*Originally published on CEPro.com
While writing a case study sounds like a mountain of work, asking the right questions can help create a compelling story in record time.
When you think about your best clients, who comes to mind? Certain clients make your business more enjoyable and profitable — if you could, you’d work with them over and over. A great case study can help make that a reality by appealing to prospective clients with similar attitudes and needs.
Writing a great case study starts with choosing the right client to feature. Ask yourself: What markets are my most profitable? Who have been my best clients? If a new client walked through the door now, who would I want it to be? What kind of projects do I want more of?
That’s the kind of client you want to attract with your case study.
HOW TO ASK SOMEONE TO BE IN YOUR CASE STUDY
When you ask someone for a testimonial by email, most people freeze up a little, put it off, and then never do it because they’re unsure what’s expected of them.
Instead, put your client at ease by asking to have a conversation about their business and experience working with you. Let them know you’d love to use them as a case study, but frame it as a way to showcase their company’s successes.
Your goal is to be able to weave your client’s words into a story — one where you took them from A (sad) to B (happy). The client is the main character in the story, so the key is to ask questions that get them talking openly.
8 QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER ASKING, IN ROUGH ORDER:
- What challenges or problems did you deal with before working with us?
- How did that impact your work?
- Where did you start looking for a solution to that problem?
- Why did you decide to hire us?
- Was there anything that almost kept you from working with us?
- What has changed for you since working with us?
- Any specific examples?
- What did you expect it to be like to work with us?
- Was your actual experience different? How so?
- Has anything in particular exceeded your expectations?
- What’s been the best part about working with us?
- How would you explain our work to a friend?
- What would you tell someone who’s on the fence about hiring us?
- Any other comments?
Remember that it should be a friendly conversation, so listen carefully and don’t feel married to any script.
Last — some people aren’t very forthcoming. If you don’t have the full picture, just ask, “Can you tell me more about that?”.
HOW TO RECORD AND TRANSCRIBE YOUR INTERVIEW
You don’t want to be scribbling down sentences or asking your client to repeat themselves. Instead, use Zoom’s record feature. Just be sure to get their permission before clicking record.
Tip: I like to record the audio on my phone as a backup in case something happens to Zoom mid-call.
The next step is to transcribe it. Manual transcription is slow, painstaking work. Instead of doing it yourself, send it to sites like Rev for fast, very affordable transcription.
HOW TO WEAVE THE CASE STUDY TOGETHER INTO A PERSUASIVE STORY
Here’s the process I recommend: First, read through the transcript and start highlighting the best quotes. Copy & paste them into a new document. Then, edit those quotes for clarity (it’s okay to remove filler words and words they didn’t mean to say).
Next — since people don’t usually speak in a beginning-middle-end structure — put their quotes in a rough kind of order. For example, if your first question was about their challenges before working with you, but they explain more later in the interview, categorize those quotes together.
Now you’re ready to start writing.
Hallmarks of an Effective Case Study
A good case study should:
- Tell a story
- Start with a quote if possible (it offers immediate proof and gets straight to the point). Then frame the rest of it like so:
- Who is the client?
- What challenges did they have before working with you?
- What was your solution and how did you implement it?
- How did the client benefit from this solution?
- Wherever possible, use the client’s words to narrate each section.
- Help the reader imagine themselves in your client’s shoes
- Your client is the main character in the case study — not your company. This means the case study is about their experience working with you and the benefits that came with it. The benefit to you is the credibility that someone else’s perspective lends.
- Anywhere you catch yourself writing about what you did, reframe the sentence to focus first on what your client experienced. By the end, the reader should be able to imagine themselves as your client.
- Be easy to follow
- Remember that you’re writing for internet-age attention spans. If your reader has to think, they will likely stop reading.
- Use plain English– keep your sentences short and free of industry or corporate jargon
- Put key points in bold
- Use short paragraphs – 1-3 sentences, max.
- Make it scannable with headers that tell the overarching story
- Use real stats if possible
Don’t let your new case study collect dust. Here are some ways you can put it to use and get it the exposure it deserves:
- Put it prominently on your website
- Use it in outreach to potential leads on LinkedIn
- Send it to your email list and ask for a referral similar to the featured client
- Repurpose the text and quotations for sharing on LinkedIn or other social media
- Put it as a link in your email signature
Follow the plan in this article and you’ll be able to request, interview, transcribe, and write a powerful case study faster than you thought. From then on, you’ll have a compelling, ready-made way to answer the question: how can you help me?