Case studies are a double-edged sword
Customers value education, and they value the opportunity to educate themselves. For the marketer, this desire to learn opens a great opportunity to get the customer’s attention. It also comes with the risk of turning the customer off in pretty short order if the only thing the marketer has to offer is noise.
And if the customer is good at detecting one thing, it’s noise. Customers have gotten really good at identifying noise because they hear it a lot. Noise is not the same thing as genuine information, and studies have shown that customers will identify and reject marketing noise disguised as valuable content in about 15 seconds.
Content marketing fails when it hits the wrong reader in the wrong part of the sales cycle. If the customer is still trying to figure out what his needs are, or what might help solve his problem, he has not concluded that he needs to buy anything at all, much less buy a specific product or service. If the content first appears to meet the customer’s information need, but then attempts to move him farther ahead in the decision process than the customer is ready to be moved, the process fails for the marketer and the customer alike.
The key to good content marketing is to make sure the content meets the prospective customer where the customer is, not where the sales person wants the customer to be. The best way to do this is to realize that different tools are effective at different parts of the sales process.
The case study is best reserved for customers who are in the investigative stages of their inquiry. At this point, the customer may not be certain that they have a problem or need. They may not have a decided on a strategy to move forward, or they may not have the authority to move forward on their own. A good case study informs the reader and helps him or her determine where the parallels are between the case study and their own circumstances.
In the next post, I’ll discuss what goes into a useful case study, and how the case study can work in the context of your broader sales strategy. If you’d like more information about case studies and how you can use them, please contact me at email@example.com or call me at (734) 961-0408.
Photo Credit: Davide Guglielmo, via FreeImages.com