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EP 307 Transcript | Joel Klettke and Creating Case Studies

By Site Strategics
April 6, 2019

Welcome back to the Edge. Writing case studies is pretty hard. They take a lot of time, you have to interview the clients, and if you don’t do it right you completely wasted everybody’s time. What’s the right way to write a case study and how do you market them afterwards? We’re talking case studies, the best way to roll those things out, all today on the Edge.

Joel Klettke Interview Word CloudVoiceover: 00:00:22 Your weekly digital marketing trends with industry trend setting guests. You’re listening and watching Edge of the Web, winners of best podcast from the Content Marketing Institute for 2017. Hear and see more at edgeofthewebradio.com. Now alongside Tom Brodbeck here’s your host Erin Sparks.

Erin Sparks: 00:00:46 Well, welcome back to the show. And thanks for joining us on our live stream every Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. If you’re listening to us from the iTunes channels or the audio channels in Google Play and in Stitcher and iHeartRadio we got a lot of different audio broadcasts going out there. We’d certainly love for you to join us on our live stream and be able to ask questions of our guests. That’s part of the entire live-casting concept of Edge of the Web radio that we enjoy doing every week. So thanks for joining us. We’re broadcasting from Edge Media Studios in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. Every week we bring you the cutting edge in information regarding digital marketing news as well as marketing influencers from around the planet. So, while we certainly appreciate our audience and our listeners, we’ve been around doing this for about eight years and we’re just getting our second wind. Right Tom?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:01:36 Yeah, second wind.

Erin Sparks: 00:01:38 Show 307, we’re getting our second wind.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:01:42 I was gonna say there’s a different kind of wind. Breaking wind.

Erin Sparks: 00:01:46 Oh wow, okay. Gonna open that one up. Because we do have an alert on our phone that we’re watching. And we’re worried about a particular dog breaking wind tonight, right? And breaking other things.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:01:59 Yeah. We’re getting updates throughout the show.

Erin Sparks: 00:02:01 All right, so Tom’s dog. We’re worried about Tom’s dog. And his wife is texting him alerts on whether or not we’ve gotten our stool sample today, and we’ll keep you abreast of the situation as it progresses. Learn more about our title sponsor Site Strategics who certainly is also inquiring about the poop alert. Hey if you’re interested in what we do over at Site Strategics, it is the owning company of Edge Media Studios. We do agile marketing, agile digital marketing, focus on results-based steerage. So we certainly would love to talk to you about what we could do for your organization. We’ll be happy to sit down for an hour. Sit down with a Skype session or a Zoom session and be able to talk to you about some of the things that we can see about your digital assets and potentially could pull a couple quick action items out of that. Happy to discuss. Just go on over to sitestrategics.com. That’s S-I-T-E strategics dot com.

Erin Sparks: 00:02:59 I’m your host, Erin Sparks. I’m the owner of Site Strategics as well as the founder of Edge Media Studios. We talk about why we do what we do on the show regularly, and I’ll tell you what. It’s really about just education. Not only for our audience’s education about some digital marketing tactics, but also education for ourself here at Site Strategics. That’s it in the long and skinny, I’m not gonna go deeper into it. How about that?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:03:20 Sounds good.

Erin Sparks: 00:03:20 All right. So to my left is Tom Brodbeck. He is the director of digital media.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:03:24 Hello.

Erin Sparks: 00:03:25 Hello. And online with us from Canada, across the border, our north neighbors, we got Joel Klettke, founder of the Case Study Buddy. Joel, how you doing sir?

Joel Klettke: 00:03:37 I’m doing good. I’m feeling good. We’re finally seeing the sun and the snow is melting and it’s looking more like a habitable planet outside so that’s all awesome.

Erin Sparks: 00:03:48 Starting to. Starting to. I know you were concerned about the poo watch that we’ve got going on here, and Tucker’s okay. But we’re watching, and we’ll keep everybody abreast of what’s happening.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:04:00 Thanks.

Joel Klettke: 00:04:01 I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t my top priority in this moment. It’s some really fascinating [crosstalk 00:04:10].

Tom Brodbeck: 00:04:09 We got March Madness and poo watch, apparently.

Erin Sparks: 00:04:11 Absolutely. Absolutely.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:04:12 And I’m already 0 for 1 on my brackets, so.

Erin Sparks: 00:04:14 Oh my gosh. Is that good or bad?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:04:16 It’s not good, Erin. It’s not a good trend.

Erin Sparks: 00:04:19 Okay. Well stop doing that.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:04:21 I will.

Erin Sparks: 00:04:21 Start picking the winners.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:04:22 I will.

Erin Sparks: 00:04:25 The Sparks family is starting to do … The first time we’re gonna do brackets with the kids. Because we got two basketball players in the house. And they’re loving it, so we’re diving in. We haven’t even done our brackets. I know I’m already past the line, so I got a win right now. I know exactly that I can be 100% as of today. But we’re doing that with the kids so they’re probably gonna beat the pants off of me because unless it’s like Hogwarts or Star Trek against Star Wars I mean I can own those brackets, truly. Obi-Wan will own Qui-Gon Jinn any time of the day, I’ll tell you.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:05:03 There we go.

Erin Sparks: 00:05:03 Come on Joel, give me some feedback here. Nothing?

Joel Klettke: 00:05:08 I’m just curious what kind of basketball team Hogwarts would have, right? Like flying brooms, what kind of rules there are. Are they allowed to use magic? I feel like they could make a good spinoff. If Rowling’s listening, I’ll write it for you.

Erin Sparks: 00:05:20 Absolutely.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:05:21 They have the Quidditch World Cup. Right?

Erin Sparks: 00:05:24 Yeah.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:05:24 Not at Hogwarts, but-

Erin Sparks: 00:05:26 Remember the guys that did “BASEketball,” the South Park guys that actually combined basketball, baseball, and what was the other sport? Basketball, baseball, and soccer I think. If you haven’t seen that. No?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:05:42 I don’t know.

Erin Sparks: 00:05:42 Am I completely off-base today?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:05:44 But we’re way off-topic here.

Erin Sparks: 00:05:45 All right, so we’re all here talking about digital marketing news. So let’s go ahead and do that. Joel, you game for going through a few stories today?

Joel Klettke: 00:05:54 Yeah, let’s do it.

Erin Sparks: 00:05:54 All right. So let’s take you through the latest digital marketing news.

Voiceover: 00:05:58 I was very excite to start my reportings. This week’s trending topics.

Erin Sparks: 00:06:05 I did mention it’s been a long day today, hasn’t it?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:06:11 Yeah, it’s been a long day.

Erin Sparks: 00:06:12 Yeah, it has been a long day. But anyway, you know what? We’re going to talk about news. So, from “The Verge,” from Vlad Savov “Stadia is about the future of YouTube, not gaming.” So Google is actually starting a revolution just to keep things as they are. Stadia, what’s Stadia Tom?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:06:31 Stadia, Google announced this week, it’s an online, cloud-based gaming platform. So, there’s many companies. This has been like the holy grail of gaming companies, is to get away from the console sort of things and just have it all in the cloud. So Google thinks, and many companies have tried it in the past but the technology is not there. But Google thinks they have the structure, they have the tech for this. So Google Stadia is essentially a cloud-based gaming-streaming platform. So they’re getting back to their roots, apparently. I didn’t know this, but YouTube started out as kind of a Twitch platform. People were streaming themselves as they were gaming and people were watching that. And that’s kind of how the evolution of YouTube began. And so they’re kind of wanting to capitalize on that. The gamine industry is one of the biggest industries there is.

Erin Sparks: 00:07:14 Oh, it’s huge. I can’t walk in my house and not see one of my kids watching some other kid playing a game.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:07:22 Yeah, and so that’s how they’re going to tap into that. So, if you’re watching somebody else streaming a game, that streamer can invite you into their game so you’re playing like Fortnite or something. And they can join. Not Fortnite, I don’t think Fortnite. There’s only one game that’s been announced with this, but that’s the goal is that they can have you join into them midstream. Or, if you wanted to play that game on your own, you could click a button there in the YouTube channel. And within five seconds you would get popped into the game.

