Photo by Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin

Who doesn’t enjoy a story?  Facts are good, stats can be useful – but meaning comes from putting that information into stories. Colourful, interesting and entertaining stories.

It doesn’t matter what the product is or what industry we’re talking about, a great case study is proven marketing tool that helps future customers engage with you.

Why use case studies

Customers come to you because they have a problem. While your website might be filled with wonderful information about your product, chances are it sounds like every other website offering the same products.

If you’ve got case studies available for your curious customers to check, you’ve increased your odds of starting a relationship with them.

Case studies are the human stories that tell how your product solved a customer’s problem.

Value of case studies

Maybe you’re thinking you don’t really need case studies. That’s OK. You don’t have to have them.  But here’s the value of using them:

Establish credibility: these days, the need for the trust in higher than before.  Because case studies are told by customers, they give you much needed ‘social proof’ about your business. This increases your reputation as an expert and that you’re authentic.

Case studies can boost conversion rates. People are looking for something to believe about your product. They want to be confident your product will meet their needs and solve the problem.

92% of consumers are more likely to trust non-paid recommendations than any other type of advertising.” (October 2019, C. Ouellette)

Anytime you gather information about your customers you’re increasing your real knowledge of the customer’s experience, you end up with greater insight into how your products are working – directly from the customer.  This data can lead you to new ideas, new approaches, and improvements.

Developing a case study takes time and expertise

One reason business don’t build a case study collection is the time it takes to write case studies. There’s a lot of time needed to gather the information you need.

Time’s needed for:

  • doing your research – getting prepared
  • finding customers who are willing to take the time to help you
  • Completing the interview(s) with the customers
  • Writing the case study using standard writing formulas (this is in part 2).

You can do this yourself, ask someone on staff (if you have staff) or work with a freelance copywriter with experience in this copywriting niche.

Regardless if you’re doing it yourself or working with someone else. Here’s some useful tips for you to know:

Interview satisfied customers and the unhappy ones, too.

Here’s why.

Having a customer who loves what happened because they used your product, is fabulous.

But when customers aren’t happy, there’s a case study in that experience as well.  In that situation  you would identify what happened, why it happened, and show the solution to the unhappy customer.  All in story.

The take-away for the customer is you’re showing you’re a concerned and caring businessperson. Not only are you talking to your customers when they’re delighted, you’re talking to them when they aren’t. 

  • Interviewing tips

Every successful case study starts with an ending in mind.  When you’re getting ready to interview, know what your intention is. Your interview needs to have a focus.

An easy way to begin is to use the standard journalism questions: 5W and H (what, who, where, when, why and how).

  • Who will you interview – how do you choose which customer to ask
  • What information do you want to collect – what story do you want to tell
  • When will you do this and when will it be completed – what’s the timeline for you – your customer will want to know.
  • Where will you talk or meet (online, phone, face-to-face)
  • Why are you interviewing this person and not another

You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie, Writer & Lecturer  

Every interview will have its own flavour and that’s wonderful. You want the personality of your customer to shine through.  This adds to the quality of the case study and carries more authenticity to your future customers.

And, because you’re up to date with your product’s benefits (we’re not worrying about the features as much here) you’ll be able to add questions as the interview unfolds.  

While the case study is useful for your marketing, it’s about the customer. Your questions will discover:

  • the pain points or problem that needed solving
  • why did they choose your product (and not something else) and why now
  • how did they use your product
  • how long did it take to get the results they wanted
  • how has the product changed their lives (pain points are resolved)
  • how did they discover you (friends, searches, local businesses?)

It’s a best practice to have standardized questions prepared so you don’t forget a critical question.

  • Who else can you ask

Ultimately, you want to discover what matters to the customers.  How do they value the benefits of the product? Their answers might be different from what you think.

If you’re not sure about the ‘best’ questions to use, there’s people to help you. You could check in with your customer service team, your salespeople, and your critics!

If you’re not working directly with your customers, listen closely to others who are. They’ll tell you what you need to know.

And if you don’t have a team to help you?

You can send an online survey to your customers. Ask broad questions that you’re curious about.   Their answers should help you understand if you’re asking the right questions. 

Perhaps you’ve got some testimonials on your website.

If that’s the case, try connecting with those customers.  It’s nice to follow-up. You can find out how things are going (are they still happy with your product?) and the invite them to be part of a case study.

Have permission 

Before you interview your customer ask for their permission to interview them and have full disclosure of why, where, what and how the information will be used.  It’s easy to have them sign a simple agreement.

Most case studies include a photo of the customer.  And, photos make your case study more appealing to the reader!

The customer may have one they love and want to use, or you might arrange for a photo, or take it yourself. 

For example, if your customer is a human resource manager, you might want a photo with their office vibe in the background.

Or, if your customer is harvesting eco-friendly herbs, you might want a picture of them outside in their garden. 

Interviews can take a little time or a lot

Interviews are conversations. Before connecting with your customer, figure out how much time you’d like. This is your ideal time frame.   

If you’re just starting out, you might feel better with more time rather than less. But, sometimes, you might only get a few minutes because that’s all the customer has time for.

Whatever happens though, it’s a smart idea to end right on time or a couple minutes early.

While you’re accommodating your customer’s availability and willingness, you’re also the professional leading the interview.

As you set up for the interview, you could suggest a couple of locations you know are good for interviewing. Then ask your customer which one is best for them.

If you’re interviewing Facetime or Skype, try to be somewhere private to do this. And, it’s good practice to be able to help your customer with technology if they need help.  

Wrapping up

Interviewing is easy because most people love to talk about themselves and their experience. So, once you get going, the interviews usually go smoothly. 

Whatever happens, have your questions ready before you connect. Because what if the customer says – “Hey! I got time right now – let’s do it!”   Seize the moment.

Getting the interview process down to an art and science is the foundation for a good case study.  Please don’t skip through it.

Your case study can only be as good as the information you glean during the interview.

In part two, we’ll discuss formatting the case study and exploring how you can use it throughout your marketing strategy.