Case Studies Are Still a Marketing Staple

Building Credibility with Satisfied Clients

A “case study” in the context of marketing is an analysis of a project, campaign or company that identifies a situation, recommended solutions, implementation actions and identification of those factors that contributed to failure or success.”

— Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog

Neither Neil Mortine nor I will forget the day we traveled to a prospective client’s office and I spilled hot tea on the contact’s white carpet. While Neil likes to embellish what happened next, the bottom line is that, based on that meeting, we implemented a successful case study campaign on behalf of Holophane that spans 29 years and continues today. Holophane is part of Acuity Brands Lighting, Inc.

Case studies are nothing new but they are far from antiquated. Many companies consider case studies a marketing staple because they have the ability to effectively engage with target audiences and tell the company’s story.

“Case studies are important to our marketing efforts because they help our customers relate to our solutions through examples of real world projects, actual project data and results,” said Tom Pierce, Manager of Marketing Communications for Acuity Brands Lighting. “These testimonials are invaluable to building credibility for our products, services and company.”

An Under-Optimized Form of Brand Storytelling

Odden estimates that 71 percent of content marketers use case studies, but he believes this marketing communications tactic is still under-optimized as a form of brand storytelling.

“Case studies provide a structured problem and solution format that provide context, situation and challenges the reader can empathize with,” Odden said. “Case studies also supply insight into how a problem was solved, paving the way for the solution and measures of success.”

“Without them (case studies), you’re stuck with explaining what you do and why it’s beneficial to customers,” said Andrew Angus, founder and CEO of Switch Video. “But there are only so many ways you can describe yourself.”

Odden and Angus cite specific advantages case studies offer:

  • They provide a structured problem and solution format with practical insights readers can apply to their own situations.
  • They demonstrate the solution provider’s approach to problem solving and project implementation.
  • As a collection, case studies can paint a picture of the areas in which a company excels and the expertise that differentiates the business from competitors.
  • Case studies enable companies to leverage customers’ brand power by showing the businesses that have purchased and used the product.

Odden also provides advice about developing and maintaining case studies:

  • Review any case studies you use regularly and remove or revise any that become outdated.
  • Confirm in advance that you will be able to obtain required parties’ approval to avoid spending time and money in a case study that will never see the light of day.
  • Invest in great writing. A case study with boring or underwhelming performance has the potential to turn prospects away rather than engage them.

Every case study must focus on the customer that used the product rather than the company selling it.

“Marketers have to remember: it isn’t about them, their product or their service,” said Bryan Eisenberg, best selling author, keynote speaker and consultant. “It’s about their customers, their problems and how they got solved.”

A Marketing Tool With Many Uses

While companies have long used case studies as part of more traditional marketing materials, case studies these days may appear in blogs, as PDFs, videos and as visually appealing infographics. Many companies offer a dedicated case studies page on their website, spotlight case studies on their home page, feature them in email marketing and post about them on social media.

“We typically utilize our case studies as demand generation tools that are published both on our websites as well as distributed by our sales team via email or face-to-face presentations,” Pierce said. “PDFs are easily distributed online and make great printed handouts for proposal packages, seminars and lunch-n-learns. They also are a good tool for approaching social media outlets and trade publications and securing other PR opportunities that help spread the word.”

How do case studies help spread the word for your company or clients?


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