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Boring case study? Don’t write them, make them engaging

case study

How many times have you read a case study? If you are like me, you can almost feel yourself getting sleepy just thinking about them. I mean, yawn.

Who wants to read those things? They are boring.

They have no engagement, they slog along, they don’t elicit anything other than a bunch of factual information.

Is that what your case study is like? Do you have cobwebs hanging off your case studies?

Is your bounce rate high on pages where you have case studies?

Maybe it is time that you change how you do case studies.

There is a secret ingredient for creating engaging, meaningful, and impactful case studies.

That secret ingredient is a story.

The power of a story is extremely impactful. According to author Robert Marsh, “Humans Crave Stories Like Heroin.”  You see, scientists at the University of California in Berkeley did some research and found that listening to character-driven stories, they release a chemical known as the “love hormone” which oxycotin4. Read more in Marsh’s book, Telling Your Brand Story.

Consider this quote from Jeremy Adam Smith at the Berkely Blog,

Experiencing a story alters our neurochemical processes, and stories are a powerful force in shaping human behavior. In this way, stories are not just instruments of connection and entertainment but also of control.

We literally get a neurological response from engaging stories.

So, if you want your case studies to not be boring, then tell a story.

Eliminate boring case studies
Eliminate boring case studies

Eliminating Boring Case Studies

1. Try these three questions.

Joel Klettke of Case Study Buddy writes to use these three questions to get the information you need:

“What was going on in your business that sent you looking for a solution like ours?”

“What made you confident that [solution] was fit?”

“And what has that meant for your business.”

There is a strategy behind these questions even though Case Study Buddy interviewers ask more questions than just these three.

While Case Study Buddy’s interviews are always more than three questions, We’ve developed a shortlist of internal favorites we ALWAYS ask because they get people to open up and share the critical bits of their story we need almost every time. Case Study Buddy

With these three questions, you are able to build the core of your story. The first question allows you learn what the pain points were before they found the solution. The second question allows you to learn what gave them assurance your service or product was the answer, and the third question allows you to learn the benefits and rewards of choosing your solution.

These questions will help you formulate your story.

2. Identify the characters

Just like in any story, you have to know who the characters are for them to follow the script. As Drew McLellan says,

Structure it like a story. Make sure there’s a logical flow.  Explain the problem (identify the villain).  Introduce your company/product (bring in the hero). Describe how the challenge was overcome (tell of the battle). Sum it up (give it a happy ending).

In your story, you have to identify the major players. Your client is the protagonist rather than your company or product (I disagree with McLellan here). You and your service or product is the mentor.

Why? Because, as Don Miller says in his book Building a Story Brand.

“When we position our customer as the hero and ourselves as the guide, we will be recognized as a trusted resource to help them overcome their challenge.” Building a Story Brand, p. 30.

You are the mentor. Remember Yoda in the Star Wars series? Yup, he was the mentor, the wise sage. Obi-Wan Kenobi? He was a mentor as well.

Sure, Luke Skywalker saved the day, but he had help. We are the help.

Another reason to do this is that our audience will identify with the hero, the protagonist.

These two characters are important to identify and will help you move forward with telling your story.

3. Create the friction

The friction will be there, it is up to you and your writer to identify the friction. In this context, the friction is genuine pain point the customer experienced. You may have to go deeper and ask detailed questions to discover what the pain really was.

The first question mentioned by Klettke above goes a long way in finding the pain points. As Joel Klettke says,

The reason this question is so powerful is because it is LOADED. A customer can’t help but confess their pain points, problems and purchase triggers when talking about the disaster that was happening internally when they went on the hunt.

So, if you want to create the friction in your story, load your customer’s pain points. A good pain point becomes the villain of your story.

Every story needs a good villain.

Every story needs a good villain
Every story needs a good villain

4. Create a sharp hook

If you are going to turn a case study into a story, you need to create a good hook. A hook is the opening to a story that keeps a reader interested. A boring hook will lose your reader.

One thing you can do to help with a sharp hook is use fear. As Aaron Orendorff explains in this article on openings,

Fear is the most universal, dominant, and primal human motivator.

And the key, as counterintuitive as it sounds, is to stop hiding from your fears and embrace them.

When it comes to case studies, the fear is already identified. The fear is the actual villain in your story. It is the pain point that your customer felt before embracing your service or product. It makes for a fantastic hook for your story.

5. Finish strong

What is a good story without a strong ending?

Wrap up that story. Finish with the strong points you need to make for your audience. Explain that your hero has overcome using your product or service. Once you have done all that, there is one more thing to do.

That’s right, insert a call to action(CTA), because, you know, you have to have a CTA.

What is the goal of the case study? Are you wanting potential customers to give you a call? Create a call to action to have them call.

Sign up for an email list? Set your CTA to invite your audience to sign up.

Wrapping it up

So, we come to the end of our story. Case studies do not have to be boring. Stories make them more readable.

According to Stanford University professor, Dr. Jennifer Aaaker, stories are important for three reasons. First, stories help shape how others see us. Second, stories are important because they are “tools of power.” Finally, stories persuade.

When cranking out those case studies, use a story to help make them engaging. After all, the last thing we need is another boring case study.

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Todd Jones
Along with being the resident writer for MainWP and content hacker at grafixCat media, I specialize in writing about startups, entrepreneurs, social media, WordPress and inbound marketing topics.
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