Erin Sparks: 00:07:46 Now check this out. Surprisingly I have a little bit of information about this. Okay? All right? So, Steam, if you’re familiar with Steam Platform?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:07:52 Nope.

Erin Sparks: 00:07:52 Steam is the top streaming, the top cloud-based application gaming environment. And I mean literally they’re making money hand-over-fist. Just recently Epic Games came out and rolled out their application, or gaming cloud environment. Where it literally took, I mean Steam was making billions of dollars off of their purchasable games online. Epic just rolled out this and there’s also an emulation platform that’s being experimented on. So you don’t have to actually have your device that’s loaded up with the top-line graphic cards, the top-line memory. You can actually, literally tie into a virtual processor, a virtual gaming system, through a cloud connection where you can have the exact same rendering on your own machine and have all the rendering actually happen on the cloud side of things. So this is huge. And Google stepping into this space? They’re seeing everything. I mean the writing is on the walls. A lot of companies have already in playing, pun intended, into this market. And you’re literally going to see all gaming, all consoles, disappear. And you’re not going to have the hardware requirements that you do have right now to play a lot of these applications. Joel, take it away.

Joel Klettke: 00:09:18 Yeah. No, I’m reminded of like I have the same feeling about this as I did as a kid when Microsoft got into gaming with consoles. Like initially it just felt so weird as a kid. You’re like why would I pay Microsoft for? And they had the computing side of it. I think it’s really interesting, the play that they’re making. And everybody, I think, is betting big on Google kind of being able to corner this. Just with the clout that they have. But I think it’s important to remember this is the same company that launched Google Glass and that was a wonderful success as we all recall. And we’re still talking about it on Google+. And so you know, it’s blowing up. So I’ll be interested to see what they do. I like the move toward console-less gaming. I think it’s really going to open things up for people. I think it’s really going to change the landscape. But I am a little bit nervous about the company behind it and their reputation for absolutely peppering every good experience they’ve ever had with ads. So we’ll see that goes.

Erin Sparks: 00:10:15 Oh, yeah. You know monetization is going to be at the root of this. And, I mean, the concept of being able to join your favorite gamer in that live session? One, I mean, they are live streaming inside of YouTube these different games. But literally be able to break off and go play that game. Right? From that experience, I think is going to be huge. So, I mean, they’re lining up for a great opportunity.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:10:44 Yeah, it’s just another opportunity to collect more data about us.

Erin Sparks: 00:10:47 You better believe it. You better believe it.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:10:48 And then your ads can be even more targeted to specific individuals. If they know they like the Madden football game and they’re always playing the Colts, the Colts can target those individuals based off of that info there.

Erin Sparks: 00:10:59 You better believe it. Oh my gosh, you just unpacked a world of hurt there, didn’t you?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:11:04 Data, data, data.

Joel Klettke: 00:11:05 Something I was shocked to learn awhile ago, too, is there’s actually brokers who sell advertising space just in the game. So, for example, like in NHL 19 or whatever. If you want your logo on the boards, someone’s entire job is negotiating that. Which is just [crosstalk 00:11:19]

Erin Sparks: 00:11:19 Isn’t that messed up.

Joel Klettke: 00:11:20 It makes sense when you think about it, but it’s one of those things where it’s just like, “What? Where are we?”

Erin Sparks: 00:11:26 Well, I mean you saw “Ready Player One,” right? And literally it was just the concept there of, “Hey, with 75% of the screen dedicated to ads we can still get along and still be able to give them 25% viability. Right?” So I mean it’s going to be there. And, I mean, it’s just that next version. But literally that’s the virtual placement of ads everywhere in a virtual environment. My gosh. What do you do with that? We’re already there anyway so might as well. Resistance is futile, right?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:11:59 Just dive in. But then go listen to our Mark Schaffer episode where he talks about how we’re just ignoring ads altogether and see if it’s worth it.

Erin Sparks: 00:12:06 Yeah, exactly. There’s a dichotomy there. All right. Nothing against Mark Schaffer, he’s awesome. All right so over at “Recode” from Jason Del Rey, “Instagram just took advantage of Amazon’s biggest weakness.” Now check this out. “Instagram took a big step on Tuesday in its evolution into an online shopping destination. And, for once, Amazon finds itself looking from a position of weakness. Instagram announced that users of the photo-sharing app will, for the first time, be able to start making purchases of some products directly within the app. Capping off the social networks multi-year flirtation with becoming a real player in the online shopping environment.” We knew Pinterest and Instagram were all going to be there at some point in time. So, “Big name retailers like Nike, Zara, as well as the younger brands like Outdoor Voices and Warby Parker are among the 20-plus companies participating in this initial rollout.”

Erin Sparks: 00:13:00 Now I’ve got a question for everybody. There are, I want to say it correctly, there are some sacrosanct social media platforms. And we’re seeing people kind of dive off of the mass apps and the mass channels, getting into much more consumer-loyalty-based type of environments where there’s not nearly as much ad exploitation. This makes sense from an advertising standpoint. But it Instagram kind of going to screw up their users interaction by having such a commerce-laden environment now?

Joel Klettke: 00:13:40 I want to say.

Erin Sparks: 00:13:41 Go ahead, Joel.

Joel Klettke: 00:13:43 I’m going to say no. The reason is because I think this is, whereas something like Facebook or what have you it’s not natural behavior. But I mean when you look at the way people engage with Instagram and the way they engage with these Instagram celebrities and influencers and what not. I mean, we have things in our house right now purchased because my wife followed someone who owned said thing. I mean the amount of baby stuff we have because someone else with a baby on Instagram posted that thing? You know, it feels like a more natural dovetail. I do think they do need to be cautious with it. But if they can just kind of bake this in insidiously behind the scenes and shorten that distance from desire to purchase, take out a step of having to leave Instagram, go look this thing up. I think it could actually do it really well without pissing people off in ways that it couldn’t have worked with, say, Snapchat or Facebook or what have you.

Erin Sparks: 00:14:43 Are we in the area of? I mean, yeah, you’re going to have monetization. You’re going to have ad placement. But the sensitivity of the online consumer and the online interactor. I mean, that has to be the governing principle here. You can’t step over the line. Because you can see such a, not only market share, but just a loss, a mass exodus of individuals. I mean, they vote with their feet, right? So to speak.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:15:12 Yeah, I was going to pretty much say what Joel said. Instagram, you’re on there because you’re bored. Right? On Amazon you’re there because you need something. You’re not bored on Amazon. Maybe some people are, but I’m not. And so if you’re bored on Instagram and you’re like, “Oh, that’s a cool shirt.” Or, “That’s a cool thing.” Depending on the price of it, it’d be nice to just buy it. I mean that’s the culture we’re in now. “I need it now” type of thing. And “I see it now and I don’t want to have to go through all these steps to get it.” So I think it’s a good play for Instagram. It’s not good for people’s pocketbooks.

Erin Sparks: 00:15:45 No. No. Talk about gratification. You do that and-

Tom Brodbeck: 00:15:49 But yeah, I could see Joel’s point from the influencer-marketing side of things. If a Kardashian posts a something and just “buy now.” I mean that would just give them even more value for marketers or for businesses to use influencer marketing. Yeah, it’ll be crazy to see how this evolves but we’ll see how Amazon, I’ve always thought that’s kind of been Amazon’s weakness. It’s not a social network, it’s a storefront.

Erin Sparks: 00:16:14 Right, right, right.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:16:16 And people aren’t going there when they’re bored.

Erin Sparks: 00:16:18 It’s a research and [inaudible 00:16:20] place, right.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:16:20 Well, sometimes on Prime Video, but yeah.

