Why case studies are powerful selling tools and how to create them

 copywriting, Marketing  Comments Off on Why case studies are powerful selling tools and how to create them
Apr 272011

"Once upon a time there were three bears and they lived in a little house in the woods……….."

You know what's coming don't you?

It's story time.

How did you react? Did you relax, just a fraction? Stories connect with us at a deep level. Many of us heard them as children from our parents, in Church, through song. Stories bring us good things: entertainment, escapism, travel to new places, they help us understand our world, our feelings and our place in the world.

Case Studies: stories for business

In business we can use the power of stories through case studies. Case studies are a powerful, often overlooked tool, in your marketing kit. By telling a story, case studies help to answer customer objections and show how products or services can solve their problems but more than that, they make a connection between the reader's situation and your case study subject. That connection makes the reader feel more curious about what you are selling.

They are similar to testimonials or reviews, but case studies go further into the story behind the sale. They let the reader peek behind the scenes and see into the world of a real customer . They work particularly well for service providers like door drop companies. Here you can use a story that shows the cumulative effect of multiple letter box drops. Yes you use specific details about which leaflets were most effective and how many initial enquiries were generated. You can include specific figures to show the return on investment (ROI), of course.

But there is something more. These facts and figures can be made many times more powerful if you profile the business before and after. We want to know what kind of people are running this business? What are they doing well? What challenges are they facing? How do they make decisions? How did they make this buying decision?

Case studies aren't just a good tool for service providers they are a good awareness raising tool for new, unusual or niche products too.

Creating demand for niche food products

For instance if you are selling e.g. goats milk ice-cream you may need to overcome certain pre-conceptions about the flavour of goats milk. Perhaps your product is going well amongst those with dairy intolerances, asthma or eczema but you want to get it out to a wider audience on the strength of its flavour. You believe it competes well with cows milk ice cream.

If you have a restaurant who rave about your ice cream, especially if they've never stocked goats milk ice cream before, then this would be a powerful story that could help get customers to try it and other catering and food retail outlets to stock it. The story would focus on what persuaded them to try it e.g. tasting some at a food show, how they did some blind tastings against other ice creams in their restaurants, the customers' reactions, how they use it, and why it has become a firm favourite. Again we want to know what kind of restaurant it is, what kind of diners go there, but also what kind of people run this business. Are they quirky, highly professional, traditional or innovative?

Why case studies are so powerful

The main reason why case studies are so powerful is because of something called 'social proof'. This is simply the process of people looking over their shoulders to see what their peers are doing in order to inform their decisions on how to act or in this case what to buy.

It's also known as the herd instinct (rather appropriate in our goat example above).

The roots of this go back to a time when survival depended on social inclusion. To be shunned, would mean losing the warmth, shelter and protection of the community, leading to certain death.

Connecting with your peer group

The key to employing social proof is to understand how we recognise our peers. Basically your peer group consists of people like you. People who share your environment, your values, your likes and dislikes or your hobbies. For customers this is people who share the same taste, income bracket, fears or aspirations.

When you write your case study you need to give enough background so that readers can recognise if this business or person is one of their gang, one of their peer group or not.

Using the powerful elements of story telling

Stories have survived over the millennia because they are a powerful teaching tool. Before there was widespread literacy, information could only be conveyed orally. In the same way that social proof draws on our desire to be accepted by others like us, stories work so well because we can all relate to them. The story of our lives, the story of others' lives. You only have to look at the huge consumption of stories about celebrities to realise the scale of the fascination with other peoples' lives particularly those lives we aspire to live. You can employ this device in your promotions and interaction with customers or would be customers.

How do you construct a case study?

You were probably told that a good story had a beginning, a middle and an end. This holds true for case studies. The easiest way to build a case study is to interview your subject with a set of questions you've prepared before hand. Keep in mind, you want to show how a problem or series of problems were solved by your product or services. Describe the before and after scenario and enough background about the subject so we get can share the journey.

Think of it as a detective story. Set down the problem and then lay the trail of clues.

Questions for case studies

Here are some general case study questions you can adapt

Position/role in that business
What is your background?
What drives you/what gets you out of bed in the morning?
Where would you like your business/life to be in 5 years time?
What keeps you up at night?

What was your situation before you used this service/product? What were your main concerns, issues, difficulties that you wanted solved?
What outcome did you want?
What had you already tried?
Why didn't that work?

How did you find out about this product or service?
What persuaded you to buy this?
What did you find after you used this product or service?
In what way has this product or service made life easier/better/more profitable? Can you give specific examples?
How do you feel about this product or service now?
Would you recommend this product or service? If yes, why?
Do I have your permission to use what you've said in my publicity material?
The questions are grouped into 3 sections. In the first section we want to get under the skin of this organisation or individual and find out what makes it tick. You may not use all the detail you get here, but it gives you plenty of material to draw on.

