Episode 10 - David Coates - Developing a Successful Customer Storytelling Strategy

On this episode, David shares his wisdom for creating an effective customer marketing strategy. We talk about what customer advocacy is all about, and why it matters. We also talk about the principles for having great relationships with your customers, how to create and market great customer stories, and much more.

Full Transcription

[00:00:00] **David:**
Companies are starting to realize that business isn’t done between companies. Business is done between people, and at the end of the day, business is personal. By focusing on areas like customer advocacy, it allows them to establish a long-term relationship.

So, if somebody transitions to a new job, a new position, you are one of the key elements that they have as part of their toolkit that they bring with them onto the next organization.

[00:00:30] **Sam:**
Welcome to the State of Customer Storytelling podcast, brought to you by Testimonial Hero. The podcast that is all about helping you, as a B2B marketing leader, get the download on the most current practices and tactics related to customer storytelling. Why? So you can make customer stories your competitive advantage, and hit your revenue goals and your marketing goals faster.

My guest today is none other than David Coates. David is the Director of Customer Marketing at Forter. Previously, he was the Director of Customer Marketing at Iron Mountain.

David is extremely passionate about exploring ways to spur collaboration and bring value, from the customer’s perspective, to your business, and better understand how to add value and capture customer stories, capture customer insights, and build stronger relationships.

David, welcome to the show.

[00:01:37] **David:**
Thanks for having me. It’s great to be here.

[00:01:39] **Sam:**
Absolutely. To kick things off, I think we should talk about customer advocacy, broadly. In many ways, we’re in the early days of customer advocacy, but it’s also something that’s been going on since the start of marketing, in many respects.

So, maybe it’s like a Renaissance, but it’s evolving quickly. In your opinion, what is customer advocacy all about and why does it really matter? Why should we, as marketers, be caring about this and paying more attention to this more than ever?

[00:02:11] **David:**
Yeah, great question, Sam. Definitely the way to open up the podcast.

I think what you’re seeing really is a convergence of a number of different things in the last few years. When you look at the evolution of B2C companies, and even social media, customers have had a more active role in working with organizations to really shape everything, from how the brand is represented publicly to how the product works.

For a long time, companies on the B2B and the B2C side separated out consumers. It was like when you were driving to work and listening to the radio, and listening to consumer advertising, or on your phone checking stuff out, you were treated one way. As soon as you walked through the office doors into your office space, you were treated completely differently.

What’s been interesting through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter is that BC brands have had a much closer relationship with their consumers than they did in the past. What you’ve seen in the last few years is that consumer behavior and expectations start to bleed over into the B2B space.

And I think one of the big driving factors was that a lot of SaaS companies who were on annual contracts, they realized that they couldn’t wait until month 11 to go back to the company customer and say, “Hey, Mr. or Mrs. Customer, will you re-sign?”

So, I think what you are seeing really is this confluence of people bringing there whole selves to work, where they expect to have a relationship with the brands that they trust, whether that is a big B2B company, or a beet seed company.

And that also companies have started to realize. It’s much more expensive to get a new customer in the door than to have an existing customer that you can retain And build that long-term relationship The other thing I would say as well, right, is that companies are starting to realize that business isn’t done between companies that business is done between people and not at the end of their businesses personal.

And so by focusing on areas like customer advocacy, It allows them to establish long-term relationship. That isn’t just about that current role or that current company, but the, you hope you almost get this lifetime relationship, right? So if somebody transitions to a new job, a new position that you are one of the key elements that they have a part of their toolkit that they bring with them onto the next organization. so I kinda, that’s kind of a long meanderings point to get to my. Hypothesis that customer. advocacy is really about how do you build that affinity with your customers, that you understand what their journey is, and that you’re able to really bring, understanding of their motivations into the way that you conduct business.

And that ultimately you’re able then to turn up, back out into the marketplace, we’ll talk a little about storytelling, other stuff as well, but kind of a long answer, but that, that’s my view on customer.

[00:05:09] **Sam:**
I love that you brought up the convergence of B to B to C and soar. And it’s such a good point because I think, you know, we can sorta get a. Preview of, what’s kind of coming into B2B by looking at, you know, what, what were the major, you know, groundswells in B2C, you know, now in a couple of years ago, and I’m just thinking of like online shopping and reviews, that obviously being one of them and which I think transitions us to the next question is like the customer stories segment of, of customer advocacy. what are you seeing in terms of. You know, the importance of customer storytelling and B2B and you know, maybe how that’s, you know, accelerating or, you know, just.

[00:05:54] **David:**
Yeah, it’s a really great question. Someone, something that we’re looking at all the time, I think in many respects. If you go back into human evolution, right? storytelling has been a foundational part of the human experience for thousands of years. It’s how a common way that, language and shared experiences is, is created and shed, right?

So I think in many respects, you know, companies have used technology and less debt. So you have two years to kind of help to create systems and operationalize business. But at the end of the day, humans relate best when it’s about shared experiences or shared stories. So I think more and more companies are realizing.

That storytelling is absolutely central to not, not only, what the customer experiences, but also as importantly, what their employees experience as well. Right? And that you want to create a shared sense of value and a shared culture and companies are realizing that that value and culture doesn’t just reside within the organization, but it extends and should include partners and customers and other key stakeholders.