Erin Sparks: 00:16:22 Yep, you’re absolutely right. Last article for this run through, from “SearchEngine Journal” from Matt Southern. Pardon me. “Google Says Don’t Blindly Stuff Text into Ecommerce Category Pages.” Now, I thought this was pretty well known. But, “Google’s John Mueller actually cautions eCommerce site owners about adding unnecessary text to the category pages.” Now what are we talking about, Tom, for the category pages?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:16:51 Yeah so if you’re an eCommerce website and generally the category pages, as you break down your products, your products are in two different categories. And an SEO play is to add content onto those category pages to help boost their value rather than just have pictures with minimal text describing what the product is. So Wayfair does a good job of it. I was just trying to pull up an example just on my computer so I can speak to it. But so their furniture section, right, has furniture. Wayfair.com/furniture and generally, at the bottom, there’s a chunk of content. A couple of paragraphs talking about furniture. Except this page that I just clicked on doesn’t have that. There it is, there’s a little paragraph of furniture. Down there at the bottom. Just gives more context to what the page is about rather than just images and product names.

Erin Sparks: 00:17:39 And we know, from our own SEO tools, regularly we’re seeing these categories as thin content pages. And we get flagged for those pages as well. So content on the page can be a good thing. Right? But, at the same time, just blindly stuffing content in there? That’s what Google is talking about. You’ve got to be careful. Because they’re certainly scrutinizing that. If you’re trying to anchor some good SEO content make it usable for the consumer. Right? As opposed to just keyword stuffing. Joel, what do you think?

Joel Klettke: 00:18:14 Can I just say that the fact that this even has to be said made my soul die a little bit. Like as a guy who writes for a living? Like you could literally replace anything in that sentence and it should apply as general good advice for life.

Erin Sparks: 00:18:26 Amen.

Joel Klettke: 00:18:27 Like don’t blindly stuff anything into anything. I don’t think it’s ever [crosstalk 00:18:31]

Tom Brodbeck: 00:18:31 Unless it’s meat into meat.

Erin Sparks: 00:18:32 Oh, yeah you better believe it. Have you ever experienced a bacon taco before? We’ll talk later.

Joel Klettke: 00:18:44 Bacon tacos aside, we’re almost due for a poop-watch update in a second here. But like honestly that this even has to be communicated and that somebody thinks this is news, to me, just shows how far we have to go especially in my industry. Like the fact that people have to stop and go, “Hey, maybe what I’m putting down there should be useful. Hey, maybe blindly stuffing text into places is not a good strategy in the year 2019.” Is just soul-crushing for me.

Erin Sparks: 00:19:15 It’s for the new ones that hadn’t got the memo yet.

Joel Klettke: 00:19:19 Yeah.

Erin Sparks: 00:19:20 Yeah, that is sad. And I don’t know if that was a bit more of a grandiose, tongue-in-cheek type of reference there. For a very, very important thing is that you don’t game the system. And eCommerce, they’re on notice. Especially just the sheer fact that eCommerce content is so blindly repeated on site after site after site for all the different affiliate eCommerce sites of distributors. That’s a challenge in its own right. So, yeah, don’t do it.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:19:56 There we go.

Erin Sparks: 00:19:57 There we go. All right, but what we do want you to do is join the newsletter from Edge of the Web. Every week we’re sending out some great content. Interviews that we had with our guests. Who’s going to be upcoming on the show. Some of these news articles. As well as maybe a tip or two coming out of our team here at Site Strategics. It’s free-of-charge, we will never use your email for anything except sending over nuggets of digital gold. Text to the number 22828 the word “EdgeTalk,” don’t do it while you’re driving, and we can get that signup process going. Or go over to edgeofthewebradio.com, sign up right there at the header and you’ll be part of the family. Right?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:20:35 That’s right.

Erin Sparks: 00:20:37 It’s all about sharing. Come on, get on the newsletter. Okay, so how is Tucker doing?

Tom Brodbeck: 00:20:44 I haven’t gotten an update so we’re still waiting.

Erin Sparks: 00:20:46 We’re tense. We’re tense, this could be the time. All right. So follow all of our trending topics over at edgeofthewebradio.com. And, hey, let us know how we’re doing on that side of the fence. But let’s deep dive now with this week’s featured guest.

Voiceover: 00:21:02 Now it’s time for Edge of the Web featured interview with Joel Klettke. Founder of Case Study Buddy.

Erin Sparks: 00:21:11 Joel Klettke, he’s coming from Calgary, Alberta. Joel, let’s interview. We are interviewing. We’ve been able to connect that. Right? Let’s introduce you to our audience. Joel is a conversion-focused copywriter. I just want to repeat that again. A conversion-focused copywriter, I just love that phrase, and strategist who has worked with clients like HubSpot, WP Engine, Safelite, and ion interactive. Joel is also the founder of Case Study Buddy, where he actually helps companies tell their story and prove their worth through the use of case studies. And that is a very unique talent and a very coveted talent, actually, all things being equal. Because case studies are the bane of content creation. Right? At the same time they’re so useful and they’re so, so important from a conversion standpoint. So Joel give us an idea of your backstory. How did you get into digital marketing to begin with?

Joel Klettke: 00:22:14 Yeah, so it all starts with industrial labeling machines and me flunking out trying to sell those B2B on the phone. Came home dejected from the other side of the country and thought, “What am I going to do?” Got a call from a digital marketing agency and had a chance to be an in-house SEO with them for awhile. So I did that for about five years. And then always loved writing, never saw a career in it until I was in that agency environment and suddenly saw, “Hey, someone has to write these websites. Someone has to write these ads. Someone has to write this content.” And this was right around kind of when I was realizing all of this was so important, 2011, 2012. And so by 2013 I saw the whole industry turning their attention towards content and copy being important. Struck while the iron was hot. Went out on my own and that kind of got me to now from there. Started studying the conversion side of things and Joanna Wiebe’s work at Copy Hackers. And Peep Laja and all of those people at ConversionXL.

Joel Klettke: 00:23:11 And it married the two things that I really love and enjoy: the creative side of writing and the analytical side of kicking your competitors’ asses. And I put them together and now I’ve going to a career out of it. And the case studies bit came a little bit after that. But that is kind of the 30,000 foot view of how I got into this mess.

Erin Sparks: 00:23:34 That’s a well-honed delivery right there. And you can tell he’s a copywriter. You know? But, at the same time, laying down the gauntlet to other competitors. That’s a rarity when it comes to copywriters. So getting into case studies. That’s where you’re actually going toe-to-toe with other companies. Right? And when it gets down to it, if the buyer is going through their comparison of different companies online, ultimately they’re going to look at have you done what I need before for somebody else. Right? So then you have, how do you actually showcase your portfolio? How do you showcase what you’ve done for other services. Right? It’s another factor of the buyers journey and it’s a very important factor because that’s a big decision-making space right there. Right?

Joel Klettke: 00:24:27 Yeah. I mean we always try to tell clients, and especially when I get onstage and people are asking about or in conversations, we’re in a time when markets are fierce. If you’re an agency there’s so much competition. If you’re a SAS there’s so much competition. People can copy your features. People can copy your messaging. People can copy your approach. But the thing that nobody can steal from you, nobody can take from you, is your proof. Nobody can take your success stories, they’re yours. They’re only yours. They’ll always only ever be yours. And so especially now what we’re seeing is as the competition heats up as the consumer has more of the power of the relationship, and it’s been that way for a long time. Having these stories, being able to demonstrate, being able to showcase that is becoming less of a “nice to have” and more of an essential, “Here’s how we compete. Here’s we differentiate it.” And the smart companies are starting to really sit up, take notice of that, and go from having this as one small footnote on their content calendar or a largely ignored function of marketing and sales and they’re starting to prioritize these. Because they’re seeing, “Hey, they matter a lot and they’ve got a ton of utility too.”

Tom Brodbeck: 00:25:36 Yeah, I like that. The, “Nobody can steal your proof.” That’s a great thought there.

Erin Sparks: 00:25:40 Absolutely. Absolutely. And that’s what it gets down to is that, “Yeah, you can spin anything any way, but you can’t claim another company’s successes.” Right? So there’s a lot of ways to promote case studies. But let’s get back to the basics here because, like I introduced at the beginning, case studies are difficult. Now there’s a reason why they’re difficult. Maybe not for you, but certainly for a number of us out here. Can you let us know why are they challenging to write content for and create?

