The case study is one of the most powerful weapons in your marketing to schools armoury. When executed in the right way it has a unique ability to overcome inertia and convert promising leads into valuable sales.
The problem is they are so rarely executed in the right way; mostly consisting of a hastily constructed description of how you helped a teacher, a couple of quotes, and a picture of the teacher if you're lucky. It's time to think so much bigger.
At Sprint, we’ve been exploring how best to tell our clients’ stories. Here’s my summary of the most crucial factors:
1. TELL A COMPELLING STORY
Every great story needs a beginning, a middle, and an end; a clear before and after narrative that showcases how a teacher’s situation changed for the better. Think of it in terms of a simple 3-part structure:
The Pain: You need to begin by explaining clearly the problems and challenges that the teacher faced before reaching out to you. What impact were these having on teaching and learning at their school? Take time to paint a vivid picture of their life before you solved their problems; a good before and after story is only as strong as the contrast between the two.
The Fix: This is the easy part; the bit where you explain how you went about solving the teacher’s problems with your products and services. Here, readers will gain a clearer understanding of how you operate, the processes that underpin your service, and how what you offer can be applied to their situation.
The Outcome: This is where you explain what life is like now for the teacher and draw attention to the sharp contrast between their life now and their life before they reached out to you. For example, how much money have you saved their school and what have they been able to achieve with all this money?
2. FOCUS ON A STRONG THEME
Don’t try to cover too much ground with your case study. It’s tempting to showcase the myriad ways in which your product or service has improved the teacher’s life; however this will only make it confused and overwhelming.
The most memorable stories tell a very simple tale so pick a particular problem that this teacher was grappling with and focus on how you resolved that. Eventually you should be looking to compile a series of case studies that each focus on a different theme. This will enable you to provide each teacher in your sales funnel with exactly the right case study to convert their interest into action.
3. LET YOUR CLIENT TELL THE STORY
The power of the case study lies in the fact that it is told from the perspective of somebody that teachers can identify with and trust – one of their peers. Therefore, your voice needs to be kept firmly in the background.
You should have a pretty good relationship with the subject of your case study so the chances are they’ll be happy to give up a few minutes of their time to be interviewed by you. This will give you the perfect opportunity to capture their voice and personality, and let their words tell the story.
This is so much more powerful than the usual case study, which is narrated by you and contains only the odd quote from the client.
4. PREPARE GREAT INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
In order to conduct a successful interview you need to prepare 6-10 great questions that are going to encourage your client to expand on the key themes of the case study and give maximum insight into their situation.
The key here is to come up with questions that will help you tell the beginning, middle, and end of your story. It’s essential that these questions are open-ended and give teachers the opportunity to go into detail rather than simply answering yes or no.
Finally, give them room to speak. Avoid asking overly-long questions (which tend to answer themselves) and learn to bite your tongue.
5. BEHIND EVERY GREAT STORY IS A GREAT EDITOR
If you’ve done your job well you’ll have a wealth of material from your interview. However, reading back the transcript of the interview you’ll probably notice it’s a bit flabby and lacking punch.
There will inevitably be plenty of ‘umming and ahhing‘ and several occasions where the subject goes off on a bit of a tangent. Your job is to go over the transcript with a fine tooth comb and dress their thoughts in the sharpest way possible.
Clearly this doesn’t mean changing their message. However, with responsible editing you will be able to improve their wording and help them express their thoughts with greater clarity. Then get full approval from the interviewee of course.
We’ve all experienced that frustration of knowing that somebody is interested in our services but being unable to convince them to take that final step and reach out to you. The chances are they just need you to showcase how one of their peers took that step and never looked back.
The case study is a seriously undervalued part of your marketing to schools toolkit. However, its diminished reputation is due only to the fact that the vast majority of case studies are poorly conceived and executed.
Why not head over to Sprint Labs and take a look at one of the case studies we’ve recently used in our own marketing?
Marketing to Schools
Selling to Teachers
How to Sell to Schools