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6 Steps to Successful Case Studies
By Stephanie Tilton, Ten Ton Marketing

Customer case studies can go a long way toward convincing prospects of the value of your company, solution, or service.

Customer case studies can go a long way toward convincing prospects of the value of your company, solution, or service. Here are six sure-fire steps for effectively producing hard-hitting case.

1. Make sure you have a story to tell.

Once someone nominates a customer for a case study, find out whether or not there's a compelling story to tell. One suggestion is to create a backgrounder form to be filled out by anyone suggesting a case study candidate. At a minimum, you should gather the following information:
  • An overview of the customer's organization, including industry, revenues, and company size
  • Date the customer went live with the solution or took advantage of the service (if this date was recent, the customer might not yet have enough results to share)
  • The name, contact information, and role of the person(s) to be interviewed (if these are all technical contacts and you're trying to uncover business results, you might need to ask for additional contacts)
  • Proof points to demonstrate the value of the solution/service (if these are lacking - or if the customer isn't willing to share them - your story will largely be anecdotal and won't pack as much punch)
  • Aspects of the engagement that should be highlighted in the story (for instance, was the implementation timeframe unusually short?)
2. Determine the value of the story.

Once you understand the basic customer situation, compare it to your existing library of case studies (assuming one exists). Will this story complement the list or will it be largely redundant? Some considerations include the following:
  • Will this story help round out examples of customers in a certain industry?
  • Is the customer a brand name that your company wants to tout?
  • Is the customer engaged in a market that your company is trying to penetrate?
  • Will the story highlight a solution or service that needs more visibility?
  • Are the proof points different from those in other stories?
3. Get the customer's buy in.

If the story looks promising, make sure the customer is not only willing to be interviewed and to share ROI metrics, but that he or she has the green light to participate in a case study. While it's wonderful to have an enthusiastic advocate within the customer's organization, if the customer's marketing or legal department is not open to going public with details, there's no sense pursuing the story.

4. Prepare the customer.

There's a lot to be said for the element of spontaneity in an interview. After all, the most compelling stories are based on first-hand interviews and include plenty of customer quotes to move the story along. However, there's nothing more frustrating than starting an interview only to find out that the customer can't answer the questions.

To avoid this roadblock, send the customer a general set of questions ahead of time, perhaps as you're scheduling the interview time. This allows the customer to both decide if he or she is the appropriate interviewee, and to make sure all information (such as ROI metrics) is in hand during the interview.

5. Nail the interview.

The following tips will help you get the most out of an interview:
  • Do a bit of research before interviewing the customer. Recent customer press releases, news coverage, or annual report details might inspire questions that help draw out a unique angle.
  • Tailor the interview questions for the call - not every question will apply to each customer situation so don't waste everyone's time asking irrelevant questions.
  • Ask open-ended questions - otherwise you'll be stuck with lots of "yes" and "no" answers.
  • Leave room to veer from the script. Some of the most interesting questions are prompted by the customer's responses to your original questions.
6. Set expectations.

If you can give the customer a general idea of when you'll be sending the case study draft - and also get their commitment to a fast review and approval - the entire process should go quickly and smoothly. Don't forget to let the customer know if you'll need anything else, such as a boilerplate company description and logo file.

Case Study Checklist
Here's a handy checklist that summarizes these steps. Happy storytelling!
  • Did I collect background information about the customer/situation?    
  • Will this story add value to the case study library?     
  • Has the customer's marketing and/or legal department agreed to a case study being published?     
  • Did I research the customer on the Web?    
  • Have I tailored the interview questions?    
  • Have I sent a list of questions to the customer?    
  • Did I explain the case study process to the customer?     
  • Did I ask for the customer's boilerplate and logo?

Stephanie Tilton has been immersed in the world of marketing for over 16 years, in roles as diverse as competitive analyst, marketing communications manager, and product marketing manager. Harnessing her unique blend of technical knowledge, marketing savvy, and writing skills, she has crafted winning communications for leading brands such as Akamai Technologies, EMC, Macromedia, Novell, SAP, and Symantec. Contact Stephanie directly at or visit for more information.

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