What are Case Studies? (Part 3 of 3)

 

We’ve spent the last couple of days talking about what case studies are and how you can create one. Now, that’s great and wonderful, but in the end there’s only one real question: what are you going to do with your case study once you’ve got it?

 

I think we can all agree that that’s the real question here.

 

And what’s the answer? Here’s the short answer: plenty. A well-written case study is a versatile marketing tool, so it’s not really limited to one use.

 

I’ve taken a little time to get together ten of the most common uses. But before I do that, I’ve got a little admission to make: a case study is usually only cost-effective in an industry where you’ve got a high Customer Lifetime Value. So if you’re selling bubble gum, you might want to move along.

 

Now that we’ve got that caveat out of the way, here’s our list:

 

  1. Build credibility for your solution.

This is the value of the interview. if you want to show your prospects why your business is great, who are they more likely to believe: you or your customers?

 

That’s pretty obvious, I know. If they’re going to be putting their money on the line for your solution, they’ll want to hear from your customers. They’ll want to hear about how your business has added real value.

 

With a case study, you’ve got an accessible and compelling way to demonstrate that value. And if you pepper your case study with the customer’s own words, you add another layer of trust and credibility.

 

  1. Prove your industry knowledge.

How many of you have ever had a prospect who was just perfect for your offer, but they kept dragging their feet and saying, “But I don’t know if it will work for me.”?

 

We’ve all been there before. And we’ve all wracked our brains now and again, trying to come up with a way to dissolve that resistance.

 

When your prospect reads your case study, they should see a person a lot like them, in a company a lot like theirs. That way, when they see how your solution worked for this other company, they’ll be able to understand how you can help them.

 

And if you can make it personal to them, you can build a relationship.

 

  1. Engage your prospect’s imagination.

We’ve talked about this before, but one of the most important things about a case study is that it’s a story.

 

Now why’s that so important? We’re all human beings, right? Well, as human beings we’ve evolved to pick up information through stories.

 

Why’s Harry Potter so popular? Why did Disney pay George Lucas a billion dollars for the rights to the Star Wars franchise? Why do people dress up in elaborate costumes to go see the latest Marvel movie?

 

Simple: because it’s a great story. With a case study, you have a chance to tell your prospects a great story.

 

Now, I know it probably won’t be anything as dramatic as stopping Voldemort or blowing up the Death Star, but your story has a drama and a value of its own. The people who are meant to work with you will recognize that drama and value.

 

But they’ll only recognize it if you get that case study.

 

  1. Educate your prospect about your offer’s value.

Let’s face it: sometimes your prospects don’t immediately understand the value of your offer.

 

Maybe it’s an older prospect who doesn’t understand your software. Maybe it’s a first-time business owner who can’t see why this equipment is necessary. Maybe it’s an executive who’s worried about passing up a major chance.

 

Here’s the thing: we’ve all got our areas of expertise, and sometimes you’ll be working with a prospect who needs your solution but just doesn’t get your offer.

 

With your case study in hand, you can show those prospects why your offer will help them. When they see the way your solution has resolved a problem similar to theirs, they’ll be much more interested in discussing what you can do for them.

 

  1. Accumulate social proof.

In his classic book Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert Cialdini spends a chapter on the concept of social proof. He says the principle of social proof “states that one means we use to determine what is correct is to find out what other people think is correct.”

 

So how does a case study create social proof? That’s simple enough. When you show your prospects that others like them have benefitted from your offer, it’s much easier to convince them they could benefit.

 

When you were a newcomer, it was hard to show a prospect the value of your solution. But now that you’ve built a base of loyal clients, you can leverage that social proof to scale your business.

 

Case studies are a way for you to get that leverage.

 

  1. Learn what your best customers value in your offer.

This is a bit of a hidden benefit, but if you think about it for a minute it makes a lot of sense. Think about it: if you’re trying to improve your business, what do you want to know?