The next section focuses on the problems that your product or service could solve. Finally you ask about how your product or service made a difference. Here you need specific detail. As in all copywriting the more specific you can be the more powerful the writing.

"As a result of the advice we increased our profit by 14% last year."

Finally the all important 'permission' question. Even though you will no doubt explain why you are interviewing your subject, it is polite and good business practice to get explicit permission.

Tips on writing the case studies

A good tip is to record the interview. If you are face to face you can use a low cost dictaphone or an app on your iPhone or Android phone. There are recording devices you can plug into land line phones if you are doing the interview by phone. For international calling, Skype is ideal. It is free if you call other Skype users or you can buy credits to call landline numbers. Easy to use, low cost, recording software is available: Pamela for Skype on PC or Call Recorder for Skype on Mac. Always ask if it is okay to record the conversation before you start recording.

The reason for recording the interview is that you can concentrate entirely on your subject's responses rather than trying to take notes and you have a chance to listen again at your leisure. It also means you can quote directly from the interview.

Starting to write

The questions above give you an outline. Take the answers and remember you are telling a story. Think about connecting one piece of information to the next. Break up the information with sub heads. You could leave the questions as the sub heads.

This can also provide a house style which you can repeat every time you use a case study. You'll notice weekend supplements often have an interview with a celebrity and each interview follows the same format.

How happy faces attract the same

This brings me on to images. Smiling faces attract people. That reminds me of a classic slogan that the Canadian volunteering organisation, CUSO had in days gone by,

"Happy faces going places."

Corny but undeniably true.

A photo of your subject smiling is excellent or it could be a photo of them 'at work' but avoid boring shots of warehouses or groups of people in suits. Like your story, your image needs personality.

Who can you approach for case studies?

If you are just starting out then you can ask trade associations such as the Chamber of Commerce or support organisations like Women In Rural Enterprises for some relevant subjects who may in time become customers. This works particularly well if you provide a service like helping people with employment issues and you want some stories behind the legislation. Ideally though you should be using your own customers so that your specific products or services can be showcased.

When can you create case studies?

Just as collecting testimonials should become a weekly or monthly habit, so creating case studies should be part of your process whenever you are launching a new product, promotion or you want to boost sales in a particular area. When you are launching a new product or service, moving into a new geographical field or even moving into a new media such as Facebook or Twitter. Finding case studies from people in or using those new areas will help your credibility.

So remember, "once upon a time….". Case studies are powerful selling tools they also mix up your writing and bring other people into your overall story. You'll find most people are happy to help you if you ask for an interview and explain what it's for.

'Til next time……


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7 tips for web content with pulling power

 copywriting, Writing for the web  Comments Off on 7 tips for web content with pulling power
Apr 222011

Visitors leaving your website without talking to you? Want to add a bit of urgency and impact to your web page? Here's 7 quick tips for you to turn an information page into a compelling sales page:

  1. Present the problem you solve for the client or customer, e.g. How can you get that pile of receipts sorted out without shelling out loadsamoney?
  2. Present the solution – Fast, effective book keeping services that save money off your accountant's bill.
  3. Add a short client or customer testimonial.
  4. Add an image or video showing the work in action if relevant.
  5. Add a sprinkling of relevant key phrases e.g. book keeping services, book keeper Carmarthen
  6. List 3 or 4 main benefits
  7. Add a call to action e.g. Contact us for a quote.

Try it now. Go and do your own critique and re-write one page on your website.

You can get regular tips and articles on copywriting, marketing and selling if you sign up to my e-news. You'll also get notifications about workhops and products that could help you. Sign up here.

Apr 202011

Imagine you're high above a business event commanding a birds eye view of all the delegates.

Without hearing any words you instantly identify different 'types' of business people by their attire, body language and facial expressions.

There's the 'full on', expansive, gift of the gab types, the quiet, shy retiring types, the thoughtful types, the watchers, the clowns and the ones who don't have homes to go to at the end. What tells you all this about them? Their actions, body language, dress, facial expressions – their style tells you everything you need to know.

When we meet people, we make judgements about them. You instantly sum up what kind of person you're dealing with. We do business with people we like, people we trust. People like us.

What is your writing style?
Your style comes from the words you choose, the order you put them in and the emotions you incite in the reader.

Your business writing style should reflect you and your reader.

If you want to engage customers, your writing style needs to make them feel comfortable but remain true to your business style and ethos. When a politician uses words that don't fit with her personality we know the speech writers have gone off track.

How do you develop your style?
Good writing style comes from saying what you want to say, plainly, simply, in an orderly fashion and with sincerity. Practice will help you develop a good writing style.