Joel Klettke: 00:26:19 Yeah. I think anyone who thinks writing case studies is easy has never tried to do one. And they’re complicated because there’s a lot of moving pieces. There’s the brand and your goals and your strategies. But then there’s a client you have to get buy-in from and get them to agree to be interviewed and manage that. And then they’re political. Different people in the same organization might want different things or prioritize different elements. And then there’s the legal side of it, making sure you’ve got release and that you can actually put this out into the world. And that you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s. And so the more that you do these, I’ve seen things doing case studies that I never thought I would see before. We just had a situation where, I mean, we typically do phone interviews. And you think, “Yeah, this is the best way to do it.” Or, you know, a video interview. But we came into a situation where a client’s customer absolutely refused to be featured unless the only way we conducted the interview was through chat.

Joel Klettke: 00:27:13 And so there’s stuff out there that you can’t even account for. There’s just a lot of all this politics, mechanics of it. And we haven’t even talked about the actual storytelling. And telling a compelling story and writing the thing in a way that people want to pick up and read. So there’s way more that goes into these than I think most people realize when they set out to do them.

Erin Sparks: 00:27:33 No, no you’re right. And you mentioned one major area which is the interview process. Right? Because that’s a big ask of a client. Is, “Hey, not only did we do a good job. We want you to basically publicly claim that we did a good job in one way, shape, or form for you.” So they have to be bought into, they need to be a champion of your work. Which they certainly would be if you won the day for them. Right? But at the same time they’re sticking their brand out there as brand equity. So there’s this relationship that has to be formed there. Right? That’s an important factor right there. But, at the same time, collecting the information and then being able to present it in a way that consumers want to read it. Can you unpack that right there?

Joel Klettke: 00:28:31 Yeah. So I mean let’s start with the fact that case studies are not about your company, really. They’re not about your product. Your product is not the hero. They’re human success stories. That somebody in an organization had a challenge, you came in and helped them solve that challenge. But they’re the hero. They’re the hero for having chose you. They’re the hero for having gone through that process. The goal of the case study is to tell a very human, relatable story so that a lead can see their problems, their challenges, and the results they want and feel like they can be the hero too. And so when it comes to capturing this information I think that’s where people fall on their face. They do it in a really heavily-scripted way or they don’t do it at all. So they try to write these in isolation. They don’t involve the customer, which is a sure-fire way to fail. Because how can you have a customer success story without the customer?

Joel Klettke: 00:29:17 But capturing this information you need to capture the arc. Not just the impact statement, which is nice, like “Oh, we saw a 50% lift.” Yeah, that’s great. That’s not a case study. A case study has to take someone from where they were and the tension of that and the pain of that and the uncertainty and whatever it may be of that situation and walk someone through, in a very real, visceral, emotional way, where they wound up and how they got there. And the best case studies that I’ve ever seen, when we’re doing them, what we’re continually aspiring to do is to make these less of a business doc. And less of a static, “We did this then this then this.” And capture more of the actual human story in that trajectory. So you have to turn your interviewee into a storyteller. You have to ask about their experience not just their opinion. Not just their results, but what those results meant. And then put it together in a way people want to read. So I just pretty much described the ocean and tried to compress it to a raindrop, but we can [inaudible 00:30:15] the specifics of that, too. And get into some of the in-the-weeds, tactical, “go do this” type of thing.

Erin Sparks: 00:30:20 Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, I mean, well said. And there’s so much in what you said. What type of planning should be done before even starting a case study? Because you’re talking about the emotional impact and there’s such a marketing play there and it’s such an authentic play there, from the communications side of things. What does a business have to do just to even begin the process?

Joel Klettke: 00:30:49 Yeah. I mean it comes down to first you have to define, “What kind of stories do we need to tell?” So you’ve got objectives. You’ve got, whether it’s you want to promote a new product. Whether it’s you want to promote a new part of your service. You want to reach a particular person in a particular role. You want to grow into an industry. You have to stop and define like, “What is our goal here? Why are we trying to capture these stories?” Because that’s going to define for you who you need to talk to. It’s going to make a difference when it comes to what type of story you need to tell in terms of, “Well, what problem do we want to highlight in this story? And what kind of client or person in our client list or customer base had this type of problem?” So you don’t just want to tell any story. Yes, some social proof, some case studies will always be better for you than none. But what type of story aligns with where you, as a company, are trying to go and the objectives that you have? And when you define that then it becomes a lot more obvious who would make sense to approach to try to get them to take part. So it all starts there.

Erin Sparks: 00:31:48 So you’re defining objectives of what you want to accomplish. Right? But the case study is about the client and what you’re able to accomplish for them. So connecting the dots there. Because you’re trying to accomplish something that’s going to make an impact to your marketing initiatives. Right? But you have to get yourself out of your shoes and look at how important it was for the client that they had. So there’s a jump there or your initiative, your goal set and really kind of putting that as a second player compared to telling the story for your client. Right?

Joel Klettke: 00:32:29 Right. I mean, let me give you a tangible example. Let’s say that you are an agency. And you really want to highlight the fact that you feel like you feel like you’ve got really great customer service. But everybody and their dog on their website says, “We take the time to get to know you.” So it’s totally worthless to put that now. You want a story that demonstrates that part of what you do. So that gives you at least some idea, categorically. You can think through, “Okay. Who do we know that we’ve provided a good experience for? What kind of stories are we aware of now?” And you can also, if you have no clue, then you can do some discovery with that intent. You can ask your customer base questions to find out, “Hey, who’s got a story. Who’s had an impact that aligns with the thing that we’re trying to put out there?” Same with a product. If you’re trying to promote SEO then it doesn’t make sense to publish PPC case studies. Because that’s never going to get you where you want to go.

Joel Klettke: 00:33:19 So it’s about putting some meaningful boundaries on the type of story you want to tell, the type of criteria aligned to that goal. Once you know that it’s much easier to then go and explore the ins and outs of somebody stories. And you can still be surprised by what they say. It doesn’t mean that it’s now robotic and you use that human element. But you want to look for those people that have a story that kind of fits with the narrative that you’re trying to put out there or the areas that you’re trying to grow in as well.

Erin Sparks: 00:33:47 Excellent, excellent. So talking about the questions. Right? So you’ve identified that particular service or that particular initiative. And, in learning from your clients, the inquiring of case studies has an additional benefit. Has an incredible customer service benefit as well. Doesn’t it? Just picking up the phone and talking to these different clients?

Joel Klettke: 00:34:13 Yeah. I mean, not only do you learn. You get this outside perspective, the customer’s perspective, on what you’re doing well and what their experience was like. Often times if you ask the right way, especially if it’s not you asking. Because it’s really hard to go to a client and say, “Hey, can you just praise us for awhile ? Or like be really objective about our relationship while I’m sitting across the desk from you?” That’s hard, right? That’s why a lot of people choose to have a third-party come and do this because it takes the pressure off of everybody. And people can be more honest. But you discover things that you knew about yourself, but things that you maybe didn’t know. We have gone in to do case study interviews and found out that the person that we’re interviewing, that for some reason agreed to be in this case study, is actually not happy and thinking about leaving. It does happen. It sounds outlandish. You’re thinking that’s an edge case, I’ve seen it multiple times.

Joel Klettke: 00:35:01 But what’s great about these interviews, and we can get into the specific questions you ask, is you start to capture in the customer’s own words what their experience is like. What they appreciated about that. What surprised them about that. And that is invaluable ammunition. On the other side of my career I’m working on conversion copywriting, I’m working on landing pages, I’m working on ads and that type of thing. Knowing how to take your customer’s words and the way that a customer who loved the experience talks about the outcome that they got or the pain that they had coming in or why they chose you? Taking those words and bringing that into that other side? It’s invaluable for that area, too. It’s also invaluable for things like onboarding new hires. If you can show them a transcript or a video or show them a case study of someone talking about what they love about the company, suddenly you’ve got this great culture piece. Where it’s like, “This is what we’re about. This is how we want to make people feel. This is the way we do what we do.” And it’s not just coming from some dry, stuffy manual. It’s, “Hey, here’s an actual customer talking about why they chose and stuck with us and the result we go and why that mattered and made a difference to them.” It’s a huge cultural asset, too.

Erin Sparks: 00:36:09 No, that’s fantastic. So the case study, and this is the thing, outside of any other type of content this has so many different impacts internal of your organization as well as external of your organization. It’s a very unique production, isn’t it?

