Most case studies are boring. In corporate gibberish, they rattle off stats and successes without a relatable human story in sight.
They don’t talk about the customer’s background, personal motivations or struggles. There’s no hero to identify with. Instead, they skip straight to what most companies believe are the meat and potatoes: how they generated X, Y & Z results via A, B & C features and services.
Instead of framing it as a story following their customer’s journey from A (sad) to B (happy), they frame themselves as the hero who achieved the results.
Problem is, we don’t identify with companies. We identify with other humans and their stories.
When we read about the frustrations people face and the goals that keep them charging ahead, we see ourselves in them.
When your prospects read your case study, that’s what you want: for them to see themselves in it.
For that to happen, you have to start by asking good questions. Questions that help you (and by extension, the reader) understand the person’s struggles, motivations, goals.
The result will be a case study that doesn’t bore and instead genuinely intrigues and grabs attention.
Not only that, but by listening to your client’s motivations in their own words, all of your marketing will become more effective.
You’ll get better clients because you’ll understand the frustrations they’re coping with, the way they define success, and the words they use to describe those things.
Record an informational interview to drive your case study
Most people think of gathering info for a case study as purely about quotable successes. And those are important.
But if you ask only about the results you helped get, you miss an opportunity to dramatically improve your overall marketing by capturing the way your best clients describe their problems in their own words.
So use the interview to not only create a persuasive case study, but also to fine-tune your messaging to resonate with other people just like those great clients.
Here’s how to make it happen.
Step 1: List the clients you’d clone if you could
When you think through past and current clients, who stands out as the best ones? Not all jobs are created equal — some are a drag on your business, while others are more enjoyable and profitable for your team to work on.
Think through the clients you’d like to work with again and again. The ones who energize you and your business and who match your vision for the company.
Make a list of those clients and get ready to reach out to them.
Step 2: Contact for a case study + informational interview
Next, reach out and ask to interview your chosen client for a case study. It’s key to have an actual conversation with them — not just a blurb via email.
That’s because there are two goals here: (1) get enthusiastic quotes you can use in a case study, and (2) hear your client describe their problems in their own words.
When you ask for testimonials by email, you get platitudes like “these guys are on the cutting edge” and “working with them has taken us to the next level.”
But when you use an informational interview as the base of your case study, you get the real stuff: the stories, gripes, and hurdles — and how you came to the rescue. All from their perspective.
So ask your best clients to chat about their business and experience working with you to use as a case study. Frame it in terms of the benefits to them: you want to feature them and show off their success, which helps them get exposure and look great online.
Note: If your client works for a big company and isn’t authorized to speak on record, this approach still works. A full name and company name adds credibility, but an anonymized version of a true story is still true and can still be compelling. Plus, you still get their valuable perspective.
Step 3: Interview your client on a recorded video call
Your goal in the interview is to get a clear picture of the before and after.
The before is what helps you understand your client’s problems in their own words, which you then use to resonate with other people facing similar problems.
The after is where you get the enthusiastic, highly specific quotes, which you can use as the framework for your case study.
Start by asking questions that help frame the situation:
- Tell me about your business a few years ago. What were some of the recurring problems you were facing?
- What kinds of AV were you using in your office?
- What issues did you deal with regularly related to your company’s AV?
- Walk me through a typical day at work for you (before working with us)
Then try to understand their motivation for change:
- What was the spark that got you to start thinking, hey I could use a solution to this?
- What was the most frustrating part of dealing with that problem?
- Who else was impacted?
- How did that affect your company? Were there effects on productivity, morale, revenue?
Then look for how your company was able to help:
- What made you decide to hire us to help with this problem?
- Why’d you go with us over your other options?
- How was it working with us compared to your expectations?
- Have you noticed any specific, day-to-day benefits after working with us?
- Walk me through a typical day at work for you (since working with us)
- What could we have done differently or better to make your life easier?
The goal is to ask questions that will let you understand your client’s frame of mind, and then weave their words into a compelling story that resonates with people like them.
Step 4: Adapt the interview for a case study and marketing collateral
Having recorded the interview, send it off to a transcription service like Rev.
Scan the transcript for the best soundbites, and use those to help write your case study. It should tell a clear story where your client is the hero, helping the reader imagine themselves having the same successes as your client.
If you get it right, your case study study will appeal to prospects who have similar attitudes to the featured client — attracting more who are the right fit for you.
But your interview will produce more great stuff than will fit into the case study. Don’t let the rest of it go to waste!
What you learn from the interview will help you sell more effectively. You’ll hear your client’s struggles, motivations, and buying decisions in their own words, which you can use in your marketing and outreach.
Your client’s own words are your most powerful marketing tool
Their language (“Every conference meeting starts with 10 minutes of unplugging and plugging back in” ) becomes your emails, website copy, and sales pitch (Stop wasting meeting time unplugging and plugging back in. We build trouble-free conference rooms that anyone can use).
If you’ve asked great questions, your case study and marketing messages will write themselves. For example:
- Use your client’s language in your marketing to describe the problems they face and the benefits they can expect from working with you.
- Take their best quotes and schedule regular posts on LinkedIn or other social media. Include a prompt in the post to read your case study.
- Use the info you gathered from them to create a series of emails, pinpointing pains you know your leads are experiencing and using your case study to show how you solved those pains.
- Turn the recorded video call into a 1-2 min highlight reel that you can use on your website and social media.
Why case studies are important in business
Case studies lead to higher close rates, more trust, and more prospects in the door.
But if you’re not putting in the work to highlight successful projects, no one gets to hear about the amazing outcomes you’re creating.
You can tell this story yourself, but it’s simply way more believable to have clients tell it for you.
So next time you need a case study, consider simply having customers describe their experience in their own words.