Sunday, October 22, 2006

Case Study Guidelines - What A Case Study Needs

Escape from Case Study Hell
By Ned Barnett - (c) 2006

A colleage wrote the other day asking about how to get out of Case Study Hell - how to please a demanding boss who's more focused on sales than PR. She was asking for suggestions on what ought to be in a case study, as well as how to proceed in developing effective case studies. I offered the following insights, based on some current case studies I'm developing for a project.

Interview the clients; get them to offer sizzling quotes they'll stay behind. Write them up not as case studies, per se, but as if they were 450-word sidebar articles in the kinds of publications you're targeting (i.e., in a style where an editor could literally cut-and-paste the whole thing into his rag/mag - not that they would, of course , but along that line). In doing this, make each case study do just one thing (one thing that sales likes). Perhaps find examples of:

a. Specific types of clients for specific case studies (i.e., one e-retailer, one heavy equipment manufacturer, one street drug dealer, etc. [ok, I'm kidding about types - but one for each kind of client you have])

b. Specific types of benefits or features, with one benefit or feature per case study

c. Specific types of "oh my god, it's better than sliced bread with barbecue or cold beer on a hot day" kinds of quotes from clients, each quote ranting about one specific benefit or feature

Another approach - write them as if the clients wrote them - first-person testimonials (of course, you'd write them).

I'm doing this exact thing right now. I'm a partner in a project to produce and sell a Christmas Carol DVD (with companion CD) that features a singing Santa and four terminally-cute elves. What I'm doing is having different people who have different angles write reviews (if they can write - since many of my friends are in PR, they
can write); I picked them to represent:

1. A parent of a Santa-believing kid

2. Jewish parents (whose kids still like to watch Christmas specials on TV)

3. An aunt

4. A grandmother of three young'uns


I'm also showing it to some non-writer folks I can write reviews for (I'll interview them, then write the reviews in their "voice" for their attribution) - for instance, the oldest daughter (17) in a family of five girls, including an 8 year old - the family is devout (she's going to a faith-based college when she graduates from HS) and I'm sure will love the DVD because there are four religious songs out
of 16 total songs, and because Santa briefly tells the elves the real meaning of Christmas (he also explains what "bells on a bobtail" and "figgy pudding" both mean).

Each review will reach a targeted demographic; it will be released only to those media focused on that demographic (seniors, Parents/family, religious, etc.).

Anyway, that's how I'm doing it, right now (I just picked up the demo DVDs this afternoon) for a product launch on November 10th - and that's how (based on the limited info you provided) I'd do it.

Bottom line - your case studies can support targeted sales without sounding "sales-ey" - and you can do that by focusing them narrowly on specific markets and/or on single benefits. Get your sales-guy CEO to see them as credible sales support tools, either in print (media) or as printed sheets the sales team can use as leave-behinds, etc.

Remember, he may not be right, but he's the CEO - and if he's sales oriented, meet that need for him and he'll like what you do.

All the best, and good luck!