What to Look for in a Case Study Customer

As wonderful as your customers are, not all of them will be right for a case study. Some might have lackluster stories to tell, or maybe they don’t know how to tell those stories in the first place. Enthusiasm can do a lot, but it often can’t make up for a lack of solid content.

It’s your job to separate the good customers from the not so good. If a customer indicates he or she is interested in a case study, fantastic—you’ve just cleared a big hurdle. But, you still need to gather a bit more information before plunging full speed ahead. All you need is 15 minutes (or less) to ask three key questions.

Three Questions that Will Reveal All You Need to Know (for Now)

You don’t need to be the next Barbara Walters, Anderson Cooper, or heck, even Kelly Ripa to figure out if the customer will make a good case study. You just need to ask three simple questions:

  1. Tell me about your company.
  2. Which of our products do you use?
  3. What benefits have you gotten from using our products?

You should look for customers who give complete answers to these questions. If they go above and beyond and actually volunteer information that you don’t specifically ask about, then that’s even better. Remember that you’re not judging customers on their speaking style; tripping over words, lots of “um”s and “uh”s—these don’t really matter, since you can fix them in the written text.

What you need to watch out for are short, vague answers. For example, if you ask about benefits and the customer replies something like, “I can’t think of anything specific… I just know your products helped us a lot,” it’s a red flag. This type of answer shows that the customer hasn’t spent any time preparing for the call, and can’t even make up something that sounds plausible. Getting good information from this individual will be like pulling teeth. Do yourself—and the customer—a favor and find someone else.

I think it (almost) goes without saying that you should also screen for customers who are generally friendly and seem easy to work with. You’ll need to contact this person off and on over the next few weeks, so if they seem like they can’t be bothered at this early stage, that’s a bad sign. Once again, you’re doing this for your mutual benefit, so if they’re giving you a hard time, it proves they don’t really get what this whole case study thing is all about.

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