The case study has been a key tool in the marketer’s box for decades. The goal is to show an example of what a company’s services are, highlighting the quality of work, the business impact, the ROI, etc.
However, very few people want to read your case study (including your entire internal team). There is a chance that someone who is on the verge of moving from the Evaluator ARC to the Buyer ARC might find it mildly helpful, but they would never call it interesting. In short, most case studies miserably fail at their intended goal.
What Would You Rather See?
All great movies and TV series have a relatable hero – someone that appeals to a part of our personality, someone we could imagine being. Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Michael Corleone, Frodo Baggins, Erin Brokovich. These are all enthralling stories about someone who we can relate to, root for, or delight in. They are also huge box office hits.
Compare those stories with United Passions, a film about the origins of FIFA. The movie was 90% funded by FIFA with a budget of over $25 million. The hero in the movie is, of course, Sepp Blatter, the now infamous head of FIFA who tries to tackle corruption. United Passions set a box office record for being the lowest grossing film of all time – $918. Critics consider it one of the worst movies of all time with a score of 1 out of 100 on Rotten Tomatoes.
Are You Producing United Passions?
Your case study is very much like United Passions: dubious, self-glorifying, over-exaggerating, and not at all relatable. I’m not going to see that movie and neither are you. We don’t believe the claims are true because of the obvious bias.
Should You Abandon Case Studies?
Not at all. Talking about successes is one of the best ways to discuss what you have done. Just change the hero.
Case studies should be told as Success Stories where your customer is the hero. They are relatable, they have overcome odds, they have a remarkable story to tell – you may have played a minor role, but they were the ones who were the main character.
When you switch this focus, your Success Story becomes something other people would read. It’s something they would subscribe to. They would like to hear stories of people like them who have beat the odds and are willing to share their story.
Success Stories can also work in many ways for you. First, they can be a thank-you gift to a client. They are used to people asking for their money, so when you come and offer to package up their story in a nice way and present it to the world, they will be thrilled.
But the Success Story is your own marketing too. People are smart. There is no need to glorify your role in every story. Once you start sharing a few dozen success stories, the common thread will become obvious. It will also become obvious that you really care about the success of your customers and not just their money.
Success stories can take many forms. It might be a nicely-written report with pictures and graphs. It could be an audio interview where your client talks about their ups and downs and how they pushed through the hard times. It could be a professionally-shot video that tells their story in a highly visual way.
If you really want case studies to work for you, get used to telling someone else’s stories, not yours. No one likes a movie about Sepp Blatter.