B-to-B Insights: Everyone Loves a Story
Put Pen to Paper
To prepare the case study, a writer interviews the person in the customer organization who is most involved in the application. For a small business, this may be the owner; for a larger company, it could be a plant manager or engineer. Before the writer calls, the vendor salesperson or account manager handling that customer should call and make sure the customer is willing and even eager
During the interview, get as many good quotations as possible. Reason: The quotations in published case studies can do double duty as testimonials. Often interview subjects are vague with their answers, and it is up to the interviewer/writer to wring the specifics out of the interview. Whenever possible, get the subject to give you numbers, so claims and results can be specific.
For instance, if the subject says the product reduces energy costs but can’t say by how much, pin him down: “Did it reduce energy consumption more than 10 percent? More than 100 percent?” He will give you a guesstimate, which you can use as an approximate figure, i.e., “The XYZ system reduced plant energy consumption by more than 10 percent.”
Before the case study can be released, the subject of the case study—the person you interviewed—must approve and sign off on the case study. Keep these releases on file. If the subject takes a job with a different company, you may lose track of him. So you can’t afford to lose track of his signed permission form. Otherwise, if your authorization to use the case study is questioned, and you can’t produce a signed release, you may have to remove that case study from your Web site.
Ask subjects of case studies whether they are willing to serve as reference accounts. That way, a prospect whose needs relate to a particular case study can speak with the product user featured in that case study. Check your reference account list periodically to make sure names and numbers are current, and update as needed.
Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter who has written copy for more than 100 clients including IBM, AT&T, Praxair, Intuit, Forbes, and Ingersoll-Rand. McGraw-Hill calls Bob “America’s top copywriter” and he is the author of 90 books, including “The Copywriter's Handbook.” Find him online at www.bly.com or call (973) 263-0562.