Laurence Dunn explains to Simon Conti why a case study is crucial for brand positioning

“As a company part of your business to business marketing should be to enable the creation of newer, more up to date news stories. Or better still a marketing communications case study. You could be seriously compromised if this is not the case. If most of your existing case studies are now 10 to 15 years old, then think hard.

If you think you see an opportunity for a new case study, there are some good samples on this link, go for it. Plus if you want someone else to help you cover these costs, then you would need to approach other stakeholders involved in the project concerned. You may well find a willing partner. Then you will have the tools to create engaging up to date news stories.

3 key benefits

Local company offices are 100% responsible for creating their own new case studies. It is one of the most crucial elements of the marketing mix a testimonial on steroids. Head offices generally have little knowledge of the coal face of local market selling.”

Is a case study really worthless?

“Of course not! Whenever any new or existing customer wants to buy a product like your one, they do some simple research for your marketing communications. Then they make a shortlist. Then they buy. Unless of course they want to make the wrong choice. You’ll notice the most successful brands in the world using “influencers” to push their products. This is a mini case study in action.”

Is a case study a customer story?

“I think there is a subtle difference between a “customer story” and a “case study”. These are the four basic rules I use, as a practising marketer who does this kind of work every day.

  • The typical case study is mainly about the vendor’s products or services, in an application or setting; that is going to be 50% of the content. It is an advertorial disguised as a story. But it is quite a hard sell as well, plus you get a nice testimonial as part of the case study.
  • That case study will probably involve several parties. Say four in many cases. This is how I would apportion the content breakdown. Vendor 50% | Customer who paid for item 20% | End user 20% | End user’s customers 10%.
  • If your company is going to want to use this new case study for marketing in the future, then you need documented global marketing approval from all parties. This is where it gets tricky. But if it takes you six months or a year to get this, the result is still worth it.
  • A customer story is more journalistic than advertorial; you would want much quicker approvals to publish, maybe hours / days rather than weeks / months.”

What is negative leadership behaviour?

Damages a company’s prospects, you need to look beyond the spreadsheet

“Some case studies are deemed to have nil or little value, maybe in product or service segments that do not make much profit. But the branding value of working with a high-profile end-user or client like the MOD, may trump what value was initially gained from selling that product or service to that client. By exposing your product marketing communications to other potential high value customers, via news stories, the new case study returns its value to your company. It’s hard to measure, but it works.

You just need to keep a case study hitlist, with the focus on products  / subjects / applications you really need to promote and keep that list updated as you search for new opportunities. At present this case study hitlist is probably empty, due to the sales team being unable to see beyond the end of their collective noses. Salespeople need these marketing communications to sell!”

What excuses have you heard from UK CEOs or Managing Directors for not wanting to do a new case study?

  • “Case studies don’t create any sales.”
  • “Our company only wants to sell our products to potential customers who respond to our advertising.”
  • “Doing a case study is way too expensive and maybe dangerous.”
  • “We are not allowed to ask our clients for this kind of thing.”
  • “Our company does not have time to deal with this, as we’re all incredibly busy dealing with our other customers’ needs.”
  • “Head office won’t pay for the cost of doing these types of marketing communications, so we won’t be doing any (as we really need the money to spend on expensive company cars and fun training awaydays).”
  • “We’re not selling any products yet, so we can’t do any case studies yet.”
  • “Don’t bother me now; it’s the weekend and then I’m going on holiday; let’s review it in six months’ time.”

What happens if you run an underperforming sales office?

“With quarterly local branch sales reports being analysed by head office, it is a pure numbers game. Bad numbers mean a failing management team in the local sales office. In normal trading conditions, for the average business, whether you are a district, country, or area sales office of a larger business it really does not matter. Numbers do not lie.

What can be done to improve the local branch’s sales performance? It is no good just setting them sales targets that cannot be reached. They will push back and say it is impossible. There must be a reason why they are failing. You need to look at what that office does to promote its own sales force.

Chances are it does extraordinarily little. It usually waits and hopes for an enquiry to land, then converts that enquiry into a sale. There will be truly little probing of under researched market segments to see where opportunities may lie. The reason for that is it costs money and involves a thing called marketing or actual work. That goes outside the comfort zone.”

Have you encountered incorrect perceptions of marketing?

“Local sales offices in large companies do not want to pay for marketing as it is perceived as being frivolous and the results cannot be seen the next day or next week. Plus in many cases marketing is not perceived to be their responsibility. Sometimes a certain marketing activity like case studies are unmeasurable unless you have a team of statisticians available. Or you restrict access to this information via onerous data opt-in forms to capture your readers details.

Marketing is where you set your sales stall up at a marketplace. Not just any marketplace, but the marketplace you need to sell to. Exhibitions, trade fairs or just gatherings of the right people. In person or online. This means research. This is probably not be being carried out. The reason for that is it costs money and involves a thing called “talking to people” and recording their responses in a reporting system. More expense. The modern world shuns talking in favour of messaging.

If you have a cosy job in a cosy office and you get paid every month, there is no reason to talk to people. People are annoying and want things. So you do nothing but turn up every day and go through the motions of answering emails and sending emails, hoping sales will just come flooding in.”

In the real world what could happen?

“What could happen is your head office will look for a solution. That solution may come in the form of an alternative or second local office being set up in the background. In many cases you will not be part of that solution. You will be replaced and find your entire office closed.

Head office in a shortish period would have sourced a better performing sales team, with new dynamism. They would have set them up in another city and they will take over your sales office’s role. Your team will soon be unemployed.”

Laurence Dunn MCIM

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