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6 Traits of Case Studies that Compel and Sell: How Writers Can Deliver Stories That Sell
Customer case studies are a hot area for freelance writers. LOTS of organizations are capturing the success stories of their happy customers – and turning to freelance writers to help them do so.
It’s fun work that’s never the same, and it’s lucrative. The typical 2-page case study commands $1000-$1500, on average.
As a writer, how can you deliver case studies that resonate with the audience – and sell for your clients?
In an upcoming, 1-hour, free webinar on Feb. 6, pick up a few tips for making your case studies effective for your clients. With stronger stories, you can command high rates and keep clients coming back.
People seem SO articulate on television, right? (News flash: We’re not including Honey Boo Boo here.) Flip on the Amazing Race, Real Housewives, or the Voice - and you rarely see any of the characters stumble, stutter, or slur. In fact, they keep us on the edge of our seats with their riveting sound bites.
Truth – these people are rarely this articulate in real life. I produce reality television and corporate videos, and can vouch most humans have trouble spouting out a complete sentence on camera, much less an emotional one! No one at home sees the gazillion of hours the producer spends asking the interviewees questions, redirecting them, or begging them to “say that again with a smile on your face.”
The “reality” of reality television is this - capturing killer bites that promote your product, solution, or service TAKES WORK. Not to mention patience.
But given a little practice – anyone can elicit uber-happy sound bites from satisfied customers on camera.
Here are some guidelines before interviewing your satisfied customers:
1. Your Prep Work: Before conducting an interview, write out open-ended questions that help draw out the customer’s story. If you’ve already got a written case study on the customer, then you’ve got a head start. Share with the customer your general topics, but don’t get too specific before the interview. Focus on the words “how” and “why.” How did the widget increase your sales growth? Why would you recommend this widget to another business?
2. The Set-Up: Do not allow the interviewees to hold any notes or memorize a string of boring facts. If they do, they will sound like an awful actor in one of those cheesy furniture or used-car commercials. It’s ok to let them briefly look at a few bullet points, but then they must put their cheat sheet away.
Also, always interview people standing or sitting on a stool or a straight back chair. You want the interviewees on the edge of their seats so they are active with their hands and facial expressions. Avoid interviewing anyone sitting on a couch or a chair that resembles a Lazy-Boy. Before you know it, they’ll start to lean back and hunch over and lose energy. You’ll fall asleep – and worse – so will your future viewers!
3. The Verbiage Technique: Don’t be afraid to lead the customers into their answers, or put a few words in their mouths to get the “sound bite machine” rolling. (After all, this is business, not a Ken Burns documentary.) For example, if you need a strong bite promoting a particular product, ask the customer to repeat a few words and then “fill in the blank.” For example, “Our company would have been lost without this service because it….fill in the blank.” Before you know it, your interviewees will be pros as repeating back your question and answering with flair and substance.
4. Types of Sound Bites: Stick with emotional content sound bites versus complicated factual bites. In other words, keep the decimal points, mega-stats, and percentages for the written version of the case study if possible. If you want to include numeric or “over-the-top nerd language,” focus on one key fact per sound bite. Remember – your customers can only cram so much information in one breath. Also, remember to ask customers how the solution made them feel about their company. Excited? Positive? Life-changing? Innovative? Get creative!
5. Face-Time: Your customers must smile. This point is critical especially while interviewing techies, business execs, or anyone who looks stiff on camera! If they look frozen in person, trust me, they’ll look 10 times more rigid on camera. Do not be afraid to ask them to repeat what they just said with a smile. Viewers instantly remember a facial expression or emotion first – not what a person is saying.
Bottom line – if you feel at ease interviewing customers, they come across on camera as relaxed and confident. Your energy sets the mood during the interview! So smile, be prepared, crack a few jokes – and thank the “powers-that-be” you’re not working on the set of Honey Boo Boo or Jersey Shore.
About the Author
Lisa Weber is a seasoned freelance writer and producer with experience in corporate videos, reality television, and broadcast news (former television reporter). She has interviewed 100s of people – from the “average Joe” to the high-maintenance politician. She also authors a humorous dating blog titled www.myflirty30s.com. Learn more about Lisa at http://shootcolorado.org/lisa_weber.