Updated: Aug 26, 2020
During a recent pitch, the founder of one of my partner companies talked about turning around package designs in ridiculously short periods of time every time she pulled up a case study. The third time she mentioned the team’s ability to pull off a packaging deadline miracle in six weeks instead of the 12 it should have taken, the team’s inner groans were almost audible.
Like Begets Like
When putting together a pitch, we give careful thought when deciding on use cases to cite.
Yet, even the best case study examples can be undermined with the wrong explanation.
While proud of her team for their heroic deadline feats — and it makes a great story, because people are being faced with and overcoming some overwhelming obstacles — the founder inadvertently positioned her team as people you can rely on to turn on a dime, instead of as the creative force behind category breakouts.
In addition, she did the equivalent of inviting the potential client to do the same which is the exact recipe for burn out.
Everyone loves a super-human feat story, but when you want to position strongly…
Think about the foe you defeated, and obstacles overcome to determine if those are the ones you’d want to defeat or hurdle again.
To find the foe you want to consistently defeat, think about what you’re excellent at and/or want to be recognized for first. Then, think about the obstacles you have to overcome to meet the client goal. The explanation with this case study featured time as the obstacle. If that’s the client’s concerns then by all means, mention it, but don’t make it the highlight. And if it’s the most important requirement for you to land the gig, think hard before you say yes.
The founder in the story above had initially talked about upping sales through stand out packaging but never completed the story. Her team’s competitive deep dive and why they went the direction they did would have been a great story if competition had been set up as the obstacle to overcome.
Tip: Watch out when you have a negative feeling you might hold around a case study.
In this case, there was a level of frustration difficult to contain. As undealt with emotion often does, it spilled over into the conversation.
The Antidote: As the saying goes, the first step in a 12-Step program intended to change behavior is to know you have the problem. Fortunately, taking the first step here and becoming more aware is all you’ll need to do.