Let your customers do the convincing.

You know your product is great. Your current customers know your product is great. But how do you convince your potential customers that your product is great, too?

Let your customers become your cheerleaders with a great case study. Showcase your product in a real-world setting, and share the positive outcomes you bring to your customers. It will help you earn the trust of prospects because it’s not just marketing copy—your customers' own words and results demonstrate that your product works.

Where to start

What makes a case study convincing? Compelling stories from your customers. You need to relay a story that will resonate with your reader, and that starts with a solid customer interview. An interview should only take 30-minutes of your customer's time, and you can make the most of it with a little prep work.

Prepare a list of questions so that you can keep the conversation flowing and hit all your points. For background information, you can send basic questions to your customer ahead of time. Ask your interview subject to send it back a few days before your scheduled interview so that you can craft any follow-up questions. That will start your customer thinking about the interview, and give you a place to start your conversation.

Some sample questions for a pre-interview questionnaire include:

  • How long has your company been in business?
  • How many employees do you have?
  • What problem were you having that made you look to us for a solution?
  • What were your goals with this project?
  • Who was involved in implementing our solution?
  • How did you hear about us?

With the pre-interview, you want to gather enough context about the company that your readers will be able to identify with your customer. Of course, research basic information yourself and be respectful of your interviewee's time.

Nailing the interview

During the actual interview, you’ll want to ask questions that will generate quotes that relate specifically to your work with them and the outcomes. Sample questions include:

  • What did you enjoy about the process?
  • Why did you choose us over our competition?
  • How did you vet our company to work with you?
  • How did your results correlate with your goals?
  • What unexpected success came out of working with us?
  • Why was this product or service uniquely suited to your business?
  • What's your favorite (and least) thing about our product?

Don’t be afraid to stray from your list. It's a conversation, not a questionnaire, so ask follow-ups or pursue unexpected tangents that might yield a great quote. Need help coming up with additional interview questions? HubSpot has a list of 100 questions. That list will give you some great ideas of interview questions that will work for your specific brand, product, and customers.

Brownie points: use the interview as an opportunity for product research. Is your customer using the product in an unusual way? Is there one little thing they wish you could add? Check in with your product team before the interview for questions, and follow up afterward with what you learned. Don't be afraid to ask your customer what they don't like about your product—that's valuable information. Just don't include that in your case study 😉

Tips and tricks

Additional interview tips to make a compelling case study.

  • Ask open-ended questions that need longer, more thoughtful answers. Simple yes/no questions aren’t going to get you very far. Instead of asking “Were you happy with your experience with us?” ask “What delighted you about working with us?”
  • Don’t be afraid of dead air. Give your customer an opportunity to think about her answers or add to an answer before jumping to the next question. Don't worry, it's not live television.
  • Before closing, ask where to direct any follow-up questions. As you write up the case study, you may find that you have additional questions. Make sure you have an open channel for followups and clarification.
  • Confirm that you'll be able to publish and share the results of this case study with prospective customers. Before sinking too much time into a case study, make sure that your interviewee has permission to speak on the company's behalf. Nothing's more disappointing than submitting a final case study to your customer for approval only to discover the company's policy is to never endorse any vendors.
  • Record your call so you can go back and listen again for key takeaways and accurate quotes. Make sure your interviewee knows you are recording! Most people are ok with recording as long as you make it clear the recording is for notes, only, not broadcast.
  • Plan to interview several customers and make many case studies with slight variations. Create a well-designed case study template (we can help with that) and drop the different interviews into the template.

No matter what industry you’re in, case studies are a great way to showcase your expertise. With a little planning, you can make sure that your time spent creating the case study pays off with a polished, targeted marketing piece you can send to leads to start the sales conversation. At Lightboard, we've spent time interviewing some of our customers for case studies and have found the process rewarding and productive. You can read them here.

Need help creating well-designed case studies of your own? We can help! Get started here.