Four case-study tips for the empowered customer economy

In the empowered customer economy, we live through our gadgets. My phone is my assistant, my calendar and map, my camera and photo album, my library, my shopping list and my credit card. It’s the nurse that checks my heart rate, the consultant who finds me a job. It is my personal trainer, my real estate agent, my tour guide, my hair stylist and my interior designer. Whatever I need it finds at a tap or a click.

The empowered customer economy.

We all heard some of these popularly quoted statistics
  • 70% of a buyer journey is complete before they speak to a sales rep
  • 80% of business decision makers prefer content to advertisement
  • 90% of B2B purchasing decisions are influenced by content
Marketing reports sound increasingly like auction houses that sell buyer self-sufficiency. Over the years, marketers have transformed how they speak to me. They know my assistant helps me make sense of every dilemma. They know I do my homework, educate myself on solutions, and read articles and reviews until I find the ones that speak my language. I will convince myself to buy, they just need to make the information available. So, marketers have improved websites. They’ve personalized the content, optimized it for search engines and formatted it for my digital companion. That is inbound.

But why am I an empowered consumer?

There are a few characteristics that empowered consumers tend to share.

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They get information from multiple sources, leverage social media, check user reviews.

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Smartphone is more important than wallet, it's always around, used as a digital assistant.

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Hands on

Create their own experience by picking best in class products, providers, and solutions.

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Expect payment and banking options to be seamless and extend beyond borders.

It’s not just me… it’s you too.

We all use our digital assistants to research everything. We sometimes listen to friends’ and influencers’ recommendations – but only as far as the consideration step. The buying decision is conditioned by personal digging and finding real people using the desired product in ways that inspire us.

Stories touch us deeper than numbers

Yes, content is everywhere. With just a few clicks we find countless ways to educate ourselves on the problem we have. E-books and how-to guides. Analyst, influencer, and thought leader opinions. Product pictures and videos, datasheets with features, comparison widgets, 3D tours and prices, trials and demos. Graphics, infographics, videos and magic quadrants. Even virtual reality.

But none of those are as compelling as a story well told.

According to Psychology Today, “stories are a primal form of communication. They are timeless links to ancient traditions, legends, archetypes, myths, and symbols. Stories create genuine emotions, presence and behavioral responses.”

Whatever content falls in front of our eyes, our brains still process it by looking for the story to make sense out of the written or visual experience. And once things make sense, we’re confident about spending our money.

Case studies give us tribe belonging

All marketing content has its place in our journey, which starts with not knowing that we want to buy the most fabulous… whatever. A well told story about people, their worries, their challenges, and how a product or service has touched the lives of our peers has the potential to “swipe us up”. To transport us away from the blue screen of our digital companions into the land of imagination. Out there anything is possible and everything is perfect.

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How should brands create case studies?

#1: Spotlight the Hero

Too many brands produce “selfie” content and advertisement that is poorly disguised as storytelling. As a consumer what I need to see is the real-life value of that product or service. Tell me how real people use it. How their day looks like using it. Give me examples of little tasks in their day that are so much easier now. Make me relate and make it easy for me to walk a mile in those shoes.

Using stories to activate the experiential side of your reader’s brain will win their attention and interest. If you back those stories up with facts, you’ll have their trust as well.

#2: Ignite Emotions

As a content marketer, I parse a sizable pile of blog articles, videos, and case studies every day. Some for education, some for inspiration, some to check out the competition. Rarely does a piece of content make me smile, or frown. I sometimes jot down interesting ideas and everything else is forgotten.

Your brand can be different! Hook your readers up with something peculiar. Something interesting, unique, or even fun. Make them smile and frown and sigh. Your case studies should not be a copy / paste of benefits with just a different customer name in the header. If your target buyer just ends their commute when half through a piece of content, you want them to be so immersed that they miss a  station. Otherwise, chances are they will forget the research and your product entirely.

#3: Write for the Goldfish

They say our attention span is equal to that of a gold fish. That may be debatable. But when I read on mobile, an immense number of distractions compete for my attention. Friends planning a night out on the WhatsApp group, the latest news feed, and a text message that I forgot to pay my internet bill. I freak out at the thought of no internet.

It’s important that brands keep the narrative short and coherent. If I read a couple of sentences, then reply to a text or deal with some minor annoyance and then get back to reading, I still want to understand what the story is about without starting from scratch.

#4: Show, don't Tell

Humans can get the sense of a visual scene in less than 1/10th of a second. In a written piece of content, they will identify a single short word in the same time.

Enrich your case studies with charts, short infographics, photos and illustrations that help your audience quickly grasp the context, the challenge, the solution, and the benefit of using your product. Complement with data to help the logical brain justify the emotional purchasing decision your buyer makes. And you will find out for yourself why case studies rule the Empowered Customer Economy.

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