By Katrina Olson
Of course, you understand the potential of case studies to educate customers, demonstrate your company’s capabilities, and build confidence in your staff’s expertise.
But how do you know if someone is a good candidate for a case study? When you’re considering potential subjects, consider the following:
- Do they have a good story to tell?
- Will a significant number of your customers relate to the problem or challenge addressed?
- Are they willing to share details of their project?
- Do they have a thorough understanding of your products and services?
- Are they open to and excited about being featured?
- Do they understand how the case study will be used and what’s expected of them?
The most important questions are numbers one through three, because without them you don’t have a relevant case study. Numbers four through six are a little more manageable because you can sell the customer on the benefits of being featured and share your expectations.
Number six is a deal breaker. If the customer isn’t willing to share details of their situation, you won’t have much of story to tell. Ideally, your customer is eager to talk; and if they aren’t, your interviewer is skilled enough to draw them out.
Once you have a few candidates in mind, it’s time to gauge their interest. If the candidate has a good relationship with someone in your company, have that person call or visit them to broach the subject. If the customer is interested, your salesperson can refer them to someone from your marketing department to discuss the project in greater detail.
How to approach a potential case study subject.
Once the customer is open to participating, send an email or call them and discuss the following:
- How you plan to use the case study
- What, specifically, you want to know
- What you expect beyond the case study
- How (if) they will be compensated
- What photos you would like to include
- How long the process will take
- How participating will benefit them
- Who in their organization needs to approve their participation
Once the customer agrees to participate, schedule an interview and consider sending questions in advance, especially to get specific information about sales, growth, increases, savings and other metrics. Also, send the customer a release form that covers all the points listed above, and have them sign and date it so there’s no question about what you’re allowed to share.
After you’ve written the case study, let your customer review it for accuracy and make suggestions. This is where it gets tricky. Some clients will suggest edits you don’t want to make. For example, the edits may be poorly written, read like a sales pitch, or are not consistent with the purpose of the piece. Remember, you want to make your customer happy, but ultimately, this is your marketing piece. Choose your battles carefully.
Now, you understand the process. Next week, we’ll cover how to prepare for and conduct an interview, and what questions to ask.
Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine’s print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine’s Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at email@example.com or via her website at katrinaolson.com.
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