The Advocacy Channel Ep. 9: The Importance of Authentic Customer Stories with Lauren Locke-Paddon
Did you know that 78% of people trust online product reviews just as much as a recommendation from a friend or a family member? So how do you go about capturing and sharing customer stories in a way that helps you reach new prospects and convert more leads?
To help, we’re excited to welcome Lauren Locke-Paddon to The Advocacy Channel. Lauren is a customer advocacy expert with over 12 years of experience, and is the VP of customer success and marketing at Vocal Video - a video marketing platform that lets you easily capture and share video testimonials from your customers, partners, and employees.
Join host Will Fraser as he and Lauren dig into the importance of authentic customer stories, how customer success and marketing can work together on customer advocacy initiatives, how to get started on building your library of customer stories, and much more!
Check out the full episode below, or keep reading for our favorite discussions and pieces of advice from the episode.
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How can success and marketing work together to produce powerful, authentic customer stories?
When it comes to building a library of customer stories, Lauren’s approach has always been to include customer success as part of the revenue team and work alongside marketing for the best results.
While this is easier to do in small teams where there is more departmental overlap and collaboration, it’s not impossible for larger organizations to still have marketing and success help each other bring customer stories to life. We were eager to hear Lauren’s advice on how you could model this strategy even if you have a more separated department structure and distinct responsibilities.
I think that makes a lot of sense when you're taking the story from the customer and then immediately delivering it to marketing. And I think a lot of companies want to do this, but I feel like this horrible thing happens where they can't seem to figure out how to talk to their own customers, and all of a sudden marketing is talking to an external agency that's going to go interview their customers for them.
How do you think other companies could model this even though they may have more separated success and marketing departments?
Yes, definitely. I fully understand that, and I saw this at SurveyMonkey where at a thousand-person organization, everyone needs to be a little more clearly defined in what they're doing.
And I definitely had my hand slapped a couple of times, because I was like, “Oh, well, I can just go over here and talk to this person and we can figure out the project. Because we're all working on growing the business together!” And your listeners here that work at larger companies are probably going, “What? That is insane!”
I think there are two things. I think that building that relationship really needs to start from a place of respect and admiration between the two departments. And you do have to acknowledge that, if you're in customer advocacy and marketing, and you want the customer success team to deliver you more stories, you can't go in there and ask them to do something extra for free because they really do have a ton of priorities.
So one of the things I've seen as a strategy that works well is bringing the customer success folks into the limelight that is usually reserved for sales. You can do this by raising the individual customer success managers’ visibility at the company. All of the B2B organizations I know put a ton of work into making their salespeople feel really good when they close the deal. But try bringing that customer success person into the spotlight like, “Hey, this customer success manager delivered an amazing outcome for our client. They shared that story with marketing, and once we were able to create that story, we were able to give that back to sales to close all of these deals”.
I would also not shy away from using things like sales spiffs if they are genuinely delivering these outcomes for customers and able to share these valuable stories with marketing. There's no reason that you shouldn't take some of the sales enablement and sales operations spiff budget and bring that over to customer success. So that's how you can bring customer success into the fold.
Overall, I think that the two departments have so much to bring to each other, but the place where it really falls flat is if one department is going and asking for things for free without considering the strengths that they can bring to the conversation.
“Enabling your customer-facing team with a quick and easy way to capture a quote to use in your marketing can be really powerful and help you build a repository of stories over time.”
What is the most effective way to capture a customer story?
When you’re getting great feedback from customers, what are the best ways to actually capture that content and make sure you can benefit from it?
Lauren recommends starting simple. Having quick and easy ways to capture customer stories at the right time will ensure you don’t let this valuable content slip away at opportune moments. It also increases your chances of reaching the audiences that you’re looking to engage.
Focusing on capturing authentic content as it happens, whether in small sound-bites or quick recordings, can be more important than making sure you have the most professional-looking setup with lights, cameras, and microphones. Lauren emphasizes that it’s okay to capture content ad hoc and then refine your process from there.
By taking your raw, authentic content and producing it into something shareable, you’re also doing a service to the customer and amplifying their story.
The question that I'm always left with is when one of my success team members is on a call with a customer and they hear this great story and positive feedback. I’m always thinking, how do we capture that story? How do we present that story? Do we need lights and fancy cameras? How do we get the whole rigmarole ready so that we can make this look like a polished case study or a story?
But is that the way you find is most effective? What kind of tips and tricks would you have for converting this story that success has told me into something that's really effective as a sales enablement tool?
There are a whole bunch of answers on this, but I think the most effective stories that you're getting from customers are the ones that are very authentic and relatable to the audience that you're trying to reach.
