to expert in your chosen field. It requires you to develop intellectual property within your business (proprietary blueprints, systems, frameworks and ways of working) that you can talk about in articles, white-papers, blogs and webinars. Case studies also play a key role in this thought-leadership ecosystem, demonstrating your expertise to the world and helping you present yourself as an authority/thought leader. The application of case studies throughout your winning-work endeavours also promotes an outside-IR35 status.
There are various frameworks for communicating a case study including CAR and STAR. We recommend using STAR, which is an acronym for Situation, Task, Actions and Result.
Whether you are writing a short six-line case study for your CV, a longer case study to use in your business development collateral or talking through an example during a client meeting, STAR is a brilliant framework that makes them incredibly easy to structure.
Start off by mentioning the client name and describe the SITUATION they found themselves in. Then mention your title and the TASK you were engaged to perform. Walk through 5 or 6 key ACTIONS that you took to drive a positive outcome. Finish up with a strong RESULT that proves you did a great job and that you drove through tangible business benefits (ideally linked to the business case).
On behalf of Contractor Weekly, we will be running a webinar on May 27th at 7:15pm on this exact topic. We will be covering case studies, CVs, LinkedIn, thought leadership, networking and business development. It’s the 5-point plan for contractors to succeed in a post-pandemic economy. You can register for the free webinar here.
Matt Craven is founder of The CV & Interview Advisors, experts in personal branding and winning-work in the contract market.