Want to Know What Makes a Great Case Study? Google It.

Want to Know What Makes a Great Case Study? Google It.
Kate Headen Waddell - Wed Aug 08, 2012 @ 07:04AM
Comments: 28

FinishLine.jpgSo I was unwinding with a little boob tube the other evening when a commercial caught my eye. It’s a two minute long mini-epic about an average music teacher who won $1 million playing a baseball video game. What’s the ad for? The video game? The video game system? The contest? Nope. The ad is for Google.

According to eye-witness accounts within the commercial, Mr. Kingrey was “a gamer” but as far as anyone knows he knew nothing about baseball until he got the idea to compete in a $1 million “perfect game” challenge. Apparently this mild-mannered guy was able to go “from zero knowledge to a million dollars” all by researching how to play baseball – and this specific baseball video game – using nothing but Google.

I was hooked. “I’ve done stuff like that,” I thought to myself. Not a contest, but if a client needs me to bone up on a specific topic for a piece I can Google myself to near-expert status in a matter of hours. And that makes me feel like a million bucks, even if that is slightly higher than my average fee.

And I’d be willing to bet that a fair percentage of people reading this very blog post got here because they need to write a case study and Googled “How to write a great case study.”

The other thing that struck me was that I was watching a video case study unfold before me. According to friend of the blog and case study maven, Casey Hibbard, a case study is a “story that sells.” This ad was telling a great story, and it got me thinking about how a Google ad could help remind all of us case study writers about what makes a compelling B2B case study.

Relate to the prospect

Mr. Kingrey is a youngish-looking guy with a college degree and an interest in gaming. I hit one of those four attributes, but I still find him relatable. What about your case study subject will your other prospects find relatable? Maybe they are a different size but in the same industry. Maybe they are in a different industry but have had the exact same problem. Don’t try to second guess your readership – be as specific as possible about the situation that led your client into the purchase decision, and something will resonate with your “ideal prospect” when he or she reads about it.


Tell a 360 degree story

Mr. Kingrey has a great story, and an aw-shucks sort of personality that makes him likeable. But only a certain number of people are going to relate to that. Google amps up the drama by interviewing him, his students and even the guy who sold him the video game. All of these side interviews give us more context to the story and more opportunities for other types of prospects to relate to it. Do you include a quote from the client about how great the solution is? Wonderful. But consider a quote that talks about the initial problem, the search for a vendor, and even how easy your team was to work with. All of these details are important to prospects and create the value-add that may get them off the fence.  


Be specific about the outcome

Mr. Kingrey won $1 million. That is pretty easy to grasp. And who hasn’t daydreamed about what they would do with a million bucks? When you’re telling your case study success story, lay out what your client got out of the solution in clear, specific language. Highlight it in a call-out box. Be sure to include hard benefits with hard numbers as well as the soft benefits – like “easier for employees to do their jobs” that often get overlooked. And while you’re at it, lead with the biggest solution benefit as part of the title.

The next time you are called upon to write a case study, think of Mr. Kingrey. And write one that makes your prospects stop and take notice - like the promise of winning a million bucks.


About the author: Kate Headen Waddell is a strategic copywriter specializing in web copy, white papers, case studies, blogging and other B2B marketing tools. You can visit her website at www.smartb2bmarcom.com.

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