«Return to Blog List Bait Customers for More Compelling Storytelling

There are moments in every customer case study interview when bells go off (in my head, at least). The customer has just uttered something that I know will give the story greater weight.

On every interview, I spend 30-60 minutes trying to get these nuggets out of a happy customer. Through a series of strategic questions, I lure the customer to tell me about their experiences in the most vivid way possible.

What makes those bells go off? Emotions, quotes and anecdotes.

Let’s look at how to get all three.

Emotions

Does emotion have a place, even in marketing the most technical solutions? Definitely. Tech solutions affect real people, day in, day out, in countless situations, and the people involved experience ups and downs.

The network is down – again – and the engineer groggily slogs into the office in the middle of the night to troubleshoot.

Or on the positive side, an IT consultant can report to his client that, with a new solution, the client will cut its storage costs in half over the next 3-5 years.

These scenarios are perfect for colorful, emotion-capturing quotes.

To get emotion out of interview subjects, ask questions such as…
•    Was there a motivating event that led you to look for a new solution?
•    Can you provide an example of how this really affected you or the business?
•    What was going through your head at the time?
•    What’s your workday like now compared to before?
•    What ultimately does this mean for your business?

Quotes

Quotes get noticed in a story, and according to fellow storytelling practitioner, Shawn Callahan of Anecdote, are a major sign to readers that a story is being told. A case study without them feels flat, colorless, while one with quotes has dimension and interest.

While you may interview subjects that spout elegant quotes the entire interview, you may have to drag them out of others.

My goal: 3 solid quotes  in every case study, if not more:
1.    Challenge quote – The first quote should speak to the challenge (why the person or business needed to make a change).
2.    Why quote – The second quote addresses the why (why the customer chose to go with this solution over others).
3.    Benefits quote – Lastly, you need a quote that captures the customer’s happiness (the outcome or results). The latter can be either a wrap-up quote or one that mentions the number-one benefit the customer experienced.

These questions may help elicit quotes with impact…
•    Tell me about the pains or problems that led you to look for a new solution.
•    Can you share your thought process in choosing [solution name]? What ultimately led you choose it over other options?
•    What’s the number-one benefit you have experienced since deploying the solution?
•    In short, what would you tell a peer about your experience with the solution?

Anecdotes

A customer case study is ultimately a story, but can you tell mini stories within the bigger story? I listen for compelling anecdotes that perfectly capture the customer’s experience with the featured solution. Then use those anecdotes for a vivid lead paragraph or quote.

Here’s an example of an anecdote that kicks off a case study:

On a recent winter day, Chris Manuel was out of state when it snowed a foot back home in Rockford, Illinois. The first thing that came to mind: clearing the snow around the 76,000-square-foot, mixed-use property he manages.

With a quick peek at his phone, he knew that one area of the lot was still snowbound. A video camera mounted on the exterior of Prairie Street Brewhouse showed the exact state of the parking lot, allowing him to take action and get the crew working on it.

To elicit anecdotes, ask…
•    Tell me about at time when it was clear things needed to change.
•    Tell me about a time when you knew things had changed for the better.
•    What did your day look like before, and now?
•    What did X process look like before, and now?

Now that you know what to listen for, be ready to hear those bells in your own customer interviews.

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