This is What Works. Here, we explore a hot topic for agency businesses, researching new ideas and best practice from around the world.

This time, we take a look at what works with case studies.

This What Works looks at the important field of case studies. All agency businesses will use case studies in some form or another — on a website, in a pitch deck or proposal document, or in glossy printed promotional material. They're a vital part of how you portray the character of your agency, your skills, specialisms and competencies, and the distinctive way that you work.

To help you understand the why, what and how of case studies, both writing them and using them, we have conducted some in-depth research into the range of practices out there.

We examined a wide variety of case studies examples, looking at them from many different angles: their focus, their structure, a breakdown of the essential components, patterns for content, layouts, visual design, how they’re used and presented collectively and singly, and more.

We’ve looked all over — at the good, the bad and everything in between. We’ve tried to find the consistent features that work well, the unique elements that stand out, the things to avoid, and to distinguish between the adequate, the good and the great.

Here’s what you need to know.

What makes a case study?

First things first — what actually is a case study?

In a case study you're wanting to portray you to your future clients. Your readers are potential customers who come from a similar place as those in your case study, they have a similar problem, or may do in the future.

Case studies, then, depict your agency, and your distinctive approach to doing work, solving problems and delivering results in such a way that a potential customer will think of you when they have a similar problem or task.