Case studies make stronger cases for what you do

So tell me: what does your company do best? You brag a lot about your expertise through messages on your website and social feeds, but does anyone really believe your claims?

Maybe instead of shouting about what makes you better, you should consider making a stronger case for it through what’s known as case studies.

A case study is a communications tool that simply tells the world what you did for someone, how you did it, why you did it that way, and what the results were. They’re a secret weapon in your marketing arsenal. By that, I mean most of your competitors haven’t learned about those compelling, powerful … and surprisingly versatile … case studies. Yet.

Brag all you want in your marketing, but people will look and listen a lot more closely when you give them a real-world example of how your expertise or products helped someone else achieve goals or reduce stress. Case studies get immediate attention and get remembered.

Why do case studies work so well? Because they’re factual, the reader doesn’t have to wade through claims and promises to learn what it is you do how well or you do it. But that’s not the main reason.

Case studies are a form of storytelling, and telling stories will capture your audience’s attention in a way that few other forms of persuasive communication can do. People like to read about the challenges others face, because it deepens their knowledge about the industry and strengthens their own problem-solving skills.

As someone reads a case study, they instinctively project somebody else’s real-world experience upon their own organization and needs. You offered a solution that helped someone double production or cut defects by 83 percent? I’ll do the mental math to see what that would do for this quarter’s results.

Traditional advertising approaches typically rely upon grabbing someone’s attention and serving up a strong sales pitch. Today’s business owner or manager is already wary, but when someone does the hard sell, it creates distrust. If they don’t trust your message, will they choose you over a competitor?

Month after month, your competitor’s advertising says their veeblefetzers increase profits by allowing customers to core more radishes per hour. Yeah, right. Heard that before. Overpromise, underdeliver.

But wait … here’s your case study. Joe Schmoe at Perky Produce … his operation is a little smaller than mine … tracked production and your veeblefetzers allowed Perky to core 42 percent more radishes per hour with 16 percent less labor! They documented it! That’s more convincing than any slogan you could ever dream up.

Did I mention Joe Schmoe is well-known in the produce universe and Perky is viewed as a regional leader in radish production? It’s hard to think of a more convincing salesperson than one of your successful customers.

I said case studies are versatile. How versatile? You can use them advertising, mailings, in email newsletters, on your website, on social media, as articles in trade magazines, in brochures — no matter how you communicate with your audiences, there are ways to incorporate case studies. Video case studies are a natural for your web and social feeds.

I know: You’re hesitant because you’re embarrassed to ask your customers. You’re afraid they’ll turn you down or demand total secrecy. Actually, most customers are flattered to be asked, whether or not they agree to help. And most will be happy to let you create a case study. After all, it also demonstrates their leadership to companies in their own universe.

Sometimes, a company will be happy to let you develop a case study, but only if you keep their name secret. Take time to find the source of their hesitation. If it’s because they fear release of proprietary information, you don’t need to disclose the company’s name or critical information.

Saying “a $50 million radish processor” may not deliver as much impact as mentioning Perky Produce’s name, but it will help the reader frame the story.

Actually, hesitant customers aren’t the biggest impediment to creating successful case studies. It’s time, or a lack of it. Asking staff members whose plates are already full to create case studies is a recipe for inaction. When your team is being expected to do more work in less time, identifying customers, clients, and projects for case studies won’t be #1 on their agendas.

The solution is outsourcing case studies to a PR firm or a professional writer. Not only will that let you keep your team focused on what makes money, but an outsider comes with greater objectivity and a willingness to point out that a particular story may not be as compelling to the outside world as you may think.

No matter what approach you decide to take to case studies, be sure to set them up as an ongoing program that’s built upon a schedule with firm due dates. That’s the most effective way to ensure your stories get told and gain the impact they deserve.