AV Best Practices: Case Studies, and the New Marketing Landscape

Creating case studies of your AV installation projects is an important part of a larger Content Marketing strategy
AV Best Practices: Case Studies, and the New Marketing Landscape
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If you’re an AV integrator, design consultant, or product manufacturer wanting to grow both the market and your market share, you need to be on top of two trends shaping our industry. The first trend is the huge one, that started gaining momentum some ten years ago: as publishing and media tools ceased belonging only to official “publishers” and became accessible to any forward-thinking product or services provider (or industry association), there was an explosion of not just social media but media of all kinds. It’s an exaggeration to say that everyone became a “publisher” but it’s accurate to say that smart companies started leveraging publishing tools to grow their business. The second trend? It’s closer to home. AVIXA – good at being perennially ahead of the curve – began last year creating communities well beyond their signature trade shows and in-person conferences, culminating in the launch of the AVIXA Xchange platform. With the InfoComm show having very successfully wrapped its ‘22 iteration, AVIXA is now putting more resources into making the Xchange a broader community publishing/networking portal for folks in all parts of the AV ecosystem – integrators, consultants, gear providers, and end users.

At the confluence of these two trends – one huge and crossing every U.S. industry sector, and the other in our own AV industry back yard – there's opportunity to grow your company, if you leverage the right tools and skill sets. In recent discussions with AVIXA we brainstormed on how we could help AV integrators (and even product manufacturers) become more active and sophisticated in posting case studies on the Xchange portal. How could companies grow faster, by telling their stories, while simultaneously helping end users better understand solution options? Would a look at “best practices” for crafting case studies be of help? Indeed. But before looking at case study best practices I’d like to frame the discussion with a broader look at best practices in content marketing. Thinking about deeper content marketing best practices can help you tap into a whole new world of customers.

In the AV world, and in every top tech sector, everyone, every company, is not a publisher. Despite all the social media noise, and all the noise of PR and blogs and web sites, few companies deeply understand the nature of content marketing. Too many companies just create and blast out content that does little for their readers/potential customers. Only sophisticated content marketers know how to craft and disseminate content that is targeted to customers based on those customers’ needs for business solutions not technology per se, and based on where in the solution selection journey that customer is currently. That’s a lot to process, and I’ll be exploring these issues in future posts here. But start thinking now about your company’s messaging through this lens: understanding where in the solution selection process your targeted reader/customer is, the Awareness stage (where you need to identify the customer’s problem and create awareness that new solutions are available to solve it), the Consideration stage (customer is doing a comparative look at competing solutions), or the Justification stage (customer is seeking an economic rationale for your solution in particular, in terms of total cost of ownership, or return on investment, or increased productivity – i.e. you have their attention but they have to talk their boss into paying for your solution not your competitor’s).

To the customer “stages” consideration above, add this to your thinking about content: AV best practices. Put aside for the moment best practices for creating a good “case study” article. Start thinking about best practices in the industry itself. How are the solutions your company provides dovetailing with emerging or established best practices for getting past the pain points of AV solution selection, installation, and end user experience? Ask yourself and your team that question constantly and you’ll be in the right mindset to start leveraging well-crafted content marketing assets that can help you reach your growth goals.

Circling back to case studies – they have been a staple of AV industry publishing and PR for years. In a technology-based industry people want to be educated not just on how product manufacturers frame products, but on how real people – in schools, in offices, in government, in sports, in retail – have chosen and installed great new tech solutions. What were key decision making factors? Was the gear easy to install? Easy for the end users to get up and running? More importantly, did the solution lead to good results for the business or school?

I’m not going to lay out a recipe for the perfect case study. (You can look at good examples on this web portal, in the best trade publications, and from top companies such as Sony, Samsung, Crestron, AVI-SPL and more.) I want to get you thinking like a content marketing pro. But here are some key things to remember and follow when you write a case study ­– and most of these apply in general to many kinds of content assets:

  • Try to “reverse engineer” the product/solution you’re trying to highlight. In other words don’t jump into what brochures or too many magazine articles normally do: they start with the sponsor company’s solution/product, and wax eloquent about why it is so great. Don’t start with your company’s solution/product, start with the need in the marketplace, or the challenge in the organization under discussion, and explain how changing technology landscapes and/or workflows, or changing business conditions created challenges, and then point to some best practices that were followed in addressing those challenges by your case study subject and the solution team, working together. And don’t make that exercise too dry, pick out some “pain points” that users were trying to avoid, based on past experiences.
  • Quotes from real people including end users. It’s a must for all White Papers and case studies: real users of the product or solutions, quoted as to their experience.

Pro tips:

  • Be careful with trying to get permission from an end user company to reference them in a case study/user story. Rule of thumb (not a hard and fast rule): large corporations are often hesitant about appearing to publicly “endorse” a product or service company, no matter much they loved you. Be prepared to get pushback if you ask BMW or Microsoft or Google to OK you doing a case study on that great video wall you put into their lobby. (Better to ask them before the installation commences – who knows, after they ask for that discount on X, out of the blue, they might be receptive to some leeway on a case study on the project.) On the other hand, schools and universities usually love good free PR that shows how advanced they are in providing their students/staff with the latest and best new tech tools.
  • To help pay for or expedite the production of case studies, try to tap into other companies’ PR resources. If you’re an AV integrator, explore whether the manufacturers that supplied the fabulous LED walls or loudspeakers or mounting systems or control systems can chip in with photos, quotes, or other resources for your case study.
  • Some things haven’t changed in decades: No great pics of the installation, no case study. Fortunately today it’s way easier to get digital photos. If the job is wrapped, someone on a job probably took them. Hunt them down. And again, ask the product manufacturers first. Better yet, as you plan the installation, get permission from the customer to take digital photos. And when you do get those photos, remember: take lots of people pics, not just gear pics.

Finally – OK, you’ve just created a great new case study. Now post it up on Xchange, and then do what all good content marketing pros do – use pieces large and small of that content to then populate other media: your "owned, earned, and paid media.” Don’t know those terms? I’ll be posting on that soon.

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Go to the profile of Chris Lavelle
almost 2 years ago

Great piece and advice David! @Stefanie Hanel @Peter Schädel check this out, helpful for solution providers, like the part about asking if a case study can be done before agreement of the project. So many times AVIXA members do amazing installs but be cannot share the project with anyone!

Go to the profile of David Labuskes
almost 2 years ago

Wow @David Keene!  There is so much information packed into this piece.  I wish I'd had you around to explain what we were thinking about with Xchange 3 years ago at it's starting point. 

I so hope that you're an inspiration and guiding light to the AVIXA members that could benefit from the opportunities that Xchange opens up.

Thank you for sharing your expertise!

Go to the profile of Jeremy Elsesser
almost 2 years ago

Great article David, thank you!

Really look forward to your next post.