 

That’s obvious, you think. You want to know about the problems customers have with your offer and what you can do to improve it. It stings to hear those customer complaints, but they’re awfully valuable, right?

 

That’s a good answer. But it’s not the whole story.

 

Of course you want to know what your unhappy customers think you’re doing wrong. But isn’t it at least as important to know what your happy customers think you’re doing right? Of course you want to know what you need to change. But isn’t it at least as important to know what needs to stay the same?

 

A solid case study can get you that information. Sure, it’s mostly a marketing tool. But it’s also a valuable insight into what excites your best customers.

 

  1. Repurpose your case studies (Both on- and offline).

Now, a lot of the things I’ve been talking about here are geared toward softening up a sales process. That’s definitely one of the strong points of a case study. But it’s not the only use, and more often than not it’s not even the main use.

 

Post your case studies on your website. Convert them into infographics and YouTube videos. Blog posts, podcasts, press releases, you name it! With a little extra work, you can get out feelers on all your marketing channels.

 

And when you do that, you can have a self-selected group of warm prospects approaching you. In that way, case studies make a great hammer in your marketing toolbox.

 

  1. Remind yourself what your business is all about.

Now, I know this isn’t really a business benefit. But doesn’t it happen sometimes that we forget what we’re in business for? We find that routine that works, and we fall into it so deep we lose track of what it’s all about.

 

It’s so easy to get caught up in the everyday. We get so caught up in running our businesses that we start to forget they’re about people.

 

Your business is about serving people, in the end. So sometimes the real value of the case study can be to show you the difference you’ve made. Because we’ve all got to take care of business, but in the end “taking care of business” is just another way of saying we take care of each other.

 

Business is about the relationships we form along the way. And at its best, a case study can be a way to remind us of that.

 

As always, thanks for reading and best of luck to you and your endeavors. Be sure to take a look at yesterday’s article if you want to know more about case studies. Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions. You can reach me in my comment section, or if you like you can email me at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com.

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What are Case Studies? (Part 2 of 3)

 

Yesterday we talked about what case studies are, and I gave you a few ideas on how a great case study can show off what’s special about your business. Today I’m going to give you a step by step guide to producing a case study that grabs your prospect and forces them to read every word.

 

(Just a side note: if you haven’t taken a look at yesterday’s article yet, here’s a quick rundown on what you need to know.

 

A case study is a marketing tool that shows your prospects the value of your offering.

 

Most of the time, a case study will:

 

  • Share a compelling story that shows your how your company solved a customer’s problem.
  • Present the story from your customer’s point of view.
  • Display an angle that shows the unique thing that makes your company shine.
  • Educate your prospects on the value of your offering.

 

Case studies are usually about one to four pages long. The very best of them tells a story that informs, entertains, and inspires.)

 

I’ll be honest with you: it’s not easy to craft a brilliant case study. But with a lot of time, hard work, and dedication, you should be able to get the job done. Of course, a professional copywriter will usually be eager to take that work off your hands if you don’t have the time.

 

So without any further ado, let’s get writing, shall we?

 

  1. Find one of your best, most typical customers, and schedule an interview with a representative.

Now, this is a pretty simple step in and of itself, but I wanted to take some time to talk about it so I could draw your attention to the two key words here. What are the key words?

 

They are: best and most typical (okay, technically that’s three words. Sorry.).

 

You want to have your interview with your best customers for plenty of reasons. First off, if they’re you’re best customers, you’re more likely to be able to get a compelling story when you interview them, right?

 

And I know this is probably pretty obvious, but I might as well say it anyways: just like it’s best to get a review or a testimonial from your best customers, it’s best to get a case study from them, too. They’ve got the most value out of your offering and they’ll have an infectious enthusiasm that will spread to the people who read your case study.

 

It might be a little less obvious why I say you should go with your most typical customers. But that’s just a matter of practicality. I mean, if you’re trying to show your prospects what your offering can do, you’re not going to want them to read about that customer who buys a half-dozen special services and none of your typical offerings, are you?