[00:06:54] **Sam:**
That makes a ton of sense. And, in terms of, a strategy around this, you know, stories. I think a lot of marketing leaders say like, okay, like I wanted, you know, I get it, I see this shift coming that it’s not, it’s not enough to just, you know, do traditional marketing. Right? Like you need that. I think that the customer stories to kind of just compete at the level that, you know, companies like, for example, for, or are, you know, doing it.

How does one kind of, you know, get started there from a, from a strategic perspective? If I’m a marketer and I’m like, all right, I want to become current in our practices around customer storytelling. How do I start to set a strategy there? Do you have any perspective or tips? How do you think.

[00:07:41] **David:**
Yeah. And so I think,

You know, one thing that really one point that really illustrates kind of how important storytelling is, and, you know, you mentioned video, obviously there’s peer reviews and lots of other elements that I would say tie into customer storytelling. Customer advocacy is a study done a couple of years ago now by CSO insights that looked at where do people make their buying decisions on how do they make the buying decisions?

And that reset showed they make about that. There they’re about 70% of the way through the buying process before the even toxicity. So when you think about it, people doing research, right. They’re going out and they’re looking at reviews online. You know, they’re looking at video that looking at all these different sources of information, they’re speaking to their peers, they’re speaking to other trusted sources, one of the analyst, et cetera, right.

Industry analyst. So that’s really impulsive. When you think about yourself as being a business leader, that by the time that you might be aware of the RFP that’s coming in. That’s 70% of the work has already been done on the backend, whether it been prospects would be researching, they want to make sure that feeling informed because for so many of, of, of, of people.

It’s time consuming to change vendors, right? It’s expensive to change vendors, change management organization that needs to take place. So companies are realizing, especially with strategic strategic decisions, you don’t, you can’t take it lightly, right? And that this isn’t something that you want to be switching out 18 months from now.

So a lot of that work is being done way before sales to engage. So if I was a strategic leader, I think looking, cause my advocacy, I think one of the things you have to do is really make an assessment of what do you want to use? Cause advocacy. And I think one of the interesting things you mentioned with stuff in many respects, the industry still is in its infancy, right?

I mean, cause my advocacies have been around for a while. It’s been modified and last five to 10 years, there’s still a lot of work being done to try and kind of get a common, even lexicon around it. You know, how do you talk about this? And I think if you look at so many different organizations and. I didn’t go to school for customer advocacy.

Right. I literally ended up coming into this space because I loved working with customers. I think that’s true for most people in this space. it’s not something that, that they stood at a school it’s literally that a passion around it. And the kind of built that tool set accordingly based on their experience, their passion and the exposure that had other organizations.

So, you know, if I was a business need, I think w where I would focus is. I’m I looking at this as a way to support my goals around retention. I’m I looking at it as an opportunity to go and drive cross-sell upsell. Am I looking at actually to, create a better lifetime experience right. And mapping that customer journey, et cetera, as well.

So I think it’s really important that as a business leader that you’re talking to, Product teams. You’re talking to the sales teams, it’s talking to obviously to leadership and really figuring out, okay, what are our primary business goals for the next 12 to 18 months? And how do customers tie into that?

Right. and I think, you know, once, once you’ve done that, it’s really important. It sounds simple, but it’s really important that you actually go and talk to some. so often in a, in a, even a maxing role, you know, we spend a lot of time thinking about personas and about messaging and about like all the different ways we can present our product into the marketplace.

But very few marketers actually really spend time talking to customers unless it’s at a trade show us elsewhere. Right. So I almost think. As much as you can, let’s go ahead and spend some time and really figuring out what drives customers and what motivates them. Personally. I’m not talking from a business perspective.

Right. But actually thinking about what are they personally motivated by? What are they trying to achieve within their role as well? Right? Because that’s going to help you get to the essence of their story. I’d also say hula great sauce before you do anything else is actually going to talk to you customer success.

Because at the end of the day, those are the folks who are on the phones day in, day out with the, with the, with the customers. They’re often the one that meant interfaces back into the organization, whether it’s the analytics teams or the engineering teams or the product teams. So they’ve got a really good handle on what’s going on within the customer base as well, and can actually help you identify.

Unmatch up. Okay. This is what the organization is doing. This is what we’re seeing from customers. And this is how you can essentially align the two. So as you kind of build out your strategy, talk to the customers, you talk to customer success, and then I would all be obviously advocate for. At least hiring one person whose sole job is focused on customer marketing or customer advocacy.

It is, it is a very different set of skills, right? I mean, you have to be able to be a storyteller yourself. You have to be able to write, you have to be able to link back in with other parts of the marketing organization, whether that’s demand, you have to be somebody who. Problem solve as well. So, so I think dedicated role is a really foundational piece of building out a strategy for including customer advocacy within your marketing toolkit effectively.

[00:12:37] **Sam:**
That makes a ton of sense. And I love how you brought up the, prospects are 70% of the way through the buying process before they even talk to sales. I think the, sort of the imp the implementation and the accessibility of your customer’s story.

Becomes paramount with that in mind. right. Cause like it’s not, you know, people want to self serve. So what have you, what have you guys done at you all done that for her to, kind of make sure. Okay. Like we’re telling these great customer stories. And  whether they’re video, you know, texts, you know, written, and we’re actually making sure that prospects can find them on the round.

