Any parents of preschoolers share my pain at the earworm song “You’re Welcome” from the Disney movie Moana permanently etched into our brains after too many repeat listens.
What’s worse is that there’s no escaping it, even in my own freelance writing. Literally every time I sit down to work on a case study, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson sings to me:
“What’s the lesson? What is the takeaway?”
Whether it’s a “you had what you were looking for all along” Disney-type lesson or a “why should I read this piece of content” that your potential readers are looking for in your case study, every story needs a “So what?”.
But how do you make sure your writing has a takeaway? Let’s take a look:
Bring the pain
Too often, case studies get hung up on describing our new products or services—the features, the add-ons, all those shiny bells and whistles. Which, don’t get me wrong, are absolutely important to showcase, but in a less in-your-face way than in a product catalogue, for example.
- Your instrument was easy to install. So what?
- Your product has the best accuracy on the market. So what?
- Your support staff are global experts in a range of industrial applications. So what?
What do any of these features mean for your current or potential customers’ bottom lines? For their workplace health and safety initiatives? For their peace of mind?
Always, always drive the focus on your customer’s pain, the problem(s) your product solved. This is where the “So what?” lives.
What would it have cost your customer (and, by extension, your reader) had they not found a solution to the problem?
As Ann Handley, content marketer extraordinaire, writes, “Ask ‘So what?’ and then answer, ‘Because…’ until you’ve exhausted your ability to reach an answer.”
- Your instrument was easy to install. So what? Because easy installation decreases operational downtime spent calibrating a new device. So what? Because less downtime means more product going out the door? So what? Because product going out the door means more money. So what? Um, because money is nice to have?
- Your product has the best accuracy on the market. So what? Because better accuracy means lower risk of overfilling a storage tank. So what? Because not overfilling a tank means no spills—no cleanup. So what? Uh, because cleaning up chemicals is not a lot of fun?
- Your support staff are global experts in a range of industrial applications. So what? Because experienced support means troubleshooting is quick and painless for your technicians. So what? Because pain is, well… you get where we’re going by now, right?
Getting this specific is sometimes tricky in case studies—not all customers want to share how much time they were previously spending (wasting!) on lesser-than products. They’ll think it might not look that great to their own clients—not to mention to senior management!
But this is a chance to bring out your storytelling tools, showing your customer as the hero who solved their problems with a little help from your product.
“We were previously spending ten hours a month recalibrating our XYZ device after a change in the application environment. But, our technicians had heard about ABC device and discovered it’d basically eliminate the need for recalibration.”
Everyone loves a good redemption story. Build up your heroes and make them shine in your next case study and then use that example to coax other, more hesitant customers into getting down to specifics.
Keep digging for those nuggets of case study gold—the real-world, specific moments of “this product saved us [time/money/headaches/etc.]”. They’re there, but might take some coaxing and hero-building along the way.
Building on what I wrote in my last post on being specific in your case study, there’s no place it matters more than in the “So what?” description.
If you can actually show the time savings (ten hours a month) or the cost reductions (savings of $100,000 over the lifetime of the device), then do it!
Get out your calculator and do the math: a certain feature saves $200 per year over the device’s 10-year lifetime, multiplied by 50 of the devices across your customer’s plant.
Sing out that $100K savings loud and proud, while showing specifically how you got to that number—so that readers take out their calculators and start doing the math for their own operations.
Even if you don’t have an exact dollar value on cost savings, you can still be as specific as possible. “With this new device, we’ve increased plant safety: operators can remotely access the device without entering the hazardous environment.” (And then don’t forget to describe that hazardous environment so that readers understand what a relief it is for your workers!)
So, what’s the takeaway to this article on takeaways?
- Turn product features into concrete benefits by asking (and asking, and asking…) “So what?”
- Build up your customers as heroes so they can, first and foremost, take pride in the case study, but also give you the straight goods on their savings
- Be as specific as possible when showing what your solution did for your customer (even if it requires a calculator)
And… maybe add some Lion King into your child’s YouTube playlist for some balance. You’re welcome.