Let’s talk about case study interviews.
Case studies allow brands to demonstrate exactly how they can help resolve specific pain points, how customers are using their products or tools, and an exact example of what kind of results people can expect.
This is important because plenty of businesses make big claims, trying to outshine their competition. There isn’t a marketing agency out there who won’t promise to get you more reach, or a law firm that doesn’t like to appear confident in their ability to win cases.
Every brand will proclaim that they can best solve their customer’s needs, but those claims on their own rarely mean much. They want to know that you can live up to what you promise, and seeing case studies from existing clients is something that can win them over.
In order to create high-value case studies that can help you attract and convert customers, it only makes sense that you’ll need to start with a killer interview.
In this post, we’re going to look at how to conduct a case study interview that will help you create high-value case studies to draw attention and quality leads to your business.
Why Interviewing Clients Directly for Case Studies Is So Important
We’re all busy, so it can be tempting to put off case studies or to relegate the case study interviews to a quick Google form that asks for specific questions.
While you can create basic case studies off of this information, especially if you only want to showcase quick results, it won’t be nearly as impactful as case studies created off of more in-depth interviews.
These interviews can take place by email, phone, Zoom, or in-person, but the idea is that there is plenty of room for open discussion. Actual interviews can help you go beyond basic information so that you can get to the story and the pain points of how your clients have been impacted.
There’s also a great chance that they’ll share more during an open conversation that can be a crucial component to the case study that they may not have thought to share on a form, because you may not have thought to ask.
Strong case study interviews are an essential part of creating dynamic, engaging content that can actually convince your target audience that you’re the right business to purchase from.
How to Prepare for Case Study Interviews
Conducting a rocking case study interview all comes down to great preparation, so let’s take a look at how to do exactly this.
Think About Your Target Audience’s Pain Points
Before you start putting together your case study interview questions, you want to think about what you want your case studies to convey.
Case studies give you a chance to go beyond sharing simple results (which are powerful enough on their own and should still be an important part of the content), allowing you to dive into more nuance to fully address the pain points of potential leads.
A virtual phone line company, for example, may want to consider going beyond stressing their 99% service uptimes and also touch on additional features they offer. Stressing that offer call scheduling to give business owners more of their time back on an automated basis, for example.
This case study from AdEspresso is an excellent example of what to look at when considering your audience’s pain points. There’s a client who ran highly seasonal campaigns who didn’t want to leverage discounts to drive sales to keep it fair for pre-order customers. It talks about her specific challenges and pain points, and addresses the overall solution instead of simply listing results.
As pain points can be a crucial part of writing compelling case studies, break down your audience niches and different needs that they may have. You can ask your interviewee questions that can help you tap into the pain points for the case study. We’ll look at specific questions for how to tackle this in a moment.
Expect Interviewee Objections
When you first reach out to a potential case study subject and start discussing the idea of featuring their brand, know that you may run into some objections from the subject themselves.
They may be alright with you using some part of their story, strategy, or results while still being concerned about protecting their own or their business’s privacy.
As a content marketer, for example, I know exactly how many of my posts are performing across some of my client sites; how much they’re driving in revenue, how much traffic they’re getting, and what’s bringing them there.
A client may be okay with me talking about working with them or sharing samples, but might be less-than-thrilled about me divulging information about their specific site pattern trends, the custom-for-them strategy we used, or information about their revenue. The case study from SEMRush below, for example, is extremely specific; not all clients may be comfortable with this.
Be prepared for this before you reach out, and consider what you can do to accommodate requests. These objections may arise before the case study interview, but they may pop up during as well.
Here are a few examples of common workarounds:
- Instead of saying that my post for Bob’s Blog helped the site go from $100 in revenue to $200, I can say that it doubled the revenue or doubled conversion rates (whatever is accurate).
- Maybe I can share the general strategy I used for Bob’s blog without actually naming them and omitting key identifying details, like the keywords used.
- They may be alright with you sharing the detailed strategy and general results (2x conversion rate instead of 5.6% conversion rate) and the brand name, OR they may only be okay with sharing their story and results.
Each client is different and comfortable with sharing different information. While it is typically most beneficial to be able to name the client’s brand name, if this isn’t an option consider settling for a more specific industry tag like “a client in the women’s sustainable fashion industry” instead.
