Posted Under: case studies,ideal reader,interviewing customers
Do you use case studies in your marketing? Have you had good luck in creating them? Are they capturing eyeballs?
I’ll cut to the chase: Interviewing and writing up a customer success story or case study goes well when the customer contact is a clever person, and when the writer, if need be, can get a story out of a rock.
It’s also important not to focus on your product or service, but to let your customer do that.
A clever customer
We’ve interviewed over a dozen engineering companies for a series of case studies. Life is like a box of chocolates with these people – sometimes we get an animated small businessman, sometimes an M.D., sometimes a VP of engineering, sometimes a director of marketing.
The best content and the best case study experience has been with people smart enough to understand that we were after a conversation or a story. Once they have that mindset, everything else falls into place: the technology we’re trying to describe, the software tools of ours that they use, the business and technical benefits we want to convey to the reader, even the images and diagrams that accent the final piece.
How do you identify a clever customer? That’s the hard part. It’s not even guaranteed that every company has somebody who fits that description, let alone that they’re in a position to talk about your product.
Getting a story out of a rock
My old roommate , Arthur O’Donnell, used that term to describe the task of coaxing interesting content out of uninteresting material (or people).
Here’s an analogy from the world of optics: If the interviewee is the light source, the writer is the prism who generates the prism from bland light. For a case study to go well, the writer needs to understand what the ideal reader wants to see.
In the technical series I’ve described, the audience consists of engineers, and engineers usually want to know the answer to one main question:
How’d they do it?
It’s not been easy in this series, but we’ve managed in almost all of these pieces to explain the technical problem – usually in the area of chip design – and tell the story of how the customer solved it (preferably using our tools).
When you do that, you don’t need to tell people how great your products are. Your customers do it for you in the interview, and your readers catch on.