Joel Klettke: 00:36:28 Yeah, the thing that I tell clients, and I love sharing this because a light bulb tends to go on. People come in thinking that they want a case study so that they can relegate it to a sad little corner of their website in the resources section and go, “Hey, we did case studies.” But when you start talking with them about all the ways that you can use this. It literally can be used across the entire funnel. You can use a case study to attract leads and get them interested and have the opportunity to nurture. You can use a case study to actually nurture them towards purchase. You can use a case study to help get an upsell. So you can show them, “Hey, here’s someone who made that decision to buy this premium version and what they got out of it.” You can use a case study to win back a dead lead. So, with software, somebody has left, they tried the product. Maybe it wasn’t a fit at the time, you need a natural in to talk to them again? Send them a case study that, “Hey, here’s someone that’s kind of like you that gave us a second try or gave us a try and this is the outcome they got. Would you like to have a conversation?”

Joel Klettke: 00:37:23 There’s just so much utility externally. And then internally with these “campfire stories” we call them. Where, again, it’s kind of, “Rally around the campfire and let’s talk about our success. Let’s talk about what customers see us as.” There’s opportunities for voice and tone and all of it. So it will never not be beneficial to talk to your customers, but even more so when it’s in such a structured and documented way.

Erin Sparks: 00:37:47 Yeah, so let’s talk about the discipline of that intake. So asking questions. You can certainly ask a number of biased questions that are self-fulfilling in one way, shape, or form.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:38:00 How awesome am I? Tell me in three words.

Erin Sparks: 00:38:04 So I’m sure you’ve been given a number of, “Yeah, ask them this set.” And you’re just shaking your head going, “Okay. Are you a freaking narcissist or what?” Right? So what kind of questions should you ask during a customer interview for a case study?

Joel Klettke: 00:38:23 I’m going to start real quick by saying your mentality going in, there’s two things to keep in mind. As much as you’re there to talk, you’re much more just there to listen and probe and explore. And the second thing is that your goal in a case study interview is to make the person you’re interviewing a storyteller. And you don’t ask questions about opinion, you’re asking about the experience. So some of the questions that we really like. Let’s start from the top when we’re talking about what was going on before. One of my favorite questions I learned from Joanna Wiebe is literally, “What was going on in your business that sent you looking for a solution like ours or like X company?” You can also ask them, and I love this question, I recently got the wording from a peer named Jen Havice who’s great on customer research. “When did you realize the old way of doing things wasn’t working?” And, in just a few words, they’re going to open up.

Joel Klettke: 00:39:13 That’s an emotional question, but it’s also like, it’s real hard to tell people, “Well, what other alternatives did you consider?” And they go, “I did this and this.” Not that interesting. But when you ask them, “When did you realize the old way wasn’t working?” Suddenly it’s a storytelling question. They let it out. They go, “Oh, man, it was so frustrating. We were trying to do this. It wasn’t working for that reason.” And with one question you get this super loaded response. I love those questions where you ask one thing and you get five minutes of dialogue from the person back. And then when we’re talking about their experience of the solution the most important question you can ask is why. Or, “Why did that matter to you?” So when they’re talking about what the experience was like saying, “Why was that important to you? Why did you value that?” Right? You have to kind of be like the annoying six year old in the van on the way to McDonald’s. “Are we there? Why? Why? Why?” Right?

Joel Klettke: 00:40:01 But asking why gives your lead, because keep in mind you’re nervous. Most people are nervous running an interview. It’s not comfortable for a lot of us. But your interviewee is nervous too. Because they want to make you look good. They want to avoid saying the wrong thing, putting their foot in their mouth. So asking why is like a second chance. It’s like a chance for them to go, “Oh, I wish I’d also said this.” So asking about the experience. Two questions I really like are, “What surprised you about that? What surprised you about working with us?” And then the other question I also really like to ask them is, “Where could we have done better? What could we have changed?”

Erin Sparks: 00:40:39 Yeah. I was going to ask you if that’s part of that. Because it certainly would be a consumer service goldmine there. Forgive me. Keep on going.

Joel Klettke: 00:40:47 No, no. And it is a goldmine. Because too many people think case study interviews are only about what went right. But it’s good to talk about what went wrong. And it’s good to actually write about, in the case study, what went wrong. Where you had to pivot or adjust or the strategy didn’t work so you did this instead. That’s a more believable story than, “Hey, we’re all heroes and everything was dandy.” And then the final thing for the results section, when you’re talking about the impact. The biggest mistake people make is they only talk about the what. It’s like, “We saw a 50% lift.” I’m like, “That’s very impressive.” Most people go, “Hooray! We did it!” And they stop. The question to ask is, “What did that mean?” What did that mean for that person? What did that mean for their team? What did that mean for the business. Because a 50% lift is impressive. But if that 50% lift in, let’s say, sales or conversions meant that they could hire new staff or they could expand into an international market. That’s a way more compelling story than just a dead end metric. So you’ve taken that dead end metric and made it all the more compelling but adding some story to it. Adding some why.

Joel Klettke: 00:41:41 So those are some questions we like to ask. We follow a BDA format: before, during, after. And it’s important to go in having a question set, but to let the conversation go where it may. And to reel them back in if they get offtrack. But to always bring it back to before, during, after. Because that’s a narrative arc and you’re making them a storyteller as you do that.

Erin Sparks: 00:42:00 So, I’m sure that as the consumer or the client starts getting an understanding of the pace and the cadence of things. It is truly a deft talent to be able to unpack that and allow them to be able to really be forthcoming. Because it still is, they know they’re in the pocket to create value and marketing opportunity for your client. Right? So, I mean you’ve got a talent to be able to get them to share the information. What do you do with the information if it comes back negative? Like you said, there’s a number of scenarios that, oh my gosh, they’re finding out some information. How do you convey that to the company that’s hiring you for the case study research? And what can they do to not only take that internal and use that information, but how can they help solve that frustration, the surprise frustration? Have you seen a scenario in which it went really well for organizations?

Joel Klettke: 00:43:15 Yeah. We’ve seen rescue operations where they found out, “Hey, this is something. We didn’t know they were thinking about leaving or considering other options.” And because we could ask them, “Oh, why is that?” Or you know, “What would you improve?” Or, “Where could they do better?” People tend to be, by the time that we’re asking those improvement questions, their guard tends to be down. We’ve already talked so much about the feel good stuff. But, in the event that something negative comes back, we’ve really operated with kind of an “honesty is the best policy.” We don’t try to soften the blow. We don’t try to solve the problem for them and say, “Oh, no. I’m sure they meant that.” That is suicide as a third-party. We just communicate it to them. The client voiced this concern. They said that this was something they could see you working on. We recommend that you surface this internally to whoever is the best person to help.

Joel Klettke: 00:44:01 And, where everything is is really emotional with what we’re trying to do and we’re trying to capture an emotional story? That piece, we keep emotions out of it. Because we provide a transcript, we provide a recording. They can go back. If they want to listen to it they can hear it for themselves. But when we’re communicating like, “Hey, there’s a problem” We’re not trying to induce panic. We’re not trying to make someone freak out. But we say, “Hey, this is something they mentioned. And, you know, it’s a priority and we’ll flag it.” You know, we always send the transcript or recording and then a summary email. And that’ll be in the bullets in that summary is, “This is something that should be addressed.” And at the end of the day our job is to capture the best possible story. If there’s not a great story that’s not our fault. Our job is to capture the honest truth about that relationship.

Erin Sparks: 00:44:46 I mean even that, like “Inception,” even the execution of a case study could be a case study into itself by the company. Learning more and, if there’s something screwed up, they use that as a rescue process. So kind of like an egg within an egg kind of thing.

Tom Brodbeck: 00:45:03 Yeah.

Erin Sparks: 00:45:03 Yeah.

Joel Klettke: 00:45:04 Gets very meta.

Erin Sparks: 00:45:07 One of our stream watchers, Sherman Morrison, actually asked a question. “How would you go about the process of just how to choose a case study if you have a bunch of potential options?”