Ready Your Case Study Interview Questions
After you’ve thought about potential objections and any key notes you really want to focus on with your case study, you can put together your case study interview questions.
We’ll discuss specific case study interview questions and templates a bit later on, but prepare these in advance. Ideally, do research on each individual case study subject in advance and try to ask questions that will be relevant to them.
This is important- write your questions down, even if you’ll be having a phone call. Organize them with the natural progression you expect the call or conversation to take so you don’t lose your train of thought, and check back before the call is over to make sure you’ve asked everything you need to.
At the end of the interview, ask if there’s anything else they’d like to share. Don’t forget this; some of the best parts of case studies can end up being a surprise to the interviewer at the time!
Look for a Story
When you’re putting together your questions and interviewing the case study subject, keep your eyes open for a “story.”
Stories don’t have to be long and complex, and they should center your brand whenever possible.
If your automation software helps a business owner save time, that’s an appealing benefit. But if they’re happy to share that it meant that they could put more time into expanding their business or that they were able to be at home more with their newborn child, that takes a simple fact and makes it more emotionally compelling.
You can build an entire case study around a great story, and you can see exactly how effective this is with the headline of this case study from Freshbooks, reading “How Freshbooks Helped Marc Keep His New Year’s Resolution.
4 Case Study Interview Mistakes to Avoid
When you’re preparing for and conducting case study interviews, there are a few common mistakes that you’ll want to avoid. These can cause you to miss out on potential interviews or lessen the impact of the interviews themselves.
Make sure to avoid the following mistakes:
- Using a single form that’s emailed to case study subjects. Whenever possible, back-and-forth conversations can typically yield much more dynamic case studies. While some clients may firmly want to stick to email, try to opt for zoom calls or at least several emails if you can.
- Not being clear on what information you can use in the case study. Make sure they know that you’ll publish it on your site, and get their permission in writing (email is fine!) to feature them and their results. It’s considered a good practice to let the client review the case study before you publish it if they’re concerned.
- Trying to shoehorn a client into a predetermined story. I once worked with another content writer on a case study project, and during the interview, it was so clear they were trying to fit a subject’s experience into this perfect story the writer had concocted. This typically doesn’t work, however, and it can prevent you from finding the great and unique parts of each individual’s story and success. Go in with an open mind if you can.
- Skipping small talk. If you go in all-business, the case study subject may be more likely to answer only what’s asked. When you start on the basis of enjoying the conversation, however, they’ll share more; and that can be where the magic happens.
Case Study Interview Examples: What This May Look Like
Need a case study interview template with plenty of questions to draw inspiration from? What you ask will vary depending on your industry, your client, and the type of case study you want to create, but there are some set questions you should ask across the board.
It’s good to break these down into different sections while asking open-ended questions so that there’s plenty of room for the subject to share more.
Start by asking about the brand with questions like the following:
- “Can you tell me about your brand and what you do?”
- “Is there anything you’d like us to make sure our readers know about your brand?”
Then move on to asking about how they use the product and their challenges. Some case study interview questions for this may include:
- “Why did you decide to use our brand/product/service? What feature made you choose us?”
- “What pain points and challenges did you have before coming to us?”
- “Have you tried other solutions before? If so, why did you decide to come to us?”
Next, focus on process and results:
- “Can you tell us how you’ve used our product/service and how it’s helped your business?”
- “What results did you get? Did it speed up your team/improve efficiency/drive more results/improve health/ insert use case here?”
- How long were you able to maintain these results, and how did the results help you?
A case study interview can seem like a daunting task, but with a little bit of research ahead of time, it can be a smooth process that can yield exceptional information for outstanding case studies. Remember that case studies can only be as strong as the information you have, so the importance of a great interview can’t be overstated.
For best results, take a look at a few case studies online that you liked as a customer, and think about what you’d need to ask in order to get that information. That can help you cover your bases and ensure that you’re asking everything you need to.
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2 thoughts on “How to Conduct a High-Value Case Study Interview (And 4 Mistakes To Avoid)”
Very insightful tips on how to make case study interviews. Case studies can be crucial when it comes to testimonials of your product’s success and it can be tricky to ask the right questions – and avoid mistakes!
I’ve been researching about this topic for a while – thanks for the detailed plan you set out in this article about how to conduct case study interviews. Not only mistakes to avoid but also a communications plan to explain the benefits to clients giving interviews for case studies.