Why case studies are uniquely persuasive

As a kid, I used to help my mom - a frequent substitute teacher - grade papers after school. One day, I looked over at her while she was grading some history tests to see her frowning.

"Mom - what's wrong?"

She looked up at me with this "where do I start?" expression. "These kids," she said, tossing the papers aside in a huff. "They don't remember dates, they don't remember places, but every single one of them remembers Cortez sitting under a tree weeping over the loss of his men."

That was my first encounter with what I call "The Power of Story."

If you're sick of your marketing pitches not quite hitting the mark, the Power of Story can help you become more "top of mind" with your target market.


Why, you ask? Check out the first minute-and-a-half of this TED-x presentation for the neuroscience behind this behavior:

All that science-y language aside, it's really simple. Stories engage both sides of the brain simultaneously. The left brain gets facts, figures, and all that other "logical" stuff it can deal with, while the right brain gets the emotional high it craves.

(This, by the way, is the same phenomenon at work when you can't get a song out of your head. Melody hits the right. Lyrics hit the left. Result? You're stuck with that stupid song all day.)

So how can you tap this power in your marketing? Here are three ideas to get you moving:

The "why I do what I do" story

One online marketer tells a story about starting her own business after quitting her lucrative corporate job. Desperate for new consulting clients, she woke up in a cold sweat over how she was going to pay the rent. She called her dad for advice in the middle of the night.

"Sweetheart," he said, firmly but reassuringly, "if there's one thing I know about you, it's that you won't let anything stand between you and something you want. I know you'll do whatever it takes to learn how to succeed." He was right. She figured it out, and she's now teaching others what she learned about attracting new business.

And most clients cite that story as the reason she stands out from her competitors.

"Picture this" testimonials

Congratulations - your latest customer says you're a swell guy or gal and easy to work with. But that's not a testimonial.

A great testimonial covers before, during, and after. First, talk about "before." What was your customer experiencing (practically and emotionally) before you came along? Be descriptive but concise.

Then, describe the process of solving his/her problem. Use strong, action-oriented language with a touch of drama.

"After" is the cherry on top. You want to create a scene your ideal prospects are dying to see themselves in. Remember: hit both sides of the brain!

Case studies (a.k.a. "success stories")

A testimonial's a great start, but serious prospects want details. That's where a well-written case study can seal the deal.

Prospects who resist taking your calls or giving you face time will take "free research" any day. Using case studies (featuring verifiable results) to support decisions makes them look good to their bosses. So you become their ally, not an intrusion.It's no accident the greatest teachers in history have used stories to drive their points home - they're uniquely memorable. Tap the Power of Story, and watch how powerful your marketing becomes!

(Note: This article originally appeared (in somewhat different form) as my guest post on Sylvia Browder's blog at Tapping the Power of Story in Your Marketing" . A special "thank you" to her for granting me permission to edit and republish it here.)

About the Author

Hi, my name is Deborah Savadra, and I write marketing copy for technology companies who sell to the legal industry. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of South Alabama with a minor in Public & Corporate Communications, and I’m also a student in American Writers & Artists Inc.’s Accelerated Copywriting Program.