Cause I think that is like the kind of irony. Sometimes it is. It’s very easy to devote a lot of, time and budget to creating customer stories, but then they’re sort of buried somewhere on the website or whatnot. Right.

[00:13:34] **David:**
Yeah, that’s a, that’s a really good point. The salmon and in full disclosure, I think west Atlanta road, Jenny, that we’ve just recently hired a new head of digital demand. We’ve also hired a new head of content right in the last, in the last two or three months, because I think you’re right. I think it’s one of the biggest challenges is you can go out and create all this great.

And, it’s easy to say, all right, we’ve got it on the website job done. I think, you know, what’s really important is having a strategy then say, okay, we’ve got this great content reviews, albeit video testimonials, whatever else it might be, how do we then make sure that we’re using it through digital, through SEO, all through PPC, you know, how are we using it for our social strategy?

How are we also using it as importantly to help support our current. Because at the end of the day, it’s their story that we’re telling. Right. and so, you know, I think, in, in many respects is unless, unless you understand the motivation there, it’s going to make it much more difficult, to tell those stories.

So, I don’t think I answered your question, but.

[00:14:37] **Sam:**
No, I think, I mean, you’re right. I mean, there’s no magic bullet and, from what I’m hearing from what you’re saying is like, it needs to be a priority and we all have to cover. Think, I guess a bit more in a more sophisticated, nuanced way these days versus like, okay, like check the box. We have a customers page, you know, you know, or, I mean, honestly, that’s a really good start. A lot of companies may not even have a really updated, dedicated customers page. It might just be kind of haphazard.

[00:15:06] **David:**
Yeah. And I think the other thing as well is, you know, it’s really understanding what’s in it for the. And I go back to really understanding what their own personal journey is. Right. And a lot of companies do invest in doing customer journey mapping. So, you know, what is the experience for customer after they’ve signed the contract

And they’re onboarding? What does that communication look like throughout the course of the relationship? And obviously what you hope to do is way before the renewal. You’ve got to point a really good understanding and relationship. The renewal is hopefully more automatic and that you actually look at Maura kind of crossing up.

So in that point, right, and building a strong relationship with that organization, I think when it comes to customer stories, if you understand what the individual’s motivation is right then that makes it much more easy to go and ask for that. Whether it’s a video I’ll reviews, whatever, whatever else it might be.

I think, one of the things that we’ve tried to do as well is to really say. We know that our customers are in a pretty complex area of the business, right. That they’re not necessarily front and center all the time for the organization, but the work they’re doing has major impacts on the. And so the bucket where it is around e-commerce, you know, fraud and abuse.

And so what we try and do is we think about the customer story and the advocacy piece is how are we helping our customer tell their story better within the company and you you’re. Right. Right. video re now has become such a predominant way to tell, especially in the age of COVID where. You know, used to use a lot of live events and trade shows and conferences to help to share that customer story, obviously, that really went away for 18 months.

It’s coming back now, which is great, but the video has become such an important medium in all its forms, whether it’s a more informal like we’re doing, you know, people are much more use now to seeing less, highly produced video like this as standard. Right. but there’s still already in Paul in place for those raid.

Nice high quality, corporate videos as well. I think, I think it’s really about, going out and showcasing the customer success in different assets. Right. and that video has been, obviously the clearest is just one, and then figure it out. Okay. When you’ve got the customers buy in and they can see the, see the way that stories being presented, how do you then use it across the various marketing channels, et cetera.

[00:17:28] **Sam:**
Yeah, I want to double-click into that a bit, you know, tell me more, like, in your opinion, like what do you get with video when it comes to customer stories that you don’t get in other media?

[00:17:42] **David:**
Sure. So, I mean, obviously with video, you could still see the person, right. Even if it’s a nicely produced, a high quality video with B roll a and an a graphics, et cetera, you’re still hearing from that person. I think that’s the most important part, right? Is that, you know, Greencastle is a fine, but it’s really static on a page.

I think the beauty of video is that it does allow you to, create a single asset. It tells a story. You can make, bring energy into it through music and other graphics. but also gives you is something that is a really great call. That can then damn repurposed across so many different platforms.

Right? So it’s interesting. Now I know the guidance for doing like, a customer video is, you know, 90 seconds to two minutes at the most. but that doesn’t mean to say you can’t then use it as a 15 second promo for, a webinar or that you can incorporate it as part of a natural flow for your demand campaign, where you take like a 32nd soundbite.

The other thing that we’ve been doing a lot with videos is asking similar questions to a variety of different customers, and then really looking at competition. Videos around key areas that we know that prospects are particularly interested in right around key pain points. That’s been super valuable as well, because what it allows you to do is to get different talking heads, all talking about common issue or common pain point that we believe resonate best, with, with prospects and can help the sales team.

Again, bring some outside voices, bring some fresh perspective to help accelerate that.

[00:19:21] **Sam:**
That’s such a good tip around compilations. And, I think, especially with, with compilations, you have such a number of people, a number of faces. They can just deliver a lot of social proof, a lot of, you know, truthiness and trustworthiness. Really quickly. and, yeah, just having the there’s, you know, multiple people, even in like a 62nd video with five known people, it’s just like, boom, like awesome social proof.

