What Are Some Best Practices for Writing Case Studies?
Tips for Asking Customers to Participate
Some of my clients are nervous about asking their customers to participate and that’s totally understandable. You feel like you are asking them for a favor and, in a way, you are. That’s why it’s important to offer some value back to the customer in exchange for their participation, even if it’s a token offering.
It doesn’t have to be monetary, like a discount. I found my customers are actually willing to participate if you bring up the fact that their company will publicized on your website so they’ll get a link from your site to theirs which can be really valuable for SEO purposes. If you have a newsletter, I’d also mention that you’ll include the case study in that so they’ll get free exposure to your reader base.
Finally, and this can be a big one, you can offer to pitch the case study to media that cover your customer’s industry. You don’t need a PR agency to do this. You can actually do a little Internet research, figure out what those publications are yourself, and email the editors.
It’s not a huge undertaking and it means a lot to your customer, especially if the editor ends up being interested in writing a story. Feel free to email me after the webinar if you have more questions about what to say to editors or how to do that. I’d be happy to give you some guidance.
Tips for Choosing Customers to Participate
When it comes to choosing the customers you’re going to ask, obviously you want to make sure you only approach customers with whom you have a good relationship, that’s obvious. Beyond that, you want to try to get a variety of customers from different verticals or specialties, or however you would break up your client base.
It’s good to have a case study that represents each of your potential audiences. If your company is large enough to have a sales team, it’s a good idea to ask them for input and initial guidance on who maybe you should approach.
Tips for Writing a Case Study
Some tips for actually writing the case study: After a customer agrees to participate in a case study, the next step is to set up a time to talk with them on the phone. Just a 30‑minute interview will usually do. I always send the questions I’m going to ask in advance so that that way they don’t feel like they’re being put on the spot.
The questions should be geared toward opening up discussion because, again, you never know where it’s going to go, sometimes the customer will surprise you. But you also want to steer it towards some of the selling points that you think you won’t hit.
As you start to do these interviews, look for patterns in the customer stories. Like I said, do they reinforce your branding? Are the customers excited about a part of your offering you never even thought to highlight? Every customer interview I’ve done has been enlightening for the company creating the case study, in some way or other.
Finally, you want to write the case study as though you’re a third party but, again, steer it toward highlighting your branding messages, meaning the messages your customers have reinforced or brought to the surface for you.
Case Study Template
Here’s a common case study template. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but you can refer to this slide after the webinar.
Basically you want an overview paragraph, background on the customer’s challenges prior to coming to you, the solution, which is why the customer decided to go with you, the results, which is how you helped the customer—this is where most of the specifics about your products and services will go—and finally the conclusion, which usually offers a look toward the future of the customer’s partnership with you, it’s a hopeful ending.