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.

Does Your Content Marketing Lack Focus? Talk to Your Customers!

The difference between a successful content marketing strategy, and one that is just… meh often comes down to how well you know your audience.

The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is an invaluable resource for B2B marketers. The B2B Content Marketing 2019: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report from CMI and MarketingProfs is chock full of great data (shout out to my talented colleague Carolyn Marsh—check out her latest blog post on this and other great resources for financial services content marketers). Several data points from this year’s survey present the importance of taking an audience-first approach in stark relief.

First the good news: according to the study, 90 percent of the most successful B2B content marketers focus on their target audience’s informational needs rather than pitching product.

Furthermore, the top three techniques these successful B2B content marketers use to research their audience’s needs include: sales team intelligence, website analytics, and keyword research. These are all proven, viable approaches, and it is particularly heartening to see that successful marketers value open communication with their sales colleagues.

Now for the not-so-good news: Fewer than half of the content marketers surveyed talk directly with their customers. In fact, just 42 percent say they engage their customers as part of their audience research.

That’s shocking! There is no better way to understand your audience and their informational needs than by talking to the people who already use your products. Your client base is a built-in focus group that should align closely with your target market. And since they already know you, they will generally be responsive and open to discussing their needs, wants, and pain points.

I suspect there are two primary reasons many content marketers are reluctant to approach their company’s customers for input: 1) they don’t want to jeopardize the client relationship, and 2) they don’t want to step on their sales team’s toes.

These are valid concerns. However, here are a few ways to navigate these potential minefields:

  1. Leverage your sales team: Since the vast majority of successful B2B marketers already rely on their sales reps for market intelligence, it is one small step to ask them to introduce you directly to your company’s clients. The key is to explain to your sales team how getting direct customer feedback will help the marketing team produce better, more focused content that will generate a higher volume of qualified sales leads. A win-win!
  2. Establish expectations early: It is tough to get busy clients to give freely of their time, especially after they’ve implemented your product. It is much easier to get their buy-in early in the relationship, preferably as contracts are being signed. At that point, you can request certain deliverables, like a certain number of client referral calls, case study interviews or videos, and “research” or “focus group” sessions, perhaps in exchange for a discounted rate or other benefits (such as free attendance at your next annual conference or educational webinar). Check out this post for more ideas for getting client buy-in.
  3. Bundle the ask with a case study project: Speaking of getting buy-in, the best time to pick your client’s brain is during the case study interview. If you have a customer success story or case study interview session already scheduled, sprinkle in a few questions about their vendor research process, what types of content they read, view, or download, and the industry topics that most interest them. This information will be very helpful in setting your content marketing strategy going forward.

Need help in identifying your target audience and choosing the right mix of content to reach them most effectively? Let’s talk! Contact me at ted at tedgoldwyn dot com or 914-715-2248.

Write well, and be well!

Thank you

I love this time of year. Oh, it is busy, sure. Especially in my home, where my wife, three kids and I celebrate eight days of Hanukkah,and then roll right into Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But it is so full of joy, laughter, warmth, and fun that I wouldn’t have it any other way.

As I write this on December 10th, our children have opened all their Hanukkah gifts, we have each selected this year’s charity of choice, the menorah candles have been lit for the last time, and I have fried up my final batch of latkes(traditional potato pancakes) for 2018. As I sit in my home office, wrapping up a few client projects while Alexa blares a mix of Christmas classics, I take some time to reflect on the successes and learnings since I launched Ted Goldwyn Writing in November 2014.

The successes have been many.

Looking back at four years in business, I am proud to have been involved in over 330 writing, editing, and marketing projects. This listincludes dozens of white papers and case studies, well over a hundred articlesand blog posts, and over a hundred editing and proofreading assignments.

I feel blessed to have maintained wonderful relationships with a core group of long-time clients who use my services, via retainer contracts, regular monthly assignments, or ongoing repeat business. I am also thankfulthis year for those past clients who contacted me with new projects. And I’mexcited to be kicking off some energizing projects with a select number ofbrand-new clients. 

As I enter my fifth year in business, I am enthusiastic about what 2019 will hold. The die has been set for record growth, and I look forward to expanding on the core services I offer to financial services marketers.

Based on client requests and in recognition of a definite need for basic business writing skills among professionals in a variety of industries, I began offering a BusinessWriting Basics remote training program in 2018. I present this program as alive or recorded webinar, customized to my clients’ specific needs. The training has been well-received, and I plan to roll this out more broadly in 2019. In addition, I am currently in talks with a local college to offer a full-day in-person course to area employers and the public.

I am also early in the planning stages of writing a new book to help marketers navigate the stormy seas of dynamic content marketing. Staytuned!

Of course, Ted Goldwyn Writing will continue to focus on content marketing, thought leadership, and editing for the financial services industry. If you are searching for an experienced financial services writer tosupport any of your 2019 content marketing objectives, let’s talk!