Joel Klettke: 00:45:21 I can promise you that, so this is my bias speaking, but you might think you have a whole bunch of options and maybe you legitimately do. They’ve all like signed up to say, “Yes. Hooray! We’re going to do it.” The way that we do it and when we help clients who are looking to kind of filter through and find great stories is we typically use a short survey. And we kind of pre-, I’m trying to think of the word, but pre-screen those people who are willing with a couple very fast questions. The same kind of thing we would use in a live interview. But we send a very short survey. And, when I say short we’re talking one to three questions, to capture the impact. To capture kind of who they are. Whatever we’ve defined in that first stage as integral to our strategy. We kind of define that first and then we use a short survey to identify, “Okay, this has the best impact or this has the best story that we can tell.” And we go about it that way.

Joel Klettke: 00:46:14 I mean there’s other factors like if someone is going to leave their position, move onto another company and the time is limited. Yeah, okay, you might mix that up. But generally you’re always starting from strategy and going, “Okay, well who aligns best.” And a really quick survey is often a good way that doesn’t burden you, doesn’t burden them, to capture some of the details. And you can just bake it into being part of the process. Saying, “Hey, we’re just trying to queue up some interviews. And, as part of that, we’re trying to get some hints into the stories being told.”

Erin Sparks: 00:46:43 No, very good. Very good. Conversely, so you’re in the process, you’re queuing up your structured questions. You’re dialing in for their why, not your why. And, on top of that, dialing into what the impact was as opposed to just the metric that was performed or was measurable. What topics and questions should be avoided during a customer interview.

Joel Klettke: 00:47:09 You know, no one has ever asked me that. But I appreciate that you did. This is the first time. Yes/no questions are, again, they’re dead ends. Any question that a person can’t elaborate on. Any question that is a single word answer should not be asked. When it comes to asking about results and metrics, it’s a sensitive topic. You need to be gentle with it. If the first time your client hears that you’re looking for a specific metric is on the call, you blew it. They’re going to be surprised. They may be uncomfortable. They may feel like you’re asking them for something that they didn’t expect. So I would say avoid questions about hard metrics if you haven’t preempted them by sending them an email saying, “Hey, here’s the type of thing that we’re looking for.” That gives them some homework so they can actually go and pull the numbers for the call. Or they can communicate, “Hey, we’re not comfortable sharing that.” And that’s okay. It’s more of a sensitive one. It’s not like an absolute no. But yes/no is pretty much the main one.

Joel Klettke: 00:48:04 And then you just want to avoid questions that sort of open the floodgates where they’re opinion questions. So I’m not a big fan of asking questions like, “Well, what do you think the company should do next?” Or like, “Would you buy this thing if they put it out there?” Because the answer is really unreliable. So any question that isn’t rooted in their experience we tend to steer clear from because it’s not good fodder for a case study.

Erin Sparks: 00:48:26 Oh, very, very good. Very good. Hey, we’ve got another question from our livestream. Apologies upfront here. Ronan [inaudible 00:48:34], I’m going to go with it and apologies if I didn’t get it right. “How many words should a case study be?” They say, “I presume people hit a wall with how long they want to read or something like that.”

Joel Klettke: 00:48:48 Yeah. So the fantastic, wonderful thing is that the myth that people don’t read is exactly that. It’s a myth. People read things as long as they’re interesting to them and they see themselves in it. No, interestingly, DocSend did a huge study of, I’m going to butcher the actual metrics, but it’s in the millions of pieces of content. And DocSend has the ability to look at how people actually engage, how much of it they actually read and pay attention to. And the good news is case studies are the highest-performing asset by orders of magnitude. People finish these things more than white papers, more than eBooks, more than blog posts, more than any other type of content asset DocSend saw. They actually recommended, and I’m going to provide the link to you guys to share later on if you put it in the show notes because it’s escaping me right now. But they also looked at the ideal length.

Joel Klettke: 00:49:39 It is specific to situation, and I’ll talk about that in a second, but I believe what they found was that things really cap out around five pages. If you’re longer than that, and keep in mind these are designed pages not just raw text, like chunks of text. But around five pages things tend to drop off. I know there’s been other studies, I think, where they said it was around two. It depends on the use case, but I would say if you could keep it to somewhere between two and five. And if the content is compelling you’re doing well. I want to quickly elaborate on my point about use case. There are situations that call for a very detailed study. There are situations that call for what we call a narrative study. And that’s where someone really wants the details on the how. They’re really interested in digging into that solution section in a way you can’t capture in a single paragraph and bullet points.

Joel Klettke: 00:50:32 I mean it’s one thing for a design company to say, “We did customer research and then we did this and then we did that.” In bullets and that’s enough for somebody who’s just casually browsing. But for someone seriously interested in the process that’s not going to cut it. So when you have a lead who is in the consideration stage, they’re more aware, they’re very interested in the process. You need that sort of narrative-type study. If you’re doing something say like an ad, though, you probably want to have something shorter that you’re pushing too. That they can read, get the gist of, and then you can push to download the full study if they’re interested in it. So it is specific to use case. The other thing I’ll say too is that if you’re doing something like cold outreach with email, shorter does tend to work better if the prospect has never heard of you before. Because, again, you’re working with limited attention budget. If you send them a 2,000-word piece they may read it, they may not. But if you send them a 500-word piece your odds improve.

Erin Sparks: 00:51:19 Yeah, it’s about the intent of that buyer or that consumer how you kind of piecemeal it through. So it could very well be a couple of stops along the way, picking up more information about that case study. But, to your point about the most consumed content, I would bet his dog who hasn’t pooped yet on the fact that they return back to that case study again and again and again and again. It is a factor of review for potentially doing business with whatever company you’re looking at. And it’s a benchmark that you want to refer back and connect to that potential story. Right?

Joel Klettke: 00:52:03 Yeah. Which is also why it baffles me that so many people don’t put calls to action at the end of their case studies. They have these beautiful stories and then it’s kind of “The End.” And it’s like, “What now?” Right? At that point, your lead is like, “This is good. This is good. This is good. Nothing.” So, you know, have a call to action. Have a button. If you have PDFs, hey, plop a button in that sucker and push them to whatever the most appropriate way to contact you or way to get started might be. Have a context-specific call to action. If you have talked about a certain pain or a certain solution or a certain type of role in the study? Hey, maybe the call to action should be about that? But push them from the case study to take action. And that’s also why I’m generally not in favor of gating case studies. People always want to lock them up like, “We want the email and then we can nurture them.” Let the case study do its job. Put a call to action in that thing. If they don’t contact you after reading that sucker, they’re never going to buy from you anyways.

Erin Sparks: 00:53:05 There you go. The case study is also, it could be used as a screening technique for potential clients that aren’t ready to be able to engage in the full manner of services that you provide. So there’s that. I wanted to make a stop along design. Because as much as you’ve got the data, the content, you’ve word-smithed it from a conversion standpoint. As well as an impassioned and authentic standpoint of what the story was. Your attention from the online browser of this content is still, you’ve got to hook them visually. I keep on thinking about infographics as the guiding factor of case studies. Give us some more wisdom on that side of the fence.

Joel Klettke: 00:53:49 Yeah. And, to be honest, this is an area that is a little more challenging for me because I’m a words guy. And I know what I like in a design when I see it, but it’s been hard for me to learn. And we’ve gone through iterations of our designs. And there’s lots of things. I mean how do you have, for example, an infographic with a client where the metric or the KPI doesn’t exist. You can have a great case study that has no success metric. It can be super persuasive but there’s no, “Hey, we saw a 50% lift because that’s not how those relationships work in that way.” So what we’ve generally found, some little tips, some things that we’ve found to work quite well. In longer case studies, having a summary bar on the side that is highlighted in a different color. So that if I just want the gist, if I am somebody who only scans or only has a minute, I can scan that side. I can read it clearly.

