Using the Hero’s Journey to write compelling case studies

journeyHow compelling are your company’s case studies? Done well, case studies can be highly effective at converting visitors to customers, but many fail to engage.

Why case studies work

Case studies provide valuable social proof, which has been proven to be exceptionally effective in influencing behaviour. Businesses know this, that that’s why case studies are the third most popular form of content marketing, according to the 2014 B2B Technology Content Survey Report. In fact, for small B2B businesses, the report found that case studies were the most effective content marketing tactic. Despite this, many case studies are dull and unengaging, rendering them ineffective.

Why storytelling can help you write case studies that convert

Take a look at a selection of websites and you’ll find dozens of case studies or portfolios of work that contain little more than few bullet points about the project, providing little to engage or convince the reader that your work is effective or worthwhile.

This kind of case study may be easy to put together, but they’re also utterly forgettable. Stories can help bring your product and service to life, add credibility and make you more memorable. The story of your customer can demonstrate the benefits of your product or service in a way that bullet points cannot.

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey is storytelling narrative created by Joseph Campbell. Although it describes the typical adventure for a fictional hero, the stages can also be usefully applied to case studies. There are 12 stages in the Hero’s Journey for storytelling, but for the purposes of case studies they can be summarised as follows:

The situation – This is where you set the scene so the audience can identify with the situation of the hero. There’s normally some kind of stress in their situation that needs to be resolved.

The call to adventure – Something happens that shakes up the situation, maybe they’ve reached a tipping point and they realise they need to take action to resolve the situation.

Refusal of the call – In this stage the hero tries to shy away from the unknown. They may continue to use their existing methods and fail.

The journey into the unknown – At some point the hero commits to taking the journey into the unknown to resolve the situation. Along the way they might meet allies, face ordeals and have to make sacrifices, but eventually they will overcome the odds and find a way to resolve their problem.

Return of the hero – Now the problem has been resolved the hero can return from the unknown and share the story of their success.

This narrative will no doubt seem familiar to you, as it forms the basis of thousands of popular books and films, and the stories we tell friends and family on a regular basis. Yet despite the universal appeal of storytelling, very few businesses utilise the power of stories in their case studies. Try writing your next case study as a story and see how much more impact it has.

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