[00:19:50] **David:**
Well, and also the other thing as well, right? I think the thing to recognize is we’re completely, completely operating in a much more inter interconnected and global. So the reason I also like compilations is allows you to reflect a much broader and diverse, group of customers as well. Right? So whether that’s, ethnically diverse, geographically diverse experientially diverse as well.

So when we think about, you know, an asset for global as well, having more diversity I think is really.

[00:20:21] **Sam:**
That’s a super key point as well. And, you also mentioned like, sales there. how do you see the, the relationship between, you know, customer marketing, customer advocacy and just customer storytelling and the sales team, I guess like really, I guess the question is. what sort of principles make for a great relationship between customer advocacy and sales?

[00:20:45] **David:**
Sure. And actually what I want to do is I want to take a step back before we even talking about sales Sam, because I think it’s easy to look at that side. Right. And what social social proof or advocacy becomes is the creation of an inventory or a library of assets that the sales teams can. But actually, I think it stops much out here in the sales process.

And this is the handoff I think, with marketing, right? And that customer advocacy has such a key role to play within the demand funnel, whether that’s top of the funnel model, building awareness, whether that’s more mid-fall on one, you’ve already got those marketing qualified leads in a look into natural and them off to the sales team so that they can go and actually start to accelerate some of those deals or whether it’s bottom of the funnel where you actually look.

To close those deals. Right? And so from my perspective, because my advocacy is really a key part or should be a key part of any company’s demand strategy. So whether that is looking at video testimonials, we’ve just talked about our use cases as part of the nurture program. that when you’re starting to build that awareness, whether it’s actually having a customer come and talk about specific use case or pinpoint at a round table or webinar, right.

I mean, that’s such an important piece of storytelling and advocacy to an audience that maybe excited, familiar with your organization. Know they have a pain point and they’re looking for, for other like-minded companies or other experiences, which is relevant to them and say, oh yeah. Okay. We can, we can learn from that.

And we can apply. and the, and again, I think as you focus in on more like account based marketing as well, it’s about how do you bring customers in to do targeted workshops, et cetera, where maybe it’s a small group, a group of prospects in a given market or with a given issue that are really that to share and learn from a customer who’s already been through that.

Right. So I would say even before you get some sales organization, customer advocacy has such an important role in making sure that the leads that you’re passing over to the sales team. Understand who you are, understand the value that you can drive from a customer perspective. And they’ve already got a sense of the value that you can drive for them in that role, within that team and for the organization.

And that’s really, that’s where the impulse in that hierarchy, right? Because at the end of the day, business is personal and that when people are evaluating potential vendors to looking at it from their own view, They’re looking at it is this company one that I can work with and is this company, the one that’s going to help me demonstrate my value within the organization as well.

So I think even before we get to sales summit, it’s really thinking about how you bring customer advocacy, whether that’s peer reviews or stories or, or getting speaker events or workshops, how do you bring customers into, into, into that, into that setting as well? before we talk about sales, I don’t know if you kind of thought about.

[00:23:30] **Sam:**
That is such a key point. and I guess how, okay. How, how, how do you recommend, you know, is it just okay. Figuring out where the gaps are like, okay, like here’s our strategy, here’s our priority. Here are our priorities around, our, demand gen and go to market and then like figuring out where the gaps are.

And then kind of saying, okay, if we want to move into this market segment, do we have the customer stories to support. Yes, no, we don’t. And then sort of, you know, moving from there. Yeah. do you kinda, make that happen?

[00:24:05] **David:**
Yeah, it’s a combination, right? So, so many organizations, you know, now really focus on providing blog, scaled, Lockton campaigns, even B2B. And so part of it is really, you know, how do you create that collaborative environment where you are bringing the key stakeholders within the marketing team, whether that’s digital or content or social or coms, also the tables say, okay, we’ll launch a campaign around X, what do we have in terms of content?

What do we have in terms of the customer stories to help support that? Right? And so sometimes. There’s going to be gaps. And I think that’s where then, you know, you go back to your customer base a little bit and take a look and say, okay, from our relationships we have w where do we know we’re in good standing with the customer?

Where do we think that we’ve got the relationship that we can go back and maybe ask for some level of testimonial, whether it’s written or video, or our reviews, et cetera. to go on, maybe fill those gaps and make sure that when we launched the campaign, we have all the different assets in place, whether that’s, again, the validation from the marketplace, through analysts or through customers.

So, you know, it’s definitely trying to take a more holistic view to how marketing is supporting the overall goals of the organization. And that really ties back into the company.

[00:25:23] **Sam:**
Yeah, that’s, that’s a great point. You brought up like identifying which customers to feature. Right. Which seems simple, you know, but it’s actually, I think very complex, especially at, companies of larger size, how do you actually, you know, figure out. And if you’re a marketer And you’re like, great, I’m going to do, you know, do these customer stories.

How do you actually figure out which customer you are going to to ask to, you know, appear in the story?

[00:25:48] **David:**
Yeah, I think there’s a quantitative and qualitative side to this. Right. So I think so many companies now, and we’re definitely on this path. They have health goals for customer accounts, right? So they will include everything from NPS scores or customer satisfaction scores as part of an annual survey, to really understand kind of where they are in terms of standing without.