 

Of course not. You’re going to want to interview the customer who buys your most common offer. After all, you’re telling this customer’s story. Don’t you want it to be one your typical prospect can relate to?

 

Sure you do. So break out that phone or keyboard and schedule that interview!

 

  1. Prepare for and conduct the interview.

When it comes to it, a phone or Skype interview is just fine for this part. It takes some practice to get good at interviewing, but let me just give you a few pointers so you can get the information you need.

 

Here’s the main thing to remember when you’re conducting interviews: never forget what you need to get out the interview.

 

What’s that, then? First off, you want story you can share with your prospects to show them the value of your offer.

 

That means you want to know all the facts and figures of the company. You want to be able to explain what they do and why they do it. Simple enough, right?

 

Second, you want to know about the problem that led this company to approach yours. (Protip: make sure you’ve got a clear description of the problem and the pain points involved.)

 

Third: you want to know how your company solved the problem. (Of course, you already know this, but you want to get the story from your customer’s point of view.) When the time comes to write your story, this will be where your company swoops in to save your customer.

 

Last: you want to know the results. That means you want to know the statistics that prove the value you’ve provided.

 

With a practiced hand, you should be able to fit all this information into a short interview. No pressure, you’ve got this.

 

  1. Write your first draft.

Now that you’ve got it all together, it’s time to get into the writing process. Luckily for you, case studies generally have a pretty standard structure, so you don’t have a lot to worry about on that front.

 

Remember: you’re telling a story here. The same skills go into crafting a good case study that go into telling a good story.

 

So what’s a good story? A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. In the beginning, you introduce your hero—in this case, your customer. In the middle, you introduce your hero’s problem and show them trying to solve it. And in the end, they solve it—with a little help from you and your company, of course!

 

Of course, describing basic story structure is one thing and actually writing an effective story is another thing. Skillful writing is a matter of practice and mastery, just like any other craft. But with time, discipline, and sheer will power, you can learn it.

 

  1. Edit and revise.

This part of the process is pretty obvious, I’ll admit. You tidy up your sentence structure. You check your spelling. You eliminate your passive verbs and you eliminate every word that doesn’t contribute to the meaning of your story.

 

You’ll probably want to give it to a few people you can trust to give you honest feedback on your work. Ask them if everything makes sense and if it all fits together just right.

 

(Trust me on this: I’ve written things I thought made perfect sense, but when I ran it by a couple of readers I found out I’d made some silly mistakes. You never can tell what people might misunderstand.)

 

Now that you’ve edited, pay attention to this part: before you use your case study for anything, you should run it by your customer and have them sign off on it. This is important: you want to get your customer to approve of the final article before you do anything with it.

 

So that’s the process! As always, thanks for reading and best of luck to you and your endeavors. Be sure to take a look at yesterday’s article if you want to know more about case studies. I’ll tell you some more about what you can use them for tomorrow!

 

Feel free to get in touch if you’ve got any questions. You can reach me in my comment section, or if you like you can email me at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com.

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What are Case Studies? (Part 1 of 3)

 

What’s a case study? A case study is a multi-use marketing tool that you can think of as something like a testimonial on steroids. With case studies, you tell your prospects a story about how your company solved a problem for them.

 

A case study is an article that tells your customer’s story in his or her own words. You’ll conduct an interview to get to know the story, and you’ll take that story and mold it into a handy sales and marketing tool.

 

With a case study, you tell your prospects a story where your customer is the hero and your company steps in to help them with a problem. It’s one of the most effective ways to build social proof and credibility for your company.

 

Good and well, you think. Why should you care?

 

Well, the reason you should care is because your prospects are much more interested in hearing about what your product or service has done for other people than they are in hearing about what the features are.

 

It’s all about benefits to the prospect instead of features of the product.

