3 Customer Interview Tips for a Great Case Study

As a writer, I believe that getting a great customer interview is the key to a successful case study. When expertly guided, your customer will hand you your case study on a platter just by answering a few questions. Once it’s transcribed, you’ll read through the interview, and your story will start writing itself. But if your customer interview falls short, you’re stuck doing a lot of research and trying to connect the dots on your own.

Sometimes writers conduct the customer interview, sometimes a product marketing manager, or even an experienced sales rep. Whichever you happen to be, along with being well-informed about your product and your customer, my advice is:

Customer Interview Tip #1

Don’t be shy. Make sure your customer talks about you.

Given the chance, people usually feel most comfortable talking about what they know best—themselves. It’s human nature, so don’t expect your customers to be any different, even when they’ve agreed to an interview that’s supposed to be all about you. For example, when describing their own products and processes, customers are likely to go into great detail; when describing yours, they will probably be more inclined to generalize and skip to the next topic.

Before we look at strategies for nudging your way into the spotlight, remind yourself why you’re working on case studies to begin with. The goal here is simple: to get someone other than yourself to say nice things about your product.

To help ensure this happens, start by asking yourself what you want your case study to focus on. Make a list and be sure to put the most obvious item at the top: your product. You’d be surprised how often I’ve been asked to write up a case study from a customer interview that never mentions my employer’s product or even its basic functionality. Add to the list your product’s key benefits and everything that sets you apart from the competition.

Keep your list short so you can glance at it during the interview and make sure that your customer touches (in their own words) on the points that matter most to you.

Customer Interview Tip #2

When preparing questions, dig deeper.

All customer case studies follow a tried-and-true, feel-good formula: (a) Meet the sharp, successful customer, who (b) finds him or herself facing a truly herculean obstacle, until (c) you arrive on the scene, swooping in to help save the day.

Your case study is designed to make it easy for someone who is still just considering your product to put themselves in your customer’s shoes, imagine themselves on a similar journey, and reach a similarly happy ending. To establish this basic narrative, start by asking your customer: What challenge did you face? Why did you choose our product to overcome it? What results have you achieved using our product? These are your core questions.

But for your reader to really connect with your customer and relate to their experiences, remember, you’re not actually talking to a company, you’re talking to a person. Encourage your customer to share specific examples and tell anecdotes from their personal point of view. By asking the right questions you can help bring out their natural storytelling abilities while steering them to provide details that will showcase your product’s key strengths.

For example:

  • Ask about the company’s biggest challenges. Then personalize the question by rephrasing as: What was the most frustrating part of your job that you were able to solve when you started using our product?
  • Ask about the impact your product has had on the company as a whole. Then get more specifics by asking your contact to list their favorite feature and describe their day-to-day routine interacting with your product.
  • Don’t be afraid to go for high drama. You can ask: Did our product help you avert a crisis? Did our product enable you to do something you never thought was possible? What did you find most surprising about our product after you started using it? Has our product shifted the way you perceive your job function?
  • Don’t forget to ask for measurable improvements (in time, money, manpower) and attribute them to your product’s specific features.

Customer Interview Tip #3

Share questions ahead of time.

Since you’ve already written your questions down, there’s really no point in keeping them as a surprise.

In fact, to help your customers prepare, and help you get the best possible interview, I recommend you send them your core questions and a list of five optional ones with the instruction to choose the three they feel they can answer best.

Ask them to jot some notes down and send them back to you, or set up a preliminary call to review them together. You can then let them know what you’ll want them to elaborate on in more depth.

In conclusion:

The questions I’ve used as examples here might not be just right for you, or you may need to add a few more to hit on the specific features and benefits your product offers. But as tempting as it might be to just wing it, don’t. Prepare for your customer interview, and ask your customer to prepare a little too.

ICC Cricket World Cup 2015 Infographic wrap up

As a Kiwi living in Australia – the ICC Cricket World Cup was no doubt the sporting highlight of the year to date.

The #CWC15 final took place in Melbourne, Australia, with New Zealand’s Black Caps taking on their trans-Tasman rival and now the world champions, Australia. Cricket fans from all over the world tuned in to watch the epic battle with remnants of David vs. Goliath.

We decided to take a look at the social media buzz during the tournament (14 February to 29 March 2015). Nearly 2 million conversations took place with 38% of the conversations from fans in India, and a surprising 10% from US fans.

