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A case study is a story – and that’s powerful marketing

One of the secrets to great copywriting is storytelling. People are interested in stories. Stories get their attention. And it’s much easier to convince someone of something through a story, than it is by banging them on the head with a raw sales pitch.

Which is where case studies come in. Case studies are superb marketing tools for two key reasons:

• They provide proof

• They tell stories.

A good case study starts out with our hero – our satisfied customer. Like every good hero, he wants something, he has a story goal. He may want to find the perfect ice cream; he may want to buy the car of his dreams; he may want to learn to play the piano; or he might be looking for a world-class data centre where he can host the corporate databases and applications for which he holds prime responsibility. You get the idea.

There is conflict however: he doesn’t know how to reach his story goal.

This conflict is resolved when he discovers product X or service Y. We see how he is able to reach his goal, and come to a satisfying happy-ending when product X delivers a huge range of benefits.

So, to write an effective case study, you need to remember you are telling a story about a person or a company that wanted to achieve something, what they did about that, and how it all worked out in the end. It gives a proven, rock-solid structure for a case study that works every time:

1) The problem – the status quo, the situation at the start of the story, where we see our hero/customer struggling to achieve his story goal.

2) The solution – we show how our hero found product X, and how he used it to achieve his goal.

3) The benefits – we show how using product X has enriched our hero’s life and made him happy-ever-after.

This formula should work for any case study you need to write, be it for a big company, or just a testimonial for online marketing. The story can be a few sentences long, or many thousands of words. The structure can remain the same, only the level of detail needs to change.

Remember, however, to give your story a touch of life. Every good story needs a believable character, so include details of the person/company and a quote which lets us hear the proof in their own words.

Finally, make sure the quotes don’t read like corporate committee speak. Many a case-study has been ruined by the inclusion of so-called ‘quotes’ that don’t sound like something any human being would ever actually say. If the customer can only supply that kind of material, then change it so it sounds like a real quote, or write something for them. In either case, go back and get their approval.

If you’re not sure how to make up a quote for someone, just ask any journalist to help. They’re always making up quotes…. 🙂

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