How to use case studies to stand out from the crowd

Posted 31 January 2022 by Lucian Camp

It doesn’t matter too much whether they’re on a beach, or in a field, or a park, or a clifftop path.   

What does matter is that there must be two kids, and the younger one must be sitting on Dad’s shoulders. For any photographers wanting to get their pictures used on financial advisers’ websites, that’s the top tip from my extensive research.  

But for advisers developing new websites, my top tip is rather different. It goes something like this: “For goodness sake show me something real and true and interesting about some of your actual clients, not tired old cliches like these.”  

Some years ago, I was working on a project to develop a magazine for customers – sorry, clients – or a well-known UK private bank. We commissioned some client research to find out what they wanted to read about. From a long list of options, there was one easy winner:  they wanted to read about other clients. Why? Well, ultimately, because they wanted to know what kind of company they were keeping. What did being a client say about them?

I’ve never forgotten that research insight, and I called it to mind a few months ago when I was writing a website for an advice firm run by a friend.  

We wanted to feature a handful of case studies, and I asked him if he could tee-up some clients for me to interview.  

Here are the first sentences of three of the case studies I wrote:

“When advance notice of the first lockdown was given, Carol had three days to get from an oasis in the Algerian Sahara to the airport. By camel.”

“If you’ve ever been hooked by a ‘Scandi Noir’ TV serial – The Bridge, The Killing, Borgen, Wallander, so many others – thank John. He pretty much created the international market for Scandinavian TV programmes.”

“Belfast, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Iraq, Afghanistan – as the only married couple ever to serve together as dentists in the British Army, Richard and Jenny have tackled fillings, extractions and root canal problems in some remarkably tricky locations.”

I should say that in my fairly lengthy browse around advisers’ websites, I did find a couple featuring this kind of vivid content. (One, much to my surprise, actually featured an old friend of mine.) But it’s rare.

I should also say that there are some confidentiality issues to think about. Although marketing material such as websites and brochures doesn’t need to disclose any detailed personal (or financial) information, I think it’s right to make sure clients are difficult to identify.

But the key point remains. When you’re using words and visual images to draw people in to your marketing material, which option gives you the better chance of success: being the five hundredth advice firm to feature the pic of little Hannah on her dad’s shoulders, or the very first to show Carol on her camel?

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