Here’s what people were talking about in social media land:

Kim Kardashian Has 3 Things to Teach Us about Brand Strategy

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Kim Kardashian is worth $85 million. The star has ventured into numerous markets including TV shows, food, clothes, beauty and even computer games; transforming herself into the ultimate brand! Much more than just a pretty face, Kim has built an empire in a short space of time with much of the credit going to her prosperous personal brand strategy.  Love her or loath her, she can teach us all a few things about brand strategy:

Craft The Perfect Message

As an expert in carefully crafting a brand strategy and message, Kim has successful moved away from the idea that she is only a socialite and is now seen as an influential business woman and couture fashion icon. Like all brands, personality and positioning is sculptured through clear messaging and when crafted effectively can change the way a brand is perceived by the audience.

Kim and her army of publicist have worked hard to create and implement her new personality and the role of social media has played a significant part in shaping this. With an Instagram occupied with images of luxury garments and a Twitter full of fashion conscious posts, Kim tailors her brand strategy message around the interests of her desired audience– designers and fashionistas. We can now find Kim in the front row of Fashion Week, (apparently) raking in $25,000 from a single Armani related tweet or donning the cover of Vogue- a stunt that truly cemented her role in the fashion industry.

Understand – and Use – Influence

Influencers come in all shapes and sizes, we must be sure not to revert back to basics by solely targeting journalists to spread our message. An influencer can be a blogger, a TV personality, a singer, a democrat etc. The formula of influence is simple: Trust + Reach= InfluenceInfluencers earn this position based on their reach, quality of content and how well they/ the publication are respected.

With a predominant image in the music and fashion world, Kanye West was the perfect influencer to endorse the Kim Kardashian brand. Kanye is a well-respected artist around the world and has helped Kim distribute her brand strategy message as a serious business woman. Now, we’re not saying Kimye hooked up for publicity purposes, but rather the advantage this has had on the success of her brand strategy and influence this has had on them becoming the ultimate power couple.

As marketing and PR professionals, we must ask ourselves the below questions, the answers will point us in the right direction of the best type of influencer we should be targeting to endorse our brand strategy.

  • What are we trying to achieve with our brand strategy?
  • What is the brand strategy message we’re pitching?
  • Which potential influencer’s values align best with our message and desired outcomes of our brand strategy?
  • Whose endorsement of our brand strategy will mean the most to our audience?

Increase Brand Awareness through Engaging Content

Kim is often involved in publicity stunts to ensure she stays relevant in the media. Take her attempt to break the internet for example. Posing nude (for free) for Paper magazine was no financially driven deal, but rather a very successful attempt to further fuel awareness of the Kardashian brand.

Companies use news and social media mentions as a core metric for measuring brand strategy success via brand awareness and share of voice; both of which shot through the roof for Kim after the snaps were published.  What made this stunt so successful was that it was crafted with engagement in the forefront. Kim knew the images would make people talk, whether it was her fans going crazy for her curves or critics poking fun at the photos with witty comments and user generated memes. The self-assured hashtag #BreakTheInternet came very close to doing just that.

Kim and her team are also pros at extending the life of buzz by integrating various platforms into the brand strategy. A teasing image of a new shoot may be posted on Instagram, fed into Twitter and then shared on her blog days later, only to resurface once the shoot is made public. With such an active presence on social, Kim often shares news about her life, career and responds to fans comments, knowing how powerful they are as a marketing tool. Moreover, Kim shares fashion industry related content. Being a part of the conversation we desire to be associated with only enhances our position as experts in that field and our social profiles become a ‘go to’ for our audience wanting to know the latest news around the subject.

If you’d like to write a guest post, send an email to perri.robinson@www.meltwater.com

#MarketingMinds Chat Insights – Rebranding

On 16th March, Meltwater unveiled our beautiful makeover to the world, including our next generation platform and a whole new look and feel, from logo to brand colours! Fittingly, we thought it would be cool to discuss rebranding in the latest #MarketingMinds chat, so here are the insights.

Q1. How would you define a brand?

@AdotIdotspace and @mcsaatchimena both believe a brand is anything linked to an end product or service that identifies a company from its competition. Moreover, @themiceblog understands a brand to be a set of standards. As @Kat_Plunkett points out, standards can help create trust with our audience, though @kandesign and @JBBC remind us to ensure these standards are consistent through all brand touch points.

