Case studies without quotes are like a meal without seasoning. You know something’s missing, but what?
While the expression “case study” sounds scientific, in the world of marketing, they’re stories that revolve around human problems. So a case study without a quote – a good quote — lacks a pulse. Where’s the real person with real problems that you helped?
It’s vital to hear from that human, because what your clients say about working with you will help potential clients recognize themselves in your case study.
Of course, not any old quote will do. It’s got to be good. It should illustrate the client experience or underscore the benefits of working with you. Or both!
It’s simple, really. You get quotes during an interview with the client, ideally via a phone or video call.
Since a case study follows the format of a hero’s journey – challenge, solution, and results – you want to ask questions that address each stage, e.g., What was the situation like before, during and after?
You’ll recognize good quotes when you hear them. The best quotes reveal client frustration with the problem that they’ve hired you to resolve and their relief or euphoria once you’ve helped them over the hump.
To get your source to share information and make it interesting, be sure to ask open-ended questions. These types of questions prompt the client to tell a story or describe a situation.
Most of these questions you already know the answer to, since you or someone on your team worked directly with the client. But you want to hear the answers in the client’s own words.
Sample questions you might ask include:
About the challenge
About the solution
About the results
Naturally, you’ll customize these questions for your specific business, but essentially, you’re trying to get the client to say what you did for them solved a business problem and by how much.
About vague or vanilla answers: When the client gives answers that don’t provide much details, such as “It helped improve our email marketing” or “It streamlined our delivery service,” you’ll need to probe a bit. Ask, “How did it improve your email marketing? Can you give me an example?”
If you can’t get the client on the phone, you can piece together a quote from previous recorded conversations with the client or from notes provided by whoever manages the customer relationship at your company.
I’ve done this a time or two, and while not ideal, it works in a pinch. I create quotes based on that material, and if they’re good, the client will approve them.
The worst type of quote is often one written by the client, because it sounds overly rehearsed and blah. If you’ve read press release quotes, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Since I’ve been talking about great quotes, maybe you’d like to see some examples. Here are a few from case studies I’ve written:
“Competing for the attention of craft beer drinkers is intense. Getting people to hear your brand story without interference is even harder.” Brewery Owner
“Our website needed to be more transparent and tell a better story to make us more approachable, personable and real.” VP of Business Development, Defense Contractor
“It’s been a challenge for us to grow our resources at the rate we needed to be able to do everything that we want to do.” VP of Product Development
“They stayed the course. They worked with us every step of the way on every idea we had. We really had no pushback at all from them. They were willing to do whatever it took, and that made a difference.” VP of Engineering, Payment Processing Company
“Implementing Agile practices has had a huge impact on the students. Students now have a greater say in how they learn and at what pace they learn it. They are learning to collaborate with each other and more easily tackle difficult problems with critical thinking.” President, Private School
“VSSL was there when we needed them, and they delivered high-quality work in a short period of time.” President and Founder of a Marketing Agency
When I look at these quotes, I realize that most of them fall into the challenge and results categories, not the solution. Why is that?
My best guess is that the solution deals with the nuts and bolts of what someone does for a client, e.g., assessing their current process, implementing a new one, overhauling a website, implementing a CRM, etc.
Clearly, the work you perform for a client is just as important as the challenge and results. But it appears to me that the best quotes are those that compare what life was like before and what it was like after. This is when you get an emotional – and therefore more human – response.
Great quotes are essential to a great case study. They give it life. They show that you solved a problem that affected real people at a real company. This, along with strong data, will resonate with potential clients.
A case study with just great quotes and nothing else, however, will be a puff piece. If you have to choose between a good quote and great data, then go with data. Otherwise, all you have is a client saying you did an awesome job without anything to back it up.
But ideally, you don’t have to make the choice, especially if you have a happy client who wants to talk about how terrific you are. And that’s the bonus of a case study. You can’t help but feel validated about what you offer when your client says you made their day.