The case for the case study

In talking with design comrades, we often debate how best to present our capabilities in a way that makes sense to clients and prospects. Too often, we position our services in a vague or esoteric way, with terminology that requires further explanation.

We go through our creative process. We name the steps. We define the deliverables. And we preach about the value of a powerful brand. It’s our way of differentiating ourselves from others who may be competing for the work.

Yet so often the prospect is still a bit confused. Plus, of course, this approach is not always smart once we remind ourselves of the importance of talking about our client’s needs rather than our own internal processes.

In response to this challenge, Luke Mysse of Crossgrain is suggesting the use of a single case study as your presentation to a new prospect. We’re developing these now for our business-development efforts. But foremost in our minds are the following ideas:

  • Choose one — just one! — that’s relevant to your audience.
  • Make the presentation highly visual for impact.
  • Define the challenge, the tactics used, and the results. That’s it.
  • Trust that your designs are distinctive enough that you don’t have to emphasize their importance.
  • Instead, focus on the tangible business results that your efforts helped deliver for that client.
  • And finally, treat the case study as the start of meaningful dialogue, rather than as a call to action.

In a similar way, Fast Company magazine tells us that tech conferences have all but banned boring PowerPoint slide shows in favor of short, fast-paced product demos.

“It’s not about bullet points or the company, but what have they built?” says Finovate CEO Eric Mattson.

For those used to sharing portfolio samples and client lists, or walking prospects through a discussion of design methodology, etc. this can be quite a departure.

How effective can the single case study be as a presentation? Stay tuned.


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Robert Hyndman

can be reached at his Laguna Beach studio, 949.497.3179, or by using the form on the Contact Me page.
February 2011
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