You still have to go through the hard graft of deciding who you're audience is, what you're objective is, what outcome you want and what are the most pressing concerns for your reader. Your writing style comes into play when you think about how to say these things.

Capture your natural speaking style
If you find writing difficult, a good tip is to capture your natural speaking style. You do this, by sitting down with a friend or colleague and telling them about the new product, service or promotion and record the conversation. Your natural enthusiasm will come through. Once you've taken out the ums and aaahs and tidied up the structure you should have an engaging piece of writing.

How do you combine your style with tried and tested copywriting techniques?
Incorporate techniques like a call to action but write them in the same style as the rest of the copy. The test. How would your business ask people to get in touch?

Give me a call.

Contact the company on …..

Quick Style Tips

Say it plainly – don't use 15 words where 8 will do – compare:
We endeavour to provide you with the best quality service at all times.
Excellent service is our top priority

Say it simply – compare:
a) Many people enjoy a day out at our visitor attraction, in fact it often gets voted top in polls of various sorts, just recently we won another award
b) Voted top Family Day Out in Wales 2010 by readers of …..

Say it in an orderly fashion – compare:
a) This project is about inspiring you to be innovative in how you approach all aspects of your business from customer service to marketing, from pricing to promotions.
b) Inspiring innovation in:

  • market research
  • product development
  • pricing
  • promotion
  • customer service

Say it with sincerity – compare:
a) We endeavour to make your stay a pleasant one and we're sure you'll find plenty of things to do in the area.
b) We feel so blessed to live in this beautiful corner of the UK and we read our guests' comments regularly so we can keep adding little touches to make it even better.

Can you create a style?
Copywriters do this all the time. When they look at the tone for a piece of copy they want to find a match between the tone or style of the target audience and the business. As with so many things, fashion plays a part. Informality has been encouraged: by email, texts and Twitter updates.

A company like Innocent Smoothies created a voice that was child like, irreverent, quirky and fun. This was innovative. However simply adopting that sort of tone for your business because you make delicious organic ready meals, is not necessarily a good idea.

First imitation is never as powerful as innovation and secondly if you are a rather quiet, serious person then customers will be disquieted by the inconsistency when they meet you.

If you want your staff to jump around in carrot costumes and talk in an excited and breathy manner, then by all means go ahead and convince them this is good for them and good for business. Once you've got them on board, go for it, adopt that breathy style in all your writing.

You get my point here.

It has to be authentic.

A word loved by brand consultants and marketers. So difficult for large corporations but so easy for you the solo entrepreneur or small business. All you have to do is bring your passion, pride and drive to your writing.

Why does style matter
If writing plays a big part in your business, and let's face it, the written word is still queen bee in the sales department – then developing a style that is true to your business personality is time well spent. What's more, it's fun.

Practical tips to develop your writing style
Read your writing out loud. It's much easier to spot the clunky sentences, the unfinished ones, the overstuffed ones and the over formal ones. 

Start to notice good writing, on websites, on leaflets, in emails. We all learn by imitation, think of how a baby learns to talk. That's not to say you should copy and paste whole chunks of text but rather take note of how sentences begin and end. How paragraphs are linked and how you feel after reading good copy.

The more you read, being conscious of how the words are put together, the more those forms and techniques will influence your writing.

As your confidence in business grows, you will develop a writing style that reflects that confidence. The two go hand in hand.

So become a wordista, develop your style and write with pride.

Until next time








Juliet Fay.

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Workshops, products and other useful stuff:

Find me presenting or leading workshops for:

CIME Innovation Networks
"I should do more marketing!" Workshop

In response to feedback from attendees at previous sessions, the Innovation Networks in May will be looking at demystifying some aspects of marketing.

Huw Thomas, a specialist in marketing from the School of Business at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David will be unpicking marketing priorities whilst Juliet Fay who runs an E-marketing and copywriting consultancy will concentrate on developing a creative customer focus.

Dates and Venues (workshops are FREE)

Tuesday 10th May 9am – 12.30pm Old Founders Library, TSD, Lampeter Campus
Tuesday 10th May 2pm – 5.30pm Uchaf Country House Hotel, Capel Dewi, Carmarthen
Thursday 12th May 9.30am – 1pm Technium, Pembroke Dock

Please follow this link to enrol


WiRE Interactive Social Media and Marketing Event
Make sure you get to this event if you are flummoxed by facebook, troubled by twitter, leftout of Linkedin or boggled by blogs.
5 Apr 2011 10:00 until 15:00
Hornsbury Mill
Chard, Somerset TA20 3AQ
On the 5th April at Hornsbury Mill in Chard, Somerset – in partnership with RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland).

