March 03, 2021
Case Study

Show, Don’t Tell: 3 quick case studies where companies help customers reach their own conclusions


If you take just a few minutes to read this MarketingSherpa article, you’ll get more energy, grow three inches, and appear ten times more attractive!

Maybe a bit over-the-top. But are some of our marketing claims really any more believable to our customers?

Improve your marketing results by avoiding puffery and focusing on the true value your product or service delivers. Read on for examples from a kitchen appliances company, mattress site, and the tourism industry.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

Show, Don’t Tell: 3 quick case studies where companies help customers reach their own conclusions

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

So I’ll admit – I’ve often been that guy in the meeting. The one that just doesn’t roll along with the groupthink.

I’m sure you’ve found yourself in the same meeting at one time or another. Filled with marketers at the brand or account executives from the agency who just keep puffing up how great the product is. “Our product is the best…” “Our product is the greatest…”

It’s an uncomfortable dynamic to go against the grain in a meeting. But for successful marketing, it is essential. Next time you hear that puffery, challenge the group consensus – don’t just tell me the customer about this great claim…show them!

Because, as Flint McGlaughlin said, “The goal of marketing is not to make a claim; the goal of marketing is to foster a conclusion.” You can hear McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute drill down deeper into this concept in Communicating Value Effectively: Respecting the customer’s right to draw their own conclusions (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

To help customers foster a conclusion, look to the literary greats – show, don’t tell. As Anton Checkhov is (mis)quoted as saying, “Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”

To spark your next great marketing campaign, here are three quick case studies with companies that respected the customer’s right to draw their own conclusion by showing the value of their products.

Quick Case Study #1: Kitchen appliance company generates £100,000 in sales by showing customers how the product works in classes

SAGE Appliances sells high-end coffee machines. They could simply try telling potential customers how great the coffee machines are and how amazing the coffee will be.

Instead, they launched a unique approach to show (and let customers taste and smell) the value of their product with a series of SAGE Masterclasses where potential customers could “learn how to create third wave specialty coffee at home.”

This was never a direct sales strategy, but rather a way for SAGE to reach out to potential customers and offer them a way to draw their own conclusion on the machines – providing in-depth product demonstrations and educating users on how to get the best coffee out of the machine.

Originally, the majority of attendees were existing customers, associates, and others already familiar with the SAGE brand. But as the classes have become more popular, hundreds of potential customers have taken an interest. “We believe that this growth is generated from our unique customer-centric content offering; we are answering the questions that the audience have and giving them something they want in every masterclass. That’s why they keep coming back, and telling their friends about us,” said David Gubbin, President of EMEA, SAGE Appliances.

The live, physical masterclasses, hosted by roasters, started at between £20 to £40 per person and were marketed primarily through the company’s existing social channels.

“Within six months, we had delivered over 150 masterclasses in six markets with an attendance rate of 95%, with 55,000+ views on the Eventbrite page,” said Anna Brettle, Founder & Business Development Director, Stellar (SAGE’s retail experience agency).

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the team has transitioned from real-life retail experiences to virtual classes. The original physical classes were limited to a maximum of 10 people to provide a holistic service. By moving virtually, they were able to provide the same level of detail, but to hundreds of people at a time. This allowed the team to easily scale the offering and turn the masterclasses into a legitimate sales-generating operation.

“As the classes went virtual, we were able to connect our audience with coffee roasters in multiple European countries,” Gubbin said. “We managed to facilitate the classes very quickly with the equipment we had, and within hours of the first masterclass being available we had over 500 ticket purchases. Each session was consistently sold out, across all our European markets, but also achieved reach globally, in 35 separate countries.”

The virtual classes helped the kitchen appliance company penetrate relatively new markets. For example, in France, where SAGE is a completely new brand to the market, one of the very first masterclasses generated £100,000 in sales. The company offered an exclusive discount to viewers after the class, which would only be active for 48 hours, which helped generate new customers and brand advocates for SAGE. “Thankfully, this demonstrates that even in a virtual environment, businesses are able to engage with their prospective customers, deliver a real experience and continue to drive leads and sales,” Gubbin said.

“The masterclasses have demonstrated the value in omni-channel marketing functions. This time last year no one could have anticipated the world we’d be living in now – and it’s only by opening multiple marketing functions, and being willing to invest in technology, that we’re able to provide these services to our customer. So when they are making a considered purchase, we can answer their questions in detail, no matter where they are,” he said.

Quick Case Study #2: Mattress company increases sales 20% by leveraging third-party credibility on homepage

 “The best way to show audiences, without telling them, is to highlight facts instead of claims,” said Stephen Light, chief marketing officer and co-owner, Nolah Mattress.

The mattress company added a slider to its homepage with quotes from press and mattress reviewers.

Creative Sample #1: Slider with press and review quotes on mattress company homepage

Creative Sample #1: Slider with press and review quotes on mattress company homepage

“It is the easiest way to show our consumers that we are the best option among the competition,” Light said. “It is easy to claim the title as ‘Best XXXX’ ourselves, but we know that wouldn’t be effective. We’re using the reviews of sleeping experts and high-authority publications instead, which connects well with audiences.”

The team found that the homepage performed better with the expert comments first, and then customer testimonials lower on the page.  

This simple addition to the homepage of expert quotes resulted in about a 20 percent increase in sales.

“Showing customers a third-party perspective, especially an expert’s, made them think highly of our product,” Light said.

Quick Case Study #3: Page with sample product has one of the lowest exist rate on tourism company’s website

“We have always tried to avoid using a boastful tone of language on our website as the Scottish travel industry is full of companies making bold and vague claims about ‘Discovering the Best of Scotland,’” said Mike Peddie, Co-Founder, Secret Scotland.

Instead, the 15-year-old tourism company prefers to demonstrate its depth of knowledge, which is essentially what they are selling, by providing evidence of what they know. They do this on the website with videos and blog posts that showcase some of Scotland’s less-known attractions, detailed reviews of tourist attractions they have visited, and a sample tour that contains extracts from one of the travel guides they sell.

Creative Sample #2: Webpage that offers product sample on tourism company website

Creative Sample #2: Webpage that offers product sample on tourism company website

The sample tour page is viewed by about five percent of visitors to the website. “More significantly, this page has one of the lowest exit rates on our website with only 11% of visitors leaving after this page,” Peddie said.

Related resources

Content Marketing: 9 examples of transparent marketing

Content Marketing: How a farm justifies premium pricing

Digital Analytics: How to use data to tell your marketing story

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