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Case Studies: The Swiss Army Knife of Marketing

Author: Bonnie Ayers Namkung and Lanny Udell
March, 2008 Issue

Every business has at least one defining client story. A nagging problem solved. A difficult challenge met in record time. An innovative solution despite a tight budget. Like a good novel, the story has drama, suspense, an interesting cast of characters and a satisfying resolution.

In the world of marketing, these success stories are called case studies—and they’re one of the most valuable tools you probably aren’t using. Here’s why you should.

The credibility factor.

Let’s face it. Most marketing materials are read with a skeptical eye. But a well-crafted case study carries more weight. Why? Because unlike a brochure, it isn’t written solely from your point of view. By including interviews and comments from your happy client, you add another dimension of believability.

People remember stories.

While a sales letter may soon be forgotten, a story of triumph has staying power. People naturally want to know how others are solving problems similar to their own. Your case study will show them in both a tangible and memorable way.

A case study brings your product or service to life in a way no brochure or data sheet can. Typically, it tells the tale in two to three pages of text illustrated with photographs, charts and graphic elements. And because it highlights your unique approach to problem solving, it vividly sets you apart from your competition.

It’s a multi-tasking marketing tool.

For sheer versatility and cost effectiveness, the case study is unmatched. It has a long shelf life and can be adapted for a variety of uses, such as:

Print or online publications. Articles that feature real-world success stories consistently place highest on the readership scale.

Direct mail or email. An easy, low cost way to spread the word about an innovative new product or service. And if you’re looking for a giveaway to prompt a response to your direct marketing effort, look no further than your case study.

Press kit. Give editors a compelling story, and you may very well see yourself in print.

Presentation topic. Need talking points? A case study makes a lively presentation and establishes you as an expert. 

Trade show literature. A case study sells you better than a keychain or a coffee mug any day. Just ask your sales team.

Website. The search engines will notice when you add new content to your site. And you’ll notice an increase in traffic.

Who benefits from case studies? If you’re a B2B company, you can get a lot of mileage from telling the story of a well-executed project, especially if you’re marketing a complex product or service. A few of the industries that use case studies to give their sales and marketing programs a boost include financial services, marketing and design firms, high-tech companies, hotels, conference centers and event planners, business consultants, architects and interior designers.

Use it or lose out. What stories are you sitting on that could be contributing to your bottom line? Review your list of recent projects, and you’re sure to discover one or more success stories just waiting to be told.


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