The power of case studies

Power of case studies FEATURECase studies. They may not sound like the most exciting stories in the world. But they can be among the most powerful. I’m talking about the case studies that you use in your business to help educate customers, engage prospects and get people over the line.

These case studies may come in the form of a customer success story profiled on your website, or simply an anecdote you tell people who visit your store about how you helped another customer find a solution to their problem. A case study is essentially fancy term for an example. But, importantly, it’s an example that highlights the impact your products or services on someone else’s life. Quite simply, it’s where you tell a story.

Recently, I chatted to Scott Stratten, marketing expert and best-selling author of UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging, when he visited Australia as keynote speaker for PMP’s Schmart Marketing conference.

The Canadian-based speaker says that the use of case studies is vital in business.

“I think storytelling is incredibly important whether you’re speaking on stage, writing a book, or writing a blog post or an article,” says Stratten.

He points to ‘the three Ps’: “I tell the point, then prove it by showing an example, and then tell people how to perform it,” he says.

1. Point: illustrate your point
When you are trying to convey a message or idea, you need to state it upfront. The trouble is that we are so conditioned into thinking that we need to provide a lot of background information before we get to a point, like leading up to a punch line. However, in the world of business, the opposite is true. We need to state our main point upfront.

2. Prove it: use case studies to do this
This is where your case studies come in. The best way to help a consumer – or anyone else for that matter – to understand a concept is to demonstrate it. For example, in my business, the Sydney Writers’ Centre, people often enquire about what they’re going to learn in the writing course we offer. Although I can explain that they’ll learn useful techniques – like how to plot, write dialogue and create compelling characters – it’s usually more powerful when I use a case study. For example, I’ll mention how one of our students, Jessica, enrolled in our creative writing courses to help her craft her novel. Not only did she write the novel, she ended up getting a three-book deal with a major publisher.

“People learn from case studies,” says Stratten. “I love case studies. I love reading them. You can explain theory all you want, but case studies and metrics really show you know what you’re talking about.”

3. Perform it: give instructions
In order to help people understand how to apply the concept to their own lives or businesses, spell it out. Provide a checklist, or step-by-step suggestions on what they can do to implement the idea themselves. It’s not patronising, it’s helpful, and in our time-poor world, people appreciate it when you distil the information they need.

You can use case stories on your website, to illustrate how your products/services impact your customers; in marketing materials, such as brochures; in articles and blog posts, like this one; when you are speaking at events; or when you’re trying to ‘close the deal’.

So ask yourself: where can you use case studies in your business?

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About Valerie Khoo

Valerie Khoo is founder and national director of the Australian Writers' Centre, the country's leading centre for writing courses. She is a journalist, blogger and author. Her latest book is "Power Stories: The 8 stories you MUST tell to build an epic business" (Wiley). Valerie is a keynote speaker, small business commentator, and investor and mentor to startups and businesses in Australia.
  • Sarah wayland

    Valerie whats your tips on promoting your availability as a case study writer for businesses…should you offer to do some and then use them to gain more work??

    • Anonymous

      Hi Sarah

      I think it’s a great idea. And I certainly have done my fair share of case study writing for corporates.
      I think you need to:
      1. Identify the organisations that would find this valuable – so typically they sell services and have clients that you can profile. You want to showcase the impact they have had on their clients. 2. Ensure that you promote this on your website or list of services. 3. Showcase some examples or your case study writing. If you haven’t done any before, then do some for a friend’s business so that you have something in your portfolio. Hope that helps :)

  • Alex

    Can you give me tips on how to create an internal company contest to get our sales team and pre-sales team to “find” customer case studies that we can use in a form of brochure, press release, etc? Thank you. Alexandra

    • Valerie Khoo

      HI Alexandra. One of the easiest ways to start this is to send out a survey. Craft you questions carefully to get the best responses. Eg. “1. What was it like before you started working with us? 2. How did we help you? 3. Describe what it’s like now.” This should highlight some success stories that you can then use for case studies.