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Interactive Marketers: Let’s Make Case Studies More Valuable
We care a lot about case studies in our industry. But are we wasting time focusing on the wrong things?
We’re all familiar with the lauded “case study.”
As agencies, we pursue them to illustrate our own performance, which can help us win more business. As publishers or ad tech suppliers, the right case study helps us validate our products and services, opening up new doors when properly played. As brands, a brilliant case study on the work we’ve spearheaded may help us internally, as we argue for new budget or authorization to innovate.
On stage at industry conferences, or when talking to editors and reporters, the case study validates us all.
Unfortunately, we’ve all gotten more glassy-eyed and rote in our dealings with each other when it comes to case studies. We covet, request or demand them as a rite-of-passage to the next level of any particular engagement. I’ve started to wonder: Are we really paying attention anymore?
As we ask and answer the call for the case study, are we setting the stage to really leverage them? Are we looking at the right factors? Are we having the right conversations around them?
It’s time to get smarter about the way we think about — and the time we spend generating — case studies.
Better Case Studies
• Focus On Objectives. One of the first undue pressures we put on ourselves is the expectation that a case study is only relevant if it falls in the same vertical. Of course, that makes sense on some level. An auto brand wants to know what kind of success has been achieved for other auto brands; a consumer packaged goods brand knows that there are certain methods uniquely effective for their category… and so on.
But, we should broaden the point of view. Why not gear our cases toward segment as well as marketing objective — and slice the story both ways? Relevance by industry is great, but looking at what a marketer was/is trying to accomplish is arguably more valuable. Our obsession with mapping against verticals has caused us to overlook the value of objectives.
• Consider strategies. We also create trouble for ourselves by not taking time to carefully spell out the strategy that was used in very simple, overarching terms. The strategic framework is essential to telling the story of our own successes and failures. Whether presenting a case or listening to one, we should care about the strategy as a stepping off point.
• Look at the method. Next, even before we get into the numbers, trend lines and learning — method (including tactics and how-tos) should be shared. What specifically was done to, say, drive click-through? Optimize path to conversion? Make a video mobile ad shoppable? Test and optimize personalized creative? And on and on. The method chosen is of great consequence. It matters as context for the results achieved.
• What are the applications? And finally, as we look at the grainy detail, let’s pull our heads up and have a conversation about what we learned and how we are applying it. How we are applying our findings to bigger and more ambitious campaigns, the next stage of product development, etc.? What insights have we been able to glean, and where specifically are we putting them into play?
We’re going to ask for the case study. We’re going to wield it. It’s compulsive in this industry. But, let’s waste less of each other’s time by broadening the lens and opening our minds to what’s actually relevant. A narrowly focused story with a pretty chart and a few trend lines has a selfish, withholding feel to it, and it doesn’t even make the compulsion worthy of our time.
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)
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