Are Your Case Studies Missing This? Story vs. Journey

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There’s an 8 hour drive (I can make it in 7) between my home in Ohio, and my family and friends in Washington DC, that I’ve driven 100 times. No, more than 100 times. As an Air Force Brat I was fortunate that the pains of military life were easy on our family. Having lived in both DC and Ohio, I consider both home. Because all of my extended family resides in the DC area, trips back were common. They always ended in family reunions, lots of laughs, and plenty of time spent on the Eastern Shore. Recently I found myself once again making the pilgrimage back East. As I was driving along I became aware of how incredibly familiar the drive was. Not which direction I needed to travel, but the stories I could recall along the way. There are a number of historical locales like Antietam, Gettysburg, Shanksville, and stops along the Underground Railroad. There are also less famous locations like Frostburg State University where my parents went to school and fell in love. The radio station my Dad DJ’d at for a bit. The Noah’s Ark replica that’s been under construction since 1977 and still hasn’t made progress. The gas station in Friendsville where we had 2 different cars die on us. WISP ski resort where my Dad took me skiing as a kid.

Noah's Ark Replica

Noah’s Ark Replica

As I was driving along I realized that what I enjoy so much about traveling, is the journey. It’s not always the great story you tell when returning from a fantastic vacation. It’s the journey where you find yourself saying “we’re going to laugh about this someday”. It’s the journey that breathes life into the story. The journey makes it relatable and memorable. The journey provides context.

Sideling Hill

Sideling Hill

When I read standard marketing case studies I find that they typically tell a story. Usually a watered down version of a story. I understand that telling a customer story in 1-2 pages can be a challenge. It’s a challenge though, because marketers want to focus on the success. Documenting the journey requires transparency, and many companies aren’t comfortable revealing the “ugly”.

Each phase of the buyer’s journey should contain a case study that addresses the journey experienced by the customer, at that particular stage. What caused the customer to recognize the need for a solution (Interest Phase)? What resources did the customer consult after learning there was a solution to the problem (Educate Phase)? How did the customer research, interview, and score potential providers (Evaluate Phase)? What conversations occurred in the decision making process and how did the buying committee reach a conclusion (Justify Phase)? What occurred during the contract signing, the implementation, and post implementation events (Purchase Phase)?

Build out at least 5 variations of the case study to address each phase of the buy-cycle. If you understand your audience, and understand your customers, also develop role based variations of these phased case studies so each member of the buying committee can experience the journey from someone who walks in their shoes.

Lastly, understand that the journey is not always made up of historical spots and romantic memories. Often the journey has multiple broken down vehicles, Ark replicas that never went anywhere, and a few car sick passengers.

How do you approach case study development?

The Eastern Shore

The Eastern Shore


Marilyn Cox

Marilyn Cox is the Director of Marketing for Second City Works - the B2B division of the famed Second City.

You know the buzzwords; inbound, outbound, content, demand gen, lead gen, martech, social media, account-based, advocacy, customer success, sales enablement, and analytics.She studies it, plans it, executes it, experiments with it, and loves it.

Through discovery, creation, and innovation she's learned to say "Yes, And".Like business, her career is one big improvisational act.

She leads all aspects of the brand and culture, developing and executing a clearly defined, integrated marketing communications strategy.Marilyn is responsible for planning, organizing, staffing, training, and managing all marketing functions to achieve objectives of growth, awareness, customer success and making work better.

Marilyn exists to empower sales and support the customer. When not geeking out over marketing analytics, she can be found daydreaming about her unrealized dream as a professional wrestler with the WWE.

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