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The Power of a Case Study

June 18, 2013

Millais_Boyhood_of_RaleighTwo case studies created by Explore Communications were published by one of my clients this week.

The process of putting together a case study can often be a long one, and not always assured of an outcome, so it was heartening to see these case studies make it across the ‘finish line’.

Case studies or ‘success stories’ continue to be one of the best ways for your business to communicate a message to your target audience – for all sorts of reasons. At its heart, a good case study tells a story, and storytelling, or a strong narrative structure, is a very effective way to communicate. In addition to storytelling, a case study is the ultimate endorsement for your product or service – because your customer is willing to go on the record to explain the benefits your product has brought to their organisation.

And what makes a great case study? Most importantly, your customer needs to have a good story – and if you ask the right questions, all customers have a good story to tell. What makes a case study so compelling is the opportunity it gives you to present your product from a perspective that strikes a chord with the audience – they might identify with the business situation, the industry sector, a technical issue, or some other aspect that you uncover and explore.

The two case studies published this week were for ShoreTel, an international unified communications and contact centre technology vendor. The first case study is for a New Zealand law firm – one of NZ’s oldest, founded in 1840. What was really striking about the project for Bell Gully was that the telephony system replacement project was completed in just eight weeks, with barely a hitch. The second case study, for Singapore-based printing company Tien Wah Press, was also notable for the ‘venerability’ of the customer, with the company in business for nearly 80 years. Tien Wah Press had used analogue telephony technology effectively from the same vendor for its entire corporate history, so the move both to a new vendor and IP telephony was a momentous event.

So, how do you go about starting a customer case study? If you are starting a case study program for the first time, the first step is to make sure that you are very clear about the sort of information you want to capture and publish, and the different formats and channels you plan to utilise – which might include print, online, video or other multimedia forms. The second step is to establish a very clear process for creating the case study, and the requirements for reviewing and approving the content. Once you have those elements clearly established, you have everything you need to ask the customer if they’d like to be featured as one of your success stories. If they agree, that’s when the fun really starts!

(Pictured above: “Millais: Boyhood of Raleigh”, from the Wikimedia Commons on the Storytelling Wikipedia entry (work is in the public domain))

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