Once upon a time, in a far, far away land, there lived a king…
You can sort of guess how the sentence continues, right?
I don’t have to keep writing for you to recognise that this is the beginning of a story. We’ve all read stories or had them read to us as kids and we still remember what they were about. The storyline, names of characters, what happened in the end, we remember most of these details even years later as adults. Why? Because people are conditioned to remember stories. In the old days, before any of the modern technology was around, families and community members would gather together and tell stories to each other. Stories were a means of sharing information, passing on valuable lessons and building community bonds. Throughout human history, stories have been an essential element of communication, and a powerful way of connecting to others – and continue to be to this day.
Although computers, telephones and social networks have replaced most of face to face communication, stories are still highly present in all facets of our lives. They have become a powerful tool for promoting products and services and differentiating one business from another. TV commercials, radio jingles, blogs, websites, press releases, news articles, case studies – these are all vehicles for sharing stories – stories about your product, your service, stories about your business.
Case studies are an important marketing tool. We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with hundreds of sales messages. Naturally, we become weary of companies trying to persuade us that their product is the best, and mistrusting of the flashy, high-budget ads that blatantly promote a particular company and their services. People simply don’t trust advertising as much as they used to, but they do trust certain forms of advertising more than others, as we pointed out in our recent article, The Truth of Online Marketing.
Enter case study.
Why are case studies an effective tool for marketing your business? Because they are not just telling your prospects that your product is the best – they are demonstrating this through a story of a customer who has already benefited from your product. Case studies explain to the reader how your business’s product or service helped solve a particular problem and made life easier for your customers. And it does this in a problem – solution narrative. It provides details and helps the reader visualise your solution and how it could possibly help them. Rather than being “sold” on your product, the reader feels “informed” and “educated”. It’s not just about throwing out facts and figures, it’s about illustrating through real life examples how your business is an expert in a particular field, and how you can solve your customers’ challenges.
While not every case study will have the exact same flow, most well-crafted case studies will follow a problem – solution structure and contain the following four sections: Background, Problem, Solution and Evaluation.
Background/Situation – this is the opening section and it should describe the rationale for the case study, including background information on the customer’s company.
Problem/Challenge – this section outlines the problem that was faced by the customer. For example, company XYZ underwent expansion, adding 10 new branches to its operations and needed a better solution to connect its offices securely and reliably.
Solution – this is the main part of the case study and it should provide the most details. This section needs to demonstrate, in as much detail as possible, what your company has done to solve the customer’s problem, how the solution was implemented, the impact on the customer’s business, processes that were improved as a result of it, etc. In a nutshell, it should demonstrate your company’s expertise and capabilities and position you as an expert. To support your case, it is always beneficial to use sidebars, charts, graphs, infographics, or other forms of visual supporting material in order to highlight the key points you want to communicate.
Evaluation – this is the final section of the document and it should summarise the case study. Some points that can be discussed here include your solution’s positive impact on the customer, lessons learned and further action to be taken.
Whether you run a small business or a large organisation with hundreds of employees, you’ve got plenty of stories to tell – about your products, about your customers, about your company and your employees. The possibilities for telling your business story are endless – and so are the opportunities for your business to thrive successfully ever after.
What tips do you have for creating case studies? We’d love to hear them.♦ End