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The power of case studies

Case 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 a fancy term for an example. But, importantly, it’s an example that highlights the impact of 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 the 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, but she also 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 patronizing, it’s helpful, and in our time-poor world, people appreciate it when you distill 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?

Valerie Khoo is Managing Director of the Sydney Writers’ Centre in Milsons Point, Sydney. As one of Australia’s leading centers for writing training, the center runs short courses to help people write with confidence and improve their business communication skills. Valerie blogs about storytelling and small business at www.ValerieKhoo.com.

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