A to Z of Copywriting: I – Interviewing for Case Studies
Updated: Nov 10, 2021
This letter of the alphabet was giving me a bit of grief. There were a few ‘I’ words to apply to copywriting, but they weren’t ideal. Words like Introduction, Interest, Ideas, and Images.
Then Inspiration hit! And there's another ‘I’ word…
Probably the best ‘I’ word to help with your copywriting needs is Interview. Because to write a really compelling case study, interviewing your customer is the first crucial part of the exercise. The trick is in the listening.
It's likely that interviewing people is something you do naturally anyway. After all, it’s having a conversation but with an agenda. Just as we chat with prospective clients or collaborators to gauge if we can work well together. Not forgetting interviewing candidates for our vacancies, of course.
But there are specific questions that you need to ask in an interview for a case study, which I'll cover shortly. First...
Why write a case study?
Case studies are a great way to showcase your product or service. They provide proof that it's effective and works.
Case studies are opportunities to share your clients' pain points or challenges that others will very likely relate to. And then they explain how you solved their problems, indicating that you can do the same for others.
This is where storytelling comes into its own. Case studies are ideally written in a narrative style, so having direct client quotes to weave into your narrative works brilliantly here. Someone else's opinion helps to give your readers more confidence in your product.
Case studies can be used in many ways – as news items on your website, content in your social media, and more. Short-form case studies are ideal for digital content marketing purposes; they’re more accessible and tend to get good engagement. Longer case studies can take the form of a white paper, giving you an opportunity to drill down into more detail. This provides more evidence that you really are an expert in your field.
So, whatever form of case study you use, they are a valuable addition to your content marketing strategy.
Approaching the interview
Once your client has agreed to share their experience in a case study, set up an interview. Agree on a convenient time where you both have an hour or so to spare. Depending on the product and the situation, you may find that half an hour is ample time. The important thing is that you're both relaxed and at ease in your surroundings.
Ideally, face-to-face works best. That way, you can see their body language as you chat. Video calls work well, too, especially as you can record them – with permission, of course! Recording saves you scribbling or typing lots of notes. Phone calls are fine if you can’t meet or video call, but if possible, find a time when you can actually see the person you’re interviewing.
Draw up a list of questions prior to the interview. You could even share your questions with your client prior to the event to help them prepare. Look at the structure of a typical case study (see below) to figure out what would be the best questions. In general, it goes something like this:
First, please tell me a bit about your business.
What was the challenge or problem you needed help with?
Why did you decide to use our product/service?
Were there any issues with first use or implementation?
How did we help you with your challenge or problem?
What were the results? Do you have any data you can share with us?
Has our solution helped to increase productivity or save you money?
Was there anything about the results that surprised you in a good way? What were you most impressed with?
Allow some pauses when they’ve finished answering a question so that you can consider what you’ve just heard, which may prompt further questions.
Pauses can be powerful – often, people will throw in a comment that ends up being a gem of a statement to highlight. Just don't prolong your pause as that can be uncomfortable!
How to structure a case study
As mentioned above, a case study can be short and simple or long and detailed. It can depend on the industry you’re in and the type of products/services you provide. Here, I’ve focussed on the shorter, more accessible type.
Using the answers to your interview, write up the case study in the following order, using suitable subheads for each section:
Provide a brief introduction to your customer or client. If they also run a business, you could include a link to their website. This is good for them and helps with your website's SEO.
Then provide a summary of the story.
Next, you need to describe the challenges and objectives they had. What were your customer’s pain points? What was preventing them from achieving their objective?
The next section explains how your product or service helped them, providing the ideal solution.
Then share the results. This is where you can include some data to help quantify what your product does and how it helped.
Use a few client quotes throughout your case study taken from your interview. You don't have to quote them verbatim, but as close as possible is best. Naturally, you will need to ask your client to approve what you've written before publishing to give them a chance to make any amendments.
Finally, include a CTA at the end if you wish, but keep it subtle as the case study is an excellent promotional piece in itself.
As you write the case study, keep in mind the KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Stupid. So, try to avoid too many superfluous words.
Once it’s written, leave it a few hours or even a day and then read through it again. That’s when you’ll spot any errors and notice where you can cut more of the fluff out, creating a case study with far more impact.
Finally, send it to your client for their comments and approval before publishing and sharing.
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I bet I know what you’re thinking. In the A-Z of Copywriting, this could have been ‘C is for Case Studies’. You’re right, of course! But as I’d already written ‘C – How to Write Enticing Call to Actions’, it was too late. And as interviews are an essential aspect of developing a strong case study, I think this works better. I hope my interview advice has been helpful.
Need any help with writing your case studies? Don’t have time to interview? Whatever copywriting help you need, do get in touch. Drop me an email or give me a call on 07799 648321.