11 December 2018

Case Study Interview: How to Conduct an Informative (and Painless) One

Case studies and testimonials are critical parts of most marketing strategies. Gathering the juicy details and customer quotes that make a case study sparkle, however, takes some savvy when conducting your case study interview.

Your best shot at capturing the insights, data and color you need is through a well-planned and well-executed case study interview—all while respecting that your customer is busy and may not be able to spare much time to talk.

Be thoroughly prepared before you even schedule the case study interview

You’ll probably have just 20 or 30 minutes to capture your customer’s story:

  • who they are
  • what their pain is (and why they came to you)
  • how they implemented your servicewhat results they experienced

Usually, the most logical way to structure the case study interview is chronologically—it’s helpful to think of the case study as a story with a natural narrative arc:

  • beginning (background and challenge)
  • middle (solution, including implementation)
  • end (results)

The right questions: a starter list

Thinking in terms of the 4 categories below will help you craft your question list:

Icebreakers

Tell me a little about your company.
What do you love about working there?
What are your goals? Your company’s?

The challenge

What was going on at your company that led you to us?
How serious was the problem?
What solutions did you try before you came to us? What results did you see?
Why did you choose to work with us?

The solution

What service did you adopt? Why?
How did you implement our service?
What challenges did you encounter during the transition?
When did you first notice results? What were they?

The results

How did our service change your business?
What has it meant to your overall operations?
Do you have any data you can share?
What advice would you have for others considering our service?

Tailor these questions to suit the person you’re talking to. Eliminate any that seem repetitive or irrelevant and highlight 1 or 2 from each category that are most important. Leave space and time for follow-up questions.

Find a convenient time and method for the case study interview

Be as flexible as possible when you’re scheduling the case study interview, and ask for 30 minutes of time.

Don’t settle for an email case study interview. Not only are people more candid in conversation, but you’ll also be able to ask spur-of-the-moment questions and explore ideas as they are presented.

That leaves you with 3 options:

  1. face-to-face (this is the best and most personable choice; try to arrange this if your customer is in your region)
  2. phone interview
  3. video call

Take notes and record the interview

A recording and transcription of the case study interview will ensure accuracy and give you peace of mind. Down the road, you can also use the transcript for other marketing activities, such as grabbing testimonials and pull-quotes, writing a blog post and more.

Use an app to record phone calls, or use Zoom or Skype to record video calls. Make sure you have permission to record the conversation.

Sending the questions in advance is common courtesy

Some people worry that sending case study interview questions in advance will result in less candid and honest responses. Not true. You want your customer to be at ease during your case study interview, and you want them to have all the information and data they need at their fingertips.

Providing the questions in advance will lead to a more informative and useful case study interview. It also ensures you cover all the important points. During the interview, you can jump in with follow-up questions to dive deeper into certain areas if needed.

Watch out for these common interview mistakes

  1. Does your list have any yes/no questions? If so, be ready with follow-up questions. Better yet, revise the question so it’s open-ended to elicit a more thoughtful response.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for numbers, concrete examples or more information. You need these for a quality case study and this is your chance to get them. Don’t be afraid to repeat a question or rephrase it to make sure you get what you need.
  3. Don’t be afraid to let the conversation stray a little from your outline—the best insights are often unexpected—but don’t get too far off-topic or you’ll run out of time.
  4. And finally, don’t think you already have all the answers. Go into the case study interview with an open mind and be ready to listen.

Next steps

You’ve worked hard to write a compelling and relevant B2B SaaS case study. Find out how to get your customer to approve the case study so you can publish it and get it working for you.

And if you missed the previous post in this 7-part series on best practices for case studies, you can learn why your content writer needs a writer’s brief—and how to create one. 

What’s your experience been like?

What are your must-ask questions? Any common interview mistakes you’d like to share? Reply in the comments below.

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Emily Amos
Emily Amos

As the founder of Uplift Content, Emily leads teams in creating done-for-you case studies, ebooks and white papers for high-growth SaaS companies. Check out her bio.

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