3 Tips for Nailing the Case Study Interview

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Case studies, also known as customer success stories, are an excellent way to communicate your company’s value to a qualified prospect, by demonstrating how you have helped actual customers solve real-life problems. You can spout all the features and benefits of your offering and preach outstanding customer service until you are blue in the face, but often it takes a well-positioned testimonial to close the deal. Your customers are your best salespeople!

Crafting an effective case study isn’t hard, but it must begin with a well-planned and executed customer conversation. Here are three easy ways to ensure you crush the interview:

1. Plan and prepare: Pre-interview preparation is critical. If you go into the interview blind, you’ll probably miss the most interesting quotes, which help your story come alive. Do a little research on your customer, and draft your questions in advance.

My interview questions follow this classic case study template:

  • Company Background
  • Challenge
  • Solution
  • Journey
  • Results

Develop your questions directly from this template, and in this order. This helps in a few ways: It will keep the interview on track, allowing your customer’s story to flow naturally. And by following this orderly sequence, the case study will practically write itself.

I recommend interviewing at least 2-3 key players at the client company, preferably in different roles and at various levels of the organization, reflecting a range of end-user perspectives.

2. Dig deep for golden nuggets: If you’ve spent enough time planning, the actual interview should go smoothly. Reference your script, but be ready to follow your subject wherever she might lead, particularly if she tosses up a particularly juicy data point or unforeseen benefit of working with your company’s solution.

Above all, listen to your subject’s answers, and ask follow-up questions. My business coach Ed Gandia turned me on to the “so what?” approach to interviewing. For example, if you ask, “What are some tangible benefits you realized after implementing ABC solution?” she may reply, “We reduced loan closing times by 25%.” Don’t stop there.

Ask yourself “So what?” and ask your interviewee, “What did that reduction in closing time mean for your staff? Are they able to process more loans, or take on additional duties now? What do the faster closings mean for your customers? Did they get their money more quickly? What were they able to achieve? Is your company more competitive in the marketplace now?” These questions will help uncover those “golden nuggets” that make for truly compelling stories.

3. Save time with smart technology: To save both time and effort, I use a few inexpensive (or free) technology solutions. First, I always record my interviews. Most often I do phone interviews, and I like using FreeConferenceCall.com. As the name implies, the basic service is free. You get a dedicated, reusable, password-protected conference line, and free call recording with ample storage space (you can pay a fee for additional storage). I have found the service to be extremely reliable and easy to use.

If I need to interview a source in person, I use the voice memo app on my iPhone. I have not experienced any issues with sound quality using the built-in microphone on the iPhone, but I recommend interviewing your subject in a quiet room, and testing the positioning of your smartphone’s mike beforehand.

Once you have the recording in hand, I highly recommend using an online transcription service, such as Rev.com. I’ve used Rev.com for years, and find them consistently accurate. The price is right (currently at $1.25 per transcribed minute), so for a typical 30-minute interview, it will only set you back thirty bucks. Rev.com keeps getting better and faster, and the company promises to turnaround your transcription in just twelve hours. This is money very well spent.

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