A Tolkienian formula to writing case studies that convert

This post is second in the series of posts dealing with content marketing collaterals and conversion. This first post about landing pages is here

LOTR case study that convertsLove a good yarn? Of course you do. You are human.

Stories are the best way to grab people’s attention, whether they are your neighbors or enterprise technology buyers.

And when it comes to stories, JRR Tolkien’s Lord of The Rings ranks up there amongst the best.

When you are using content marketing to reach out to your ideal clients, no collateral can match the effectiveness of a crisply written story, also known as case study, in persuading them to begin the sales conversation with you.

That’s why a good case study (or a customer success story) is worth its weight in gold. The Eccolo Media 2011 B2B Technology Collateral Survey Report found out that 68% of the respondents- the highest- considered case studies to be extremely influential in providing purchase information.

So how do you write a great case study that has a high conversion rate?

Let’s borrow some ideas from Tolkien’s epic.

Introduction: The Shire, the Fellowship and Sauron

Tolkien starts the trilogy by talking about the peaceful Shire and the Hobbits. He introduces the wise Gandalf, the enigmatic Strider and the other good guys, as well as the antagonists- the disembodied dark wizard Sauron, his nine riders of death and the vast armies of orcs.

The first part of your case study has to introduce the customer who is the hero of the story. Talk about their

  • background including geography and position in the market
  • products and services, and
  • the niches they operate in.

This section needn’t be long, but has to be comprehensive enough so that a reader who has no prior idea about your customer knows enough to say, “This company is not very different from ours.”

Challenge: One ring to rule them all…

Now we are getting to the interesting part of our story.

Sauron’s ring, the source of all his powers was lost for thousands of years before it was found again. He has been looking for it ever since and wants it back. He is willing to destroy whole races of people if they hamper his search and if he gets the ring, all hell will break loose. The ring cannot be hidden for long, and it seems to be indestructible.

In a case study, this part is make or break. This section should do the heavy lifting of getting your ideal readers- technology buyers and decision makers at companies much like the customer in your case study- identify themselves with the problems your customer was facing before you stepped in.

This is where you also talk about the stakes involved in not fixing the issues. Quoting numbers here will boost the credibility of your narrative.

Solution: The lava pits of Mount Doom

Back to the ring of power.

Turns out, the ring can only be destroyed by throwing it in an active volcano where it was originally made. So, the heroes mounted their horses, climbed to the lava pit and chucked the ring inside and returned back in time for dinner, right?

Naah! That would be lame.

The central characters get separated. Their path is blocked by ancient demons wielding whips of fire and they are ambushed by orcs and goblins. They save cities and civilizations and fight battles and make new allies and lose old ones. The ring bearer sneaks behind enemy lines, gets attacked by a massive flesh eating spider and almost goes mad.

And yeah, ultimately the ring gets chucked into the boiling volcano.

Your case study cannot straight up introduce your solution as the fix-it-all for the customer’s problems. Because big ticket technology purchases come with a long buying cycle where multiple options are evaluated, the case study has to talk at least a bit about this buying journey from the point of view of the customer.

This does the job of laying a roadmap for solving similar problems. This section tells the reader “This was the problem. These are the solutions that were tried and didn’t work. You might want to avoid those pitfalls.”

Result: The ever seeing eye is no more

This part is straightforward. The bad guy is defeated, a new king is crowned and the entire land is at peace.

This section of your case study is self evident. You talk about what happened after the customer deployed your solutions or products. You talk about how many dollars were saved, or talk about the percentage increase in productivity or efficiency.

Don’t just stop at quoting dollars and percentages, though, but put them in terms of business benefits- maybe a new production line was started, or the savings helped the customer make a much needed acquisition.

Also, put these results in proper context. Savings of $20,000 per annum for a company like IBM might be a rounding error but would be the kiss of life for a scrappy startup.

If you worked with the startup, you might want to point that out.


On the surface, case studies are simple to pull off. The reason many case studies don’t convert is that the customer gets pushed to the background, and it all becomes a boring old brochure.

As long as you stick to this structure, don’t beat your own drum and have a simple and clear call to action your case study will have tremendous ROI.

I write case studies for B2B technology companies. If you have a customer story you think needs to be told, I am throwing my hat in the ring. Contact me here, and let’s get the word out.

About Bhaskar Sarma

I am a conversion copywriter, content and growth marketer and I work with B2B companies to build user acquisition systems, decrease churn, and increase conversion rates. If you have an underperforming website, are bleeding users and customers, or have trouble educating and communicating your value to your market let's talk