When I was a newbie writer, one thing always terrified me.
Case study interviews.
Just the thought of interviewing someone made me sweat. But without a great interview, there’s no way to write a great case study.
I look back now and laugh, but seriously – I used to get my stomach in such knots. Luckily, I’ve learned some tricks of the trade since then.
A case study is essentially an interview with a happy client. And as you know, case studies boost your credibility, answer your prospect’s questions, eliminate your prospect’s fears and knock out your competition – all in 400-800 carefully chosen words. It’s actually easier than you think. Conducting a great case study interview is the hardest part, but I can help you there.
Tip #1: Come to the table prepared
There’s no substitution for due diligence. Make sure you know everything about your client’s story: the entire account history, to be sure, but also what else is going on in your client’s life. Talk to your sales team or account manager, visit the client’s website, investigate his competition and learn about his industry.
If you have a full picture of your client’s business, you’ll ask more insightful questions.
Related Content: Dig Deeper to Find the Real Story
Now think about the story your case study will tell – and it better not just be about how great your company is. Dig deeper. Your case study should explain the specific problems your client was facing and the specific results your solution achieved. Identify the particular details and answers you’ll need to uncover during your interview to round out that story; getting these details is your goal for the interview.
You may find you need to talk with more than one person within the client’s company. Go for it, but try to talk to each person separately. Two shorter interviews are easier to manage than one interview with multiple people and multiple agendas.
Separating out the interviews also ensures you capture everyone’s perspectives. Too often in joint interviews, one person takes charge of the interview while the other takes a back seat and doesn’t contribute their true thoughts.
Tip #2: Help your client think about specifics
With your goal in mind, list five to 10 questions for your interviewees, and send them out several days before the interview. This can be particularly helpful if you’re trying to find metrics and figures to prove your client’s ROI.
Obtaining these quantifiable details from a client is often challenging. It helps to ask questions about “before” and “after” scenarios. You can also suggest specific metrics to help them frame their answers. For example, try asking, “Other clients have found that our software decreased their order fulfillment time by four days. Would you say your results were similar?”
As a side note, it’s a good business practice to benchmark every new client’s situation at the start of the project and then take new measurements after the project has been implemented. Quantifiable results put meat on the bones of a good case study.
Tip #3: Get quote-worthy comments
There’s an old adage in writing: show, don’t tell. You can accomplish this by using the client’s own words to make a point. I try to do this at least three times when I’m writing a case study.
First, I include a quote with the client identifying his initial problem.
Then, further down, I include a quote where the client explains why he chose this particular solution.
And finally, for a strong finish, I let the client explain the top benefit he’s experienced as a result.
For quote-worthy comments, avoid “yes” and “no” questions. Instead of, “Did you find it easy to install our software,” ask, “What made installing our software so easy?” Also ask lots of “why” questions, or questions that start with, “Tell me about…”
Of course, asking the question is one thing; getting the answer down on paper is another. I usually record the case study interview through GoToMeeting, which is what we use for all our meetings. (Side note: Always ask permission first before taping any conversation.) I also take notes during the interview. Trust me, technology can fail, and I’ve learned the hard way that back-ups are lifesavers.
When I take notes, I use my own shorthand variation that lets me keep up with the interviewee. Idon’t include small words like “the” and “a”, and I eliminate punctuation and most vowels. So, if a client says, “The software works great; we were surprised how easy it was,” my notes will say, “sftwr wks grt w wr sprsd hw ez t ws”. Immediately after the interview, while it’s still fresh in my head and my notes will hopefully still make sense to me, I transcribe my notes into the full sentences – but you can also use a transcription service like Rev.com to help with this process. Between my notes and my recording, I can be sure I’ve got accurate quotes.
Now go conduct a great case study interview!
So there you have it – no need for butterflies in the stomach. With these easy interview techniques, you’ll know exactly how to write a case study that helps you win new business and makes your clients look like heroes!
As you start writing your case study, choosing the right words is important. Download our Persuasive Copywriting Guide to learn how to write so that people respond and take the action you want!