Great reads, How-Tos

How to Interview Your Customers for Case Studies and Articles

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Finnish radio report Alexis af Enehjelm interviews a man fixing a car, 1930s

Very often, the best source of information about your products and services isn’t you—it’s your customers. Many times, when I work with my clients on putting together case studies and articles, I interview both customer liaisons and selected clients. After all, who knows more about the business challenges in the industry than real customers?

A good interview goes deeper and has more advantages than sending e-mail questions or calling up for a quote. Here are a few suggestions for crafting a good interview:

  • Determine the purpose of your piece and the intended audience.
  • Set expectations with your customer as to the length of the conversation and the subject and purpose of the piece you are preparing.
  • Have a clear series of questions that gives a structure to the discussion.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Allow room for answers you may not have anticipated and time to develop unexpected points.
  • With your client’s permission, record the conversation so that the discussion can flow more naturally without too many pauses for note-taking.

An often-overlooked point: choose the right person to conduct the interview. Not everyone has the skills needed to be friendly, approachable, and good at listening. Your interviewers must be focused, able to keep the discussion on-point, and objective enough to encourage the openness that form the basis for great content.

The benefits of interviewing your clients can go far beyond the article you are preparing. You may be able to repurpose the content for blog posts or use good quotes in a variety of other pieces. More importantly, a good interview gets you thinking and creates an opportunity to really understand the customer’s point of view. Your clients may bring up issues you hadn’t considered, which could lead to more ideas for marketing pieces or even improvements in the way you do business.


It Doesn’t Just Happen

I want to share with you a couple of great e-books by Bob Mayer. When some disaster overtakes a project, have you ever noticed that some people shrug their shoulders and say fatalistically, “S**t happens.” It drives me crazy because nothing could be further from the truth!

Mayer calls failure a gift that allows us to learn from our mistakes. By examining disasters such as the Titanic, Custer’s Last Stand, and the Donner Party, Mayer shows how each seemingly inevitable disaster had many points at which it could have been averted. For example:

An organization needs Cascade Stoppers. People who can step up and put the brakes on when a leader’s ego is driving everyone into an abyss. One of the greatest safety devices in an airplane is a co-pilot who is willing to speak up to the pilot.

Custer needed such a co-pilot.

Each disaster illustrates a different aspect of failure. There is so much here that applies to ordinary projects and plans that end up in the ditch. Highly recommended!

It Doesn’t Just Happen, by Bob Mayer (Volume 1: Titanic, Custer, Apollo 13, and more)

It Doesn’t Just Happen, by Bob Mayer (Volume 2: Challenger, Pearl Harbor, the Andes “Alive!” plane crash, and more) 


What’s hot!

  • Book editing and ghostwriting
  • Corporate histories
  • Case studies
  • Trade articles
  • Blogs

Thought of the month

When you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. – Mark Twain

1 thought on “How to Interview Your Customers for Case Studies and Articles”

  1. When I am considering a purchase – especially a big budget item – I spend much more time reading customer reviews than the product description or specifications.

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