From Checkbox to Strategic: How to Leverage Customer Stories

Deep dive into the world of social proof with this course by Dustin Tysick and learn how to leverage customer stories, have a strategic approach to content creation, and get your customers to sell for you.

Table of Contents


In this course we’ll dive deep into the world of sharing your customer’s stories so you can turn your customers into your most powerful salesforce - at every step of the buyer's journey. Let’s begin!

Why is this important?

So why customer stories? It's simple - buyers trust their peers, not salespeople. A Forrester report shows only 29% of buyers trust marketers, while a whopping 90% trust their peers. Sure, we can capitalize on this through peer recommendations and dark social, but dark social is organic by nature and you can’t own the message.

The solution? Leverage customer stories - this way, the organic, trusted opinion of peers is captured, yet the message remains within your control.

Traditional social proof

If we’re going to talk about customer stories, first we need to talk about traditional social proof, so things like reference calls, case studies and reviews.

But let’s be honest, reference calls are just kind of a box the buyer has to check at the end of the journey. As for case studies…do you ever actually read the whole thing? And finally, reviews. You need review but they’re pretty generic and we all know that more often than not they can be incentivized. Plus, you and all your competitors probably have a similar score in the 4.3-4.9 out of 5 range. So, all of this is a point of parity. But not a point of differentiation, so clearly, it’s not enough.

Why does trust matter?

W want to drive this home first: trust is 100% necessary to close deals. People are potentially putting their job and reputation on the line when they pick a new product or service, so you can bet that they will do some deep research before pulling the trigger. You need to view trust as currency, and you need to be making deposits early before a customer contacts you so you can bridge trust gaps in their buyer’s journey. Remember, a hidden pipeline of potential buyers exist, and without trust, you’re losing deals that you didn’t even know existed.

If you don’t want to lose those deals, you need to prioritize strategic customer storytelling and not just check the social proof box or strive to reach your case study quota.

Checkbox VS. Strategic approach

  • A checkbox approach is when you have a list of industries and or personas and you just work your way down the checklist. All marketers have been in this scenario. Sales reaches out and says hey I need a case study for x industry in y geo. So…you create it. Without thinking much about the story or the distribution plan.
  • A strategic approach is focused on the QFDs: questions, fears, and doubts that your customers have at each stage of the journey. With a focus on storytelling and planning distribution prior to creating the content. The aim is to have complete customer story coverage across every stage of your buyer’s journey that answers every question, fear, and doubt.

Customer interviews

The key to better customer content is better customer interviews, and interviewing is hard. It's a learned skill, so take the time to work on your craft. To make it a little bit easier, here are some tips.

  1. Narrate the individual's story, not the company's. Who relates to a faceless corporation?
  2. Ask open-ended questions to get the conversation flowing and give you more quotes to work with.
  3. Map the interview to the buyer's journey stages:
  4. Demand Generation: At this stage, focus on their issues, not your company. So a good question could be something like “Prior to working with our company, what pain points or challenges were you facing?”
  5. Sales Enablement: Here you can ask questions addressing their concerns and resolutions on choosing your company, like "What were your concerns and how were they resolved?"
  6. Retention Expansion: For this stage, get them talking about specific future plans and expansion opportunities. For example, “moving forward, what role do you see us playing in your future?”.

Interview best practices

Now that you learned the basics on how to map out the interview, let’s go through some interview best practices.

  1. Put the interviewee at ease by starting with really easy questions. This could be something like “Do you have plans on the weekend?” or “what's your favorite dinosaur?”.
  2. Remind the interviewee they can answer a question as many times as they want, and that the editors will only pick the best quotes.
  3. Encourage water breaks or rests. Let them know their comfort is key. And even if they don't utilize the breaks, knowing it's an option will just help them relax and be more comfortable.
  4. Question order matters. You want to ask questions in a way that builds on the customer's experience and builds context.
  5. Plan follow up questions. People will talk at varying lengths, so you need follow up questions to dive deep.
  6. Have a goal. Make sure you go into it with sound bites or key phrases that you want to get. Don’t script it. But build your question sets in a way that you can get those sound bites.

Creating content for each stage

Now that you conducted a great interview, you want to be strategic and create relevant content. You want to map your goals, metrics, channels, and topics for each stage of the buyer’s journey. Here are some tips for each stage.

  • Generate awareness through short, problem-focused videos: For potential customers who aren't aware of you at all, the goal is to make them aware and to generate demand. To resonate with them, focus on the problems you solve. These need to be short, 15 to 45 seconds. We all have the attention span of goldfish, so use multiple voices, have it jump around quickly and you'll get higher retention rates.
  • Differentiate and highlight the cost of inaction: Once awareness is built, focus on your differentiators, what the ROI of your solution is, and, most importantly, the potential costs of inaction. Here videos can be longer, elaborating points from previous ones because you’ve built up some trust.
  • Have microcontent addressing all things that could kill a deal: When a deal is close to closing, use concise videos addressing common deal-breakers like competition and budget. Employ actual customer voices to alleviate prospect concerns of whether you are the right fit. Your sales team will love these objection crusher videos. For these, video length is flexible, but we recommend up to 90 seconds max. Embed them in sales presentations, follow-ups, and contracts for reassurance. Also, have satisfied users explain why they upgraded or added a new product line of yours instead of you pushing them to upgrade.

Utilizing videos across the buyer's journey

This is a multi year, constantly evolving exercise. And we've harped on video because it's the highest fidelity and you can break it down to different formats. You can always create a written case study from a video… but you can’t create video from a written case study.

To make it easier, here’s a real life example from us.

HubSpot for startups as a customer of ours; HubSpot holds a ton of weight amongst our audience, which is marketers and sellers. So we wanted to get a lot of mileage out of one interview. We broke it down across the whole funnel, but a specific example here is: a common objection we get is “I already have an internal video team. I don't need you.” HubSpot also has a large and talented internal video team. So we had HubSpot on video saying "despite our internal video team, we partner with Testimonial Hero for scalability". Our sales team then shares this with other enterprise prospects and handle the objection up front.

Now, here’s a summary on how you could leverage content like this:

  • Share short testimonials on LinkedIn and in contracts for final reassurance.
  • Incorporate them into your website's value proposition video sections or sales newsletters to reinforce the copy.
  • Equip your sales team with an arsenal of your best customer stories.


Here are some key takeaways to drive it all home.

  1. Say goodbye to checkbox content: it doesn't stand out and you're burning resources.
  2. Preparation is key: so map out your QFDs, craft interview questions, and think about distribution.
  3. Always aim for engaging content: ask yourself, would I watch this video or read this case study? Always strive for that so that your customer stories actually get consumed.

And that’s it! We hope you learned a bit about how you can use customer stories as a key part of your content marketing strategy to drive real results.

Now you know how to conduct powerful interviews, how to shape compelling narratives at every stage of the buyer's journey, and build a strong bond of trust with your audience. It’s time to get out there and create content that positions your customers as the hero of the story.