After you’ve found and vetted a customer, you can’t just ring him or her up and ask a few random questions. Well, you can, but that wouldn’t produce a good case study. Like a good scout, you always need to be prepared. Here’s what you need to do.
1. Schedule a Time
This may seem obvious, but schedule a specific time for an interview. Again, just don’t call someone and try to catch them during a free moment. Your customers are busy people, and you want to make sure they set aside some time to focus their attention on the case study. Also, be sure to respect their time—you should be able to conduct any case study interview in an hour or less. Any more than that and you’re probably either spending too much time grilling the customer on insignificant details, or you (or the customer) talk really, really slowly.
2. Create a Questionnaire and Share It
Put together a questionnaire. People—whether the interviewer or the interviewee—tend to ramble, and a questionnaire will help keep the conversation focused. This way, you’re more likely to get a comprehensive story and won’t run the risk of skipping any of the good stuff.
The questionnaire should cover all four main sections of a case study—the about, challenge, solution, and results—as well as background information about the person you’re interviewing. Not every question will apply to every customer, but it’s always good to have a comprehensive list in front of you to serve as a guide.
Always send your questionnaire to the customer ahead of time. Sorry for pulling out the bold there, but this part is crucial. I’ve heard some people argue that responses are more fresh and interesting if you put people on the spot, but in my experience, you simply get better answers if you give your customers time to prepare. Not everyone will, but it’s nice to give them the option.
Looking for a questionnaire? I know where you can find a really good one: DIY Case Studies: A Drop-Dead Simple Guide to Writing Killer Marketing Case Studies.