There’s an enduring joke about case studies: you can either read one or you can be one. Marketers and decision makers often cite the absence of a case study as a reason for not doing something:

“Where’s the case study on using Facebook?”

“Do you have any case studies on the value of a blog?”

“Why isn’t there a case study about Big Data’s impact on our industry?”

When you hear language like this, you’re hearing a justification for not taking a risk, however small. You’re hearing someone who wants to cover their ass and not be held accountable for a decision. That’s fine; that’s the way some parts of the world work.

However, for decision makers who are more progressive, what’s the value of a case study? It’s not so that you can clone in exacting, perfect detail what someone else did. No, the value of a case study is highlighting that a goal is achievable, that a desired result is possible to attain.

The point of a case study is to determine, knowing what skills, tools, and resources you have, how to attain the same result as the case study. A small business doesn’t have the same resources as Apple, Inc., but you should be able to read a case study about Apple and extract a structure, a concept to apply to the small business.

To extract this value, take a case study, read through it, and divide it up into three pieces: why, what, how.

Why did the organization take the actions in the first place? Was there a particular problem they needed to solve?

What choices did the organization make? What did they base those choices on?

How did they execute on the choices they made? Which tactics succeeded, and which tactics did not?


What you’ll likely find is that you may not have the same resources to replicate how, but you can extract a great deal of value from what and why.

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