Case Studies: How to Use Storytelling as a Marketing Power Tool

Traditional advertising can get lost in the daily media blitz. Give people what they really love: stories.
March 06, 2012

Every day, consumers see hundreds of advertisements. Many of these messages get lost in the blur. But there’s a powerful way to blast through the marketing clutter: You can reach people in a more personal way by letting your customers explain how you have helped them.

Here’s why you should start writing customer case studies, or add to the ones you have, as well as some writing tips.

Bring your products and services to life

As business owners, we often get too close to our offerings to see them the way our customers do. For example, a hardware store might focus on the construction and size of a hammer. But a customer will focus on its everyday use: its shape, the feel of its grip and so on. Because a case study is written from the customer’s perspective, it tends to crystallize benefits better than a typical marketing message can. It can become even more powerful if it includes personal testimonials and other comments from the people you have served.

Educate your audience

A case study typically follows a problem/solution format. That is, it describes the challenge that a customer faced—such as competition from a new business, stocking inefficiencies or poor communications—and then explains how you helped solve the customer’s problem. This allows the reader to “look over the shoulder” of a peer as that person benefits from your product or service.

Speak personally to your customers

Most people decide within a few seconds whether they’re interested in your company. So you must win them over immediately. A case study won’t speak to every customer or prospect, but it will speak directly to those who share a similar background through belonging to the same industry or facing a similar challenge, such as reducing operating expenses. A targeted approach of this sort is likely to produce a much better result than a “one-size-fits-all” marketing pitch.

Deliver a happy ending

Good case studies don’t feel like normal marketing. They’re stories first and foremost, and everyone loves stories—even if they’re about manufacturers that need to reduce their logistics costs. Why? Because at the center of those stories are real people facing real challenges. And even better, a case study always has a happy ending.

Encourage your employees

Case studies don’t just resonate with consumers—they encourage your employees, too. After all, most companies are in the business of helping people, and your employees take satisfaction from knowing they made a difference in your customers’ lives. By defining what success looks like, case studies also give your employees a goal and a standard by which to measure their own success with customers.

Follow the rules

Whether you plan to create a case study yourself or work with a professional writer, here are some rules to follow.

  • In a sentence or two, explain what you did for the client and how it helped.
  • Describe your client’s business.
  • Explain the challenge the client faced.
  • Describe your business and the solution you provided.
  • Explain in detail how the client benefited from your solution.
  • Include client quotes.
  • Get your client’s approval of the final draft.
  • Broadcast your success: Post the case study on your website, e-mail it to your customer database and share it on social media.

Once your case studies are ready, make sure they reach your customers and prospects wherever they are. The AT&T Messaging Toolkit can help deliver your stories to the audience you need to reach.