10 Steps to My First Video Case Study

April 1, 2014

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Chirag Ahuja


Video case studies add authenticity to your communication, as the message is coming from the customer, rather than directly from your business. It’s much easier to communicate unique selling points to a visitor in a video by showing – rather than telling – them how your product is better.

As part of our new website launch at WorkflowMax, we’re shooting eight video case studies. Each of the subjects is from a dramatically different industry - from architects to graphic designs to engineering firms, and each lives in a different location across the globe. It’s been my job to talk to them all and put together the case studies. Below I share the 10 things I’ve learned while working on my first video case study:

1. Do you know exactly what you are marketing?

Before you begin putting together your case studies, it’s important to understand exactly what problems customers have, and how your product solves them. This helps ensure you get the most informative and persuasive case study possible.

How does your product solve their problems? This may seem trivial, but you’d be surprised how many marketers don’t know what they are selling. Let me give you an example.

WorkflowMax is an all-in-one job management software. It does quoting, job costing, job management, time sheeting, invoicing, and everything in between. It does so much that you need to ask the question, “Well, this is all and well good, but what problem does it solve?”

In the last 3 months, I’ve talked to many WorkflowMax customers. I’ve heard stories from small business owners about the challenges they face in running their business. Here are the types of answers I get:

  • I love doing what I do in my business. But I hate to deal with finances, quotes, invoices, and everything else involved in running a business.
  • I was about to shut down my business. We were fed up of running the business, dealing with clients, and having to consolidate timesheets at home — I had no social life. Actually, I had no life at all.
  • Three years ago, it was hell. Trying to manage my quotes and billing was a nightmare. I was ready to throw in the towel.
  • A massive earthquake hit Christchurch in 2011. We lost all our data, as it was stored in local servers that were destroyed. It was impossible to run our business without having access to our project data. We pretty much lost everything.

After hearing these stories, I asked myself, “Am I really marketing a job management software, or am I marketing something else?”

I’m marketing something else. I’m marketing a tool that makes doing business easier, safer, faster, and more enjoyable.

2. Research and prepare.

Don’t just tape the first business that offers a case study! You’ve got to carefully strategize the best way to showcase your product.

The type of businesses you choose to focus on will determine the level of engagement from your audience. Look into your system to see who currently uses your software, and how they use it. Which functionalities and features are the most popular?

This can be much more complicated than you realize. For example, WorkflowMax is used by 5000+ businesses around the world across various industries. How do we choose the eight best businesses to do case studies on?

First, develop a screening criteria based on your marketing strategy. At WorkflowMax, we focus on marketing to:

  • Creative and marketing agencies.
  • Professional services (architects, consultants, lawyers, and engineers).
  • IT service companies.

We decided to shoot at least one case study in each industry vertical. Additionally, we have four target markets (U.S., U.K., Australia, and New Zealand), so we will be shooting two case studies in each country.

Once you’ve identified a potential list of candidates, its time to see how well they use your product or service. WorkflowMax is an all-in-one software — the more features the customers use, the more benefits they get out of it. We wanted to choose companies that are very familiar with the software. Based on these criteria, we narrowed down a manageable list of candidates in the order of preference.

3. Outreach: what’s in it for them?

Now that you have identified a potential list of candidates, its time to get the ball rolling. Before you reach out, ask yourself, what’s in it for them? Why should they spend their valuable time helping you grow your business? Yes, they may love your product and be happy to recommend it to others, but doing a video case study is asking for a lot of their time, and time is a precious resource to busy business owners.

Remember, a video case study is a great opportunity for the business owner to share and market their own business too! In your outreach, make sure you emphasize these benefits. It’s great marketing collateral for their business at no cost to them.

4. Have a preliminary chat before the shoot.

Have a brief chat with the business owner to understand a little bit about their business:

  • How big is the team?
  • When did the business start?
  • What do you love most about running the business?
  • What challenges did you face before using our product?
  • Who uses our software, and which parts of it do they use?
  • What is the top benefit you get out of using our product?

The aim here is to build good rapport with the business owner. Make sure he or she will be a fun and exciting candidate in front of the camera.

