The Working Case Study

Next to white papers, case studies are the most popular tool in the technical marketer's toolkit

The ubiquitous case study can range from a 3- paragraph online snippet to a full-blown magazine article. The most popular case study in the marketing/PR arsenal is the 500-700 word success story. They're not as challenging to write as white papers, but you should structure them for maximum impact.

Different companies use different structures for their case studies, but all should follow the same general pattern: 1. Company overview and challenge 2. Project details 3. Positive results (of course)

Customer Overview and Challenge

Start with a 2-3 paragraph overview of the customer's company. This should be very positive - since you're going to detail a problem the customer was having, the last thing you want to do is make them sound like jerks. So compliment them. Feel free to adapt the overview from their own Website text, where they're already placing themselves in the best possible light.

Then move on to the business challenge. Don't make the customer sound stupid or incompetent. The challenge should always be centered on something good that is happening to them - fast growth, industry prominence, strategic IT changes - whatever. Their challenge should be applicable to your readers' own business issues.

Project Details

No project goes perfectly, but save the debriefing for the longer-form trade journal article. These short case studies should report on the successful project by briefly discussing specific products and benefits.

Don't go all over the map. If the project is fairly narrow or specific, you won't have any trouble sticking with the main point. In the case of large and complex installations, concentrate on the main point. For example, Microsoft Great Plains has more modules than you can shake a stick at. Concentrate on the ones that had the most positive impact on your customer.

Business Benefits

Always quantify improvement when you can. Numbers can be dollar savings, percentages, or other measures of saved staff time, more efficient workflows, better customer service, etc. Be sure that the benefits you list are the benefits the customer perceives - hard costs are most easily quantified, but soft costs may have the higher perceived benefit to a customer. Ideally you will list both.

When NOT to Write a Case Study

What are the most common blocks to partnering with a customer for a case study?

1. Your customer is really unhappy. They'd do a case study all right, but you wouldn't want them to. If you're the hapless individual setting up the initial interview, be sure that the customer really is happy and is open to talking to you. Otherwise they'll just give you an earful. Fix: promise the customer that you'll pass on all of his comments to the technical support team, or whoever you think will best handle it. Then do it, and forget about it.

2. Customers who fear their market will punish them. Prime example: legal firms with security issues. Sure you helped them through a security project and now they're Fort Knox, but they don't want their clients to dream that a problem ever existed in the first place. Fix: Forget it. They'll never give you permission to produce the study. Besides, they're probably right.

3. Your customer is an exacting IT type who is suspicious of the success story format. This customer considers the project a success too, but they dislike purely positive spins - and no project is perfect. Fix: If they are happy for the most part, get a buy-in that the project really was successful. Don't put him off about the negatives, capture those comments too and promise to pass them on. (Then do it.) This is usually enough to secure the interview.

4. Your customer is scared to be interviewed. This is usually the IT guy who did all the footwork, and prefers to stay behind the scenes. He (or she) will either be too nervous to talk, or will despise you because he doesn't think you've got the technical chops. Usually both. Fix: Understand the technology you're interviewing about. You don't have to be an engineer, but you should understand IT pressures and issues. Ask leading questions, but if they clam up and won't talk, thank them and hang up. Tell your customer contact that you're so happy you got to talk to the technician, and now could you talk to a project manager too?

About The Author

Christine Taylor is an expert copywriter for the technology industry. Call her today for help with your white paper, trade journal article, case study, positioning document, or any other B2B marketing piece. Call 760-249-6071 or e-mail her at [email protected], and start that white paper selling!

In The News:

9 Things About PR They Didn't Teach You in College  PR News - For Smart Communicators
The 6 Must-Have Elements of a Comprehensive PR Plan  PR News - For Smart Communicators
PR Account Manager  Pedestrian TV
Trump’s PR Meltdown  The Bulwark

How to Form a Relationship with a Newspaper

How do you make a good relationship with a newspaper... Read More

35 Quick Tips for Writing A Press Release

Layout1. 1-2 pages in length.2. Double-space.3. 1.5 to 2 inch... Read More

A Winning Game Plan

You want to sell your products or services, and that... Read More

How Would You Ever Know?

Your important outside audiences behave in ways that stop you... Read More

Managers Who Tap Into PRs Value

Business, non-profit and association managers get a ton of satisfaction... Read More

Why PR is an Engine for Economic Growth

Business, non-profit and association managers committing their public relations resources... Read More

Editorial Calendars: A Key to Publicizing Your Business

What is the one thing that all of the best... Read More

How Video Production can be used in PR

At the core of any successful public relations campaign is... Read More

Publicity: Marketing-Minded Financial Planners, Take a Reporter to Lunch

Sometimes a phone call isn't intimate or long enough to... Read More

Make Sure Your Media Room Rocks

If a reporter was writing a story about you and... Read More

How To Get Radio-Active PR For Your Non-Profit Cause-Part One

"We are in the communications business, the business of conveying... Read More

What Many PR Users Ignore

Simply that the behaviors of their most important outside audiences... Read More

Making Press Releases Work - Creating News Where None Existed

Aren't you tired of hearing how extremely easy it is... Read More

Custom Reasons for Custom Publishing

Once considered the stepchild of the publishing industry, custom publishing... Read More

Do You Really Need PR?

The right kind of PR, that is, the kind that... Read More

A Guide to Optimizing Public Relations Content

This guide to "SEOing" your PR efforts can help you... Read More

Monarch Health Sciences starts shipping long awaited Monavie and Monavie Active

The Acai Berry is starting to gain world wide recognition... Read More

How To Write A Press Release: The 10 Commandments Of A Great Lead Paragraph

How to write a press release is a major challenge... Read More

Generating Publicity For Your Business: Knowing Your Media Market Is Critical

When starting a successful business venture or launching a new... Read More

Press Release Preparation

Small Business Owners should send press releases out at least... Read More

What is News?

What may be the more appropriate question is: What makes... Read More

Anatomy Of A PR Campaign

The message is determined by analyzing the brand being marketed,... Read More

Talk Radio Success

You do not have to hire a publicist or advertise... Read More

Media Training: Why Nobodys Listening to You

SORRY?WERE YOU SAYING SOMETHING?Many spokespeople approach media interviews the same... Read More

A New Idea For Venture Capitalists

Obviously, it hurts when a promising business project you backed... Read More