Case studies: a win-win

I just found out that Bredemarket will be getting more case study work, which I’m looking forward to because case studies can often be enjoyable.

No, not that type of case! By Michael Kammerer (Rob Gyp) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37604962

While case studies can take a variety of forms, my primary experience with case studies is when a customer explains how a vendor’s solution helped to solve a customer problem. While customers may sometimes want to avoid direct endorsements of a vendor products, a customer can truthfully state how a vendor product helped the customer solve the problem.

If I can use an example that predates my consulting career, I was once involved in a case study in which a law enforcement agency talked about a particular product for law enforcement customers.

  • This type of customer is all too happy to talk about something that keeps the bad people off the streets, since the case study lets the citizens know that the law enforcement agency is taking steps to protect the citizens.
  • And of course the product vendor is all too happy to be associated with this, since it provides a vivid demonstration of how the product works.

A win-win for both customer and vendor, both of whom can look like heroes with the proper case study.

Whenever constructing a case study that features a law enforcement agency or anyone else, it’s important to remember that the vendor’s solution is not the COMPLETE solution to whatever problem is solved in the case study. Again returning to the law enforcement example, the most amazing product gizmo is completely worthless unless a trained person actually applies the gizmo, and knows when to apply the gizmo. And most criminal cases are not solved with a single gizmo, but with multiple gizmos…and a lot of hard work from the law enforcement agency that brings everything together to solve the crime.

Of course, case studies aren’t restricted to law enforcement customers and software products. You can construct a case study out of anything. They can be medical (“Case Study: A Patient with Asthma, Covid-19 Pneumonia and Cytokine Release Syndrome Treated with Corticosteroids and Tocilizumab”), service-related (Direct Travel’s case study of a consumer goods manufacturer), or even relate to adult toys (SEO Design Chicago’s case study for a client who had to overcome advertising challenges due to Google restrictions on sensitive content).

Anyway, I’m looking forward to more case study work…in the biometric, secure document, or technology areas. (I’m not going to cure COVID with novelty items.) In the work I’m about to do, I’ll get to learn about the vendor, and about the vendor’s customer, and how they worked together to solve a particular problem. My part in the process is to help the vendor communicate the story, while emphasizing the benefits that the vendor’s product can provide to customers.

(If you’re interested in understanding benefits, and the difference between benefits and features, take a look at this Hubspot article.)

While brings us to the shameless plug (you knew this was coming after my last post): if you need assistance in coming up with the words for a case study, contact me. I can help with the initial ideas, participate in customer interviews to get information, and draft the words of the case study itself. Bredemarket’s collaborative process ensures that the final written product communicates the client’s desired message. For case studies, this includes mutual agreement on the objective and the outline, and client reviews of the draft iterations of the case study until the final text is delivered.

And even if you don’t use me, business leaders should be thinking about how case studies can help their business, and which of their customers would be willing to participate in a case study…for mutual benefit.

I cried, I read, I (halfway) conquered

Remember my goal number two, “pursue multiple income streams”?

Well, I was updating my profile on one of my “intermediary services” today, and I thought that I’d list my Bredemarket 400 Short Writing Service and my Bredemarket 2800 Medium Writing Service on that service’s profile.

It turns out that when you add services to your profile, you need to include images along with the listing.

Adding images to these service descriptions should be easy, I thought. After all, I don’t need to create the images myself, I just need to have a good (and royalty-free) concept. Piece of cake.

TL;DR: it wasn’t. So far I have only been partially successful. If you have any suggestions after reading my story, feel free to add them to the comments on this post.

The first attempt

For my Bredemarket 400 illustration, I didn’t have permission to cite any of the blog posts that I’ve written for my clients, so I posted an image from one of my own blog posts instead.

I already had a picture that I could use to illustrate the Bredemarket 2800 Medium Writing Service.

So I uploaded these pictures to the IS.

In this case, “IS” stands for “intermediary service.” It’s good to define your acronyms; otherwise, you might think that I was referring to the Input Station 2000. (OK, you probably wouldn’t think that.)

RTFM

The IS replied to both of my picture uploads with a message that indicated that I didn’t RTFM. I’m not going to define that acronym for you. If you don’t know what RTFM is, Google or Bing or DuckDuckGo it yourself.

You see, I thought it was a GREAT idea to illustrate my writing services with…well, with writing. But if I had RTFM, I would have realized that was the WORST thing I could have done.

Your project requires revisions before it can be approved because the images included do not adhere to our project guidelines. Specifically:

Image contains excessive text. For certain types of work, it is necessary and relevant to include images with text. However, this should be kept to a minimum and the images should be clear.

So I was trying to think of an image with minimal text that I could use to illustrate my writing services.

And that’s when a song popped into my head.

I sang

I wish that I could say that the song in my head was a profound and meaningful song, like Freur’s “Doot Doot.” But sadly, the song in my head didn’t convey the universal truths that Freur’s masterpiece did.

In fact, I couldn’t even remember all of the lyrics of the song that was now stuck in my head. All I could remember was the chorus.