Joel Klettke: 00:54:36 White space, massively important. It sounds like the most banal thing but, if you cram big chunks of text or big heavy paragraphs, the odds that someone is going to read that go way, way down. For communicating results, yes, infographics can be fantastic. The thing that I think is tough, that people often miss, is that they want to have this like grand reveal at the end where it’s like, “We did all this work and then ta-da. Here’s the result and the beautiful graphic.” Spoil the ending. That’s what people get into case studies for is like, “Oh, that’s a nice result. That’s something I want.” So have that nice, beautiful infographic. Have some sort of visual call to results early. Don’t wait until the end to go “ta-da.” Show them, hook them there. And then you can always have something more in-depth later on, a more detailed infographic. But design is an area that we’ve continued to try to get better in. It’s not where my expertise is. I know there’s still room for us to improve. But the more visual you can make these the better. The other thing that matters is headshots. So if you’re featuring people in the study, try to get a headshot. Try to humanize this thing. Again, they’re human stories. We want to imagine the person who’s going through it.

Erin Sparks: 00:55:40 That’s really insightful right there. You tend to forget that. You see a lot of case studies that have some logo pictures and different business pictures and industrial genre pictures. But you really don’t see that person. And that’s really, that brand equity that’s happening there is that they’re putting their name on it by their visual representation. And that absolutely would go a huge way for not only hooking the person, but also understanding that this is a real testimonial, or a real case study, as opposed to something that’s fabricated. Because we have this perspective of just being spun all the time, right? And you’re certainly going to look at a case study and evaluate it. Are they really just pitching me? Or is this something that they actually did? And if you’ve got that mugshot right there, I mean, you can always get stock mugshots. But who would do that?

Joel Klettke: 00:56:36 Can I just say, too? I guarantee someone is listening to this and they’re on the verge of tuning out. Because they’re like, “There’s no way. We can’t. Our company is too big, our clients are too big. No one is ever going to let us do this. It has to be anonymized, how do you handle that?” And we have come up, because yeah the ideal is you get a person with a name and a face and willing to be identified to do this thing. As opposed to a person without a face which I guess would be horrifying for everyone involved. But anyway, that’s the ideal, right? But what if you can’t? And we get asked this all the time. “What if we can’t name the client? Should we do case studies at all?” Yes, there are ways to navigate that so it’s still believable. For example, pseudonyms, gender-neutral pseudonyms. “Hey, we’ll give you a name that isn’t yours in exchange for still being able to use your quotes.” Right?

Joel Klettke: 00:57:24 Because the quotes are the thing that make it real. If you’ve got customer quotes throughout and they’re spelling out their experience? You’ve got to be a really dedicated scam artist to make that sort of thing up. And there’s always something that smells kind of off about an un-genuine quote from somebody. Like if it’s overly glowing? You’re always like, “Ah, I don’t think that guy’s real.” I mean, pseudonyms is one example. But if you can only anonymize a case study don’t turn it down. Just capture the story and do what you can to protect that company’s identity. Still use it. If you can’t get a headshot that’s okay. There’s other forms of credibility you can bring in so it’s still a compelling story.

Erin Sparks: 00:58:01 No, very good. Very good. Well, we certainly want to be respectful of your time here. But there’s so much inside case studies that’s incredibly valuable information. How can you repurpose what the case study brings you? Obviously you’ve talked about how the cultural impact, internally, can be incredibly valuable for sales and customer service and what have you. But, from a marketing standpoint, this is just gold. How do you repurpose it into different lanes? And to be able to bring it all back to one, well maybe you can’t, but one performance metric of how well that case study performed?

Joel Klettke: 00:58:41 Yeah, I don’t think there is necessarily one metric. Because you’re using them in different channels, different stages of the funnel, and that sort of thing. But, I mean, let’s break it down. And this is just what I’m sharing off the top of my head. One case study can be turned into: a guest post or series of guest posts, an email or a series of emails, cold outreach. You can pull testimonials out and use them as proof points on a landing page or on a website. You can turn a case study into a summarized, you can have a really short case study and attach it to RFPs and send that out. Because hey, when that RFP gets passed around, so does your case study. Not bad. You can turn a case study into, as I mentioned, win back emails. You can include case studies in your onboarding sequence. You can use case studies to upsell. You could repurpose a case study into a slide deck, so have a really short version. Take that into pitch meetings. You can print off case studies and have them as leave behinds at trade shows and exhibitions, at events. You can use case studies as direct mailers, if they’re written the right way. So you can actually just mail them out to prospects with a little bit of preamble and say, “I’ve got this story I want to share with you.” You can make it really compelling.

Joel Klettke: 00:59:50 I mean, and that’s just the stuff that’s off the top of my head. We haven’t even touched on how you can use case studies in ads and Facebook ads. We haven’t touched on video at all, which opens up a world of possibilities.

Erin Sparks: 01:00:00 Oh, my lord. Yeah.

Joel Klettke: 01:00:01 I mean, there’s so many ways to repurpose one story. And that is why it is so able to be repurposed is that it’s a story. That’s what it is. You can take one story and use it in a lot of different environments depending on who you’re talking to, who you’re sharing it with, how you’re sharing it with, what you’re trying to get that person to do or know or understand. I mean, I’ve seen people use case studies as a way of bringing their process to life. So, instead of having a stale process section, they say, “Okay. Here’s a real example of our process in action.” And they’ll pull example out of that. So there’s just a myriad of ways. And that’s why I commented earlier, if the only thing you’re doing with your case studies is publishing them on some sad section of your website and hoping people stumble across them, you’re literally sitting on a gold nugget and not doing anything about it. And that should frustrate you and excite you at the same time.

Erin Sparks: 01:00:53 I mean, I didn’t want to stop you at all. That was manna from heaven. No, you’re absolutely right. And it all starts with performance. And obviously you’ve got to perform well for the clients. And giving them, we’re in the micro-evangelist, micro-influencer era. And giving the mic, pun intended, to your customer and allowing them to speak. It connects to them. It gives them that bully pulpit. It gives them the stardom, the voice, that sometimes they just don’t have in their particular department or whatever. Right? But it also gives them the ability to champion something and be able to raise their own brand at the same time they’re giving accolades to you. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Because it’s authentic, it’s natural. It demonstrates winning. It demonstrates that you were caring about their success. Right? All these things are exactly what customers are looking for whenever they’re shopping around.

Joel Klettke: 01:01:59 Yeah, and I mean the goal of a case study is not to make the client look like a damsel in distress who was helpless without you. You’re trying to make them the hero, too. You know, we talked a little bit earlier about as well people kind of resist. They are doing you a favor by putting their neck out and putting their brand on it. But when you tell the story right, everybody comes away looking good. No one comes aways looking like the idiot who needed help. They’re smart for having chose you.

Erin Sparks: 01:02:23 Exactly. Yeah.

Joel Klettke: 01:02:24 And you’re shining the spotlight on the great work they’ve done.

Erin Sparks: 01:02:26 I dig it. I dig it. Joel, it’s been fantastic to unpack this. I’m going to actually use this as a case study, man.

Tom Brodbeck: 01:02:33 There we go.

Erin Sparks: 01:02:34 This would be too cool. This would be another level of inception. We’re going to use Case Buddy to do a case study on this case study show. How about that?

Tom Brodbeck: 01:02:42 There we go.

Erin Sparks: 01:02:44 All right. Hey, we always finish up our shows with asking a couple of questions of our guests. What really bugs you about the industry that you’re in right now.

Joel Klettke: 01:02:55 Yeah. I think the thing the bugs me is just what we were just talking about. Is that companies are still not. More and more are doing it, the smart companies are, but they’re not prioritizing this type of structured storytelling. They’re not tapping into the potential of something that they could be. It also really bugs me that those people who have the attitude that, “Well, case studies are easy.” And the minute that someone tries to do it they realize all the value that comes from having someone step in and own that process and lead that process. I think, like I said, anyone who thinks case studies are easy has never tried to do one. So it does bug me when they’re like, “Well, we’re just going to get a freelancer to go and do it.” And I go, “Yeah. I’ll see you in six months. I’m confident you’re going to be coming back.” Because that person does not know what’s coming down their way. That can bother me.

