By Rosemarie Ascherl-Lenhard, Public Relations Foreman, Sonnhalter
The terms “case study” and “testimonial” are sometimes used interchangeably, however case studies are not exactly testimonials. Although one piece of content can pull double duty, a simple testimonial can’t provide the value for your organization that a case study can.
In marketing, a testimonial is essentially a statement by a customer providing an endorsement of a product or service. A case study is a more in-depth, valuable piece of content. Spinach content if you will. Case studies explore a user’s journey, not just with your organization, but through their entire problem and solution. Ideally, case studies identify the application, outline a problem or challenge and explore the solution. If you’re developing a case study for your marketing, your organization has to have been a part of the solution.
Case studies are part of telling your overall story. To start, talk to your folks in the field to uncover challenges that they helped customers overcome. At Sonnhalter, we write all of our client’s case studies as if they are feature stories on the end user. This helps tell the whole story and avoid sounding like an ad or sales pitch. To do this, we get background from our client’s field reps, whether they are sales people, engineers or the distributor. Once we have the background, we talk to the end user. In some situations, we talk to multiple end users on the same project, for example the design firm or architect and the installing contractor.
Developing case studies to focus on the problem and the solution in a feature format is extremely credible and illustrative. After developing the story, you need two more things: Photos and permission from the end user. The top performing case studies feature interesting applications and data such as cost or time savings, performance, compliance or efficiency.
Sticking with the spinach metaphor, the case study is the spinach itself and, just like spinach, it’s versatile. Case studies are the perfect type of content to rework and repurpose. Spinach can be the basis for a salad, sautéed as a side dish, baked into a casserole or blended into a green smoothie. Case studies can be offered to trade media as articles, published as blog posts, turned into sales tools, broken down into examples for ads, featured as briefs on social media, quoted as testimonials on your website and so much more.
If you haven’t made case studies a part of your marketing plan yet, give your field folks a call and see what problems they’ve helped solve lately.