Guest post by Zachary Moore.
Today, 88% of consumers look at reviews before making an online purchase. This trend makes case studies more important than ever. A case study is more than a review or a testimonial. A good case study paints a picture, tells a story. It highlights your successes in a way that turns potential buyers into actual customers.
A question and answer (Q&A) case study is a simple and natural approach to telling a client’s story. You provide background information to give the reader context. After that, your customers answer handpicked questions, a process that leads to a more exciting read.
Also, quoting customers in their own words is more relatable than you telling the story. When it comes to writing case studies, the Q&A case study is the most natural way to communicate the value of your brand.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to craft a Q&A case study, covering the process from beginning to end. An engaging case study makes people say, “if it worked for them, it can work for me.” That’s what you’re aiming for.
Choosing Your Participants
You have lots of choices (hopefully!). Which of your customers are best for your case study? The best participants are relatable. Your customers want to know you’re comfortable in their industry. They want a person who understands their specific needs. Choose a person your future customers are likely to identify with. Here are four types of customers you should consider.
Your Biggest Successes
Did you help a business achieve big results? Which customers benefited from your product the most? The more you’ve helped a company, the more compelling the case study will be. Also, these ultra-delighted customers are likely to be eager to help you.
Do you have a non-traditional customer you helped succeed? For example, let’s say 85% of your customers are B2B businesses, and 15% of your customers are B2C businesses. Some of your B2C prospects might think your product is only for B2B businesses. A good B2C case study would be a great marketing tool for that 15%. Where your customers start is just as important as where they end up.
Working with a big name customer is great for your brand. Advertise that fact when you can. Your prospects are likely to think, “If it’s good enough for that A-list enterprise, it’s good enough for me.”
Defectors from Rivals
Prospects are always curious about the competition. This is particularly true for people who are new to your niche. Displaying a switch from a rival will reduce those fears.
Legal Matters and Customer Approval
If you’re on great terms with a customer, you may choose to forego paperwork. Otherwise, you need them to sign a Case Study Approval Form. This clearly explains to them how you plan to use their information. Here’s some of the approval you should consider.
- Approval to put this case study on the web and market it.
- The right to use logos, pictures, and job titles from their website.
- The understanding you may edit their words for clarity, then you’ll send back the edited version for final written approval.
When your customer agrees to answer questions for your case study, they’re helping you. That means you should be open to helping them as well. Maybe you offer them a cash reward. Maybe you provide a free service for them. Maybe you promote their business on social media, via your blog, or on a guest post. Maybe you have some other gift in mind. Whatever it is, make sure you’re respectful of their time.
Crafting the Text of Your Q&A Case Study
One of the most important elements of your case study is the title. The title is the first thing readers see, so make it powerful. Here are some examples below. Workshop them to generate a title that fits for your industry. There are more options here if you’re interested.
- How Company X Grew Their Email Leads by 434%.
- How Company X used Company Y’s service to Dominate Organic Search.
- Company X sees a 201% Increase in Inbound Leads After This Switch.
- Lesson From a SaaS CEO: How to Save Thousands on PPC Ads.
- Fortune 100 Executive Replaces Github and Improves Productivity by 124%.
Summary + Problem
Provide a three-to-five sentence summary about your customer and their problem. This summary tells what the company sells. Then it describes their situation, and a challenge impeding success. Finally it ends with a question or a cliffhanger. Was the company able to overcome their problem? This is a strong teaser that makes prospects want to read the Q&A. Look at the sample below to see what this reads like.
Company X is SaaS startup that sells a drag-and-drop ebook maker. They work with startups who want to make gorgeous ebooks without paying a designer. People love their product, and they’re growing quickly. They’re currently running a PPC campaign, but it’s getting expensive. How did they drive traffic to their website in a more cost-effective way?
If you want another example, this lawn care service case study has a strong intro.
In a Q&A case study, the Q&A is the meat of the document. With any case study there are four sections: the problem, the search for a solution, decision-making + implementation, and results. That being said, you aren’t bound to ask or include questions from every section. Include the best answers that will help your customers the most.
