Sometimes it has happened to me with start-ups that there is no client available for a case study, whether because of competitive advantage or for other reasons. It was in one such situation that it was suggested that instead of using a case study with ‘live’ client, that instead we followed the ‘use case’ model.
'Use cases' are more commonly used in a technology setting, to outline how a product’s features and functionality resolve a particular business or technical issue for the end-user. They were designed to provide a scenario for how a solution or product will achieve a specific business or technical goal for a prospective client. As a result, they are especially useful in describing how your technology can be applied in a prospect's vertical environment. The 'use case' format makes them uniquely convincing.
In order to draw up your use case, it is necessary to identify who the end-user is, what the business/technical scenario requiring your solution is, and how your solution will achieve that goal. It is also useful to adopt an ‘objective’ voice, describing the scenario and the solution in an as ‘matter of fact’ neutral tone as possible. In 'use cases', detail is key, and knowledge of the vertical crucial - for this reason, and without the comfort of relying on the market knowledge a client in a 'case study, writing a 'use case' requires good research to be convincing and thus can be pretty tough.
The effort is definitely worth it - I have worked with companies who have very successfully used the ‘use case’ model to outline how their technology has applications across a range of vertical markets, in each case identifying ‘pain points’ in particular technology and business scenarios and identifying why their solution was best suited to resolving them. The end result was a valuable suite of marketing literature across a variety of industries.
Use cases do require an in-depth knowledge of your clients business and technical environment, but they also allow you to show off your know-how as they relate to your customer, making them ideal sales and marketing collateral.