You’ve decided to write a Business-to-Business (B2B) case study, and you have the ideal client in mind. Maybe, you’ve even reached out to a contact at the company and she’s agreed to talk with you. Time will be limited so you need to be prepared. You want to conduct an engaging B2B case study interview, capture the company’s story, and ultimately create to a valuable content asset.
You’re feeling pretty swell until…
Your mind starts to run that subtle doubt ritual. You don’t have any experience doing these interviews. What if you’re not good at them? What if you can’t get your contact talking? What if it’s a big waste of time?
If you’re a marketing and sales professional, who’s just getting started with case studies, don’t sweat it. The first couple interviews can be unsettling. Recognize that the stress you’re feeling is positive. It’s how all of us feel when learning a new skill: clumsy and uncomfortable.
Remind yourself to keep a relaxed perspective. This isn’t a job interview. It’s a conversation with someone your company has helped. You contact is going to be excited to share, and you’re going to be enthusiastic to hear the company’s perspective about the experience.
Obviously, the more times you conduct these interviews, the better you’ll get.
In this article, we share a framework to make the interview less painful, more fun, and to help you nail it right out of the gate.
Table of Contents
- The Importance of B2B Case Studies
- Pick a Fan, Not Just a Client
- Preparing to Conduct a Case Study Interview
- Marketing Case Study Interview Questions
- How do you Conduct a Case Study Interview?
- Sales Case Study Interview Best Practices
- How do you Write a B2B Case Study?
- Let’s Get Interviewing!
The Importance of B2B Case Studies
Companies selling B2B products and services should make developing case studies a core component of their overall content strategy. If you invest in this process, you’ll be creating a valuable set marketing and sales assets that pay long-term dividends over time. But why?
Here are some reasons:
When prospective customers are considering your product or service, they’re trying to figure out if you can solve their problems, and what that process might look like. They’re very interested in knowing if you’ve helped other individuals or companies who “are just like them.”
Case studies are excellent research tools because they demonstrate what problems you solve, and how you bring those solutions into existence.
Case studies are the top content type for buyers, with 78% accessing this format type when researching purchases in the past 12 months (vs. 72% in 2016)2017 Content Preferences Survey – Demand Gen Report
Business buyers want content featuring your customer–their peers–who share experiences, pain points, and success stories. Buyers say industry or peer case studies are the most valuable type of content when exploring and making buying decisions.Forrester Blog
If a prospect visits your company’s website and he gets the feeling your product can deliver, the next thing he wants to know is, “What would the experience be like if I did buy? Can I get some assurance that when the product has been launched, I’ll be better off, my problem will be solved, and I’ll feel satisfied with the experience?”
Case studies walk prospective customers through a start-to-finish buying journey. This has a powerful and influencing effect on motivating them to take the next steps with your firm.
In the B2B setting, events help generate the most leads, while case studies help convert and accelerate the most leads.Marketing Charts, 2018
Let’s also not forget that most people really enjoy a great story!
Pick a Fan, Not Just a Client
The case study interview process starts by selecting a company and a contact who will participate. We recommend scheduling a meeting with different members of your own team, to brainstorm a list of clients who’ve really succeeded with your solution, and who rave about your company.
Ask your teammates
The following departments should be able to contribute:
- Sales and Marketing: These teams usually have a list of references who might be interested.
- Implementation, Technical Support, or Training: Reach out internally to any employees who work directly with clients. Ask them to suggest customers who they’ve gone above-and-beyond for, or who speak highly of their experiences with your firm
- Client Community or User Group: If you offer an online forum where your customers share information and feedback with each other, this is a great place to find client advocates.
One of your long-term goals should be to build a library of case studies about clients who:
- Represent different industries
- Overcame different problems
- Achieved measurable results.
Consider your target prospects
Also, when choosing a case study client, keep your target prospects in mind. What story do you want to communicate to them? What problems do you want them to recognize, that you can solve?
