Content Marketing: Case studies are stories — so be a storyteller
Have you ever watched a movie that was happy from beginning to end? Just sunshine and roses and everyone was happy and lovely the whole time? Probably not, but if you have, I’m sorry because it must have been terrible. Every good story needs struggle.
In a good story, no one is happy for more than a few seconds (usually at the end). Cinderella and Snow White struggle. Odysseus struggles. Snooki struggles. What engages us is our connection to the character’s feelings. We relate to them and we want the character to win.
This is why customer testimonials are powerful. People see the quote and think, “This is a real person, just like me! And look, they love this thing!” A good testimonial wonderfully illustrates why someone should buy your product, and it resonates because people relate to the customer.
3 Elements of Storytelling
A one-sentence testimonial has to hold attention for about a microsecond, so it does not have to be extremely engaging. But case studies are different. They require more commitment from the reader. If you describe how a customer needed a “new solution,” and identified your brand as a “market leader,” and now everyone is happy-happy-happy, then no one will care. No one will read it.
This is not some cockamamie theory I cooked up. Jerry Cleaver’s Immediate Fiction is a fantastic book on storytelling and writing. It outlines the three elements of every good story. Greatly simplified, they are:
- Conflict – there is a big problem
- Action – the character fights the problem
- Resolution – there is a clear ending
More-engaging case studies
Look at your case studies. Give one a good read … I bet that wasn’t very fun, right? You probably just read a list of your product features re-worked into paragraphs and sprinkled with quotes.
What’s great about case studies is that they fit the story model perfectly. Here’s how it works:
- Conflict – a person has a big problem
- Action – the person finds you, becomes a customer, and works to solve the problem
- Resolution – the problem is solved and the person is happy
The key here is to thoroughly describe the person (or company). Explain who they are, what they do, and what problem they have. Outline the steps they take to solve the problem. Give quotes on how they feel throughout the process. This will emotionally connect the “character” to the reader.
But don’t leave yourself out of the story. You’re the main character’s sidekick. You are the prison guard that breaks them out of jail. You are the friend that helps them leave an abusive husband. Explain how you were there every step of the way, helping to solve the problem and combating the challenges. And of course, you should always have a happy ending.