SEMA News—October 2013
By Joe Dysart
Trade Journal Case Studies
A Marketing Home Run, Research Finds
Business-to-business (B2B) marketers find that case-study articles placed in key professional and trade journals are some of the most effective ways to close new deals with current and prospective customers, according to a pair of new studies. Specifically, 67% of B2B buyers surveyed said that they relied on research and white papers presented by trade and professional organizations more than any other source when making purchasing decisions.
“Peer-powered organizations, including professional communities and industry groups, offer brands the opportunity to access powerful insights into customer audiences as well as trusted channels for content engagement,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the Chief Marketing Office Council, which conducted the 11-page study.
“Better Lead Yield in the Content Marketing Field” is available as a free online download. A similar study released by the Content Marketing Institute also found that 64% of B2B marketers believe that the case study is their most effective marketing tool, according to Lee Odden, co-founder of TopRank Online Marketing.
“B2B marketers ‘get’ that they need content as a more substantial part of their overall marketing mix,” Odden said.
Indeed, while the format is straightforward—case studies generally tell a simple story of how one business benefits from the goods or services of another business—they’re tough to resist for B2B buyers who are searching for a solution to a pres-sing problem.
“Insert the words ‘case study’ into your subject line, and most online readers will snap to attention,” said Debbie Weil, founder of WordBiz.com, a business-marketing firm. “A case study promises real-life solutions and insider tips on how it all really works.”
The new research buttresses studies released earlier this year by CopyPress, which found that traditional feature articles, which include case studies, are becoming the go-to tools for digital marketing.
Companies looking to put together a case study in-house with their own on-staff writer should focus on how one of their customers achieved a specific business goal by using their service or product, said Marc McClure, founder of SamuraiWriter.com. McClure specializes in authoring case studies and white papers.
Such customer endorsements are often easier to find when the company putting the case study together can show how the endorsing company will benefit from appearing in the article, McClure said. For example, there may be more takers to be an endorsing company if the company knows that the case-study article is definitely slated to appear in an influential trade or professional journal.
Research for the story should of course be thorough. And the endorsing company should be given the opportunity to review the finished piece, McClure said.
Once the article has a green light for publication, McClure advised sponsoring companies to repurpose the writing in as many places as possible. For example, when the piece runs in a trade or professional journal, the article can be repurposed in social media as a blog entry, Facebook post, a link on Twitter and the like. (There is a good template for designing a case-study article from TSO Information and Publishing.
If you decide to hire an outside writer to put together your case study, here are some additional tips Weil and others offered:
Shy Away From the Hard Sell: The reason why case studies are so effective is that the best of the lot offer an objective look at how one company’s product or service truly helped another company. In practice, that means finding a writer who knows that a top-shelf case study is an extremely soft sell and will take great pains to avoid artificially trumpeting the sponsoring company. In fact, the name of the company sponsoring in a case study often appears only once or twice in the article. Instead, the lion’s share of the quotes are from the user of the product or service.
Hire a Former Journalist, If Possible: Journalists are accustomed to writing balanced, objective articles that make way for the truth to tell the story. PR personnel with no journalism background are generally less equipped to do the same and are often tempted to pepper copy with euphemisms that are easily spotted and discarded by readers.
Be Sure to Get an Outline: You’ll make life easier for both yourself and the case-study writer if you require an outline for your piece. Brainstorming a piece with your writer is fine. But unless you see an outline in black and white beforehand, it may be a long slog toward the kind of article you really want.
Find a Writer Who Can Work Efficiently: Primary sources for an article will most likely be interviewed in person. But secondary sources who provide supplemental information can often be contacted by phone. Be sure the writer you hire uses this approach. Otherwise, the budget for your case study could mushroom considerably.
Ask a Trade Journal to Recommend a Writer: Most trade and professional journals are more than happy to offer recommendations for freelance writers interested in authoring your case study. If you’re looking to run a case study in a specific trade journal, for example, you can easily e-mail the editor with a few paragraphs detailing the kind of story you’d like to submit and then ask for a recommendation for a writer whom the trade journal trusts. The beauty of this arrangement is that the recommended writer is already trusted by the trade journal and will most likely be able to see your project through to publication much more easily than another writer who is unknown by the publication.
Make It Fun But Make It Pay: Granted, every case-study article needs to be gripping and informative. But it also needs to achieve the end goal—increasing profits. “Good content isn’t just fun to read,” said Weil. “It should set in motion a sequence of visitor thoughts and actions that ultimately lead to a sale.”