Effective Case StudiesJanuary 25th 2011 Sally Ormond case studies, conducting interviews, copywriter, copywriting tips, freelance copywriter, how to write a case study
The humble case study can be like the AK47 of your marketing armoury.
What better way to boost your company’s profile while showing your customers a real life example of exactly what your products can do for them.
The most powerful case studies are those that combine an interview with your customer. using quotes from them and their personal insight will add weight and authority. But interviews shouldn’t just be reserved for case studies, copywriter I use them in projects such as newsletters, press releases, internal communications and news items.
Often you will find the interview will provide a framework from which the rest of the case study (or other marketing material) hangs and the quotes used substantiate claims whilst injecting your writing with life.
So how do you conduct an interview to make sure you get the most out of it?
Tips to conduct an effective interview
1. Do your research
Research is paramount – it doesn’t matter what form your copywriting takes (website, brochures, other interviews, press or magazines), taking time to gen-up on your interviewee will prevent you from asking them the same old questions they always get asked. It will also help you find angles for your interview.
2. What’s it for?
First things first – why are your doing the interview? What are you looking to achieve? How is it going to help your client/brand?
If you’re interviewing a customer who’s using one of your products, make sure you ask them about it – why they chose it? what has it done for them? Information that your reader is going to want to know.
The best way to conduct your interview is face to face but that isn’t always practical (or cost effective). A telephone/Skype interview comes a close second.
I wouldn’t recommend an email interview as it is really difficult to get great quotes. Most people will refine their answers until you get something quite impersonal. If you can chat with your subject, either face to face or over the phone, you are more likely to build up rapport and get some great quotes.
4. What to ask?
Have a list of questions worked out before you begin (you can always add to them as new things crop up in conversation).
Avoid closed questions as they won’t get you anywhere and make sure you always have the reader in mind. Make sure the questions you ask are relevant to the purpose of the piece you are writing and ensure you ask for answers in ‘language our readers can understand’ especially if you are dealing with a complex subject.
5. What now?
Shorthand isn’t my strong point and trying to scribble down notes during the interview usually means I don’t take in everything my subject says. Therefore I have found the best thing to do is record my phone interviews (of course, with my subjects permission). I don’t have any fancy tech, just a speaker phone and a digital recorder which then allows me to upload the file to my PC.
After the interview I transcribe it which helps me get a feel for the material and consolidates ideas and angles that would be good for the case study.
Interviews and case studies are invaluable parts to your marketing strategy. Just remember – research before hand, make a list of relevant questions and engage with them. If you sound disinterested they’ll close up. Listen, absorb and react and then you’ll get great material to produce a killer case study.