Case studies (or “application stories” as we always tended to refer to them on magazines) are often conveniently relegated down the list of marketing priorities. The effort/reward ratio can be very high. If your own sales or applications engineer doesn’t have the full facts on the installation, the article can be arduous to write, as it might require re-contacting – and possibly inconveniencing – an existing customer. Whether or not this proves necessary, there are those dreaded two words: ‘customer approval’. I’m sure many of you will have had bad experiences with putting something together (possibly with the help of your customer), only to see the finished product unceremoniously rejected by the customer’s MD on a whim.
Yet a well-written case study can be a tremendous piece of sales and marketing collateral. The three tips I’d suggest when preparing one are as follows:
1. Write a good summary of what you intend to write, how you plan to use it, and the benefits publication can bring to your customer’s company. Then ensure you find out who will give ultimate approval at the customer’s company, and ensure they understand the benefits they’ll get from this publicity and are happy with the project before you even think about getting the article produced. If their objection is the usual daft one that they don’t want to publicise whose components, systems or services they’re using, begin the proposal by pointing out how easy it is for their competitors (or anyone else, for that matter) to find out about your involvement, by reading the label or whatever.
2. Line up an experienced technical writer to create the article. The customer will be impressed, and you’ll get a good, objective view on the application. More than almost any other promotional writing for your company, a case study is journalistic reporting, and an independent writer should be able to see the wood from the trees far better than you or the customer.
3. Sort out great photography at the start of the project. There’s nothing worse than proudly saying that your widget has been used as part of The Great Big Sprocket System and then finding out that the only photo of The Great Big Sprocket System looks more like a grainy, snatched spy photo. Wherever the case study goes – your website, a newsletter or a magazine – you’ll want an arresting shot of the doubtless glamorous application if the article is to attract any attention.