5. Get to know the business inside and out with a deeper interview.

To make sure you get the most out of the case study, you need to have a deep understanding of the roles of various individuals in the business, so you can easily identify the best way for them to share how your product has changed their lives. We usually either visit them in their office or do an hour-long Skype call.

Here are some potential questions for you to get started with:

  • Could you share a little bit about your background, your business, and how many people you have on the team?
  • What are the top three challenges you faced in [problem our product solves] before using [your product]?
  • How has [our product] helped you grow your business in the last 12 months? Do you have an example to share?
  • How does [our product] make your life easier? Can you share an example?
  • What would you say to others considering implementing [our product]?
  • What’s the ROI of [our product]?

You are the interviewer and they are the interviewee. Let them speak. Your job is to ask the right questions. Steer the conversation in the right direction, get them to speak about the benefits of your product, and about what other businesses like theirs are missing out on by not using your product.

Your interviewee is going to share many examples and stories of how your product makes their life better. There are bound to be some golden nuggets in that conversation. Make sure you record the conversation on your smartphone or a recorder and have it transcribed to analyze later (you can use this content as a great starting-point for website copy or blog content). Notes just don’t cut it in this case.

6. Collaborate with your video director.

If you’re working with a third-party video production company, it’s your job to get them up to speed. Educate them about the challenge business owners face and how your product solves them.

I shared parts of the interview transcription with Steve Adams, the video director at Socialize, who replied, “I’ve done 50+ case studies in the past 5 years. This is by far the most I’ve ever felt prepared to do the case study. Now, I know exactly what you want out of the case study.”

7. The shoot.

On the day of the shoot, brief the interviewees on what you want them to cover. You don’t need to put words in their mouth — just share the points you noted from the interview and let them roll. This helps them cover off your product’s unique selling points and how it benefits them to grow their business.

8. Get out of the office.

If you have a chance, shoot outside of the office!

Recently, we did a shoot with an architectural practice. Because of the hands-on nature of the business, we were able to do the shoot at a house under construction. Walls were being painted, a builder was rallying his troops to transport heavy construction material, and more. This B-roll made the video much more visually appealing. It helped make the case study feel more real.

We also shot at their office to showcase their team and some of the awards they’ve won. 2 or 3 sites are generally enough for a 1–2 minute video case study. Obviously, it depends on your product and the type of business you’re interviewing, but when you do get a chance, it’s worth the extra effort to get out of the office.

9. Reinforce benefits, not features.

It’s easy to focus on the features of the software rather than benefits. Marketers make this mistake all the time, and it’s easy for the business owner to do the same while shooting. I’ll give you a simple example from the architectural case study I did and how to overcome it:

  • Chirag: What’s the single biggest benefit of WorkflowMax for you as a business owner?
  • Cymon: That it’s cloud-based, and that you can manage business anywhere.
  • Chirag: Do you have an example that would like to share with me?
  • Cymon: Definitely. Every month, my first working day is blocked out on my calendar to send out all invoices. Last year, I was on a business trip to Hong Kong. It was March, and I had to make sure I kept up with invoicing as it was end of financial year. All our projects, business, time-sheet and financial information is always up-to date in WorkflowMax. Since WorkflowMax is cloud-based, I was able to send all my clients invoices while having delicious Hakka noodles at a Chinese restaurant at the Hong Kong airport. That was a dream I couldn’t have imagined a few years ago.

The feature is the fact that the software is cloud-based, but the benefit is Cymon’s ability to work from anywhere, even a Chinese restaurant. Your case study should focus on these benefits.

10. Think ahead.

While you’ve got willing participants in front of the camera, it can be a good idea to think ahead to other types of videos you might want to include on your site. Remember, video footage can be edited and reused in several different productions.

For example, you could think about producing a video on your pricing page. For the potential customer, watching several different people talk about their results can be a great way to reduce friction and land that signup. So when you conduct your interview, ask specific questions, such as “What is the Return on Investment of WorkflowMax?” with the view to their answers being used for a later video.

So I just told you what to do. Now, let’s show you the final result! :-)

Do you have any tips for conducting case studies via video? Share in the comments below!

April 1, 2014

Topic tags

Chirag Ahuja


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