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Use Cases: The Next Generation of Partner Marketing Content

Visit AppSource, Microsoft's business apps marketplace, and you'll see a different type of content supporting some of the listings. Mixed in with the standard brochures and overview decks, use case documents are being employed to illustrate the applications' benefits in real-world situations.

While use cases have a long history in the technology business, they are usually relegated to the discovery and requirements stages of implementations. Undoubtedly, they will be a welcome newcomer in marketing circles. 

This is Wikipedia's definition of use case: "In software and systems engineering, a use case is a list of actions or event steps, typically defining the interactions between a role (known in the Unified Modeling Language as an actor) and a system, to achieve a goal. The actor can be a human or other external system. In systems engineering, use cases are used at a higher level than within software engineering, often representing missions or stakeholder goals."

Eureka! Sounds like the perfect vehicle to translate the functionality of a solution into the business value for decision makers.

One could argue that case studies have served as use cases for marketing efforts up to now. But as many partners find, prospects want to see recent case studies, from their own industry, solving exactly the problem they face -- the list goes on. And since most projects and opportunities are unique, it's often a tall order to come up with just the right case study.

Use cases, which can certainly be based on real case studies, allow partners to take a more generalized approach. Through a use case, partners can combine graphics and text to convey benefits quickly. As all marketers try to find new ways to get the point across quickly -- especially for millennial buyers -- use cases are a great idea.

Examples from AppSource
Two examples from AppSource listings show how partners are taking different approaches to use cases. The AvePoint Citizen Services Use Case Graphic, which you can access here, is a one-page .PDF that presents five scenarios illustrating how AvePoint's solution improves common interactions between citizens and local government. Supporting text lists the benefits of the solution functionality.

[Click on image for larger view.] AvePoint Citizen Services Use Case Graphic

Taking a little different approach, Plexure's use cases, available here, comprise a multi-page .PDF laying out the benefits of the solution in terms of five typical service scenarios. For example, the first page illustrates how the "Intelligent drive-thru" can increase customer purchase decisions.    

[Click on image for larger view.] Plexure use cases - optimizing transactions in the real world

Guidance and Ideas for Use Cases
As more partners include use cases in their marketing efforts, there will surely be an explosion of creative ideas. In building out use cases, apply the standard marketing best practices, including:

  • Understand your audience. Focus on the benefits of the solution or app for your target audience.

  • Don't try to cover too much ground. Keep it simple, focusing on a few specific benefits.

  • Include a call to action. What is the next step you want a prospect to take after reading? Consider setting up a landing page specific to the use case that will offer prospects additional information and next steps. 

And a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

  • Show before and after scenarios. Help prospects recognize their current pain to help them see the full value of the solution benefits.

  • Tell a story. Give your subject a name to personalize the scenario. Make the subject a hero who overcomes adversity with your solution. Have some fun with it.

  • Explain a process. Try applying use cases to more than just an app or solution. Whether it's your add-on services or how a new business process will flow through your customer's business, use cases could help prospects visualize the benefits.

For the growing number of Cloud Solution Providers (CSPs), use cases provide a powerful way to spell out their solution benefits. Focus on your IP, whether that is functional or value-add service, to differentiate your offering from other partners.

Finding the right approach to graphically depict a concept isn't necessarily easy, but well worth the time. As more partners add use cases into their marketing arsenal, we will surely see some amazing creativity. In the never-ending quest to find faster ways to convey a message, the use case has the potential to take the lead in marketing content. 

Have you added use cases to your marketing content? Send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on February 23, 2017