 

Why’s that? Simple. I’ll give you two reasons:

 

  1. We all care the most about what’s good for us.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: how can you say people care the most about what’s good for them? Am I saying everybody’s selfish? Am I saying people only care about themselves?

 

You can go ahead and relax. I’m not preaching Ayn Rand here. I’m just saying we’ve all got our own business and preoccupations, so if you want somebody’s attention it pays to speak to their business and preoccupations.

 

And of course people care about more than just themselves. But the hard fact of life is that you have to make sure your own house is in order before you can deal with anybody else’s needs. So considering what a challenge it can be to keep ourselves in order sometimes, it’s quite the accomplishment that we manage to help others as much as we do.

 

So that’s that: we care about what’s good for us, and we’ve got good reason to.

 

So when your prospects hear about your product or service, they’re not going to be terribly interested in a bunch of features of your service.

 

Think about it: when you go to buy a TV, do you really care how many megapixels the screen has? Or does the crystal-sharp image on the screen catch your eyes a lot more effectively?

 

Megapixel is just a technical-sounding word. It sounds good, sure. But be honest now: isn’t it the fact that you can make out every single blade of grass on that baseball field that really sells you on a TV screen?

 

Your customers are the same way. They like to hear about what your product or service has done for people like them.

 

Features of your product are nice, and you can tell your prospects about them if you want. But that’s not what captures their imagination or gives them the serious desire to buy.

 

  1. Human beings love stories.

Imagine you’re a caveman sitting out on the edge of a scorching desert around thirty-five thousand years ago. You’re sitting on a tuft of hardy grass and chewing on a hunk of raw antelope meat.

 

It’s tough stuff. You have to bite down hard to get it in your mouth, and you have to chew it forever to get it down enough to swallow it. It doesn’t taste very good, and it’s awfully hard on your stomach.

 

But what choice do you have? Raw meat is the only meat around.

 

So let’s say your buddy Og from the next cave over walks up to you. Og thinks he’s something special because he hired some avant-garde guy called a “painter” to draw buffalo on the wall of his cave.

 

(They don’t look anything like buffalo, you think. Besides, what good are they when you can’t eat them?)

 

Anyways, Og likes to show off how cosmopolitan he is, so he starts telling you about a guy he knows in the next valley over.

 

“He work R & D on something he call fire,” Og says.

 

“Technology getting out of hand these days,” you say. “What this so-called fire supposed to do?”

 

“Make meat taste better,” Og says. “Scare predators away. Keep cave warm and bright at night.”

 

“Crazy tech apologist,” you mutter. But you’re still curious enough to ask, “How your friend find out about fire?”

 

And Og smiles, opens his mouth, and tells you all about it.

 

Here’s the simple fact of the matter: human beings absorb information best through stories. Stories frame information in an accessible way, and they don’t overwhelm us with technical detail that makes the thing sound intimidating.

 

There are a lot of industries out there where prospects have a clear need for a service, but it’s hard to articulate that need to them because they don’t have the technical knowledge. It’s one of those things where people need to work within their specialty.

 

That’s where a case study can help you. It teaches people about your offering in terms they can understand.

 

Not everyone has the technical knowledge it takes to immediately understand the practical benefits of a complex offering. So when you let them know about your offering in terms of a story about A) a person similar to them, B) facing a problem similar to theirs, and C) resolving it with your product or service, you can educate them to the point where they know enough to decide whether they’re interested in learning more.

 

With a seductively-written case study, you can educate your prospects and streamline your sales and marketing process. You can build credibility for your business by allowing someone else to speak about what your product or service can do for them. You can even use your case studies as sources for testimonials on your site.

 

I’ll let you know more about the uses for your case study on Thursday. Tomorrow we’ll talk about the process of writing your case studies.

 

Thanks for reading. Have you used case study marketing before? Did you write it yourself, or did you hire a professional to take care of it? Let me know in the comments!

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