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Art Case Study Questions

The Art of the Technology Marketing Case Study

Case studies can be a pain. But they are essential for marketing technology products to business customers and should be essential to your overall content marketing strategy. Yet, they are really hard to get.  Why? Major clients typically don’t like having their names used as public references. Then, even if you get permission, it can be difficult to craft a written case that accomplishes the necessary sales and marketing objectives. It’s a bit like landing a dream date with the Homecoming Queen but then having nothing to say to her when you finally go out for a milkshake. A lot of case studies tend to be dull and generic, articulating the familiar problem-solution pattern that crushes with its sameness. It does not have to be this way. There is an art to creating a great case study. A great case study is one that makes both you and your client look good. A great case study is an interesting read. A great case study gets the reader nodding his or her head, thinking, yes, I have this problem and this vendor can solve it.

So, how can we make our case studies sing like this?

A good case study paints a compelling portrait of your client

A case study is essentially a portrait of the client. What makes a portrait good? Consider the difference between a $ portrait from a big box store and Holbein’s portrait of King Henry VIII. The big box portrait involves pointing a camera at someone and pushing the button. The picture will show the subjects face in broad, flat lighting, but that’s about it. Holbein, in contrast, was able to identify a subtle but profound set of nuances in Henry VIII’s face that made the portrait cry out, “This is one of the most powerful and important men in history.”

Your client is Henry VIII and you are Holbein. What is special about your client, in business terms? That is what you must highlight to make the case study compelling.

Once, I was asked to write a case study about process monitoring software at a German manufacturer of copper wire. I wondered to myself, what is so interesting about copper wire? Not much, until I learned how much wire this company produced and how they approached quality. They produced , miles of wire a day and had a zero defect policy. Got that? They spun enough wire to go 6 times around the world every day and accepted absolutely zero manufacturing defects. The software helped them achieve this goal. I could correctly position my client as a key enabling technology in a remarkable feat of manufacturing quality process engineering. That was a differentiator. It made the client look interesting and it made the software vendor look like an agent of serious business transformation.

Think Movies When Creating Case Studies

My old job as a script executive in television was great preparation for writing case studies. Writing about cloud infrastructure software enabling a company to cut its IT budget isn’t that different from producing a TV movie where Kate Jackson saves New York City from an outbreak of the bubonic plague. (I’m not making this up. I really did work on that project.) Movies have a three act structure. Act I presents a problem that the hero has to solve, such as New York getting infected with the Black Death. Act II has the hero fighting the battles that will solve the problem. Act III is the final resolution. A case study, with its problem-solution-benefits structure, is no different. The challenge is to make the case study as engaging as a movie. Making the problem-solution-benefits structure interesting involves casting a hero in the leading role. Who is the hero of your case study? Is it the IT manager who believes that cloud infrastructure will save her company money? What are the obstacles that the hero must overcome to save the day? If you approach the case study like a thriller, you can find its hidden, compelling narrative.

Turning yourself into the Holbein or Steven Spielberg of case studies can take some work, but there is a secret to making even the most routine of cases turn into reliable vehicles of trust and credibility: It all happens in the interview. The questions you ask of your client will determine the content of the case study. If you ask, “What was your problem and how did we solve it?” you will get a big box portrait case study. If you go deeper, and ask probing questions about the specific ways that the client runs his or her business, what makes it successful, and how your product enhanced that success, you will start to get more nuanced, selling detail. Some suggested case study interview questions are shown below. Go ahead… find your inner Holbein and turn your case study into a portrait of the king.

Essential Interview Questions Technology Marketers Must Ask When Building Successful Case Studies

  • What does your company/organization do?
  • What would you say are your company’s key success factors?
  • In what area/department of the business do you work?
  • What are your department’s goals and responsibilities?
  • What is your role?
  • What was it that initiated interest in our product? E.g., was there a specific business or IT problem you needed to address?
  • If there was a problem, can you describe it?
  • What were your requirements for the project/upgrade/acquisition?
  • What factors were important to you in selecting a vendor?
  • What influenced you to decide to work with us?
  • What specifically will we be providing to you?
  • What are your expectations for how the product/solution will work?
  • What is the status of the implementation of our product/solution?
  • In business terms, how would you assess how our product/solution is addressing your needs?
  • In IT terms, how would you assess how our product/solution is addressing your needs?
  • Can you point to a particular return on investment (ROI) for this project/upgrade/acquisition?
    • Savings of software license or maintenance costs?
    • Ability to migrate to cloud?
    • Personnel redeployment?
    • Infrastructure cost reduction?
    • Faster time to market?
    • Greater margin?
    • Other?
  • What are the next steps in the project that involved our product/solution?
  • Do you have any other comments you would like to make?

Hugh Taylor, is the President of Taylor Communications, a firm specializing in long form content for technology companies and the author of the book B2B Technology Marketing. You can follow Hugh on LinkedIn.

B2B Marketing best practices, case study development, content development, content marketing, Marketer Case Study, technology marketing case study, writing case studies

Recent years have witnessed a flourishing of activity in digital art history. Answering the question of what is digital art history is no longer a theoretical proposal; enough work has been done that we can now describe and reflect upon the field, as Pamela Fletcher did in a recent essay for dfknj.wz.czs.(1) Tools, workshops, scholarly gatherings, online publications, and innovative analyses have contributed to a growing dialogue. In addition, major funding agencies such as the Kress Foundation(2), the Mellon Foundation(3), and the Getty Foundation(4), along with private foundations such as the Seaver Institute(5), have funded projects that are anticipated to engender even more digital art history projects and tools in the future.

