Create better case studies by documenting your project in real time

Marketing 4 min read

Documenting your case study

Last updated: August 6th, 2018

Having a case study or two in your portfolio is a great way to land new business for your agency.

But before you have great case studies, you need to have great projects. And at the beginning of every project (at least in our experience), things can be a little fast and loose. It’s amazing how much unbridled enthusiasm you’ll find in a fresh start.

After all, you’re starting something new. The returns are boundless. The team feels like they’re going to meet every problem head on and create the best app/website/whatever on the planet! Everyone’s eager to get going and there’s a tendency for folks to jump in head first, tackling problems and trimming low hanging fruit.

But beware. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the rigmarole and lose sight of the process. In fact, sometimes people will work heads down without coming up for air (or perspective) until the end of the project.

Overwhelmed Creative

Sound familiar? If so, all is not lost. Do yourself a favor by setting aside some time to look back at the project to gauge how it went. This is typically called a post-mortem and you can use the information generated in the case study you ultimately create. You’ll likely have many more, but these are good questions to start asking yourself during this exercise:

  1. Did we meet our objectives?
  2. Was the project delivered on time?
  3. What were our biggest challenges and how did we resolve them?
  4. How can we use this project to help us land more business?

However, waiting until the end to do this recap might create a problem. It’s possible you could have a hard time recalling everything that happened over the course of a lengthy project timeline. In fact, these questions are better asked during the project. Especially if you want to use this client project as a way to market yourself and attract similarly minded clients (see #4 above).

Start collecting data during the Discovery phase

When you start a project, you probably already have a clear view of the client’s objectives—especially if you’ve sold your client on a Discovery period (which we do). As soon as the Discovery phase begins, so should the documentation. This should be standard operating procedure anyway, just FYI. Ask the client to open up about the hopes, dreams, or pain points they might have for their product/service. Jot down their responses in a Google Doc so that you have them on hand when you’re analyzing data for the case study you’ll put together for this project.

Analytics, metrics, and data—oh my!

A great way to attract new clients with a case study is to show percentage increases in key metrics. But how will you know if you have any increases if you don’t have the original data? Make sure to slide in to their analytics early to find a baseline against which to measure. Knowing that you increased time on site by 50% or improved bounce rate by 20% are great call outs that will woo clients looking for similar results.

Take screenshots of the old site/app

We cannot emphasize this point enough. We’ve worked on many projects where we thought we could go back and get old app/site design assets to use in case studies and they simply weren’t there. If you want to show off the beautiful design transformation you performed on your client’s site/app, you’ll need the old stuff to compare it to.

Quote the client throughout the project

If you’re like us, building relationships during a project is of the utmost importance. As that relationship develops, it’s likely that the client will open up to you. They might compliment your work, describe problems their having with their business… you name it—it all comes out during the course of a project. Make note of these moments and keep them for your case study. You never know when you’re going to get an amazing testimonial from your client, so be ready!

Real-time documentation is the key

The bottom line is you have to document pain points as they happen. There are always issues that crop up during a project that neither you nor the client foresaw. Write it down when it occurs, what areas it affected (budget/schedule/etc.), and be sure to capture how you resolved it. If you’ve been taking notes along the way, you should have everything you need when it comes time to sit down and write your case study.

One final thought about a project post-mortem: We found that reviewing our case study with clients after the project is a great way to relive the experience and refresh memories. If the project went well, now is a great time to laugh and reminisce—and an even better time to help you land future work with them or ask them for a referral. #alwaysbeclosing

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