The golden rule of interviewing is to ask open-ended questions. Another key is to ask the right questions to the right people. A question like “How long did it take to implement the solution?”isn’t necessary if implementation times are standard across your industry.
Additionally, the questions below are in first person. Publish these answers in the third-person to maintain objectivity and professionalism. For instance, “Why did you choose Company Y over the competition?” is better than “Why did you choose our company over the competition?”. The questions below are all in first person for simplicity. You can even ask your customers the questions in first person. Just make sure you change it to third person when you publish the study. Also get approval for all changes (even tiny ones like this) from the customer before you publish the study.
Some of the below questions are redundant. However, depending on the industry, asking the same question in a different way can get you better results. Some of the most engaging questions are bolded for your convenience.
Questions About the Problem
- What problem did you have?
- What challenge led you to look for a solution?
- Did you have a previous solution that stopped working? If so, how did your needs change.
- What would have happened if you didn’t get a solution?
- What caused you to seek a solution like ours?
- What pain points were you experiencing before working with us?
Questions About the Search for a Solution
- Did you explore other solutions before this? What happened?
- How did you hear about our product or service?
- Tell me about some solutions you considered but rejected.
- Did you have special criteria in mind for a solution?
- What features were must-haves?
- As you searched, what questions were you looking to have answered?
- Was there an obstacle preventing you from buying this product? If so, what changed?
Questions About the Decision-Making Process
- Why did you choose our firm over the competition?
- Is there a particular part of the product our service you like the most?
- What did you find attractive about our solution?
- Did you have any challenges implementing our solution? If so, how did you overcome those challenges?
- Who were the key decision-makers in selecting the solution?
- How long did it take to implement our solution?
Questions About Results
- What benefits have you experienced since working with us?
- What specific results have you seen since working with us?
- What metrics do you use to measure success? Have those metrics improved since you starting working with us?
- Has our service saved you time or money?
- Have you seen a positive ROI from our solution?
- What’s the best thing about working with our company?
- Is there anything you’d like to add?
- Would you recommend this product? If so, why?
- Are you using our solution for any unexpected cases?
Optional Extras for Your Case Study
A title, a summary, and a few questions are all you need for a basic case study. That being said, spotlighting an appealing quote can do nothing but good. Make sure the quotes use specific numbers.
We grew our email list from 1,000 to 7,800 in three months. The best part is our list shows no sign of slowing down.
Our qualified leads are exploding. I had to hire two new sales associates.
Company Y helps us answer 500 more customer service calls every week. Our customer satisfaction rate was up 11% last quarter.
Also, including stats about the customer in a bite-sized form is a good idea. You don’t need to include too much. Here are some suggested points.
- Industry (technology, marketing, fashion, etc.)
- Size of business. You can also use something general like start-up, emerging, or large. Or you can include the number of employees.
- Year the business was founded. Or the numbers of years in business.
- Logo- Putting their logo on your case study is a nice visual.
Appealing design is the future of the web. Even job applicants are using stunning infographics to make their resumes stand out. If you need inspiration for well-designed case studies, take a look at this link here. The aforementioned lawn care case study has quotes and data on the side. It also has four sub-headers in blue. If you find inspiration here, replace those sub-headers with your highlighted questions.
How Long Should Your Case Study Be?
Many of the case studies linked above are short. They range from one to three pages. Short case studies often do the trick, but sometimes you want something more in-depth. In that case, you have two choices. First, you can ask more questions. Or you can interview more customers and bundle your results into a super-sized case study.
A Case Study Is a Versatile Marketing Tool
A case study is an amazing marketing tool that is great online or offline. You can use it as lead magnet to increase your email subscribers. You can send it to warm leads. You can give it away at trade shows or at your office. It’s an investment that pays dividends for months or even years.
A question and answer case study is one of the best case studies for small businesses. You can easily increase or decrease the length. It also feels more genuine than a typical case study. Lastly, it’s more fun to read. That may be the biggest advantage of all.
Have you ever seen a Q&A case study before? What software do you use to design your case studies? Share in the comments.
Zachary Moore is a professional B2B marketer. You can find him at his website.