To advance the field, we recognize the importance of sharing “lessons learned,” including triumphs as well as “mistakes we made,” contributing to the field not just “what we discovered,” but the how and why of what we discovered. Any research endeavor is filled with a myriad of choices, of paths taken and not taken. Often when publishing, we keep those choices private in favor of emphasizing what we accomplished. But in the case of digital art history, scholars are anxious to learn how and why projects came about, and to benefit from what has already been done. In short, the journey is as important as the destination.

Recognizing the need for practical guides to conducting digital art history projects and producing concrete results, we have brought together three case studies, publishing today as posts on The Iris and as PDFs. Each reflects a completed project, and the narratives focus on how these journeys were planned. The authors discuss the approaches and skill sets selected and why, and share their challenges and successes. (Formatting note: for consistency with endnote numbering in the PDF downloads, in the Iris posts we’re using notes rather than links within the running copy.)

Persistent concerns are threaded throughout these projects. Each depended on historical data that had to be standardized (in processes that are sometimes referred to as “data scrubbing” or “data massaging”) and prepared for analysis. The complexity of these endeavors required a team-based strategy, drawing on multiple collaborators with different types of expertise. The linear method of scholarly investigation—research, analyze, write, and publish—had to be set aside for a more iterative approach that allowed for testing and prototyping.

At the core of each of these projects were valid scholarly questions; we believe that this point is worth underscoring.  The driving force behind any research project should be the scholarly question, not a particular technology or tool. While new technologies can be alluring, the key point is to clarify the art-historical research questions at the core of the inquiry and then, once these are established, to determine if digital modes of analysis are well suited to pursuing these questions. If the answer is yes, then one must consider the historical data available and what formats or platforms will be applicable for analyzing that data.

This is the point in each researcher’s journey when he or she should begin to “read the guidebooks”—that is, to review existing projects and tools that could be appropriate models for their particular content, analysis, and desired outcomes. Scholars who want to embark upon digital art history research projects should also ask who should come along with them on their journey: do they need an expert collaborator or collaborators, and/or a team with a variety of skill sets and expertises, both scholarly and technical? As we hope our readers will learn from these case studies, it is important to bring project team members together early on in order to foster collaboration and to ensure that everyone on the team understands the tools, methodologies, and goals of the project.

Another factor worth considering early in the life span of the project is the long-term vision. What components of the project will be made accessible to the field and in what ways? Will potential users be engaged to help design the project’s outcomes? How long will these outcomes be made available to the field? And, just as you consider how the project will be disseminated and sustained, you should grapple with how it will be maintained and eventually archived.

The Goupil Stock Books Project(6), the results of which now reside on the website of the Getty Research Institute where the project was conducted, is described by Ruth Cuadra, applications administrator for the Research Institute information systems department, and independent scholar Agnès Penot, a specialist in the firm of Goupil & Cie—a wonderful example of a technology expert and an art historian working closely together. Cuadra and Penot have written an instructive and very practical study in transforming historical data so that it can be legible for the computer and thus usable for computational analyses. Between the covers of the stock books assembled by the art dealers Goupil & Cie are more than 30, transactions; without the database described by Penot and Cuadra, a scholar might devote his or her entire professional career simply to reading and sorting through this evidence of art bought and sold. By contrast, the digital environment allows query results to be produced within minutes. Read online | Download PDF

The benefits of the use of a database to house and analyze historical data are made clear in the essay by art historians Pamela Fletcher and Anne Helmreich, who describe their project in the essay “Local/Global: Mapping London’s Art Market.” Because Goupil & Cie had a business branch in London, it became highly relevant to their study of the infrastructure and behavior of the London art market. The study by Fletcher and Helmreich makes use of two key approaches in the digital humanities: network analysis, a means of exploring and assessing the nature of relationships between entities within a dataset, and geospatial analysis, which uses computational and digital tools and approaches to study issues of geography and space. The latter has proven to be particularly fertile ground for art historians, aligning strongly with the field’s current interest in the relationship between art and place. Moreover, both geospatial analysis and network analysis lend themselves to visualizations, and art historians, given their training in visual analysis, are ideal producers of imagistic approaches. Read online | Download PDF

These points become clear in the third case study, “Architecture and Maps, Databases and Archives: An Approach to Institutional History and the Built Environment in Nazi Germany,” authored by art and architectural historian Paul Jaskot and historian Anne Kelly Knowles. Their projects, emerging from a larger team-based inquiry into spatial problems of the Holocaust, establish that the tools and methods of digital spatial analysis can be applied effectively to art-historical investigations of the built environment. Read online | Download PDF

We hope that these case studies will inspire art historians who have yet to test the waters of the digital realm to join the journey, and that they will help to sustain the dialogue that is already under way among art history and humanities practitioners and their colleagues who are experts in the use of technology for humanities research. We are confident that these case studies—and the results that the projects described therein produced—make it clear that digital art history has much to offer, and is here to stay.


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