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What goes into a good case study?

What goes into a good case study?

What goes into a good case study?

In the last post, I discussed case studies and how they can be part of your content marketing strategy. In this post, I’ll look at case studies again and discuss how you can make them useful to your readers.

A case study support the investigators

With regard to your content marketing strategy, what gets the reader’s attention? Real, genuine content that helps them identify their own needs, potential solutions and competitive differences among similar products. Third-party content also helps.

Sales can be frustrating for people who don’t take into account the decision-maker’s preferred way of purchasing. The person who ultimately makes the decision or approves a purchase is undoubtedly who the sales person wants to talk to. Unfortunately, the decision-maker/purchaser frequently isn’t the person who needs the product or service the sales person is selling.

In this scenario, the decision-maker isn’t likely to purchase something without consulting closely with the user; the user likely doesn’t have the authority to make large or strategic purchases directly, and often has to make a case for purchasing a particular product or solution. The decision-maker/purchaser also has to balance the competing needs of other parties against constraints that are “universal” to his group, like money, space and time.

So, where does the case study fit in? The case study can help the user build an argument for buying a particular product or solution because it is tangible evidence that the solution worked in at least one other case.

As a part of your content marketing strategy, a case study becomes a helpful tool to a reader when (and only when) the reader can identify his or her own needs as being similar to those in the case study; the potential solution is likely to perform similarly in the reader’s circumstances; and the case study contains content that is designed primarily to educate and inform, rather than sell.

It helps to remember that a real case study focuses on one problem and one solution. Everybody loves data, but a case study isn’t about data. It’s an in-depth look at one single data point, outside the context of the broader market. A case study may focus on the most common problem(s) and solution(s) for customers in the marketplace, or it may focus on an outlier that requires a uniquely responsive solution.

It’s very important to remember that the case study isn’t designed for readers who are ready to buy. It’s designed for readers who are trying to figure out whether they have a real problem and what potential solutions may be available if they do.

Case studies are also designed to support readers who are researching potential solutions, but lack the decision-making authority to make a purchase. These readers need information – real information – that they can use to help them make a case to influencers and decision-makers in their organizations. A sales pitch that’s disguised as a case study is going to get the 15-second treatment from a reader who needs real informational support.

There is a role for sales tools that are primarily informational. Decision-makers tend to rely heavily on the people closest to them to identify problems and potential solutions. Providing the people around them with information is a fundamentally better and more effective content strategy than attempting to pitch the users or address decision-makers directly while they are still in the investigative stage of the purchase process.

If you’d like more information about case studies and how you can use them, please contact me at eileen@juliesocean.com or call me at (734) 961-0408.

Photo Credit: Stephen Stacey, via FreeImages.com