Lots of companies will also integrate customer service tickets or support desk tickets as well into that equation. So they can add identify folks. Maybe you’ve called them with a problem and address that. But also folks who’ve called in who are super happy with the service. And they can also be down to, you know, simple adoption, like, are they members of a customer community, for example, as well.

Right. So there are, there are a number of different factors that play into kind of identifying what you would identify as your raving fans. folks who, you know, are super high NPS skull and would be very likely to recommend you to a peer or colleague. Right. So that’s definitely a good stat. I think also so many organizations who that customer success team, they have a really good handle on the overall standing of accounts.

And we’ll also be doing either executive business reviews or quarterly business reviews or annual business reviews, and can really kind of give you a good sense of the overall health of that account and whether it’s the right time to actually be thinking about, you know, how, if, when Reagan’s. What value we’re trying to drive for this account and the industry.

And this is the right time to go and actually ask them to be involved in some level of advocacy. and what, what we do increasingly is we, I, I worked very closely with the CS team and we have what we call promoting the partnership. So in advance of, quality business views or Daniel, I know business view, I’ll talk to the CS team and say, you know, Hey customer X, you know, seems to be in a really good spot.

What do you think we can potentially do with them in the coming year based on our. and we actually will include within the, the business review, a dedicated section to promoting the partnership, which will have everything from participating in a video testimonial to joining the customer advisory board, to participating in workshops.

And we don’t obviously put everything in front of what we try and do is tailor our approach for the accounts so that when the CS member mix ask for the. It’s very clear what we’re hoping to be able to do with the value to the customer for themselves when they organization. And so then making the ask within that quarter, or the following quarter is already been kind of identified and it’s expected, and that makes us much easier as well.

[00:28:27] **Sam:**
That is that. So I want to drill down into that. So if I’m understanding you correctly, because that makes a ton of sense. So basically like when you you’re, you’re thinking a quarter.

I had at least in your sort of socializing, Hey, here’s a menu of different options. What any of these, you know, be appealing to you? Maybe like next quarter? Yeah. I’d love to hear more about that.

[00:28:51] **David:**
Yeah. So, we know that for some customers and it’s interesting, right? Like, he’s mentioned doing this for quite a while for almost over 10 years now. And so you also have to kind of look at a behavioral level as well. Right. That people, when they come into a.

They’re motivated to do a great job, right?

But they’re also looking at a couple of different factors that will, will drive them their behavior too. So there’s no doubt that given that we’re in a hybrid world, that lots have changed, as well that customers are always looking for a way to be able to demonstrate the value that they’re delivering to their organization.

Right. It’s a point of pride, but also a point of differentiation. So if you think about it, we’ve had a number of customers in the last two or three months, actually be promoting their organism. Because of the weapon they’re doing because of the value that the driving part of it is based on the work that we’re doing with them.

Right. So that’s that whole. Idea, right. Moving up in the organization is one potential motivation. We also know it’s a very dynamic marketplace out there, right? That people are looking for the next opportunity, whether it’s within the organization to move laterally or within a different organization. So that’s that whole concept of moving out.

Right? So, you know, LinkedIn, you can usually find those tons of jobs going. and it’s very dynamic market. So people are also looking to best position themselves in the marketplace in that way. And then the final piece is that some customers just love what they do. It’s like one of the reasons I’m talking to you, right, Sam, I just love doing cause we’re marketing and I love the opportunity and thank you for inviting me on today, but I love the opportunity to go and talk about customer marketing, customer advocacy and what it means.

Right. There are lots of folks who just are passionate and want to connect with their peers and share ideas. That’s that whole concept of shout-out as well. So. Move outs and shoutout kind of three pillars. I look at as I think about my customers and what we might want to engage with them to help tell their story personally.

So that’s always a, a factor of, we can look at each QBR and then the other portion is, and what’s good for the business, right? That might be something that they want to promote intently. That they’ve got a big initiative, that they were underway. That being able to produce a video testimonial is a great way to be able to socialize something internally to say, you know, we’ve been working on this last 18 months, here is a two minute overview of what we’ve been able to achieve.

And it doesn’t have to be some of that, that they produce entirely. We can fund that. Right. But it also end of the day, it’s an asset that there is their story and where effectively.

[00:31:14] **Sam:**
I love that. And so essentially it sounds like. best practices might be, or like the future practices really like the future of this. You know, not just that one, you know, 92nd video, it’s, it’s, the, maybe the 92nd version for, you know, for your company and then maybe there’s a dedicated, you know, 92nd version.

That’s really just for them and it’s way more personal and highlights them even more. that I think, yeah, I’m curious what you think about that and like, actually like kind of like gifting them, like, okay, here’s your dedicated, special version. Where it’s like a hundred percent about you.

Like, this is like basically like you know, a career promo career sizzle reel, for that customer.

[00:31:57] **David:**
We’ve actually got a couple of customers, you know, who I’ve really understood the power of advocacy from their perspective.

And so, you know, we talked about, move up, move out, shoutout it, you could potentially be doing all three at the same time. Right. I mean, you know, as you think about your career, you are looking at different ways at different stages of, or maybe a five-year horizon because horizon got blew up in the last couple of years.

