The lowly topic of case studies is getting a lot of buzz on LinkedIn. It’s all about a study Peter Smith, CEO of Hot to Trot Marketing, did for a client who “wanted to make sure that their case study output matched the level of quality prevalent in the industry.” (Where do the Brits get the nerve to come up wit these names, and what client has the money to spend on such a survey?)
As you might guess, Peter’s study found “a frightening amount of formulaic writing. We actually took ten different stories, from ten different vendors, took out the customer name, vendor name and technical description, swapped them around with those from another vendor’s study and no-one could spot the difference.”
Bless the vendors who pay me to write case studies, as they help pay the bills, but it’s no surprise the turn out the way they do. Vendors ask for, and sometimes insist on, formulaic, bland case studies. Some even have a strict template, down to the number of words in each section and the order in which quotes appear. Between that, and the temptation to stuff them full of marketing fluff, it’s no wonder case studies seem to cookie-cutter.
Having said that, some good ideas came from the discussion. Michael Hope not only highlights “the commercial value and business benefits of the project but then reuses and repurposes (my italics) the case study for everything from speaking opportunities to building ROI sales tools, spread the word on social media, build into an industry lead generation campaign and producing partner specific versions of the case study. A good example of re-purposing/reimaging content.
There was also a lot of comment on how, or whether, to measure the effectiveness of a case study. Daniel McCarthy suggested “more formal approaches” such as limiting access to readers willing to provide an email (or other contact info), or providing a trackable phone number or website in the document’s call to action. But again, this only works if the case study is compelling.
Stephanie Tilton had great tips on how to convince customers to do case studies for you in the first place, something that’s harder and harder in this risk-averse age.
And I get the last word, since it’s my blog. Don’t scrub your press releases until they’re so inoffensive they’re dull. And if you can’t find something interesting and instructive in a customer’s story, don’t tell it! Customer A buys Product B to solve Problem C, and it works, is not news – it’s the way the world is supposed to work. Find something newsworthy (in either the customer’s problem, how they implemented the product, unexpected benefits they found).
Remember: No news, no drama, no story, no readers, no sales.
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