Why the Traditional Case Study Is Dying a Slow Death

By Gina Kellogg

The traditional case study has a reputation for being, well, boring. Actually, the term boring might even be an overstatement. After all, you can only classify a case study as boring if you actually read it. In most cases, you probably never make it past the headline:

“Company ABC Solves Problem for Client XYZZZZZZZ.” (Snore.)

Maybe the reason companies continue to use traditional case studies is their creative and original headings: “The Challenge.” “The Solution.” “The Results.”

Yawn. Maybe not.

Luckily, the traditional case study format is slowly dying off and giving way to a more modern style of customer success story. And, as a result, the more compelling documents are delivering more powerful results.

Today’s case studies have:

  • Enticing headlines.
  • Introductions that read like industry articles in trade and business magazines.
  • Problems, facts, statistics and solutions intertwined in an interesting story-style structure.
  • Persuasive subheads that naturally lure the reader through the entire story.

Even better, today’s case studies are written with a personal slant that lets customers see themselves facing the same types of situations as the individuals in the case study. And those readers can envision a happy ending to their problems, just like the business showcased in the success story.

Not every business has transitioned to the more contemporary, story-telling style of case study, however. In fact, some CEOs and marketing directors actually insist that the traditional challenge-solution-results format is the only appropriate format for their industry. Their believe today’s “newfangled” story approach is not “professional” enough.

If you work with C-level execs who insist on only using the boring, old-fashioned style of case study, it might be easier than you think to persuade them to reconsider. Here are a few tips:

  • When they request another tired and tedious success story, drop a subtle hint about how they could cut costs by reducing the sales staff due to the lack of business.
  • Suggest they can save on printing costs next quarter because no editors have been requesting copies of your media kit with those old case studies in it.
  • Explain how you might be able to reduce your receptionist’s hours to part-time because the phone rings so rarely.
  • Then make mention of how your competitors sales have jumped since they started using today’s contemporary, story-style format.

Maybe the big boys will finally get the hint.

Have you faced problems with your management resisting the use of contemporary-styled case studies over traditionally formatted versions? How have you helped them see the light?

About the author: Gina Kellogg is founder/principal of The Success Story Pro and Hott Cornflakes Communications. Get more from Gina at Twitter (@Gina_Kellogg and @SuccessStoryPro), Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook.

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