All the people gonna come to Portland
All the people gonna come to Portland
All the people gonna come to Portland
All the people gonna come to Portland

And it’s probably just as well that I couldn’t remember the rest of the lyrics, because this was a song that I wrote myself many years ago, when I was in college in the city of…guess. (Hint: the town is not in the state of Maine.)

I could remember the title of the song, though: “Town Crier.”

I cried

The title caught my attention, because town criers catch attention, because they have to. The Wikipedia article on the town crier explains that a town crier “was used to make public announcements in the streets.”

Prior to widespread literacy, town criers were the means of communication with the people of the town since many people could not read or write. Proclamations, local bylaws, market days, adverts, were all proclaimed by a bellman or crier.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Town_crier

People are literate today for the most part, but there’s so much cacophony surrounding us that sometimes extraordinary means are required to deliver important messages. I’m not suggesting that it is a good marketing practice for people to SHOUT AND WEAR ELABORATE ATTIRE, but you need some mechanism to get people to read your message.

And that’s what Bredemarket strives to do.

So I began to think that the image of a town crier would be just the thing to submit to the IS. And as it turned out, that Wikipedia article included a public domain image of a town crier, taken from an old, old postcard.

By Unknown author – postcard, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7691878

So I submitted that image to the IS and waited for a response.

When the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing

And I got a response a few hours later, stating that my Medium Writing Service image had been…rejected.

Image is not related to the service being offered

I guess my “town crier” representation of my writing service was a little TOO subtle for the IS reviewer’s taste.

So I wondered if there were a better image to illustrate my writing services, since written text was apparently forbidden, and esoteric conceptual illustrations were also forbidden.

Unfortunately, the only idea that came to me was an image of two appropriately diverse people, smiling while looking at a piece of paper.

You know, something from the canned stock images that I detest so much. Note to the reader: using canned stock images to illustrate your marketing materials does NOT make you stand out from the competition.

And by this point I was married to my “town crier” idea anyway, and began thinking that if I actually referenced the words “town crier” in my description of my service, then the picture might become amazingly appropriate after all and would pass IS review.

I became more attracted to the “town crier” concept when I received a message a few hours later from the IS regarding my Short Writing Service.

Congratulations! Your project has been approved.

So, let’s recap.

  • Two similar writing service descriptions were submitted to the IS for approval, both using the same “town crier” image.
  • One was approved.
  • The other was not.

Obviously the descriptions were sent to two different approvers at the IS. Or perhaps the same approver saw both descriptions, and finally figured out my subliminal meaning when he or she read the description for the second submission.

So I decided that I would add a reference to the “town crier” to the unapproved description. And while I was at it, I figured that I’d add the same reference to the description that was already approved, in case another reviewer looked at the description later and didn’t like the image.

But I wasn’t going to do anything that evening. I decided I’d sleep on it.

I read

And as I was sleeping, a new idea popped into my head.

Since I had the opportunity to change my Medium Writing Service image anyway, perhaps I could select an image that was similarly themed to the “town crier” image. This would help distinguish the two services from each other a little bit., while emphasizing their commonality.

Ideally, the new image had to have an “old” feel to emphasize that commonality.

I wondered if a picture of (old) books from a library would do the trick. After all, if you post white papers and case studies on your business website, the documents serve as a “secret salesperson” to continue promoting your message, even when you’re not around.

So I found this image.

By Karl Thomas Moore – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58968347

This worked for me. So I proceeded as follows:

  • I added this image to my Medium Writing Service description, and added a textual reference to a library in the descriptive text, and resubmitted it to the IS.
  • While I was at it, I added a textual reference to a town crier to the descriptive text for my Short Writing Service, and resubmitted that to the IS.
  • Because repurposing is good, I added those same images and text descriptions to the Short and Medium writing service descriptions on the Bredemarket website. I went ahead and added the images and text to the appropriate entries on the Bredemarket “Services” page on Facebook. (As I am writing this post, I realize that I probably ought to update some of the other services at some point. I’m putting that on the “to do” list.)

And now I waited to see if the new, improved (WITH EXTRA WORDS!) description of my Medium Writing Service would be approved by the IS.

You won’t believe what happened next!

And…the new submission was rejected.

Project category chosen doesn’t match the description or images

Because the IS doesn’t have a “white paper” category, I listed my Medium Writing Service under the “case study” category. However, my guess is that it doesn’t matter whether I use “case study” or “white paper” as my product category.

So, how do I illustrate a case study if I can’t show a literal case study?

Do I need to explicitly talk about case studies more frequently in my textual description?

At this point, I’m just going to sleep on it some more. Although if you have any suggestions, feel free to add them to the comments on this post.

And the exercise wasn’t a complete failure. Even though the Medium Writing Service remains unapproved, my Short Writing Service is now listed on the IS website, and I’ve made improvements to my Bredemarket web page and my Facebook page. Multiple wins for me; I get a cookie.

I’ll provide an update if I revisit this.

Special postscript for Spotify users

If you love “Doot Doot,” there’s an extended six minute version.

And is it just me, or is the ending of the song a little reminiscent of “The Boxer”?