6 Steps to
Successful Case Studies
By Stephanie Tilton, Ten Ton
Customer case studies can go a long way toward
convincing prospects of the value of your company,
solution, or service. Here are six sure-fire steps
for effectively producing hard-hitting case.
1. Make sure you have a story to tell.
Once someone nominates a customer for a case study,
find out whether or not there's a compelling story
to tell. One suggestion is to create a backgrounder
form to be filled out by anyone suggesting a case
study candidate. At a minimum, you should gather the
• An overview of the customer's organization,
including industry, revenues, and company size
• Date the customer went live with the solution
or took advantage of the service (if this date
was recent, the customer might not yet have
enough results to share)
• The name, contact information, and role of the
person(s) to be interviewed (if these are all
technical contacts and you're trying to uncover
business results, you might need to ask for
• Proof points to demonstrate the value of the
solution/service (if these are lacking - or if
the customer isn't willing to share them - your
story will largely be anecdotal and won't pack
as much punch)
• Aspects of the engagement that should be
highlighted in the story (for instance, was the
implementation timeframe unusually short?)
2. Determine the value of the story.
Once you understand the basic customer situation,
compare it to your existing
library of case studies
(assuming one exists). Will this story complement
the list or will it be largely redundant? Some
considerations include the following:
• Will this story help round out examples of
customers in a certain industry?
• Is the customer a brand name that your company
wants to tout?
• Is the customer engaged in a market that your
company is trying to penetrate?
• Will the story highlight a solution or service
that needs more visibility?
• Are the proof points different from those in
3. Get the customer's buy in.
If the story looks promising, make sure the customer
is not only willing to be interviewed and to share
ROI metrics, but that he or she has the green light
to participate in a case study. While it's wonderful
to have an enthusiastic advocate within the
customer's organization, if the customer's marketing
or legal department is not open to going public with
details, there's no sense pursuing the story.
4. Prepare the customer.
There's a lot to be said for the element of
spontaneity in an interview. After all, the most
compelling stories are based on first-hand
interviews and include plenty of customer quotes to
move the story along. However, there's nothing more
frustrating than starting an interview only to find
out that the customer can't answer the questions.
To avoid this roadblock, send the customer a general
set of questions ahead of time, perhaps as you're
scheduling the interview time. This allows the
customer to both decide if he or she is the
appropriate interviewee, and to make sure all
information (such as ROI metrics) is in hand during
5. Nail the interview.
The following tips will help you get the most
out of an interview:
• Do a bit of research before interviewing
the customer. Recent customer press releases,
news coverage, or annual report details might
inspire questions that help draw out a unique
• Tailor the interview questions for the call -
not every question will apply to each customer
situation so don't waste everyone's time asking
• Ask open-ended questions - otherwise you'll be
stuck with lots of "yes" and "no" answers.
• Leave room to veer from the script. Some of
the most interesting questions are prompted by
the customer's responses to your original
6. Set expectations.
If you can give the customer a general idea of when
you'll be sending the case study draft - and also
get their commitment to a fast review and approval -
the entire process should go quickly and smoothly.
Don't forget to let the customer know if you'll need
anything else, such as a boilerplate company
description and logo file.
Case Study Checklist
Here's a handy checklist that summarizes these
steps. Happy storytelling!
• Did I collect background information about
• Will this story add value to the case study
• Has the customer's marketing and/or legal
department agreed to a case study being
• Did I research the customer on the Web?
• Have I tailored the interview questions?
• Have I sent a list of questions to the
• Did I explain the case study process to the
• Did I ask for the customer's boilerplate and
---Source: SalesVantage.com April
2, 2008 (www.salesvantage.com). Reach Stephanie
Tilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.