Case Studies: Respecting the Client Interviewee

Case studies (also called success stories) are a great way to demonstrate your expertise to future clients. They put testimonials in context, explaining your business and showing exactly why clients say such nice things about your product or service.

If you want strong case studies, then you need cooperation from your former clients, most of whom are glad to help. But it pays to reassure clients in the following ways:

  • Let them know that they will be able to review the case study before it is published, to make sure they are happy with the way they and their company are portrayed. You also want to give them an opportunity to edit any words they feel uncomfortable with, once they see them in print.
  • Let clients know that your intent is to celebrate them and their company as much as your own. Your case study will say, “Here is someone who was smart enough to know they needed help, and we were glad to provide it.”
  • Before you use client statements in your case studies, edit them for grammar. When we speak, we are likely to wander from the main point or repeat ourselves or enter meaningless bridge words like “actually.” Without changing the meaning of what clients are saying, make sure they come across as fluent and knowledgeable.
  • Make sure you respect the client’s confidentiality. Many nonprofits help people who would be ashamed, bullied or even endangered if their involvement with the nonprofit became known through a case study. Sometimes a professional client will have moved on from the company where you originally worked together. If you are asking for their story, give them the opportunity to request a pseudonym or to be referred to by only first name or company position (“a vice president in a travel company”).

When you give a face to your clients by telling their story–and your own–you create a connection with future clients. The line between satisfying the needs of your organization and satisfying the needs of the client you are interviewing can be a thin one. Let TWP help you find the right balance in your case study or success story.

Interviewing Your Customers: The Power of the Story

If you are waiting in vain for your customers to provide a testimonial or thank you letter, you might want to try interviewing them instead. 

Unlike a customer-written testimonial or letter, an interview offers several advantages. You can clarify what the customer means by a comment and ask for the details that set their experience and your company apart from the competition. While it is nice to hear “great job!”, details make a more compelling testimonial, one that inspires potential customers to call you.

With an interview, you gain enough insight to write a success story that captures the attention of customers who recognize themselves in the story. Few marketing tools are as powerful as a good story. If you listen closely to what the customer is saying (instead of focusing on what you want the customer to say), you may gain a new perspective on the value of your products and services.

As a professional writer, research and interviewer, I enjoy interviewing my client’s customers. A freelance interviewer has the freedom to ask questions that a company owner or employee can’t ask or hasn’t considered. Customers feel more relaxed about offering feedback. In one case, a customer’s comments led to an entire new marketing area for a company, which hadn’t realized all the benefits their product brought to that customer. In another case, a customer’s comments enabled a company to address the customer’s concerns before the customer wrote a poor review.

In 20 minutes with a professional interviewer, a customer will provide strong testimonials that can be used online and in print in websites, blogs, brochures, articles, success stories and press releases. I have been interviewing customers for large and small companies for more than 15 years. Contact me today to add the power of the story to your marketing plan.


Testimonials from Customers: Three Ways to Get Great Ones

We would all like raves from our customers that we can post online or in print, but generally happy customers are silent customers. Thank you notes are wonderful but often vague and inaccurate–the client is grateful for what we did but not exactly sure what that was. Here are three ways to solicit testimonials that do you and your business credit:

(a) Let customers know upfront, before the project starts, that you’ll be asking for their feedback after the project because you are always looking to solidify and improve upon the great relationship you have with your customers. If you send out a post-project survey, make sure that the survey is short (5-10 questions at most), that you briefly ask for whatever customer data is most important to you (title of responder, location of company, contact email, years in business), that the majority of questions are multiple choice and that you include one spot where customers can write whatever they want.

(b) Ask for a testimonial (phoning is better than emailing). Remind the client what you did. Let them know you intend to quote the testimonial in your marketing material. Offer anonymity if that’s essential; however, try to at least associate the testimonial with the person’s position and industry and/or location (for example, “vice-president of marketing for a New Hampshire nonprofit” or “owner of a construction company in Portsmouth”). The more specific, the better. If you don’t receive a response to your request in two weeks, offer to draft a testimonial that the customer can edit in any way they please. Make the testimonial short–three or four sentences–and avoid generalities like “superior customer service.” Give details.

(c) Hire someone outside the company to interview your customers about their experiences. An outsider is more likely to obtain honest answers to questions such as, “Now that you’ve finished this project, what would you do differently next time?” or “Were you surprised by anything the company did?” Often, the difficult questions produce the most complimentary answers.

You may find that your testimonials can be worked into a strong success story. In fact, the reverse is also true: success stories are an excellent way to generate quotes in addition to those included in the story.

If you dread asking customers for testimonials or if you find you aren’t receiving any feedback more substantial than “great job,” contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications. We work with companies just like yours throughout the Monadnock Region and far beyond.

A Customer Walks Into Your Company….

A customer walks into your company and is greeted by two sales people.

Sales person A says, “We offer quality custom parts, specialized design, and professional project management services that provide dependable product solutions to meet customer needs. From simple products to complex cross-functional projects involving a variety of materials, functions and teams, we deliver quality products, on-time, backed by world class customer service and support.”

Sales person B says, “How may I help you?”

Which sales person do you think the customer will relate to?

Yet, website after website, brochure after brochure, success story after success story, and newsletter after newsletter sound like they were written by sales person A. The marketing content overwhelms (or underwhelms) the customer with long lists of vague claims that could apply to any industry from space station manufacturing to organic farming. The customer, in effect, doesn’t exist.

At TWP, we answer your customer’s most important question: “How will you help me?” Our solution-driven content differentiates your company from the competition and converts inquiries into sales. For marketing and technical writing that connects with customers, contact TWP today.


Five Writing Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Whether you’re writing an email or a 50 page brochure, a blog or an entire website, a one-page instruction or a success story, here are five mistakes that can cripple your effort to connect with customers:

  • You didn’t identify your audience. Before you can write for your customers, you have to know who they are and what they want. What problem are you solving for them?
  • You didn’t focus. Even major department stores, with thousands of products, focus their brochures, website and blogs on one topic at a time. A list of everything you can do or sell isn’t marketing, it’s monologuing.
  • You forgot the power of pictures. Sometimes the best way to deliver a marketing message isn’t in words but in photos, drawings and charts. (Be sure to label any pictures so that search engines can find them.)
  • You were lured by the phrase of the moment. The strongest marketing messages are those with the most truth expressed in the simplest words. Anything can be a “proactively engineered state-of-the-art system,” even a paperclip. To differentiate your product or service, stay away from the phrase of the moment.
  • You never reviewed your marketing materials as a whole. As a result, your brochure says something different from your website and your website is out of date and neither one supports your latest success story or Tweet.

A great marketing message targets a specific audience, keeps its focus, uses as few words as possible, differentiates you from the competition and is consistent. Maintain those standards, and your customers will definitely get the message.

Need help? Contact TWP Marketing & Technical Communications today.