Any customer has a good story to tell. It’s just a matter of teasing out what that story is.
For every person who thinks, “I’m not sure that anyone would care about why we picked Malbek,” there is somebody who will hear what it was that you wrestled with, will see themselves, and we’ll be like, “Oh, there is a better way. There is somebody out there who understands and has figured out a way to make my life easy.”
Alright, folks, welcome to another episode of the State of Customer Storytelling podcast brought to you by Testimonial Hero, where we’re all about helping B2B marketing leaders make customer stories their competitive advantage to hit their goals faster.
My guest today, is Becky Holloway. Becky is the VP of Marketing at Malbek. She’s the creative voice behind their fantastic brand. She’s a marketing and business development leader who has spent her career accelerating growth in tech finance, as well as healthcare, with a strategic blend of content creation, as well as a lot of social media expertise and deep analytical insight.
She’s also a Testimonial Hero client. So, maybe we’ll get into that later in the show.
Becky, welcome to the show.
Hi, Sam. Thanks for having me. It’s a real honor to be here.
Absolutely. Just to kick us off, why do customer stories matter? What’s the big deal with customer stories in B2B?
I think that at the heart of all marketing is a story. I think that’s why I was attracted to this field, even though that is not what my degree is in. I have a, a Bachelor of Arts in English and German, but I think by nature I’m a storyteller and have always been really attracted to stories.
So, I think it was very natural to make the leap from literature and English over to marketing, which is really all about telling stories that connect with an audience. You’re ultimately trying to get that audience to do something; to buy some product or to choose your company.
In the B2B world, I think for a very long time, we have looked at marketing a little bit differently than in the consumer world. We have treated it as though we were selling to an entity or a company, when in reality, it’s people that still make up those companies. So, when you’re trying to connect to those individuals, you still need to create an emotional impact for them. They need to be able to see themselves in whatever it is you’re selling or marketing to them. I think nothing does that more effectively than a customer story.
So, if the prospect in front of you can read a story or watch a video story that tells a scenario, relays a scenario that they themselves have struggled with—maybe a challenge or a pain point or something that keeps them up at night—then they can relate to the problem at hand better. Hopefully they can find your solution to be what they’re looking for.
I love that point you made about, having the story that really allows the prospect to relate to the Let’s I want to circle back on that a little bit later, but before we really dive in, tell us a little bit more about your background as well as Malbek.
Yeah. So, I got into tech. about almost 15 years ago, by answering a Craigslist ad, actually, I had just, I’d been living overseas for a couple of years in Scotland had returned to the U S right in, oh eight. Right. As the market was crashing, the housing. Bursting and, and times were bad. And I, so I answered, they responded to this ad and, somebody gave me a shot.
I had no background in tech. I did, I had done marketing and advertising a little bit, but I was given. position at a document management software company and the rest is history, so to speak. And I just, I absolutely found what I loved at the startup world is so exciting and fascinating. And it’s uncertain, which for many people, sounds like a nightmare, but for me it was invigorating and it meant that I always had big goals to work towards.
Then I kind of felt like my fate was in my own hands. So I’ve been doing B2B tech marketing now for quite a while. I’m in the Philadelphia area, which, you know, happens to be a, a great, a great area to be in for, for tech startups. And, I met one of the co-founders of Malbek back in. I want to say it was 2011.
So about 10 years ago, almost 11 years ago now. And we w we were working together at another contract management software company that was not their main product. It was a side product. Eventually I, I moved on, but kept in contact with, with Matt Patel, who is our COO and one of our co-founders. And, when he, and the other two, co-founders decided to start Mol back, which is strictly a, a contract meeting. a, software company. He reached out to me and said, I need somebody to do marketing. Would you be interested? And I said, yes, like I didn’t even have to think about it. Matt is such an amazing colleague and friend and, so I’ve been really fortunate now to be at Malbek for, coming on four years now. I started in a consulting capacity and now. The full-time head of, marketing, building out a team we’re growing very rapidly in part because of, the virtual world that companies are finding themselves in right now.
So legal teams do tend to lag a bit behind when it comes to technology, and our solution. primarily benefits, legal, team’s not the only team, but definitely one of the main beneficiaries of contract management software and, in a virtually distributed world, like we find ourselves, legal tech is just exploding with innovation and adoption now. So, where, where other departments may, may kind of laugh and chuckle and, and say, wow, you’re just getting into digital transformation now. You know, the lawyers they’re cautious by nature. What a shock. So they’ve taken a little bit longer to come along. So Malbek is experiencing some, some pretty amazing growth right now. And it’s a very exciting time to be in the legal tech sector.
Yeah, incredible. How, you know, the whole COVID-19 situation has been. obviously, you know, incredibly challenging in many respects, but also has provided some real tailwinds depending on, depending on the situation. I know for us, you know, our remote product line, that’s very much the case as well.
Circling back to what you mentioned earlier about, you know, creating customer stories that. your prospects can identify with, I guess that kinda brings us into the realm of strategy and how to think about a customer story, telling strategy even more broadly.
I’m curious, how, how do you think about that? And when you, go to create, you know, the the, fantastic videos that, that you all have at Malbek, You know, how did you figure out who to who you wanted to feature? and the kind of think about the strategy of that mix and you know, which customers to feature, which stories to tell, et cetera,
Well, as I’m sure you have experienced yourself and many of your listeners have, you know, sometimes the customers you go with or the ones that are willing to do the testimonial. thankfully Malbek has been pretty fortunate in that, ones that are willing to do customer testimonials have really good stories to tell.
So when that aligns, that’s, that’s really good. but I think really any customer. A good story to tell. It’s just a matter of teasing out what that story is. I think that, you know, for every person who has, am not really sure that anyone would really care about, you know, why we picked Malbek or why we needed to, transform our organization and, and begin doing contract lifecycle management in a more streamlined way.