Right. But fundamentally you could be looking to how do I get promotion while you’re also looking like, oh, it’s a really cool bucket. Hi, I’m also looking to three years that further down the line to go and find my new opportunity. Right. And we’ve actually got a couple of customers who’ve really figured.

Hey, you guys do a nice job for. Here’s some stuff that I be willing to do because I won’t really want to build my profile. So we’ve got customer, a couple of customers who they want to go speak at industry conferences. They want the opportunity to go and participate in like customer advisory boards and other types of peer networking groups, because it see as a way to build a visibility, but also to kind of build more experience and knowledge and connections.

And so, yeah, we’ve definitely had a couple of customers who, you know, I’ve really worked closely with. And done video and, and spoken at trade shows and conferences. And we’ve almost been an extension of their Matson capability for themselves, right?

[00:33:12] **Sam:**
That makes a ton of sense. And so kind of just to summarize this whole section before we kind of move on and finish up, I think, you know, from my perspective, I’m hearing. Really, you know, first of all, like start really start the conversation, you know, early, right? Like if you need a testimonial, you know, a video testimonial next month, it’s not necessarily like, you know, it can certainly happen, but in ideally like you’re socializing it like a quarter and you really understand.

Taking the time to understand them as a person, their goals in how can you make it a two-way exchange of value for them a, you know, in terms of, you know, their career progression and, you know, whether it’s, just, giving them an awesome promo piece that they can use.

Showing making them an example of, you know, best practices within their industry.

And I think that’s also where video kind of ties back in as well as cause like, you know, it’s a lot, it’s pretty cool to have an awesome video,  about you, you know, especially, you know, in many cases well produced that you can then share on your LinkedIn and et cetera.

[00:34:17] **David:**
Yeah. The other thing I would say as well, Sam, right. It’s really important from marketing leaders and business leaders out there to think about. Customer advocacy, not as a discrete says activities, but as a relationship that you will look to build connectivity through. And what I mean by that right, is I’m now getting back into being able to do trade shows and conferences.

Right? Definitely great to have customers who are coming to willing to speak to prospects on the booth or, you know, doing speaking sessions or we’ll come to an event. But I also think it’s really important that as a marketing team, you don’t lose that opportunity to also say, okay, what else can we do with this platform?

What else can we do with this venue? And I think video is a great example of something that is super ubiquitous, right? So that if you are doing a customer events, right, you should be setting up a video booth to go and grab like four or five customers that. And that’s second talking heads answering four or five questions tie back into the campaigns.

Again, you might, you know, what’s coming up in the calendar year on the two or three big themes that you want to hit, have some questions prepared that allows you to go and capture that video across all three potential campaigns at the same time. Right? approvals can be tricky. Absolutely. So maybe you want to do a waiver in advance, maybe you do it afterwards.

But I think even being able to look at different venues and then say, okay, how do we apply video? In that instance, it could be a customer advisory board. Right? How do you go and set up a little video booth to go and get some customer testimonials from your advisory members? There’s so many different platforms.

And ways that you can go and create multiple different assets from the same venue that, don’t lose.

[00:36:03] **Sam:**
That’s it’s such a timely point with, you know, in-person events coming back, more and more. and yeah, and I want to kind of underscore for our listeners. a booth can be as simple as. A, you know, if you’re in your hotel suite getting, you know, a video crew and, you know, rearranging, you know, moving a little bit of furniture.

So you have a very clean, background. when, when David St. Video booth.

It’s more, it’s not, you know, a literal booth that you need to like worry about necessarily. It’s more of just like functionally having a easy place where like, exactly, like David said, you can just grab a customer, you know, for five or 10 minutes, ask them, you know, four to six questions and then, you know, boom, you have that, you know, footage, cat.

[00:36:53] **David:**
Yeah, exactly.

The other thing I would say as well, right? Some is we talked about talking heads and doing them individually and also doing, Real swell. The other thing I think is really important is, you know, how do you kind of create sizzle reels from events and various things which include some customer talking head, but also bring a lot of energy because the only other things I would say.

Is we see all the time about got kids, you know, the sense of FOMO, right? People don’t want to miss out. And I think if you do end up producing some really nice high quality assets, whether it’s, you know, 32nd, social stuff, or the full, like two minute, corporate video case studies, what’s great about that is it then makes it super compelling when you go and speak to other customers like, Hey, we would like to do something similar with you.

Yeah. What do you think? And having that library of resources or assets you can draw from to go and entice people. It also ties into that FOMO element as well. Right? You see that it’s highly produced to see that it’s about them. It’s not about promote. Your company is so much right then that we’ve found that to be a great, a great way to be able to set people’s minds at ease, to get people excited.

And also as importantly, to provide that evidence of proof so that when they go back to corporate illegal and say, Hey, we want to get approval to do something similar. They’ve got some examples that they can share within the organization that will help to make that approval process.

[00:38:09] **Sam:**
Yeah, and approvals, I think can be such a key point. Anything that you can share, a how, any tips around navigating those, you know, legal approvals with, you know, your customer story.

[00:38:23] **David:**
Sure. So I think, there’s a couple things to consider, right. timings.

So think about to where you are in the customer life cycle, right. Coming up to yours, et cetera is often not necessarily the best time to ask for video or whatever else it might be, but also it’s good opportunity to arm your customer success team or your sales team with, Hey, we know you’re going through a negotiation on the.