I want to take a moment to thank you, my loyal readers foryour support, business, thoughtful advice, and genuine kindness over this pastyear. I wish you and your families a joyful holiday season and a New Year filled with success and happiness.

Best wishes,

Ted

Appreciating Leftovers

My kids love Thanksgiving.

Not so much all the grocery shopping, and days of preparation, and the hours of watching the turkey slowly roast in the oven.

And certainly not the smothering hugs and lipstick-stained kisses from Aunt Martha as she makes her grand entrance into our previously-bucolic homestead.

(OK, who am kidding? With three school-aged kids and three dogs, our home is never peaceful.)

No, what my kids really look forward to are the leftovers. I have a mean turkey rice casserole recipe, and my kids beg me to cook it up every day for a week following Thanksgiving. I also make some great turkey croquettes. For some reason, my children seem to enjoy the leftovers much more than the original dishes. You know, the ones that my wife and I sweat over for days preparing.

The key is to change the recipes up a little bit. Use the turkey, stuffing, and sweet potatoes in new, creative ways. Add some fresh ingredients, like cream of mushroom soup, rice, or egg noodles. Sprinkle a little pizazz into the mix.

Come to think of it, the same approach works well in your content marketing strategy.

(You, Patient Reader, knew this was coming, didn’t you?)

Repurpose your content leftovers

One of the many benefits of developing a regular and consistent content marketing program over the course of months and years is that eventually, you have created a massive library of rich and flavorful articles, white papers, webinars, blog posts, and case studies to draw on.

Once you’ve developed that library of delectable content, it’s simply a matter of defrosting the leftovers, reformulating your recipes, and mixing up all your ingredients until you have something new and delicious.

In practice, this may mean taking the white paper you published last spring and recycling the observations into a webinar featuring a panel of internal and external subject matter experts, making sure to introduce fresh new insights into the mix.

Or it may mean reheating portions of the article you wrote for a leading industry publication into a set of short blog posts.

Another tasty approach to try is leveraging your recent case studies to create a series of short client testimonial posts on LinkedIn.

The possibilities are endless. As we near the end of the year, it’s a great time to revisit all the delicious content you cooked up over the past twelve months. You’ll be surprised how many savory morsels are buried deep in those pages of valuable assets. All they need is a little loving attention and effort to turn them into a cornucopia of mouthwatering delights.

Whatever else you do this holiday season, remember to save your leftovers.

Your kids will thank you.

 

 

Training for the Marketing Marathon

For a recreational runner training for a big autumn distance race, the months of July and August are soul-crushing.

You’re getting into the heavy slog weeks of long, slow distance runs, mentally taxing mid-week speed work, and weekly mileage counts approaching 30, 40, 50 miles or even more. You wake up earlier each morning to combat higher temperatures and stifling humidity, factors that slow your natural pace down by a full minute for every 10 degrees of temperature rise.

I’m training for my second marathon. Like a lot of runners, I find it hard to stay focused. Digging deep for daily motivation is a challenge.

Yet the key to any successful distance race is to put in the work, week after week, day after day, mile after mile. As any coach will tell you, if you follow the plan, and put in the miles, you have a better-than-decent chance of hitting your goal, whether it’s to qualify for the Boston Marathon, notch a personal record, or just cross the finish line.

But you’ve got to put in the work. You can’t expect to successfully run 26.2 or 13.1 miles without training hard for three or four months. You can’t complete a distance event drawing on just one workout a week. Or by skipping your long runs when you feel tired.

Content marketing works the same way.

There is no magic marketing formula that works for every business. Some organizations publish regular blog posts on topics of interest to their target audience. Others create long-form thought leadership content like white papers or e-books. Still others seek out expert interview slots, guest posts and podcasts, and bylined articles in relevant industry journals to expand their universe of qualified leads.

All approaches are valid. But no method will work for your business unless it’s done regularly, consistently, and strategically. A white paper may present the most brilliant and unorthodox solution to a problem the world has ever seen. But if you don’t promote the content across multiple channels (like press releases, social media, and sales meetings), and repurpose it in other forms (articles, blog posts, webinars) it will have limited impact. Besides, one white paper alone won’t do much for you over the long term. The goal should be to develop a thought leadership platform, and build an audience that begins to think of your company as the go-to knowledge expert within your field.

The same goes for blogging. Too many businesses start a blog with the best of intentions, only to peter out after a few posts. It takes time to attract an audience, and once you have one, you must work to keep them engaged. A regular, active blog with relevant content improves search engine optimization (SEO), and drives traffic to your site. An inconsistent, stale blog with broken links and obsolete info has the opposite effect.

Be in it for the long haul. Develop a solid plan and stick with it, mile after mile.

That’s how you cross the finish line.

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Looking to kick your content marketing plan into race-day shape? Let’s talk! Contact me at ted@tedgoldwyn.com or www.tedgoldwyn.com.