Are you a business owner or marketer struggling with building trust with your audience?
I have three words for you. Customer Case Studies!
In the business owner’s world, Customer Case Studies aka Customer Success Stories are a ‘Before & After’ tale and a great tool to bring forth your credibility in the marketplace.
People tend to have a natural tilt towards stories with a happy ending. Also, they are more drawn towards products and services OTHERS are vouching for.
Customer case studies work great for many reasons. Primarily because they go hand-in-hand with our natural instinct to check and confirm whether others have had success with the buying decision we’re about to make.
If that decision was fruitful for them, it would bear fruit for us too.
Why else do you think we are drawn to a shop filled with people as opposed to an empty one?
It is that very instinctive behavior that makes customer case studies a powerful credibility booster and a pivotal part of any business’ marketing strategy.
Once written and strategically placed, these success stories can help yield the most favorable outcome for your business.
Although hiring help from a professional writer can and will do wonders for your business marketing model, it should definitely not be a reason to keep you from trying your hand at it yourself.
Now that the benefits of writing a customer case study are clear, here is the strategy to writing one effectively in 4 easy steps:
Plan The Interview
Just like this is a before and after story, the interview process needs to have a before and after too. Planning JUST the interview is not enough, hence, ‘before’ and ‘after’ of the interview has to be strategically planned.
-Before the interview
Do some background checks on the company and the employee you’re about to interview. Read about their customers, products and services, markets they cater to, their history and their founder(s) or executives.
Depending on the findings of your research, create a questionnaire that is most relevant. Templates are great and may save you time. But, beware. They are not 100% relevant. Use them sparingly.
Email the interviewee for a date and time for the interview along with a list of proposed questions. Make sure to mention that they don’t need to answer those questions via email.
You have merely presented these questions beforehand so they know what to expect from the interview and also to pull out any statistics, percentage, or numbers that you may need from them.
This ensures the interview stays tightly focused and productive while extracting all the juicy details out of the customer.
-During the interview
Always record the interview but ask the interviewee if they’re comfortable as this would help with your notes later on. Assure them that none of the notes will be used without their permission. Ever.
For maximum productivity, it is absolutely necessary to keep the interview tightly focused on the product or service you’re interviewing about. But remember to be polite.
If you feel the interviewee is skewing, just politely bring the conversation back on track.
Ask follow-up questions to extract benefit-focused information. Your product or service’s features may be cool, but you need to show how they actually HELPED your customer.
An easy way is to ask the “So what happened then?” question after every open-ended statement the customer gives you.
-After the interview
Send the recording for transcription. This is an absolute must and is a great way to use that interview in text form later.
You will realize that much of the content of your customer case study can be derived from those transcription notes. So it’s a great investment for a fraction of the cost.
Gather all your notes from the interview and compile them in a folder with pull-out tags. Label each tag so that you can conveniently retrieve the section you need.
This process saves up a LOT of time! So check for these essentials before you proceed:
- Your audio recording from your customer call
- The notes from that call
- The transcription of the audio interview
- Information from the customer’s website/brochure
- Any case study format you want to follow
2. Create A Mind Map
A great case study requires planning, planning, and a little more planning.
A mind map is a visual map of your proposed plan for the next step of your story writing process.
Following the interview and getting all the necessary information jotted down, it’s now time to organize the info you received from the interview, transcription and any other personal notes you may have made during the interview.
This can be too much information, leading to you becoming overwhelmed. Hang in there, it shall be alright.
Highlight the main points.
Determine the ‘Hook’ for your story and outline the main sections, starting with the broadest, biggest points and then moving on to more detailed information. Create a bubble for each main section on a blank sheet of paper, adding branches for each key point to each bubble.
In the transcription, find the main sections of the story; company background, the challenges, the journey, the solution, etc.
Label each with bold headers. Draft an initial headline along with its subheads for each section that somewhat describe each section.
Challenge #1 was that factory floor workers were spending too much time filling out paperwork at the end of their shifts. This could be turned into a sub-heading “Workers spending too much time on paperwork”.
Create a storyboard with a detailed yet informal outline to visualize how all these elements of the story will come together. Use your mind map as your guide and start typing each element of your document in a word processing program.
Move quickly through this process and don’t worry about perfection yet.
Once you have your storyboard written, take a look and ask yourself,
- “Does it flow well?”,
- “Is it making sense?”,
- “Is it compelling or complex?”.
Work on it till you have something that flows nicely. Reading it aloud usually helps!
Phew! we covered a lot. And you’re done with the research part!
Celebrate finishing this stage.
3. Tell The Story From Start To Finish
This is the part where you will cater to people’s core instinct; enjoying a good story.
Your great storytelling ability will allow someone to really get to know the customer in the case study including:
- Who is the sample customer and what do they do?
- What were the customer’s goals?
- What were the customer’s needs?
- How did you satisfy those needs and help the customer meet their goals?
Compose the first draft for your customer success story.
If you have invested enough time and energy into creating a solid base in the form of right info, mind map and storyboard, this process should be a breeze – ensuring a strong piece at the end.
Format of a customer case study
- Title: Always customer-focused or benefit-driven.
- Executive Summary: A paragraph or two summarizing the contents of the study.
- Problem / Challenge: Your customer’s key issue they want to resolve.
- Solution: How your company helped its client resolve a similar issue.
- Results: Using real numbers is a great closing strategy.
WRITING HACK: You can start your draft by opening up your transcription document, treating it as a rough draft and editing from there.
Including real numbers, in the form of statistics or percentages will give your case study even more credibility. Therefore, using them in comparison or contrast to the market norm would undoubtedly increase your brilliance and help you shine.
A final thing you could do is simply follow up with the customer in the case study and update your case study a few months down the road to show how your products/services are continuing to have long-term benefits for the customer.
This would give readers the opportunity to see that your goal is not only to help with immediate needs but to ensure long-term results as well.
These steps will help you write a customer case study effectively and will give your business the boost it needs. Any other strategies you have tried that helped you? Share with us in the comments below.