Being able to have what I call an “ad hoc” program is one of the best methods to make sure you don’t miss opportunities to record this feedback.
For example, at Vocal Video we have customers that write to support and say “Oh my gosh, I've been looking for a product like this for a long time! Thanks so much for doing this. I have a few questions, but this is really amazing.”
In my past life, I've seen emails like that, but I've been a little flat-footed and just replied with “Oh, thanks! Maybe we could quote you on something and put it on the website eventually.”
And what I've done at least half a dozen times in the last couple of months where I get that positive feedback, unsolicited feedback, is I send them a link to Vocal Video where they open up our recorder, record their video, and answer a couple of questions. I do some minor edits in our tool, and I post it on our blog. So I have the embedded video and the transcript, and it's a five-minute request of our customers. They're feeling really good at that moment and it's the exact right time to be like, “Wow. Thank you so much for those kind words. Would you actually use Vocal Video to record your story?”
It’s a very casual and timely way to ask for a customer story, and I recommend having something like that on hand, that isn’t necessarily a beautiful customer advocacy program. This is not something that you're gonna roll out with great fanfare, but enabling your customer-facing team to have a quick and easy and customer-friendly way to capture a quote to use in your marketing can actually be really powerful and help you build a repository of stories over time.
I would also plan to produce some of these pieces of content in a more formal way. If that video comes back, maybe this will become that marquee video that I might do one or two of where I put budget and a freelancer behind this and make something really beautiful.
So I think there are a couple of categories. I think you need to be prepared to - in an ad hoc way and a casual way - make a very short request of your customer to do something. And then if it's this story where it's an incredibly dynamic customer and they have the metrics they're talking about, then you can put your bigger budget and time towards that.
But I think for all of the work I've done and that I see customers past and present do, capturing authentic stories is the most critical thing. All buyers now have a second sense of what is scripted or coerced, and they can immediately pick that out.
“You can show how the investment in customer advocacy is not just this bottom of the funnel investment, but actually can be shared across marketing, sales, and customer success to benefit multiple departments."
How can you advocate for the value of capturing customer stories?
Implementing a new initiative can require buy-in from multiple people and departments within your organization, and it can be tricky to calculate the return on investment when it comes to customer advocacy projects.
To help you get the tools and resources you need, Lauren shares tips for advocating for the value of customer stories in your organization, and the importance of showing how all departments can benefit from this content.
So with these sorts of initiatives, at the end of the day, we're trying to help new people discover and trust the brand and the product before they are a customer.
How do we go to the budget review and make an ROI argument or make a business argument for this kind of behavior? Because yes, we can start ad hoc, but at some point everything costs something and somebody is going to come to check in on us. So how do you suggest we do that?
So, the return on investment from customer advocacy has a couple of different layers. I wish that we could take a customer story and just see exactly what the ROI on it was, and say something like “we’re guaranteed to close deals 10% faster with customer stories”.
Proof like that would make it a no-brainer for hiring more customer advocacy managers or buying all the advocacy software. I think that for a lot of marketers, there was the pendulum swung over to the side where we thought we could measure everything. If we could just track everything, we would know what works and that's what we would put our investment in.
I think that now, the pendulum is swinging back more to trusting our gut on some of this. And from common sense and human nature principles, we know that at the bottom of the marketing funnel, people want to see someone like them that has had good results with your product. This is the whole foundation and purpose of customer advocacy and marketing - we want to share customer stories as we know that that de-risks investment for people. We understand that this makes selling easier, and we understand that this is going to help you acquire new customers at the bottom of the funnel.
And so from that point, when we have those conversations about the budget we need for our organizations to do this effectively, I think that we can use that as table stakes. We all agree that customer stories are good, that relatable customers’ stories help our customers buy faster from us. Our buyers understand the risk that they're getting into and convert at a higher rate.
But I think the thing that is often not said is how customer stories can help you in all other parts of the funnel.
Say you create a case study or a video with a customer. Think then about using snippets of that and talk with your demand generation team. Those are quotes that can be put out on social media, short vignettes that can be turned into blog posts, etc. On the customer success side, you can take these success stories and use those as instructive guides to your existing customer base so that they can be inspired to see even more return on investment with your product.
I think that's the single area that I see missing from many of those proposals. Showing how the investment in customer advocacy is not just this bottom of the funnel investment, but actually can be shared across marketing sales and customer success. And that all of those departments can benefit.
Listen to the full episode for even more expert advice on excelling in customer marketing.
Special thanks to Lauren for being on the show! Connect with Lauren on LinkedIn.
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