B-to-B Insights: Everyone Loves a Story
According to copywriter Heather Sloan, case studies are often more effective than brochures and traditional sales collateral. Why is this the case?
“Everyone loves a story,” explains Sloan. “An old adage says, ‘A picture is worth 1,000 words.’ Never did this wisdom ring truer than in sales conversations and marketing pieces. Stories paint pictures. Stories evoke emotions. Stories are memorable. Stories give your presentations sticking power. The easiest way to tell a marketing story is by case study.”
A case study is a product success story. It tells how a company solved a problem using a specific product, process, method or idea. As with other marketing techniques, case studies fluctuate in popularity. While almost any company profitably can market with case studies, an informal survey of B-to-B Web sites shows most companies don’t take full advantage of the power of case study marketing.
An effective case study makes the reader want to learn more about the product it features. It’s a soft-sell proposition designed to compel prospects to request more detailed information. If you’ve mirrored the readers’ problems successfully, the case study will propel them deeper into the sales funnel and closer to buying.
Tell a Story
For the most part, case studies are not overly technical: They are written in a style similar to that of a magazine feature article.
The average case study is relatively brief—one to two pages or approximately 800 to 1,500 words. More complex or in-depth case studies can run 2,000 to 2,500 words. The intent of a case study is not to present in-depth minutiae and analytical data, but to briefly describe how a product or service can effectively address and solve a particular problem.
“We don’t have formal guidelines for case studies,” says Mark Rosenzweig, editor-in-chief of Chemical Processing, a trade publication that has been running case studies for decades. “Generally, we’re looking for a relatively recent installation, say within the last two years, of innovative technology. What issues prompted the installation? What did it involve? What results have been achieved? We’re generally looking for 1,500 to 2,000 words.”
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.