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!