As an example, let’s say your sales team is routinely hearing from prospects that they spend hours performing certain manual, repetitive tasks. If you’ve helped a client solve similar problems, that organization is an ideal case study candidate.
Another prime candidate would be any company that your team helped, that converted from a competitor’s solution, or is well known in your industry.
When’s the best time to ask a client?
The time to ask clients to participate in a case study is after they’ve realized beneficial results from working with you. Don’t be hesitant about reaching out; many clients will be interested and will like the attention.
Your contact at the company doesn’t have to be the CEO, CFO or other executive. Any person who has direct knowledge and experience with your product or service is worth interviewing. They may not realize it at first but case studies present a unique way for line staff to share their accomplishments up the totem pole with their management.
If you need to sweeten the pot, consider offering an incentive:
- Discount on a future service or product
- Company swag
- Gift card.
Reach out to your Client
Call the contact on the phone. If you don’t reach the person, leave a message and send a follow up e-mail with your request.
If you don’t hear anything, don’t worry. People are busy. Reach back at least once a month until you get a “yes” or a “no.”
Sample e-mail invitation
Here’s a sample e-mail invitation:
Hi [Contact Name]-
We are interested in writing a case study about your experiences with our company related to the [project]. I was wondering if you’d be willing to participate?
Our plan is to conduct a short (30-45 mins.) phone interview and ask you some questions. We’ll write up a document and send it to you for review and approval.
You can make any changes you see fit, and we won’t release the case study until you’ve signed off.
If this is of interest, would you have some time in the next 1-2 weeks? Please let me know a date and time that’s convenient.
Thanks for considering,
Preparing to Conduct a Case Study Interview
Every success story requires you to establish context for the reader. Before conducting the interview, make sure you have a solid understanding of the company and your contact’s background.
Learning the following information will help you introduce the company to your readers:
- Headquarters and other locations they operate from
- Years in business
- # of employees, customers, installations, etc.
- Annual revenues
- The firm’s target customer.
Learning about your interviewee and her position within the company is helpful:
- Title or position
- # of years with the company
- What roles and responsibilities does the person have?
Schedule an internal pow-wow
Prior to the interview, check in with members of your own team who have direct experience with the customer. Be sure to discuss:
- What initial problems they were facing?
- What product or service did they purchase?
- How did your company help the client?
- Are there any outstanding support issues? NOTE: You would hate to go into an interview without knowing that the client was experiencing problems with your firm. If there are any existing situations, be prepared to deal with them head-on.
Marketing Case Study Interview Questions
Now that you’ve done your prep work, it’s time to plan the interview and script a list of questions. Use these questions as a guide to support you during the call. Write more questions than you think you’ll need, but don’t feel like you have to use all of them.
As your contact responds during the interview, use her responses to ask secondary questions that take the discussion even deeper.
How do you Conduct a Case Study Interview?
Most case study interviews will be conducted on the phone. We recommend recording the call and getting permission from your contact to do so.
If you’re calling from a landline, consider using a recording app on your cell phone to capture the call. If you’re calling from a cell phone, consider using an application on your computer. For example, there’s an Android app and a Windows 10 program called “Voice Recorder” that works well. Be sure to test the quality of the recording process prior to the interview.
1. Shake hands “virtually” and introduce yourself
To grease the conversation skids, recap the purpose of the call and confirm the amount of time your contact can talk (30-45 mins. is preferable).
Use a timer to track the call length so you’re respectful of your contact’s time. This will also allow you to reorder your questions in the event time runs short.
Start with the basics:
- Where is your company located?
- How many employees work at your company?
- How long have you been in business?
- Can you provide a quick overview of what your company is trying to accomplish?
- What is your position and title?
- How long have you worked for your company?
- What do you like best about your job?
2. Client’s initial situation
- Describe the situation at your company before engaging with us?
- When did you realize you had to take some action?
- What solutions did you try?
- Why did those solutions fall short?