A brand is used as a shortcut to ignite a range of ideas and emotions that can help the audience with the evaluation process. When we see an advert for Johnsons & Johnsons baby, we automatically think of words like gentle, fresh and clean. This has helped the brand diversify into different markets, for example make up wipes, as the audience continues to view the Johnsons & Johnsons brand in this way, we are likely to continue to see more and more products introduced into their portfolio.

@firedogcreative offers a slightly more abstract definition of a brand, defining it as experience and culture. Experience, culture, employee knowledge and brand history are all examples of qualities linked to a brands image that are hard to imitate. This makes them sustainable competitive advantages and key areas to focus on when delivering a unique selling point against competition.

Q2. What are the benefits of rebranding?

@ThinkDesignbuzz confirms rebranding and change tempts the audience to stop and look again, something which is difficult to encourage considering the average person is likely to see 3,500 marketing messages a day. @kandesign agrees stating rebranding can help increase awareness of a brand and offers us a chance to engage with our audience in a meaningful way. Similarly, @Spectreoutreach and @firedogcreative feel rebranding can help create fresh value for a product or service.

@JBBC and @themiceblog both write rebranding is sometimes necessary, for example changing business environments, moving strategic direction, shifting perceptions or the expansion of new market segments or original brand offering. @mcsaatchimena also acknowledges this, expressing how things change and even well-known brands need to move with the times, this sometimes involves rebranding in order to remain fresh and relevant.

@Kat_Plunkett states rebranding has the added benefit of ensuring relevance to beneficiaries and alignment with strategic direction. @firedogcreative agrees adding rebranding is about showing our values through careful positioning and a consistent look and feel.

Q3. What’s the most important factor to consider when rebranding?

@themiceblog states the most important factor to consider when rebranding is staying true to our existing customers and communicating the benefit of rebranding to them so no perceived value is lost. From an internal comms perspective, @Kat_Plunkett thinks it’s important to make sure that all employees are brought along on the rebranding journey as they are a huge part of delivering brand values. We can ensure this by starting engagement with employees early and helping them to feel ownership of the process and new brand, as well as having clear guidelines. In addition, @kandesign suggests the Marketing and HR department collaborate to further streamline the rebranding process.

On the other hand, @brandingmag believes the most important rebranding factor is deeply involving the audience and using customer insights to see whether our audience have a clearer articulation of brand values and purpose. This can be achieved via social listening. Meltwater’s media monitoring platform allows us to filter comments on social by location, gender and sentiment so that we can easily analyse how our new brand is resting with our target market and devise plans to action accordingly.

Q4. How do you know if your rebranding was a success?

Similar to the point mentioned above, @mcsaatchimena states that increased brand engagement is a sign of success, although this must of course be positive. Social media is not the only place we should be tracking in order to understand rebranding success. Online monitoring tools that track news publications can also be used to understand the difference in:

  • Media coverage
  • Reach
  • Share of voice
  • Sentiment
  • Geographic spread
  • AVE
  • Top publications interested in the rebrand
  • Top themes mentioned around the brand since the launch

Q5. What’s your favourite brand and why?

@Kat_Plunkett’s favourite brands are smaller organisations who are pros at conveying what they’re about, for example Cultivate Oxford. @mcsaatchimena opts for a much larger brand, putting Apple forward due to the effortless buzz that surrounds the company. @themiceblog feels Four Seasons is worth mentioning due to their effective brand consistency, excellent customer service and modern luxury positioning.

@kandesign proposes Spotify as a top brand, stating their recent rebrand is also really interesting to look at due to their shift in personality and identify – from a tech brand to a music brand, raising the question as to whether millennials will buy in or not? @ThinkDesignbuzz’s favourite brand is Canon due to their array of high quality products, whereas @firedogcreative loves Honda because as a brand it’s bold and always pushes boundaries.

If there are any topics you’d like to see in future #MarketingMinds chats drop a comment in the box below. If you’d like to write a guest post, send an email to perri.robinson@www.meltwater.com

VIDEO: Grumpy Cat, @FATJEW & the USCTO Link Awareness & Engagement

What do Grumpy Cat and The Fat Jew have in common with Presidential appointee Megan Smith? And what does that tell us about marketing? (And what do Canadians know about Al Gore?)

Let’s find out:

Bacon also makes an appearance. Can you find the bacon?