The case study or “success story” is a mainstay of marketing. Most people whose work has even a cursory relationship to marketing communications are at least familiar with the basic format:
* Problem [Client situation/Industry background]
* Solution [How the customer used a product/service]
* Benefits [. . . and they lived happily ever after]
The very ubiquity and simplicity of case studies means that often they’re taken for granted. Many people in marketing, or those who hire people in marketing, see case studies as peripheral or supplemental to their primary vehicles—a Website, collateral, etc.
The case study is an essential marketing vehicle, or at least it should be. It can go where other vehicles cannot, to deliver a measure of credibility and complexity that is unmatched.
Beyond Explanation: Identification > Association > Extrapolation
While other marketing copy tells you about a product or service, a case study shows you how it works.
Case studies eschew the “salesy” language so many people have been conditioned to view with skepticism (no matter how true it is). As in social media marketing, the attributes of the company whose product/service is featured in the case study are implied, never stated directly.
A well written case study is a story that is engaging and triggers empathy. It enables the reader to identify with the challenges faced by the customer in the story, because he/she faces similar challenges.
Also, when the problem addressed is a familiar one, the case study can serve as a model for prospects/existing customers who may have never thought of using the product or service in the fashion illustrated by the story. Without spelling out every minute benefit—usually impossible anyhow—the case study allows readers to imagine how they might benefit in their own situation. That is the ultimate purpose of any case study.
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Not only is the case study a mainstay of marketing, it’s also a mainstay of those who venture to instruct others on marketing. (A Google search of "How to Write a Case Study" returned 5.8 million hits.) Here are two fine articles that are probably at least as good as five million other ones: How to Write a Case Study . . . Case Study Outline (both by Steve Hoffman).
(Here’s an example of the format this post describes, written by me.)
To learn more about writing and strategic communications that can amplify your voice, contact me at ajeisenstat[at]gmail[dot]com, or visit my portfolio AdamEisenstat.com and LinkedIn profile.