Agenda For the day:

10.00am- Registration, Tea, coffee and networking
10.25am- Welcome
10.30am- An interactive social media session run by Helen Culshaw
12.00 pm- Lunch and networking
1.00pm- RBS Speaker
1.30 pm- Marketing Speaker – Juliet Fay
3.00pm- End of the day

Type: Seminar / Workshop
To book, email Jaia Barratt
Visit the WIRE website

New! for 2012 – Business writing for an interactive audience
Currently I am developing a new course for business owners who want to improve their understanding of business writing techniques and get practical help to make writing easier. The course will combine workshops, home study and online support. I am looking for your input to decide on the focus for this first intensive course. The 2 areas under consideration are:

  • Writing for websites
  • Writing for blogs

If you are interested in this type of course, I would love to get your input at this development stage. Please add your thoughts to the blog post on my site.

Free iCreu Guide: Making It Pay by Juliet Fay

 Business, Marketing  Comments Off on Free iCreu Guide: Making It Pay by Juliet Fay
Apr 192011

Have you ever wondered if you could make a business out of your creative talents? Are you thinking of studying in the creative fields but wonder what work opportunities are available?

Then this new guide is for you.

I was delighted to be commissioned by The University of Wales Trinity Saint David to write this Guide. Filled with case studies and thought provoking ideas about becoming a creative entrepreneur, this guide will either inspire you to start your own business or have you heading off to the job market quick smart!

Download Making It Pay, A Guide for Businesses and Students in the Creative Industries from this page on The University of Wales Trinity Saint David website.

CIME “I should do more marketing” workshops

 Marketing  Comments Off on CIME “I should do more marketing” workshops
Apr 192011

I am delighted to be a guest presenter for the Creativity In Micro Enterprises (CIME) Project marketing workshops in West Wales in May 2011. These are FREE for delegates.

Aimed at micro enterprises who struggle with marketing, the day includes practical activities as well as material designed to help you understand more about how marketing works. Here's the blurb.

CIME Innovation Networks invites you to…"I should do more marketing!"

In response to feedback from attendees at previous sessions, the Innovation Networks in May will be looking at demystifying some aspects of marketing.

Huw Thomas, a specialist in marketing from the School of Business at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David will be unpicking marketing priorities whilst Juliet Fay who runs an E-marketing and copywriting consultancy will concentrate on developing a creative customer focus.

Dates and Venues

Tuesday 10th May 9am – 12.30pm Old Founders Library, TSD, Lampeter Campus
Tuesday 10th May 2pm – 5.30pm Uchaf Country House Hotel, Capel Dewi, Carmarthen
Thursday 12th May 9.30am – 1pm Technium, Pembroke Dock

Please follow this link to enrol

Hoffai Rhwydweithiau Arloesi CAMF eich gwahodd i….

"Dylwn i wneud mwy o farchnata!"
Mewn ymateb i adborth gan y rheini a oedd yn bresennol yn y sesiynau blaenorol bydd y Rhwydweithiau Arloesi ym mis Mai yn rhoi sylw i'r gwaith o gael gwared ar y dirgelwch sy'n gysylltiedig â rhai agweddau ar farchnata.

Bydd Huw Thomas sy'n arbenigwr mewn marchnata yn Ysgol Busnes Prifysgol Cymru Y Drindod Dewi Sant yn egluro blaenoriaethau marchnata, a bydd Juliet Fay sy'n rhedeg gwasanaeth ymgynghori ynghylch e-farchnata a hawlfraint yn canolbwyntio ar ddatblygu sylw creadigol ar gwsmeriaid.

Dyddiadau a Lleoliadau

Dydd Mawrth 10 Mai 9am-12.30pm Hen Lyfrgell y Sylfaenwyr, YDDS Campws Llambed
Dydd Mawrth 10 Mai 2pm – 5.30pm Plasty Capel Dewi Uchaf, Capel Dewi, Caerfyrddin
Dydd Iau 12 Mai 9.30am-1pm Technium, Doc Penfro

Dilynwch y ddolen hon i gofrestru:

Business Writing Course 2012

 copywriting, News  Comments Off on Business Writing Course 2012
Apr 192011

I'm currently developing a course for 2012 to help business owners develop their writing skills for business. It will combine practical workshops, with home study and online support. At this stage I would appreciate your thoughts on what you would like the course to cover.

Here are some questions you could answer to get started. Please use the comment box below.

  1. Are you interested in learning about writing sales pages on websites (usually promote one service/event/product or group of products)?
  2. Are you interested in article writing for blogs?
  3. Is there another area of business writing you want to learn about?
  4. What do you struggle with most when writing?
  5. How do you like learning e.g. audio books, videos, books, workshops, forums etc
  6. When is the best time of year for you to do courses or workshops?

I really appreciate your input.

Juliet Fay