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B2B Case Studies – The Customer Interview

Date posted: August 11, 2009

After writing hundreds of B2B case studies in my career, I
have some insights to share.

One of the most critical elements of the process
is the customer interview. It is during the interview process that great case
studies are born. No amount of skillful writing can overcome a poorly conducted
interview. An experienced interviewer knows how to elicit the quotes that
make a case study an effective marketing tool.

In some cases, customers agree to participate in a case
study but are hesitant to divulge the kind of insightful information necessary
for a strong case study. Through careful questioning and follow ups, a skilled
interviewer can guide the customer through the process and extract key data
that a less experienced interviewer wouldn’t.

Over the years, I’ve developed a customer case study questionnaire
that I use as a guide to facilitate the case study interview. The main goal of
my proprietary questions is to facilitate a “conversation” with the customer—not
an interrogation. Often, for instance, customers are reluctant to provide hard
numbers for such things as ROI or labor savings—key elements of a strong case
study. Yet, they often have wonderful anecdotal stories that illustrate these
metrics. Once the illustrative story is told, it’s amazing how often the
customer is then able to provide helpful numbers.

Interviewing is an art. The skill is in steering the
conversation in a direction that serves the marketing purposes of the client
while at the same time bringing to light information that provides for a
compelling story. If these elements are properly drawn out during the
interview, the case study practically writes itself.