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Why case studies are a crucial part of your marketing

Case studies brings what you do to life in a way that your next customer can relate to more fully. And it's far better than when you bang on about yourselves. Jimmy explores.

Lots of organisations explain who they are, what they do and why they do it.

They spend a lot of time building a picture of the brand and why you should be singularly fascinated by them. They are telling you all about themselves, and hoping you are interested - it then becomes your job to find out where you fit in.

That’s not really enough. As a consumer, a company’s products and services are key. Their brand values are very interesting. The biography of the CEO might be mildly diverting. But a consumer wants to know what difference those products and services might make to them. They need to be able to picture what difference an organisation can make to them.

And that’s where case studies come in - and why you should tell more stories about your customers, and fewer about yourselves.

In any decent content plan, there will be room for an organisation to talk about the way its products and services have improved things for their customers, rather than their profit margins. And for those customers to be at the forefront of those stories.

A good case study allows a prospective client to put themselves in the shoes of an existing customer, and if that client can see a similar problem to their own, and see how your company solved that issue and allowed them to flourish…. Then it’s not a huge leap of the imagination to understand what happens next. But those case studies need to be well constructed:

Tell a story

Yes, we’re all tired of marketing people who say they are ‘storytellers’, as if they were shamen regaling medieval villagers with mystical tales, but a good case study does need a plot. A narrative arc that shows how a client was faced with difficulties until your product or service solved things in short order allows people to imagine themselves on the same journey. It might be that they were hungry and a sausage roll sorted it, or it might be that they vanished from the internet and needed to come back from the digital dead. Either way… tell it.

Focus on the customer

Whatever the tale, it’s about the customer, not about you. You may well be the heroes that saved the day, but it’s their day, not yours. Use the customer’s voice as much as possible. Use their pictures to illustrate the study, not yours. Getting them to write your testimonials is even better. People will trust them more than you (no offence) in the recommendation of what you do.

Demonstrate success

Yes, this is obvious but, where you can, show success rather than claiming it. If it’s a service which increased a client’s business by 600%, then use those numbers.

In your CV to get your job as head of sales, you talked a lot in numbers, of the growth you inspired. It’s the same here. Show the transformation wrought. Obviously, the data surrounding the impact of a sausage roll may be trickier, but if you can offer up proof of impact, don’t be shy of doing so.

Don’t be afraid to learn about yourselves

The mere process of creating a case study can be hugely useful in understanding where you made a difference and how people perceive you. You can learn about the processes you put clients through, how your work impacts on them - it might be the difference you make to a student, the impact on a company’s sales or the difference it made or how you made people feel about their own work. When you’re talking to clients about the case study, listen to the whole picture, not just the bits you’ll put on the page. You’ll get a much better picture of how people perceive you.

Use different formats

It’s easy to use black words on a white background, but it’s not the only way. Try infographics, of flow diagrams, perhaps. Tell the story with audio, with photographs or with video. Try different things, if you have the skills in-house, or get some support to do it. People will get word- and message-blind if you don’t shake things up a little.

Get the customers to deliver the study

If you can get the clients or customers concerned to share the case study on their social media platforms or by linking on their website. If they show the faith in the story that’s indicated by sharing then they will build trust levels in the content. The best messengers are the clients themselves.

Keep doing it

Case studies that are years old are a bit off-putting. Like a restaurant that still hangs a certificate from 2005 in the window. People wonder if the company has lost its mojo if the content is dated and of dwindling relevance. Keep updating the case studies so that you have a better chance of appearing relevant to potential buyers. Keep them fresh and keep them coming.

So get to it - build a pipeline of case studies that will showcase your considerable talents. If planning, interviewing clients and writing all this up is a little daunting. Get in touch. We can plan together.