Storytelling in marketing is such a buzzword, that even saying it’s a buzzword seems passé, but when it comes to customer case studies, storytelling really is the name of the game.
So before we delve into how to lift your customer stories out of the churn and burn content marketing bucket and into lead generation gold, let’s first examine the bones of a great story.
From Star Wars to The Lion King, a story well-told carries us through a surprisingly similar structure:
- We meet and form empathy with the hero
- We learn our hero has an ultimate desire or wish to fulfill
- A villain or challenge stands in their way
- A guide appears to direct them on the right path
- Our hero struggles through adversity, to emerge triumphant
When it comes to mapping out your customer story, remember they are the hero, not your business. Always position yourself as the guide, the Obi-Wan Kenobi; appearing at the optimal moment to steer your hero from impending doom (the challenge they face in their business) and walk beside them towards victory (life with your product or service ).
By the end of the case study, the reader should be able to visualise themselves as the hero of the story.
What’s the secret to hero-ing the customer?
Now we have an idea of who’s who in our customer story, we move into the nitty-gritty of writing.
As with any piece of content - and to really squeeze the life out of our story writing analogy - know your plot before you start. A sensible starting point is with the client’s problem, but let’s delve deeper. When conducting your case study interviews keep asking why.
Sure, ‘why did you have a need for our product or service?” is great to get the brain ticking. But let’s not leave it there. Ask why again “Why was ??? an issue for you?” and “Why was it crucial you fixed it?”. Those of you familiar with The 5 Whys technique will see where we’re going here.
You need to unpack the layers and get to the real heart of the problem - because there lies your plot. And if you’re lucky you might even unearth a twist.
This is for the skimmers
There’s nothing wrong with using Problem / Solution / Outcome as an internal steer on structuring your case study - after all it’s the beginning, middle and end format we see in fictional storytelling.
But let’s not use those words in the final edit.
When a target customer sets out to read your case study they will start by skimming. Here they gauge whether it’s worthy of their full attention - if it passes the skim-test they start again and digest fully. So how do you convert a skimmer to a reader?
With compelling subheadings. Subheadings that summerise the Problem / Solution / Outcome do a much better job of pulling the reader in (as this article explains), they’ll help your copy pass the skim-test. For extra brownie points use keywords in your headings to maximise the SEO value and create content that the google-gods love.
The gift that keeps on giving
Most case studies will start life as the written word - but since we process images 60,000 times faster than text - that doesn’t mean they should stay that way. The story can become anything your audience wants it to be: Infographics, video, or use mix media and let them decide. Here are some examples of how we’ve helped clients to give their case studies a new lease of life.
If you really want to keep the relevancy and ROI pumping on your customer stories, write the sequel.
As Neil Patel suggests, go back and interview your customers again - have they found any new uses for your product? Do they have any interesting use-case anecdotes? What are the longer-term benefits to their business?
The humble case study - a powerhouse of your content marketing strategy. An SEO-booster. A non-salesy sales tool. A reason to keep connecting with existing clients, and form connections with new ones.
Join us as we seek to revolutionise, reinvent and rescue your customer stories from collecting any more digital dust.
Do you have a case study that could do with a new lease of life? Let us know.