Tips for better case studies

Case studies are an effective way to back up claims of experience and capabilities. Well-presented case studies have the added advantage of being more readable than most proposal content.

Use case studies:

  • In RFQ responses as examples of how your team and key individuals have successfully managed risks and unplanned events to keep similar past projects on time and on budget
  • In single stage proposals to demonstrate successful execution of various contract deliverables, e.g. solution design, construction or implementation/transition, operation and maintenance.

Present case studies as stories

Telling a story is an age-old device for capturing audiences, and proposal evaluators are no exception. Structure your case studies to include the following elements in the order below:

  • Situation: What pressing issue or need does the client or project face? For example: “Soil studies conducted by the client failed to identify . . .” or “Due to contracting delays, our team needed to develop and deploy the solution in six months, about half the typical timeframe.”
  • Stakes involved: What were the consequences—in functionality, quality, safety, cost and/or end user impact, etc.—of failing to address the issue or need? Stress the importance of successful resolution. Quantify potential negative impacts if possible.
  • Actions taken: How did your team address the problem? In addition to what you did, outline your team’s thinking and, if applicable, alternative solutions considered and rejected.
  • Results: How did your strategy and actions benefit the client and project? Quantify the results whenever possible. Identify any citations or any awards the team received.

Add a headline and image

Headlines and images attract attention. Focus headlines on results, e.g. “Overcoming a weather disaster to deliver on schedule.” The image can be small—we’ve used a 1 x 2-inch photo where space was tight. Choose an image that will get noticed, rather than to try and tell the story.

Short case studies can be effective

A powerful case study can be as short as one paragraph, as long as it covers the four elements above. Short case studies are especially useful in tightly page constrained RFQ responses, since the reference project involved is typically fully described elsewhere. Use a tint block or outline to help them stand out.

Use a template and develop case studies in advance

To achieve consistency across multiple authors, create a simple word table with space for a Headline, Image, Situation, Stakes involved, Actions and Results and distribute at kickoff.

Better still, rather than assembling case studies under deadline pressure, draft one whenever a team performs in a case-worthy situation.


Evaluating proposals is hard work—as any evaluator will tell you. Compelling case studies can be bright spots in an otherwise tiring chore. Evaluators will read and remember your stories and reward you with higher scores.

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