I write case studies for my clients regularly.
As part of the work, I interview both the client and the client’s client to hear their story of the project. I typically find interviewees follow one of two schools of thought when it comes to the interview:
- This is an exciting opportunity to talk about something interesting – and if you’re willing to listen, I’ll happily talk for hours.
- This is an exciting opportunity to demonstrate my espionage credentials and say as little as possible.
Needless to say, I very much prefer interviews with people who follow the first school of thought. This is partly because one of the defining traits of a copywriter is inherent curiosity so I find it genuinely interesting to hear someone talk in detail about their work.
But more importantly, the more information I get about the project, the better the case study will be. And by better, I mean more likely to help the company win new clients.
But even though I’d rather be interviewing people who follow the first school of thought, I understand where the people who follow the second are coming from.
I find their reluctance stems from one of two places.
The first is modesty. When you’re doing something day-in, day-out, it’s very easy to forget how good you are at what you do or how interesting other people will find it. But while the requirements for a project may seem workaday to you, they probably didn’t to your client – or, more importantly, other potential clients with the same problem. A case study is no place for misplaced modesty.
The second is concern. It might be concern that sharing information about a project will give competitors more information than you want them to have. Or perhaps concern that sharing a project’s challenges will suggest you weren’t able to cope. But if you aren’t sharing information about the type of projects you work on, how will potential clients know the sort of projects you work on or if you’d be interested in theirs? Of course, there are always commercial sensitivities to take into account, but it’s important to differentiate between these and simple fear.
But as a copywriter, these factors are by the by. Because for me to do my job to the best of my abilities, I need to get the best information I can.
So here’s how I approach customer case study interviews and get people talking.
First up, the basics.
- I make sure people know in advance that I’m going to be calling and why, especially when it’s the client’s client. After all, I wouldn’t talk about my work to a complete stranger just because they said they were legit – I’d want some evidence that they were. So I ask my clients to email their client, copying me in, letting them know I’ll be in touch.
- I arrange a time to call in advance and give them some idea of how long I expect the call to last. It means they can set aside time for the conversation and not be ambushed by an unexpected conversation they weren’t ready for.
- I give them the questions I’ll be asking in advance too. It means they have time to think back to or pull up the details of the project so they feel more prepared.
And some other tips too:
- I have the conversation in Zoom so I can record the call. It means I’m free to have a real conversation not one where I’m only half-concentrating because I’m desperately scribbling notes.
- I make sure I frame the conversation so people know I’m generally interested to hear what they have to say and why it’s important to go into as much detail as possible.
- I reassure them that they’ll be able to sign off the project so nothing will go into the public domain without them seeing it. I also reassure them I’m on their side and it’s my job to make them look good, so they can be honest without worrying I’ll drop them in it when it comes to the write up.
- I try to ask open questions so I’m not inviting single word answers.
- I’m not afraid to ask follow up questions to get more information if I need to – ‘Why?’ is the most important word in a copywriter’s interviewing lexicon.
I love writing customer case studies because they’re a great way to get an insight into a business, their approach and their strengths. It’s my job to make sure all those qualities come across in the case study. And to do that, I need the best quality information I can get in the first place. These are my tips for achieving that. What are yours?
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