Our process for capturing, writing and publishing case studies

Bryan Harris —  Bryan Harris - May 20th, 2016

Note: This is a slightly more geeky technical post. But I thought it might be fun to experiment with something a little different.

Our #1 goal at VF this year is to help people.

Not in some woo-woo “follow your passion and make a difference in people’s lives” kind of way. But in a super-specific measurable way.

The key thing we’ve identified that will force us to help people is simple.

Publish 100 stories of people who we’ve helped grow their email list to 1,000 subscribers.

The logic: The only way we can publish stories about successful students is to create successful students. And the only way we can create successful students is to legit help them. Not just make a bunch of money by getting 1000s of people into the course, but actually taking the people who come into the course and helping them become successful.

To do that, we have to be able to do some very basic things that our course doesn’t do currently (no course I’ve ever bought does either):

1. Clearly define what success looks like for our students (1,000 subscribers)

2. Track each student’s progress toward that goal

3. Identify when a student gets discouraged and quits

4. Identify when a student stalls in their progress

5. Design systems and programs to help #3 & #4 students get back on track and hit the goal

6. Constantly improve our curriculum to make it more efficient and more likely to get students their results

The theory is that by focusing on legitimately helping people and designing and creating the best curriculum that’s ever been put together on how to build a list and launch a product, growth will take care of itself.

On one level this seems so completely obvious.

“Of course you should track success and optimize for it!”

But look around. Who does this? Who is transparent with this information?

After each course enrollment, we write a post about how great the launch went. But what if we flipped that upside-down, and before each of our course enrollments we INSTEAD published the success numbers from the previous enrollment?

Example…

470 students enrolled

8% never logged in

25% made it past Module 1

4% refunded the course

15% reached 1,000 subs

3% hit 10,000 subs

Note: These aren’t our actual numbers because our tracking isn’t good enough yet.

But that’s what we’re working on in 2016.

We want to know and be able to share with you which strategies, techniques and approaches actually help people.

  • Does a Facebook Community make a measurable impact on student success? Or does it hurt it by distracting people?
  • What about live Q&A calls in the weeks after a launch? Does that help? If so, what specifically does it help?
  • Do re-engagement emails to people who haven’t logged into the course in X days help? Does that re-capture the people who quit or get distracted early and increase their chances of success?
  • If you offer a cart extension and get 100 more people to use your product, does that help or hurt their chances of success?

We want to be 100% transparent about the success (or lack thereof) that our students experience with our products.

And that means we have to start optimizing for success.

One of the workflows that we’ve had to develop as a result of our #1 goal (100 people to 1k subs) is identifying and writing these stories.

This sounds fairly straightforward, but our processes for this were nearly nonexistent a few months ago.It mostly consisted of an Evernote notebook where we randomly stuck emails or screenshots any time someone sounded like they had some success with the course.

Now we have a fine-tuned workflow that identifies successful students, captures their stories and produces great written case studies that we can use to help more people make the decision to enroll into 10ksubs and start their journeys.

Today I want to show you how it works so you can do the same thing.

Our process for capturing, writing and publishing case studies

Step 1: Find successful students.

Note: I’ll be using the word “student” throughout this piece because our primary product is a course. But feel free to adapt for your context (user, customer etc.).

The first step is to identify students who have hit our success mark: 1,000 subscribers.

Currently we do that three ways:

Way #1: We look daily in the community for people who have posted their progress.

Way #2: We pay attention to every support ticket or inbound email for people who have reported their progress.

Way #3: We use ListGoal.com to track people’s progress.

Step 2: Enter their info into a Google form.

The moment anyone on the team identifies a success story, they enter that person’s information into a simple Google form.

When submitted, that Google form auto-generates a checklist that is assigned to Jeremy (the dean of 10ksubs).

Step 3: Do what the checklist says.

The last step is for Jeremy to create the case study by following the checklist we’ve put together.

A few final notes

We use a program called Process.st to manage all of our recurring and trigger-based checklists. It integrates with Zapier and allows you to automate checklists to be triggered and assigned based on nearly any action you can think of.

Pretty powerful combination.

Here are a few of the stories we’ve published so far:

Story #1: Justin grew his email list from 0 to 1,821 subscribers and produced a documentary on chicken farming

Story #2: Jonathan grew his list from 0 to 3,487 subscribers and uses his list to get more clients for his accounting firm

Story #3: John grew his email list from 0 to 250 subscribers and quit his full time job at Chik-fil-a

..

PS: Do you have a cool workflow for capturing stories of successful students? Let me know in the comments below. Or, if you have any questions on our progress, ask those below.

  • Are you using any particular tool to track these course stats?

    • Hey @aps1087:disqus – Good q. Heavy use of Google forms to collect data and Google Sheets to keep track + getting screenshots and prove to insure accuracy.

      • For keeping progress moving on these we’re also using an app called Process.st

  • thierry

    Hey Brian, cool stuff. Just a heads up: story 2 and 3 are linking to the same page

    • Saranit Vongkiatkajorn

      Yes. They’re both linking to Jonathan’s story.

  • Great information. I never thought of putting a process in place for this. Can you give advice on how to write a Customer Intake survey that gets the kind of information you are looking for for case studies and testimonials?

  • Felix Agalaba

    Great content and inspiring stories. Good job, Bryan and team!
    IMPORTANT: Please check the link for Story #2 and #3…Both took me to the same page (Story #2).

  • I love this new direction, Bryan. You’re leading the way.

  • Reinart Bacalso

    Bryan, check out Brennan from Double Your Freelancing. His Student Success Story system is pretty good. I’ve been through it myself. He has a form with questions (interview style) which the student has to answer. That’s basically the entire case study.

  • Hey Bryan, I always enjoy reading your process oriented posts. I love the new case studies too. You, Jascha (I assume) and Jeremy have done an awesome job on them.
    -Cody

  • Hi Bryan! Cool method. We also track users usage and contact them by phone. Then we use that information for case studies and testimonials. No fancy software, just a shared Google Spreadsheet. Thanks.

  • Thanks for the article Bryan! I was looking for something like Process Street for ages, so I’m glad you shared that tool 🙂

    And I couldn’t help but notice.. ‘What is there name’ > ‘What is their* name’ – cheers! 🙂

  • This is great. And it’s so true that everyone else just makes claims to results without really SHOWING them…so this is inspirational and helpful. Keep it up!!