«Return to Blog List You Might Be Cut out for Case Study Writing if…
About 10 years ago, I wrote my first customer case study – and it was love at first write.
I found case study writing perfectly suited to my background, skills and interests.
But I know not everyone loves this type of copywriting as much as I do.
If you can relish the great aspects and don’t mind a few drawbacks, you just might be cut out for case study writing:
You like journalism-style writing/storytelling
Do you get energized about writing compelling stories? Customer case studies and success stories follow journalism style more than just about any other style of copywriting (except article writing).
That means written without a lot of spin or corporate speak, with an emphasis on customer quotes. It’s about recounting true experiences in truly interesting ways.
You have a knack for interviewing
Every customer story requires at least one to two interviews, if not more. You interview internal folks for background and then customers to collect details of their experiences.
The best case study writers know how to ask questions that elicit the desired response, and can respond dynamically during interviews with follow-up questions that go deeper – all while making interview subjects feel at ease.
You enjoy working mostly virtually
Whether you freelance or work for a company, you’ll be working virtually much of the time. Even if your client or company is local to you, chances are, their customers are not.
You’ll need to be on the phone for much of the information gathering.
You can deal with project delays
Customer case studies aren’t like other projects – because they involve customers. With a brochure, white paper or web copy, a company can start whenever they are ready.
Getting case studies done depends on customers’ availability and responsiveness, and that can take a while! So, they don’t necessarily happen when you expect or want them to. Sometimes you have to wait…
You aren’t afraid to write about technology
Customer stories are becoming more and more mainstream. Companies outside the technology industry are adding them to their marketing.
But much of the work is still for technology product and service providers. You don’t always need to understand HOW a product works, but you do need to understand the benefits of technology products (a big difference).
You have a working environment without noise or interruptions
This one can be tough, I know. I’m home-based and have a big German shepherd that likes to let me know when any postal/UPS carrier, neighbor or squirrel passes by.
BUT when I’m on a call with clients or their customers, she’s outside or tucked away. My clients know that I’m interacting by phone, conducting and recording interviews, and expect nothing less than a quiet, professional environment.
Their customers often assume I’m in the company’s offices. When I’m on a call with customers, I know I need to get the information without interruption because it can be hard to reach the customer again.
That’s my list.
Case study writers out there, speak up. What would you add?
Great tips!! One that I might add — which sort of goes along with “Their customers often assume I’m in the company’s offices:
It’s so important to represent the company (your employer) well. Not only will it win you points with your client, but with their customers too. I’ve had numerous clients tell me that I represent them well to their customers. That’s one of the best complements I’ve received because it reinforces my value to them and their organization — and, it makes them look even better to their customers, who see that they work only with top-notch professionals in all aspects of their business.
You’re so right! Clients can be nervous about sending a third party to talk to their best customers for case studies. Some of my clients waited a long time to get outside help for their case studies for that exact reason – they were nervous to send just anyone to talk to their customers.
If you do that with finesse, then your client feels a great deal of relief, and that builds a lot of trust in you.
I’ve seen writers get annoyed with end customers for cancelling interviews or taking too long to respond to requests. But your point shows the payoff of staying cool as you represent your client – no matter what.
Thanks for contributing to the discussion!
I’d have to say that one for the list is having an incredible curiosity.
Dealing with a variety of businesses and wanting to find out about how they do things.
Without that, you would likely get bored very quickly, or start finding things repetitive
You might be cut out for case studies if you like projects that can be completed in a day or two of actual writing, and then (usually) left behind forever. I find that the shorter formats work well for me because I don’t like getting bogged down in long projects. And you should be a curious person—if you don’t really like learning new things about obscure work then case studies are always going to be a slog.
This is a helpful overview! I have to smile when I read the section on having a professional work environment. I have 4 dogs so I am painfully aware of the effort required to keep a “neutral” environment. But having been on many a telecon where I could hear kids screaming and radios playing I know just how important it is to make a polished impression. I don’t ever want to be the writer who is remembered for having noisy dogs!
I had an experience when a customer agreed to do a case study with my client, agreed to a schedule of phone meetings/interviews, and then failed to keep those meetings–with no further response. I kept my client updated so they would know I was following through but getting no response. My client learned, through the sales rep, that the customer was having trouble with the software and didn’t feel it was appropriate to do the case study, and didn’t feel it was appropriate to discuss the problem with the writer!
As long as you keep your customer informed of any issues that occur during the case study process, they are in a position to investigate further–whereas it might be inappropriate for the writer to do so. As it turned out with this customer, he was ready 4 months later to proceed. The case study turned out to be one of the most downloaded pieces of content during the entire year.
Karl and Angus,
You both hit on the curiosity angle of case studies. Nice addition! Yeah, even if you’re writing about the same type of products, usually the end customers are very different. You have to enjoy that aspect of continuously talking to new types of companies and understanding their business.
Angus, I also totally agree on the short project benefits of case studies. I like the sense of accomplishment of completing projects, as you said, in a day or two of work.
I feel your pain! With four pups, it must be even tougher.
Sometimes it can be tricky. There are times when I don’t answer the phone and instead call someone right back – after I have safely escorted the dog out. It’s not worth the risk.
The rest of the time – writing, emailing, etc. – it’s nice to have the company of furry friends when you don’t have other coworkers.
Thanks for pointing this out! And sharing a success story about a case study. It’s nice to hear that the issue was resolved and the customer ended up happy.
Regular communication with your clients is critical. A customer can be happy one day and then not the next. You have to realize there may be more going on behind the scenes than you are aware of, and keep your contact updated. Likewise, your client contact needs to be aware of any issues with the customer and let you know, so you’re not chasing an unhappy customer for the story.
I agree–you have to represent the client professionally when talking to their customer–but also carry feedback you get back to the client. I often tell clients that their customer is more likely to speak candidly to me, an outsider, than to one of their staff members. I have done more than 100 case studies for Apple alone, as well as similar studies for IBM. Digital, Tandberg and others. People like to talk about projects in which they have invested a lot of time and effort–which helps. Sometimes I get the feeling people have been waiting for years for someone to ask them something.
Isn’t that the truth?! The bigger the project, the more customers often want to talk about it with someone. Sometimes it does seem like closure for them to tell their grand story. And they do appreciate that someone is asking them these questions. Whatever you end up hearing, good and bad, is very valuable to the company.
Writing case studies for small to medium clients who have LARGE clients can be a door-opener. Not a bad idea to do a bit of gentle/sublte self-promotion after you’d done the interview, or when you’e doing the follow-ups.
You’re right! It can be a nice door opener. Those large featured customers experience your work directly. As you said, this has to be approached delicately so client A doesn’t think you are overtly selling to its customer.
I found the most subtle way is to have an email signature. If you’re scheduling and communicating with the featured customer via email, if they need such services, then they usually ask you about it.
What have you found as the best subtle approach?
Great post Casey. I like everyone’s follow up comments too. I work in house and do all the writing and interviewing so I think my perspective is a bit different but we’re all trying to get to the final goal.
I would just add patience. I’ve had case studies in the approval process with customers for months on end – I think the longest was a year. You have to be patient and realize that the customer is probably talking to many other vendors besides you. They also have other responsibilities. Along with that patience is also setting realistic expectations for the internal folks and as one of the comments above mentioned, keep everyone informed. If the customer can’t get to the case study for another month, let your internal folks know it so that they can practice patience 🙂
Thanks for adding that very important factor – patience. It’s really true that, as the writer and person who manages approval, you have to be patient with customers on approval while also encouraging your internal contacts to remain patient and understanding. You can only push customers so much.
I’m glad you added the note about realizing everything else the customer has going on.