Writing case studies that prime prospective customers for a sales conversation requires a specialized skillset. Why? The writer must interact with your customers flawlessly. For that primary reason, case study writers must represent your brand like an ambassador, incorporate two sets of key messages into the writing, and guide the project to a successful finish. When he succeeds, he’ll deliver a compelling sales tool, plus a variety of original complementary material.
Isn’t all long-form writing the same? Your writer researches the material, outlines the piece, writes the draft, and revises until it’s finished, right?
Those are all important steps in how to write a case study. But case study writing has one very important difference: the close interaction with clients—the “heroes” of the case study.
Because of that difference, your case study writer must possess some skills that aren’t typically required of typical copywriters.
The client interview will make or break the project
Let’s be honest. Asking a client to appear in a case study is a substantial favor. You’re asking for several hours of their time, and for them to champion the project in their company.
Several hours?! Yep. If you want to feature quantitative results, your client may need some time to dig up specifics. Then there’s the interview itself. Your case study writer will need at least 30 minutes of your client’s workday. Ideally, you’d ask for 45 or even 60 minutes. That extra time will allow him to build rapport, let the conversation meander a bit (the most authentic testimonials are spontaneous), and dig into unplanned digressions that could yield golden material not just for the case study, but for a complementary blog post or industry article.
Add in the time it will take the client to manage the internal review of the case study draft and to gain approval from other departments, and [sound of an old-school adding machine] you’ve got a request clocking in at several hours of your client’s time.
By turning the project over to a professional case study writer, you will significantly reduce the risk of wasting your client’s time. Beyond rigorous scheduling and calendar-jockeying, he’ll do everything he can to make the experience as easy as possible for the client. Because he knows how to prep for and execute a journalism-quality interview, he’ll be more likely to uncover testimonial gold and solid material for the case study. He’ll make your client feel comfortable and appreciated, avoid asking questions that could be researched beforehand, and he’ll have a recording system in place so that he can focus entirely on the nuances of the conversation.
If you leave the interview to a writer who’s only accustomed to working with internal marketing teams, your chances of failure increase. He might stick to scripted questions and miss out on opportunities to dig into ambiguous answers, or fail to notice hesitation in the client’s voice, or any of the other subtleties in conversation. He might accept fragmented, half-baked, or incomplete answers from the client and feel uncomfortable pushing for clarification. Or he might rub the client the wrong way.
A case study writer must represent your brand like an ambassador
His professionalism, punctuality, and rapport will reflect on your brand.
Even though he isn’t a part of your company, your clients will perceive him as such. If your client interprets his communication as terse, overly casual, or disorganized, your client may question your standards and the value you place on your working relationship with them.
Likewise, if your case study writer doesn’t reply to your client’s emails promptly, accommodate the client’s schedule with grace, or arrives late for the client interview, guess whose image will suffer. Yours and your company’s.
Conversely, the fact your writer isn’t affiliated with your company can be a great advantage. Some clients will give a more candid interview to an unbiased third party, and may even share some constructive criticism about their experience.
That feedback can be case study gold. A little hiccup on the road to success adds an outsized dollop of credibility to the whole piece. That’s just one of the delicate balances a case study writer must maintain in his writing. Here’s another one.
He’ll deftly incorporate two sets of key messaging
This means seamlessly merging the client’s key messages and yours.
With other types of copywriting assignments, you can hand over a creative brief and messaging platform, and rightfully expect your copywriter to produce a draft that resonates with your brand’s key messages. Not so with case studies.
Because the case study hero has agreed to share her story, she has a reasonable right to expect to influence the case study’s content. She and her colleagues will only approve the story if the content aligns with the company’s brand and messaging.
The client’s review process may take the case study draft through multiple departments, including press relations, legal, and even up to leadership for a final blessing. Some writers may find the extra delays and steps frustrating. Case study writers expect it and display unshakeable patience throughout the review process.
This doubling of priorities, combined with the general brevity of the medium (800-1,200 words), adds significant pressure to get it right. A competent case study writer will know how to navigate the messaging of both companies so they will approve the piece for publication. …without any hand-holding from you.
You can sit back and leave the hard work to him
In addition to compiling the text, your professional case study writer should be ready to accept as much control of the process as you’re comfortable handing over.
Once you have the client’s preliminary permission to appear in a case study, introduce your case study writer to the client and any relevant colleagues of your company. Then, the writer should take charge of the rest of the case study writing process. This will include:
- Scheduling internal research calls with the sales or account managers.
- Scheduling and nailing the client interview.
- Submitting a complete first draft for your internal review. (You are in the best position to do this review, as you best understand your company’s needs.)
- Managing the client’s review and comment process, while working toward timely approval. (He’s closer to the draft at that point, and can lead the integration of the client’s revision requests quickly and easily.)
You should only ever have to manage the client review process yourself if the client relationship is sensitive. If it’s solid, let the case study writer manage it himself. All you need to do is tell him how frequently to follow up, and let him take care of the rest.
The professional touch—quality over quantity
When looking for a case study writer, one modern solution is to use a crowd-sourced writing service. The premise has high appeal but delivers mediocre results. Your clients write their own stories under the pretense of personal branding. The potential for a higher quantity of customer success stories comes at the expense of poor writing quality.
Sure, if your client knows how to write an engaging story, and has the time to do so, then you might get a story that your prospects will want to read. But how many of your clients have the time, talent, and interest to write specifically for you? And if she doesn’t produce something that you’d want to put your brand on, then you’ll be stuck in a tough spot.
For many people, writing is an intensely personal process. They feel that the resulting piece reflects on their ability to organize and communicate their thoughts.
If your client takes the time to produce a draft by herself and you pass her draft over to a writer to finish, then you’ll be insinuating to your client that her writing wasn’t good enough. Not only could this negatively impact your relationship with your client, but it will take extra time and cost more. (It’s harder to resuscitate a poor piece of writing than it is to begin from scratch.)
However, if you publish the draft as-is, then you risk boring your prospects. Poor writing takes more effort to consume. It adds friction to your reader’s experience. It discourages readers and reflects poorly on your brand. The more effort it takes her to stay focused, the less likely she is to make it all the way through to the conclusion. Worst of all, it could fail to equip your sales people with memorable, concise, and powerful talking points in their sales conversations.
A case study writer is a specialist. He writes all day every day, so will always produce more effective and engaging case studies. That’s important. Everyone, even business decision makers, loves a good story.
More engagement means the reader will be more likely to consider your message, remember details in the story, and be able to share those details with peers. If the initial contact at a company reads your case study and is convinced of the need to buy your product, she can show that case study to the decision maker, and better recite its key messages.
At the follow-up meeting, the decision maker who has read the case study will have a greater understanding of how your product can help their company.
Is that an outcome you want to gamble with? If not, don’t outsource the writing to your client.
He will always maintain perspective
It can be hard to be objective when you’re too close to a topic. A case study writer has a degree of separation that can provide valuable new insight from an angle that may have been previously overlooked.
Your writer can also find fresh perspectives on your company and the way it serves clients. That fresh perspective will extend to the format of your case study. He should avoid the traditional, boring case study format: “Challenge-Solution-Results.”
You’ll know you’re working with a top-notch case study writer if he knows how to spin leftovers from the customer’s interview into several complementary, original pieces of content, such as: blog posts, teaser copy on the case study download page, or a distillation for a PPTX slide.
You should also have a clear idea of what you can expect your writer to achieve. A good writer, once introduced to the client and given a thorough brief, should take charge of the rest. See the section How to ensure your case study writer’s success for more details about what you can expect.
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