How to plan and write a case study in 2.5 hours


As we all know, case studies provide all of us with a highly credible means of communicating our skills, experience and expertise. To our potential customer audience they provide written, objective evidence that we can solve a problem that is hopefully, similar to their own.

I have recently completed a couple of projects for a client obtaining case study material on a number of products. The following outlines my suggestions for obtaining the material, once you have asked your client and they have confirmed that they are happy to participate.

A couple of things:

1. Always get feedback via phone or face-to-face. Information obtained this way will be much richer in detail and you can dig deeper and ask for further information and clarity on anything you are not clear on.

2. Be clear on the objective of obtaining the material. If you are keen to illustrate HOW you work with your clients, ensure that the questions that you pick allow that feedback to be gained. It doesn’t have to be the same every time. The chances are you will want it to be different to ensure that the variety of your skills and experience is covered through different studies.

3. Do lead the conversation. Customers and clients are always looking to us to be the experts and this is no different. If you do not prepare for the call and presume that the conversation will flow, I am sure it will. But you may not obtain the feedback that you are after.

What is the problem with obtaining testimonial material?

1. Time and effort: our customers, just like us, are very busy and anything outside of regular daily duties which requires a large investment in time can be seen as being problematic. So we need to make it easy for them.

Explain in the first email/phone call when you ask for their feedback that you are looking to obtain the information but that you will be doing all of the legwork following the feedback call. And give them an idea of how long the call will take so the know how much time to reserve. I would recommend 20-30 minutes for a case study of around 500-600 words.

2. Competitive advantage: some customers may be a little cautious about telling their story, or admitting that they outsource the skills that we offer. So we need to reassure them.

If this comes up as an issue with your client, you can alleviate their concerns by coming to an agreement whereby they are happy to give feedback. It could be something such as not publishing their name, omitting some of the details of the project or not including quantitative results.

3. Preserving brand guidelines: customers may be cautious about allowing a third party (us) to write about their business. So we need to allay any fears they may have.

I would recommend that the client always has the final sign off on the written case study, hopefully this will be of some assurance. You can also let them know that it will be written in a factual way and in the third person (if this is a way that you are happy to write). Generally case studies tend to be written in this way for this reason.

4. What is in it for me?: a customer, on a personal level, may be sceptical about supporting our marketing activity which doesn’t bring a real benefit to them. So we need to explain otherwise.

A major benefit to all customers is any additional publicity it will bring their company as it will be published on our website, marketing material and social media.

And if you wanted to, you could offer an incentive.

Structure

To ensure that feedback is obtained quickly and in full and to allow feedback to be obtained in one session with minimal effort for the client, a structure should be followed such as:

Overview and background – of the company, activity, topic or work and history (this will probably be information that you have as a result of your working relationship.)

Challenges – the specific problems faced by the customer

Solution – the solution proposed and implemented by you

Result – the impact in qualitative and/or quantitative terms

This article gives an incredibly comprehensive overview of possible questions to consider within this framework -

HubSpot case study questions

Advice for obtaining feedback

1. Be thankful for their time but then do not hurry through your questions on account of feeling bad for taking up their time! Nothing would be worse than taking up their time but not getting good information for it.

2. Really listen – and allow them to talk

This article gives simple fantastic advice on getting the most out of a conversation -

Good conversation

3. Check with them first but record the call. You can assure them that this is only for the purpose of recounting the call for you to write the feedback. I use a great app called ‘Call Recorder’ which is free but note, it will not work if you phone over wifi/internet calling and you will need to use loud speaker for the call or it will not pick up your client’s voice.

If you are not sure, make a practice call first.

4. As soon as the call is over, if you can allow the time, write up the call notes. It is easy to write up the case study from written notes, than trying to jump around on the recording to find the exact bit of information that you remember receiving.

Writing a good case study

Use the structure that we outlined above:

Overview

Background

Challenges

Solution

Result

Put in a nice quote or two and ensure that it has a relevant title which leads back to the results. Ensure that it stays on track with your purpose and you will get your case studies wrapped up in no time!

Although there seems to be a lot of steps taken here, I really think that if you are clear and up front with the client, have a plan and ensure that the logistics are all in hand, case studies shouldn’t be something that you put to the bottom of your to-do list.

Initial prep – 30 mins

Phone call – 30 mins

Write up notes – 40 mins

Write up case study – 30 mins

Check with client and upload – 30 minutes

So you can do a case study in around 2.5 hours – and this will only decrease as your confidence grows!

Let me know how it goes and whether you need a hand with any of the steps outlined above. I could easily transcribe the call notes for you to take that work off your hands if it makes your life a bit simpler! Do get in touch.


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