If white papers and case studies were siblings, the white paper would be the older, serious-minded member of the family, while the case study would be the younger, creative one who tends to color outside of the lines.
And yet, I would argue they are both members of the same family and are essential tools in making a complex sale.
Imagine you are an executive with a company that needs to buy a software program to solve certain problems. Your job depends on your due diligence and your attention to detail. When you make your presentation to the board, you had better have all your facts together with every possible "i" dotted and "t" crossed.
But that said, buying decisions, even at that level, are based on emotions.
This is why companies that only produce white papers, or companies that produce dry "business school style" case studies are missing the point. Even high-level board members are people too with all the emotions of an individual consumer.
I am constantly urging my clients to include fiction-writing techniques like suspense, characters and plots into their case studies. The more your case study looks (and more importantly feels) like a feature article the better.
In fact if you want an example of what a really effective case study should look like, read the Wall Street Journal's middle column on its front page for a week. All of these middle column articles are features and many of them are case studies about companies that overcame - or are presently struggling with - serious challenges.
And they almost always include characters, suspense and plots.
Stories sell. But dry, emotionless case studies of the type many marketers learned in business school, are a kiss of death. The writers of such case studies might as well have just written another white paper. But then, the white paper format does a far better job of presenting purely factual information.
If you only want to appeal to the buyer's logical side, you are better off sticking with white papers.
So use the combined power of both "siblings" in your marketing. Let your white papers distill raw information, present the hard facts and persuade by logic and reasoning.
And let your wilder, creative case studies color outside the lines a little bit.
COPYRIGHT © 2008, Charles Brown
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