How to Get the Story Your Client Wants to Tell
If you ask, your clients are generally happy to put out a good word for you. They’ll refer you to their friends and colleagues. They’ll respond to your customer satisfaction surveys with high marks and a smiley face. They’ll even give you a favorable review on Facebook or Google.
Unfortunately, the feedback, while good, isn’t necessarily compelling because what they have to say is flat. That is, it doesn’t take the reader up and over the dramatic arc, a necessity if you want to activate empathy – which you do.
If people are willing to talk, won’t they naturally tell their story? No. Giving you feedback is often just that - feedback. It isn’t a story. Clients need your help to uncover the story of how your product or service helped them solve a problem they decided they couldn’t live with anymore.
The way you get the story is through an interviewing process that is both open ended and probing. What results is the story that your client wants to tell and that’s the kind of story that will take your prospective buyers on a little emotional journey that results in empathy.
Preparation for the Interview
You need to reserve your interview time to uncover the information that only that particular person can give, so don’t waste time with questions that you can answer yourself. Gather background information from the people in your company who know most about the client situation. Learn about the client’s business from their website. Go to the interview subject’s LinkedIn profile to see what you can learn about their personal history.
Be the Best Interviewer by Being the Best Listener
Think of your interview as an open-ended conversation with your client. With that perspective, you’re not so concerned with asking them prepared questions, as you are listening to what they say so that you can ask good questions. The best nuggets of information are going to come from questions that begin with – “Tell me more about…” or “What do you mean when you say…”
Related: Wondering how case studies help your business? Get the Case Study Guide: How to Use Case Studies to Build Credibility, Grow Trust and Close Sales
Components of a Great Interview
The questions that you want to include in your interview are going to build the story so you need to find out:
- What was happening in their world, including the subject’s job role and their goals.
- Why they decided to do something to change their situation.
- The steps they took to look for a solution and why they chose your company.
- What it was like to work with your company.
- The successful outcomes of their relationship with you.
- How working with you has helped them achieve their organizational and personal goals.
The Surprising Thing About Your Client’s Story
The story that your client wants to tell may be a surprise to them as much as it is to you. For example, you would think that a patient story about knee surgery would be about the surgery. In a patient story for a hospital, the story that the patient wanted to tell was about her fear of being abandoned in the first hours of recovery.
In a client story for a managed IT services company, the company thought the story was going to be about how they implemented a remote monitoring and management system for different locations. The story that the client wanted to tell was about how they will not sacrifice customer service for cheap IT support.
To Get a Good Interview, Get a Good Interviewer
If you can set aside your bias and your inside perspective, you have a reasonable chance of getting a great interview. Beware, however, of the “curse of knowledge” which will cause you to unknowingly gloss over important information or compel you to focus on what you do and how you do it, instead of the problems that you solve. This is where consultants can become a very valuable extension of your company.
“Lori is an excellent extension of our brand and I know she respects our relationships with clients. I feel like our clients can be a little bit more honest, or explain their story a little bit more thoroughly because Lori wasn’t involved in what happened, which I see as a benefit.”
Courtney Casey, Director of Marketing, Accent Computer Solutions
Read about my work with Courtney.
Marketing consultants who specialize in creating case studies can become an extremely useful part of your team. Clients are often less inhibited when speaking with someone from outside of your company, and as experienced interviewers, they’re going to help your client uncover the story they want to tell. The result will be a compelling piece of content that you can use in your marketing and sales process, to build credibility, grow trust and close sales.
Get Help from a Case Study Specialist
I can help you create and publish your case studies, guiding you every step of the way. I’ll walk with you through the whole process, from contacting clients to promoting your case studies. I can also help you through the process of turning your case studies into video stories.
Contact me to start a conversation.