This blog was originally published November 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
Case studies are vital content marketing tools because they tell a compelling customer story and provide the same authority as white paper marketing, but in a format short enough to capture most prospects’ attention.
The first step to an effective case study is research. Conducting a case study interview with your customer will ensure you have accurate, detailed information, which will be the basis of your final piece of content. To unlock the most important kernels of information during a case study interview, try adding these five key case study interview questions to your list:
1. What challenges or needs did you (the customer) face in your industry that led you to look for a solution like ours?
This question can help to identify the problems the customer faced that drove them to look for a new solution. Finding out why a customer was dissatisfied with their prior solution will help to build a compelling “before and after” narrative for the case study. A good follow-up question is to ask about the requirements and features the customer was looking for in a new solution.
2. Describe your selection process and what criteria you were looking for. How did you go about searching for a solution?
It’s helpful to know how the relationship came about. Did the customer send out RFPs? Did they evaluate ten potential solutions before choosing yours? What were some must-have items they needed in order to go with your solution? Asking how they found your company will also be a good indicator of how future prospects can find you and how your ideal customer prefers to look for solutions. This will not only help to build your case study, but can also help to build upon the platform in which they found your company.
3. Why did you choose our company over the competition?
Was it something the sales team said? Something they read on the website? Word-of-mouth? A case study writer can transform this kind of information to make the company look like the top competitor in its market. Asking what the customer found most attractive about your company’s solution will get the customer to state their goals, or what pressure points they wanted to address with your company’s solution.
4. What results have you seen since implementing our product/solution? What business processes does this solution enhance, and how much does it reduce the cost and time to complete these particular processes?
This question will help you or your writer determine exactly how the solution is being used by the customer and which areas of the business it affects most. The second part of this question, asking about time and cost, will hopefully generate some qualitative results, or benefits, such as increased productivity, lower costs, and less opportunity costs. These answers will add a deeper storyline to the case study beyond the hard-number results, such as return on investment or gross revenue.
5. What would you tell others who might be considering our product? Would you recommend this company’s solution to your peers?
According to the Marketing Science Institute, customers who are acquired through word-of-mouth have higher margin and lower churn rates than other acquisition channels. If you have a solid strategy, this can be a profitable platform for your business. Knowing how your best customers would describe your product and if they would recommend it to their peers will give you insight into what you’re doing right and what you can improve upon. It will also help provide a response that’s aligned with the reader’s needs, which will help the reader relate to the study on a more personal level.
Case studies built on targeted interview questions like the examples above will result in a more valuable content marketing asset. Asking good questions is the key. Come prepared, let your customer tell their story from their perspective, and watch those leads turn hot with your brand new case study.