We know price is always going to come up, as part of that discussion, if it comes down to pricing issue, can we ask for different assets because my advocacy assets with us video or reviews, et cetera. Right. So that’s always a time that you can go back and ask. I would say also don’t look at. Because it is much more difficult to get external approval. No doubt. Right. So getting that nice flashy, sizzle, rail, all the other two minute corporate video, you know, it does take a lot longer. What I would also look at as well is other ways that you can generate video content that could be used.

Internal purposes and for sales purposes. Right. And there’s important differentiation there’s oftentimes when the sales team is going to speak to a prospect, which is in a, more of a closed meeting that you could potentially have some video assets available that would be Intel use only. Now the challenge is, you know, you’ve got to be able to manage that because obviously when a sales team gets onto really good assets, then they want to be able to share it with the world.

Right. but I think. In lieu of getting that full approval for it to be used on social, et cetera. I think it’s also worth saying, okay, which of these customers can we go back potentially with right now and get approved for internal usage and Excel usage? Right. I would also say you mentioned. it’s not just legal.

It’s also that corporate comms team as well. Right. Because they also want to be, make sure the loop, because at the end of the day, that primary responsibility is making sure that they’re protecting their brand and logo usage and everything else. So I think, I think that’s super important. And then the final piece, I would say in terms of getting legal approval, I’m cheating a little bit here, so.

It’s one of the things that we all struggle with as marketers is the salesperson is trying to beat the deadline. At the end of quarter, they’ve got the MSA, the service agreement in front of the customer to get them to sign it. And then of course the issue around the marketing agendum always comes up.

Right. And invariably, that’s one of the things that the sales teams will red line strike straight through. Right. I think, you know, in getting the deal done that spine, but what you do miss out into opportunity then to get some of the customer advocacy work with us, press releases on videos or reviews, you lose some, the opportunity to get us to locked in at the start of the contract.

Right? So, I would also say it’s part of that sales enablement piece to actually work more closely with the sales team say, Hey, look, we understand that you can’t get all of that. Within the contract, but we would love to be able to do a customer testimonial video six months after deployment, as long as performance is at X level.

And we’d love for them to do a peer review, whether it’s on Gartner or G2, which is anonymized, which is easier for a lot of customers to do. And it’s still really good proof, right? It’s still a part of the story that they can share externally. and we know that reviews are increasingly an important where.

Folks who are doing that research and that 70% of that work prior to the sales process.

[00:41:41] **Sam:**
That’s such a good point. and you know, it’s one of those things where, you know, you can get the tentative agreement and like, obviously you’re not gonna, you know, call in that, you know, review or that testimonial in the, in the rare case that, you know, whatever reason it didn’t go perfectly, but it only makes that, you know, the conversation easier when you kind of started earlier.

[00:42:03] **David:**
Exactly the other thing I was saying as well. Right. It’s think about it also as a human relationship, you don’t go in and immediately establish trust. Right? It takes, trust, takes time and building relationships takes time. Right. So, we talked a lot about video today, but I think it’s also important to understand that you can take a customer long ago.

And, and as long as you show showing that value, and as long as you kind of really showing that you’re that to be a partner and it’s not just a vendor relationship, I think it’s fine to bring a customer along on a journey, right? So this is where the advocacy piece comes in. There’s most, really a community or user group that would be relevant to a customer to participate in.

Maybe it’s a customer advisory board that you get them signed up to so that they actually get to engage with executives and the customers, and that. Then it’s a sign to say, okay, we have a bad relationship with this organization, with this individual. We’ve kind of built that relationship with trust.

Now, actually asking for that video or the act of advocacy is a little bit easier because you’ve got the relationship in place already. Right? So you, maybe you don’t lead off with a video straight away. Maybe there is reference call or there’s a, review that you’d like to get posted on online.

That’s actually a much easier ask initially than to ask for some something with a video, which we know is, you know, a little bit high production. Definitely. And then also take small review cycles and stuff. I would say that’s maybe most semester something you, you asked for a little bit let’s you in the relationship?

[00:43:23] **Sam:**
That’s a great point. It’s like, it’s just like any relationship. It’s a, stair-step sort of approach it. You know, you don’t have to, you know, make the, the huge ask right away. but the last thing I want to ask you about before we wrap up here. You know, kind of measurement and, you know, ROI and everything as it pertains to, you know, I think specifically customer stories.

I was actually, I saw, in a slack group that I’m in for customer marketing, a young, woman asked the question, which I thought was great. So I’ll just kind of ask it to you, but it was like, my executive team, You know, wants to understand the, what’s the ROI or the measurement of the customer stories that we’re doing.

Should I best, you know, basically tell them. And I think this is interesting that like a macro point, cause like also a lot of the ex executive teams are way more flexible on this. Cause like to a certain extent, Oh, like the, some of the times, it just, it makes sense, like to there’s like a implicit, you know, just a.

You know, understanding that like more social proof that’s relevant to your, you know, the right personas is always going to have a net positive, you know, approach at the same time, you know, depending on how much you’re investing, obviously, you know, you may have likely are going to have to justify it, you know?