3. What problems and challenges was the client experiencing?
- Describe problems or challenges your company was facing?
- How serious were the problems?
- How did those problems impact your business?
4. What solutions did you provide the client?
- What products/services did the client buy? Why?
- How did those solutions solve the client’s problems?
- Did the customer purchase any ancillary products or services such as training, customizations, etc.?
5. How did the implementation go?
- What level of work effort was required by your team?
- Were there any hiccups or situations that you wished you would have known about going into the project?
- If training was part of the project, how did it go?
6. What results were achieved?
- When did you start seeing improvements?
- What were those improvements?
- How has our solution helped your organization?
- Any success measures, statistics, or specific numbers you can share?
7. Why did you choose our company?
- How did you first hear about our company/product?
- What process did you go through to make a purchase?
- Who was involved in the purchase decision?
- What made our product standout?
- If they issued an RFP, how did our product match up to competitors?
- Were any parts of the buying process problematic?
8. Were there any surprises along the way?
- Did anything unexpected happen during the engagement?
- What suggestions would you give to others considering a solution like ours?
- What did your team like best about working with us?
- What are 2-3 reasons your company might recommend our solution/company? Why?
9. How can we improve?
Case study interviews provide an excellent opportunity to solicit honest feedback. Whatever your client shares, be a friendly sport. Don’t react negatively and don’t try to justify a reason for the problems they describe.
If you’ve ever been to a restaurant where a waitress or waiter asks you, “Is everything great?” You’ve experienced a fake request for feedback. While this half-baked tactic appears to be a standard part of restaurant customer service training, it doesn’t work.
If you ask for feedback, have thick skin and be prepared to listen intently.
- We’re always looking to improve. Are there features/functions you wish our product offered?
- Are there any parts of our solution you wished worked differently or better?
- Is there anything we could have done differently that would have made the overall experience of working with us better?
If you wind up using the contact’s feedback to make a change in your company’s products or processes, be sure to circle back and let the person know. This is a surefire way to demonstrate that your company actually listens to clients and then follows up with action. Everyone appreciates that characteristic!
10. Download this B2B Case Study Questionnaire (PDF)
To support your case study interview process, here’s a downloadable Case Study Questionnaire (PDF) that you can tailor for your business.
Sales Case Study Interview Best Practices
A case study is most effective when it tells your customer’s story. Make your client the hero. You simply offer a supporting role.
Here are a few interview best practices:
- Be a curious and attentive listener
- Ask open-ended questions
- Ask for clarification if you don’t understand a response
- If you don’t feel the client understood one of your questions, ask it again later in the interview
- Rephrasing a question in a slightly different way can sometimes lead to a better answer
- Silence after you ask a question is ok. Give your contact time to formulate their responses
- Listen for memorable testimonials and quotes
- When you ask for measurable data or objective stats, provide an example
- Try to wrap-up your interview with a few minutes to spare so you can ask your contact if he has anything important to add
- At the end of the interview, thank your contact and get her mailing address. Be sure to send a hand-written thank you card. It’s thoughtful and sets you apart from other vendors.
How do you Write a B2B Case Study?
To learn how to write a compelling B2B case study, check out this post.
Let’s Get Interviewing!
You may have started this article wondering whether or not you could conduct a productive and engaging case study interview. Hopefully, after reviewing the steps above, you feel more informed and confident. The interview process is fun and rewarding, and you can master this skill.
Now keep your momentum going. Meet with your team, select a few client candidates, and reach out. Challenge yourself to schedule an interview within the next 2-4 weeks. Prep for your call and get your contact on the phone.
When you’ve completed the interview, start the writing process immediately. Push yourself to complete a written document in a few days. With some focused effort, you’ll be well on your way to creating a series of valuable content assets.
B2B Software Case Study Writing Services
If you need help conducting a case study interview and/or writing a B2B customer success story, let’s talk.
Here are some other useful articles for conducing a B2B case study interview and writing a finished document: