Written by Barry O’Neil and Lindsay O’Neil
Case studies can be among the most important pieces of any written submission to an RFI/RFP. At MIG, we always ask for case studies in written RFI responses, and collectively they carry the highest point total in our grading.
We’ve seen our fair share of case studies over the years, and the best of them tell a good story that reveals how the agency got to its brilliant ideas, in addition to all the standard bits that marketers expect to see (i.e. objectives and results).
We’ve come up with an effective format for long-form case studies, using 5 sections, that allows your agency’s thinking and process to shine through while still letting you tout your ability to help the client succeed in objective, results-based terms.
Building a Good Case for The Brandon Agency
We recently helped The Brandon Agency turn their successful campaign for FIREDISC into a compelling case study. When we spoke to the folks at the agency about it, their passion for the brand and work was clear, but they had questions about the most effective way to tell the story to prospects.
We’ll walk you through the five sections we recommend and what each should include, and then we’ll share the final case study we crafted with the agency.
Section 1: Challenge
This section spells out in clear terms what the client needed the work to do. For FIREDISC, the challenge was to “find new FIREDISC cooks,” but in terms of objectives, that meant The Brandon Agency really needed to raise revenue, awareness and preference.
Section 2: Analysis
Here’s where you show your homework. What research did you conduct? Which target audiences did you study? Did you do any consumer surveys? Most importantly, what did you learn from it all? Laying this out sets the foundation for everything that follows; it’s the evidence that will support your case.
Section 3: Insight
Here’s where the magic happens. What was the nugget, the linchpin, the big idea that spurred the rest of your work? How did The Brandon Agency come up with their insight in a way that perhaps other agencies couldn’t? If you can crystalize the insights you discovered in a compelling way for the reader, it can lift even an otherwise mediocre case study.
Section 4: Strategy
The strategy section simply lays out your plan of attack, showing how you did what you did and why. You might clarify which channels were chosen (and why, linking back to your audience analysis) or explain that you went with user-generated content versus broadcast (and why, linking back to client objectives), etc.
Section 5: Results
Round up your most impressive metrics and lead with the results that directly speak to your objectives. The reader will want to know that your work did what you said it would do.
The Final Case Study
The following case study is the result of our work with The Brandon Agency to effectively tell the tale of how they cooked up success for FIREDISC.
Cooking Up Greater Awareness and Sales for FIREDISC
Challenge: Find New FIREDISC Cooks
FIREDISC Cookers initially set out to disrupt the outdoor cooking industry with an innovative portable propane cooker.
They came to us with a challenge to increase their revenue and drive direct to consumer channel sales. With over 750 retailers and established DTC channels, FIREDISC Cookers had all of the key elements to take the brand to the next level. However, the brand lacked awareness outside of the hunting, fishing and camping markets. We needed to position the brand to expand appeal and drive sales, all on a modest budget.
- To lift all revenue, especially Direct to Consumer channel sales
- Increase awareness for FIREDISC products
- Increase preference for FIREDISC products
Analysis: The Cooks are at Home
FIREDISC had a history of success as an outdoor enthusiast brand. They focused on the travel and portability of the product, which spoke to folks in that market. We needed to broaden the target.
FIREDISC had extensive research on the outdoor cooking and BBQ industry, but they hadn’t used it to define new targets. The research told us that more people cook outdoors in their own backyards than they do hunting, fishing or camping.
To grow market share, we needed to reach people in their own backyard. We needed to target families. Luckily, the competition for backyard cooking was limited mainly to grills, none of which could compete with FIREDISC’s cooking capabilities.
Insight: Cooking Brings Families Together
As the only outside cooker that offers a virtually indestructible cooking, seasoned surface that is easy to clean, FIREDISC provided a quick and easy solution for families to cook outdoors. It made cooking simple. And because cooking is a traditional method of bringing people together, the FIREDISC gave families a chance to connect through the preparation and sharing of food. It created community.
The insight became clear: Simple Cooking + Community was the draw for FIREDISC. We called it “Fire It Up + Gather Round.”
FIREDISC needed to show families that the product was perfect for their backyard and for family dinners. FIREDISC needed to become a backyard cooking staple.
Strategy: Firing Up Families
Our “Fire It Up + Gather Round” insight led us to a “Cooking + Community” focused strategy. We shifted resources to an aggressive emphasis on reaching families with family + food centric imagery and content.
Budgets focused on leveraging more highly targeted messages to a this newly defined audience. We showed up for families where they were – their social media consumption, their web activity, the channels they watch, and more. We wanted to connect with them and let them know that FIREDISC was a player in backyard cooking.
What We Cooked Up
A key element of FIREDISC’s success was an integrated marketing plan that was custom tailored to their new target market.
- The family + food focus provided a brand-new feel for FIREDISC. We went through each channel and changed the messaging, creative, and visuals to focus on this new approach of “Fire It Up + Gather Round.” The campaign required a substantial photo and video shoot showcasing families enjoying being together while cooking in their backyard. Everything came back to great food and making memories with family.
- For the website, we focused the content on the experience of great food and designed an easy to navigate site to help drive sales.
- We started from scratch with the media strategy, with moves such as shifting focus to chefs as influencers and establishing a presence on the Food Network instead of the Outdoor Channel.
- We also started a Facebook Live once a month to showcase cooking on the FIREDISC and to share recipes, where people now post pictures upon the arrival of their FIREDISC in the mail and request recipes.
Results That Cook
The “Fire It Up + Gather Round” campaign achieved FIREDISC’s objectives of growing revenue, awareness and preference. As FIRECISC expanded its reach within this new audience, total website revenue increased over 573% since November 2019. Additionally, revenue per user doubled, proving that the messaging, creative and media strategy resonated with families, as well as the traditional market of outdoor enthusiasts.
- Website revenue has increased over 573%
- Revenue per user has increased 52%
- Amazon revenue has increased 480%
- Average order value has increased 110%
- Website sessions have increased over 285%
- Paid Social ROAS – 963%
- Paid Search ROAS – 248%
The final case study above successfully outlines a campaign, but critically it does so in a way that highlights not only what the agency did, but why. The more places you can give the reader an insider’s view, without sharing proprietary knowledge (sometimes a tricky balance), the better. The best result is that the reader comes away with a sense that your agency is capable of thinking in a creative way to solve business issues, and, hopefully, that it can and would do the same for their own business.
Barry O’Neil, a Senior Consultant at Mercer Island Group, has led numerous agency/vendor searches and client/agency relationship management 360 review processes. He has led efforts for clients such as CFA Institute, U.S. Cellular, Ulta Beauty, Clarisonic, CenturyLink, CustomInk and many others. He has also participated in corporate restructuring initiatives, client process realignment initiatives, and agency new business reviews and pitch/positioning consulting.
Lindsay O’Neil, a Senior Consultant at Mercer Island Group, has participated in extensive research across all marketing practices including Media, Digital, PR, Advertising, and Social. She has led and participated in numerous agency searches for clients like Envestnet, Zillow, Barre3, TrueCar, Brooks Running and Hitachi Vantara. One of her key strengths as a consultant is her deep understanding of marketing strategy and agency new business development practices.