So, yeah. I’m curious any last tips you have that either for that, you know, that person that we can, you know, maybe pass on to her, or just in general about this, you know, measurement

[00:44:50] **David:**
Sure. And I’ll tell you some, when I talk to other practitioners and people get into this space, this is the number one topic that always comes out. How do you show your value back to the organization? Right. and I think it’s been a challenge traditionally focused for marketing to do that So. I’m not going to lie to you.

I use a model that serious decisions really introduced, and I’m going to talk through it a little bit. I think, I think it’s kind of will be of interest, but I think bottom line is how does your work tied back into the company goals? And we talked about right at the start, right? That unless you align around the business’s objectives, you got to have a hard time proving your value.

So what I would say, and this is, this is a serious decisions model is, think about. showing value based on four key layers of four elements, one is around readiness. And I think too often, what happens is people want to skip to activity straight away. Right. They want to actually go and do it. But I think the readiness piece includes some due diligence around some of those conversations.

We started at the top, right. Go and talk to some customers, got engaged with the customer success team, go and figure out, okay, what information do we have within our CRM with a Salesforce, whatever else. Right. How do I integrate with. Maximum automation platform, whether that’s, you know, HubSpot or Marketo, figuring out some of that fundamental foundational stuff, because unless you know where the organization needs, you pointed and how you then going to be able to track and ultimate some of the work that you’re doing, you have a really hard time pay that down the line.

Right. So that’s that readiness piece next once you’ve got that define you kind of got a good sense of where the organization needs you to be pointed and what your customers, are aligned around. Right. then it’s around. So for me, it’s everything from, you know, how do we go next relationships with our customers through stuff like advisory boards or executive advisory boards, or we’ve got a friends of falter program for our customers, right?

So it’s really about kind of understanding, kind of activating customers in a way that they want to be engaged. Right. And allow them to show up away. It makes sense for them within that journey, activity could also include, customer journey mapping. Right. So really figuring out. From an advocacy perspective.

How, and when do you engage with customers? And some of it is simple communication. So what’s that onboarding experience look like. There’s also moments when you might want to delight a customer. So it’s like gifting and elevations of various things as well, and then obviously supporting kind of renewal.

So that tie kind of ties into the activity piece as well. And I’d also say, that as much as it’s your own activity, it’s also aligning around. Where am I collaborating with other marketing teams? Right. And so we talked a lot about demand, for example. So activity could also be mobilizing customers to do webinars or videos or whatever else it could be.

Right. So that’s the activity list. So you’ve got readiness activity and then. And this is why it’s really important to identify, identify your north star, right? If your main responsibility is to help the marketing team influence pipeline, then you’ve got to have results. I tied to that, right? So again, it could be that you’ve mobilized an X number of advocates to go and help you at a certain trade show or through a certain program.

Or it might be that you’ve actually got a whole series of videos that you’ve done that being broken down into different assets for social demand, right? In that respect. When you start to think about results, it’s not just about the customer advocacy results. It’s also, again, tying into what are the results for the web team while the results for the content team while the results for the digital team.

So when you think about, are we driving a greater, traffic to our website? How long are people staying in a session and not spending time looking at information? It also ties all the. Metrics into your metrics as well. So you can see the broad impact of customer advocacy, not only across the business, but across the marketing portfolio.

So we talked about readiness. We’ve talked about, activity, we talked about results, and then the final thing is impact. And, and for me that comes back to tying links to that north star and whether that’s influenced pipeline, whether that’s a set number of. Top accounts that you’ve inserted into ABM and revenue, et cetera, is all tying back in.

But you’ve got to be able to track that through Salesforce, et cetera, whatever other CRM you use, you have to be able to tie in to the way that the businesses reporting metrics, and that it aligns and that it passes the sniff test fundamentally as well.

[00:49:09] **Sam:**
That’s such a good point. Honestly, one of my takeaways from that is, sometimes it’s easier to align with the North Star if you shrink the scope of what you’re trying to attempt. If you’re a customer marketer and getting pushback on ROI aspects of the program, maybe sometimes it could be as simple as just dropping what you’re getting pushback on and double down on what aligns with the North Star.

Is that fair to say?

[00:49:38] **David:**
Yeah. By nature, I think a lot of people in customer marketing and customer advocacy have super insights. We’re curious, we like to have our hands in lots of different areas of the business. Which is great, because you learn more, but also a detriment because then you end up being spread too thin.

I think it’s absolutely fine to dream big and start small. So, to your point, Sam, there’s only so many hours in the day, there’s only so many customers, right? Where can we actually spend the most time and be effective for the business, rather than spread so thin across the organization that you feel like you’re not able to get any real impacts?

[00:50:15] **Sam:**
David, this has been fantastic. Where can folks connect with you or find out more about you or Forter?

[00:50:22] **David:**
Sure. So I’m obviously active on LinkedIn, so you can find me there. Also, David.Coates@Forter.com, as well.

[00:50:30] **Sam:**

Alright, folks, that is another episode of the State of Customer Storytelling podcast. We’re running low on time, so I’m not going to recap the whole episode, but this is, wow. This is a great one. I might just have to go and re-listen to this right now. We covered so much great stuff there.

I definitely encourage you to connect with David, follow him.

Until next time, this has been the State of Customer Storytelling.

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