Erin Sparks: 01:03:45 There’s so much structure that you have to use to get to the quality. And you can get yourself in a tailspin. I can say from personal experience is that I’ve had a devil of a time with my team over the years creating case studies and how we create it. And, Tom can attest, we’ve had numbers of different ways to try to get to those. And, one, it’s all so time-consuming. And you’re still serving your own customers. So it always kind of gets put to the back of the bus, so to speak. And I can see, absolutely, the business model that you’re in. You’re well-oiled and you can actually help out from an efficiency standpoint to get the job done. So it’s awesome, man. Conversely, let me ask you this, what bugs you about your industry right now? No, no, no. I just asked that. What excites you about your industry?

Joel Klettke: 01:04:39 Yeah. I think what’s exciting for me is there’s so much opportunity. I mean, the opportunity itself is exciting. That people are realizing it is exciting. But what’s exciting to me right now is that for all the centuries that we’ve been telling stories, for all of the like human history that we’ve been doing this, there’s still always something to learn. There’s always something you could do better. Like right now I’m getting schooled on open loops and bringing those into case studies. And that’s a whole different topic for a whole different show. But I’m excited because there’s just no end to it. Whereas, when I worked in SEO, I was like, “There’s no end to this. I can’t keep doing this.” With this I’m excited because there’s no end to the learning and just the sheer value that comes out of talking to people and getting good at talking to people and getting good at talking to customers. I’m even, you know, I’m in the thick of it and I’m still seeing all the different ways that these are valuable and can be used. And how you can tell a story. And to me that’s really exciting knowing that, hey, there is no finite ceiling on where these can go and how well you can do them. And there’s always a chance to be better. And for me that’s really motivating.

Erin Sparks: 01:05:45 Very good. Now, you know, there is also a possibility of over-using a case study. Right? So can you give us a final cautionary tale there?

Joel Klettke: 01:05:55 Yeah. I mean, if every tweet is about your case study. Or if, you know, you constantly bring it up in every conversation after they’ve heard it 10 times. I mean you get the whole, saying the same thing you get where it’s like, “Grandpa, we’ve heard the story about the war.” You know, if you’re fatiguing people with it. If they don’t respond to the story maybe the first two times they’re exposed to it? It’s probably not their story. it’s probably not for them. So don’t be afraid to put it out there, but yeah. I mean, if you’ve only got one it’s probably time to diversify and get some other stories.

Erin Sparks: 01:06:29 “No, we need to milk this for every dime we can get out of it.” All right, all right. All kidding aside, the most important question here before we wrap up here is, how in the world did you get attacked by hawks three times?

Joel Klettke: 01:06:46 So the short version is I was in high school and was walking. And there’s this big patch of green on the way there. And I’d driven past it like a million times. And it was Spring in Calgary so the Abominable Snowman was hibernating. And walking along and the gist of it is that there was a territorial hawk. The first time I just didn’t see it coming. Got smacked in the back of the head with what felt like a plastic bag with claws. Zig-zagged my way, arms above my head, across the field to the only clump of trees. The second time I was walking back and I thought, “Okay, I got attacked last time. I’m just going to walk on the other side of this green patch.” Which is like, it’s a pretty big green patch. I was giving this bird space. So I saw the bird on the telephone pole. Walking, walking, everything is good. Everything is not good. So I’m standing with my backpack going to swing at this thing, miss, fall down. Same thing, flail my arms, run to the nearest clump of trees.

Joel Klettke: 01:07:41 The third time the hawk had a memory. It knew me. It knew I was coming back and that I’d drop my guard. It was a year later. I was walking to meet a friend at a restaurant. Just minding my own business, thinking about it. And I saw all these little birds, tiny little birds, fly past my feet out of a bush and I just knew. I didn’t even have to look. I’m like, “There is 100% that darn, bastard hawk behind me.” Sure enough, there it was. Same thing, take off running. I don’t walk there anymore. I moved even closer to it. I don’t walk there. I see people playing with their kids on the playground. I’m like, “It was nice knowing you. You’re just asking for it.”

Tom Brodbeck: 01:08:17 You should write a case study about that park or a [inaudible 01:08:24] study. Post it on a pole, the pole that the hawk sits on.

Erin Sparks: 01:08:28 Exactly. A big banner with an arrow pointing up.

Joel Klettke: 01:08:31 Yeah. I’ve relented that territory to the hawk. And it lives there now and I don’t go there. I’m not scared of my neighbors, but I’m scared of that thing.

Erin Sparks: 01:08:43 As long as it’s not following you away from that area and you start seeing it in the corners of your eye. Right?

Joel Klettke: 01:08:50 That doesn’t sound like a self-fulfilling prophecy. Thanks a lot.

Erin Sparks: 01:08:56 Joel, it’s been fun. We really appreciate the knowledge bestowed upon us regarding case studies. It’s truly a needed art form. It’s truly a needed piece of content for any site. But it’s also a needed exercise for companies to be able to learn about themselves, learn about how they’ve been able to effect other companies. And, on top of that, just be able to improve what they do on a regular basis. I mean, it’s almost a therapeutic exercise as well. Hey, Joel, can we promote anything for you on the show.

Joel Klettke: 01:09:33 Yeah, I mean the best place to connect with me is on Twitter @JoelKlettke. And I think, right after this show, I’m going to go ahead and tweet our free guide. So if this is something that you are trying to get into, if this is something you want to be able to DIY, our guide is not just something that you download and it says “hire us.” There’s actual, actionable stuff in there. A lot of stuff I’ve talked about on the show. So I will post a link to that. But I’d be thrilled to have some people get that and take these seriously, view them well, tell great stories. That would make me really happy.

Erin Sparks: 01:10:04 No problem. So we’re going to certainly put the link in the show notes as well as lift it up on our own social. Hey, last word for the individual that wants to start their case study. Give us the final word there.

Joel Klettke: 01:10:18 Just do it. Just sit down, map out where you’re going. And the worst thing you can do is nothing. So don’t worry about getting it perfect straight out of the hop. I didn’t, we don’t. But just start. And be excited about talking to people and asking questions. Don’t block your own shots and say, “Oh, they’ll never take part. Oh, they’ll never answer that.” You’ll surprise yourself, when you start talking to people, how much you’ll learn and how responsive people are when you go about it the right way.

Erin Sparks: 01:10:47 I said one phrase. Come on, I said one thing. Excellent, Joel. And make sure you watch for hawks. Right?

Joel Klettke: 01:10:55 Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, watch out.

Erin Sparks: 01:11:01 All right, so you certainly want to follow Joel on his twitter handle @JoelKlettke, that’s K-L-E-T-T-K-E. Certainly jump in and find him over at LinkedIn as well. Thanks so much for sharing our time with us today, it was fantastic? Tom, do we have poo yet?

Tom Brodbeck: 01:11:20 No, my mom texted me wanting to know what size shoes my daughter wears.

Erin Sparks: 01:11:24 Okay, keep us abreast of that too.

Tom Brodbeck: 01:11:27 Yeah, yeah I’ll let you know. It’s size six or seven.

Erin Sparks: 01:11:28 We will inform you about the Tucker poo conundrum next week on The Edge. Thanks for listening. I appreciate your time, sir.

Joel Klettke: 01:11:37 Thank you.

Erin Sparks: 01:11:38 All right. Well, thanks for listening to Edge of the Web Radio. Special thank you to our colleagues here at Site Strategics, especially our guest Joel Klettke. Be sure to check out all the must-see videos and audio over at edgeofthewebradio.com. Edge of the Web Radio. Hey, we’re actually rolling more new interview blogs on the site as well. Kind of unpacking a bit more insight from the show, so go check that out on a regular basis. So, edgeofthewebradio.com, edgeofthewebradio.com. Who are we talking to next week?

Tom Brodbeck: 01:12:06 So last week, last show, we talked about machine learning and PPC. We’re going to learn about machine learning and SEO with Brittany Muller from Moz so deep dive into that.

Erin Sparks: 01:12:15 Very cool. That had me haunted for a little while after we talked about that.

Tom Brodbeck: 01:12:20 Wait ’til we learn about how it works in SEO.

Erin Sparks: 01:12:21 Oh my gosh. You’ve got to tune in. Thanks for everybody contributing to the stream. It was fantastic getting the questions from the live audience. We’ll talk to you next week. Do not be a piece of cyber driftwood. Bye-bye.