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How to Write Exceptional Case Studies: Five Interview Tips

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Whether you're part of a big, high-tech marketing automation company or a mom-and-pop shop selling widgets out of your garage, positive user reviews and testimonials are invaluable to your business. But there's no better way show off your product or service than by taking the time to interview a customer and produce a high-quality marketing case study.

A good case study creates serious value for your brand by showing your prospects real-world examples of the benefits your business can bring them. That translates to more leads, more conversions, and more deals closed for you.

Let's take a page from the journalist's playbook and go over some tips for conducting the kind of interviews that produce stellar marketing case studies.

1. Understand your audience

Before you've asked your interviewee a question or put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you first need to ask yourself: Who is this for?

Consider your intended audience: Are you aiming to build general awareness of your brand and draw more leads into the top of your sales funnel? Or are you gunning for a broader target and wanting to demonstrate that your business is a thought leader in your industry?

Determine ahead of time what kind of audience you're writing for and the appropriate tone for the platform where your work will be published. You should also reflect on what kind of information will be relevant and interesting to your intended audience.

With this high-level view of your audience and their needs, you'll have a road map for getting the most out of your case study interview.

2. Do your homework

This one should go without saying: If you're interviewing someone, you need to do your homework ahead of time and prepare for the chat.

Relevant pre-interview research can have a huge impact on the quality of your case study. Take the time to determine your interviewee's role, the nature of the company or organization he works for, and how his experience relates to your case study discussion.

As the interviewer, your primary mission is providing the proper amount of context for the audience and asking the right questions to elicit useful responses.

3. Set your subject's mind at ease

A nervous or uncertain interviewee can spell doom for your case study, so go the extra mile to put your subject's mind at ease ahead of your conversation.

Communicate with your interviewee ahead of time to be sure he or she fully understands what the interview is about and how and when you'll publish the case study. You should also offer to share a list of the questions you'll be asking so your interview subject can be well prepared to respond.

You'll find that your interviewees will appreciate even small courtesies, such as asking whether they have a preference for how they'll be cited or introduced in your case study. Keep this human element top of mind because little touches like that can make the difference between failure and success.

4. Let your interviewee do the talking

You've done your research and prepared a list of questions to get the kinds of quotes you need, and you're eager to conduct a killer interview. Now is exactly the moment you need to slow down, pump the brakes, and remember that this interview isn't about you.

There's often a temptation to ask leading questions or to phrase your question in a way that puts the onus on your subject to deliver a specific answer. That may seem like a good approach, but it's almost guaranteed to produce unsatisfactory or inauthentic answers.

You're probably pretty good at sensing when someone is trying to pull a fast one on you, and your audience is just as perceptive (as is your interviewee). Some of the best interview responses come when you resist the urge to steer the conversation and, instead, just allow your interviewee to speak naturally and do most of the talking.

Don't just wait for your interviewee to finish her answer so you can immediately get to the next question on your list; doing sowill, without fail, make it sound like you're both reading from a script. Take a moment to consider each answer and see whether there are any interesting follow-up questions you can ask. Also make sure you're allowing time for natural pauses in the conversation to allow the interviewee to gather her thoughts.

5. Cover every angle by asking open-ended questions

There's no better way to get the dialogue moving than by asking open-ended questions: They're one of the best ways to spark conversation and ensure you get relaxed and natural answers from your interviewee.

Simple yes-or-no questions will probably elicit only single-word answers, forcing you to ask an awkward follow-up question. Instead of asking whether using your product helped to bring in more leads, remember the Five Ws and rephrase your question accordingly: "How did using our product affect your lead-generation process?"

In addition, don't ask questions like, "Explain the benefits that our product brought to your business." Instead, rephrase that question to allow for a more authentic response: "If someone were hesitant about using our product, what would be your elevator pitch to convince them?"

* * *

Finally, have fun with the interview! This is a chance to show off the human side of both your brand and your interviewee's, so take advantage of the opportunity.

By following these five interview rules, you can start producing powerful marketing case studies that have a real impact on your bottom line.

Michael Saba is a writer, editor, and videographer who lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. He's the lead marketing content writer at CallRail, a SaaS call tracking company.

CallRail provides call analytics and lead tracking tools to more than 65,000 businesses in the U.S., Canada, and internationally. See how advanced call tracking and analytics can deliver a serious boost to your marketing ROI: Try a no-obligation 14-day free trial of CallRail. (No credit card required.)

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  • by Peter Altschuler Mon Mar 12, 2018 via web

    Case studies serve a particular business purpose. If they're not focused on discovering how a customer/business has accomplished a goal by using a particular product or service, and if the interviewer isn't attuned to that, you'll have a nice conversation, not useful information for a case study.

    The interviewer should not, of course, be trying to elicit specific responses. He or she should, however, be able to steer the conversation to ensure that it addresses the problem, the options that were considered, the process of selection, the implementation of the chosen solution, and the changes/improvements that resulted.

    The subject may not want to reveal specifics -- actual budget or dollar savings or, for competitive reasons, improvements in output or productivity. Yet without some sort of derived benefit -- savings or productivity as percentages of previous operations -- that case study has minimal value as a marketing and sales tool.

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