MRP Lesson 5: The best (unpaid) sales force you’ll ever have – Case Studies

Now that we’ve talked pretty extensively about the general approach to information-based marketing, we’re going to dig into the specific pieces you may want to accumulate for your arsenal.

First up: Case Studies.

A case study is a narrative marketing tool that tells the story of a customer’s experience with your product or service. Whereas a testimonial is considerably shorter and more vague, a case study goes into considerable detail about specific parts of your customer’s experience. It outlines the problem presented, specifics about how the solution was implemented, and the resolution achieved.

The terms “case study” and “customer success story” are often used interchangeably, although there are some differences. Success stories are often shorter, less detailed overviews aimed at senior executives and others who do not have time to dive into the details of a particular customer’s story. Bona fide case studies, however, are aimed more at managers and staff who would be charged with making your solution work if purchased. They, obviously, want to know the nitty-gritty before recommending you up the chain of command.

Typical Structure

Length: 2-3 pages (“success story” overviews are generally 1 page)

Outline: A case study can be outlined in several different ways. Here are a few ideas:

Traditional case study with subheads. Breaks the story up into categories (customer profile, challenge or problem to be solved, solution, and results, for example).  Very easy to scan if subheads are clear, but can come across as academic.

Feature story. Here, the customer’s narrative is presented as if written for a magazine. Journalistic-style writing makes it easier to capture and hold prospects’ attention, especially if the graphic design includes pull quotes and sidebars to highlight key items.

First person story. This story is told entirely in your customer’s “voice,” so it often is the most personal and authentic structure. The narrator should be someone prospects would consider highly credible. Most effective with solutions sold to individuals.

Q&A. The interview format is very personal and, particularly with technical audiences, very credible. These are the quickest and most inexpensive to produce – not much re-writing necessary here if the interviewee is articulate and persuasive.

Whatever the format, case studies and success stories are uniquely persuasive because they lower the perceived risk of deciding to do business with you. The voices of your satisfied customers give your solution far more credibility than your own.

Next time, we’ll talk about an information-based marketing tool that’s even more popular with customers than case studies: white papers. See you in four days!

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