There is somebody who will hear what it was that you rustled with. We’ll see themselves and we’ll be like, oh, so there, there is a better way. There, there is some somebody out there. Understands and has figured out a way to make my life easier. So, you know, I think part of the strategy is identifying the pain points that prospects are experiencing and then turning them into interesting narratives.
And then, you know, matching that up with, customers who are willing to get in front of a camera or, you know, in the case of a written case study are willing to put their logo on paper and say, okay, this is. This is us. This is our story. I think that anytime you can hear the story from the customer themselves, instead of, you know, a Malbek employee relaying that same story, it just loses, it loses power when it’s, coming from an employee, as opposed to the person who actually chose the software. I think it’s just more relatable. It feels more real.
I love that. And that’s, I think a big trend that we’re going to see more of. maybe five, 10 years ago, us as marketers, we all thought, Hey, let’s involve the customer story. Like later in the sales cycle. And it’s more of just like a checkpoint, but, but to your point, it’s like, basically anything that, you know, we can say, you know, as sellers and as marketers and our customers can say, better and a lot of respects.
And that sort of, I guess, begs the question is like, well, how can we actually leverage customer content and the voice of the customer and the throughout the whole buyer journey right now?
Even not just at that like more traditional old school, you know, later funnel stage.
Yeah, I definitely agree that it is an important part of, you know, being deeper in the funnel. But I also think that, We are naturally attracted to stories. And so I think it can actually be used pretty effectively top of funnel as well. And I’ll give you an example on our YouTube channel. So after we published the first batch of customer testimonial videos with you guys, I used those as the default videos on our YouTube channel. Instead of having like an explainer video or some kind of promo, I said, you know, let’s, let’s put our customers out there with their story. and that was that was a really effective strategy. and you know, consequently, we saw a really good response rate.
That’s awesome. And were those the, I know, cause we did a couple of different lengths of videos where there’s the shorter ones or what did you find there in terms of the different lengths of the video.
I think I did the middle of the road once. So we had one that was like the full length. And when that was, you know, maybe like 45 seconds and then the much shorter one, I think it was the, the metal one, but I’d have to go back and double-check.
Yeah, that’s awesome. And I just want to kind of underscore that for the listeners is, further along in the buyer journey, you know, the more, you can expect your buyers to, pay attention and stick around longer. So, earlier on. That is, especially when those shorter videos come in handy.
Just exactly like that. I know you mentioned, different, you know, written case studies as well, and I’m sure you also do, you know, some stuff with third party reviews. but yeah. Tell me more, how do you think about the different kinds of mediums and formats within the, this whole kind of customer customer content, customer story umbrella, I guess, you know, the big, big three of them being, you know, written case studies video, and then, review site.
I think that there there’s a place for all of those types of reviews, but I would probably throw in some others. So I actually think one of the most important types of, reference activity that especially in our space that a customer could engage in is a one-on-one reference. And I think that that often gets forgotten when we think about referenceability and the, continuum of reference abilities. I had a really interesting call a couple of months ago with a Gartner analyst. And one of the things that I, one of the key takeaways from that call was that this analyst said you shouldn’t think of your customers referenceability as binary as in. Yes, they will. Be a reference or no, they will not. You need to think of it as being a continuum.
And where do they fall on that continuum? Are they more towards the last, with an unwillingness to do much activity? If any, or, you know, will they basically do anything that you ask them to as long as they have the time. And so they’re much further on the right. What we’ve been working on doing at Malbek is really building out what are the tiers of referenceability that align with sort of the different phases of that continuum?
What are the types of activities, you know, so maybe on a very low end of referenceability, it’s just them being willing to follow your LinkedIn page, or maybe it’s, they’re only willing to do a private one-on-one reference call. For a late stage prospect, who’s about to sign a contract. So it was really private.
Nobody’s ever going to really know about it. But some of that activity could still have a pretty significant impact, especially when you think about those one-on-one reference calls, which are often kind of that final checkbox for many companies. So we, we’ve really built out this tiered program and then thought about, okay, what are different ways that we can thank our customers for getting involved at these different levels?
And then as a customer. it goes from the stage of, you know, being in the buying journey to now being customer implementing and then hopefully a happy customer. How do we then get them involved? In that same, referenceable continuum that got them to become a customer in the first place. So it’s a pretty big program.
It’s something we’ve spent quite a while working on. it’s still early days for us, but we’re, we’re very excited about it. And I think that, when I stopped thinking about referenceability as a, as a binary problem and more about, okay, where are, where is that? On the continuum of referenceability suddenly it didn’t seem like this, you know, really huge mountain to overcome. because getting reviews and references for your mirror, customers can be really tough in the B2B world, especially the larger the customer is.
That is such a good point. And, yeah, there is. Wow. There’s a lot that we can impact there. I think. that’s the future right now. Very much so. And, in terms of that program, I’m curious, like, do you, you know, within the different reference activities. Is it even sort of, you know, almost like a continuum or a infinite loop or a circle around the reference activities themselves as compared to like a funnel.
Right? Cause like, I guess like in many respects, it’s like, I know why a lot of people think of their reference program as sort of like a funnel where it’s like, okay, like here’s the basics. And then they moved down to kind of more, you know, involved asks, but lately I’ve been thinking I’m like, yeah, even.
You know, th that’s just a little bit of an over-simplification of like the way we all actually, you know, act as references. Right. And to your point. So, yeah. So within that continuum, I guess, how do you think of, the different asks how you sort of move people, or how people choose to move through the reference program, how your customers choose to.
Yeah. So whether it’s a line or a funnel, I mean, I don’t, I, I think either one can work. I think what’s really key though, is that you start with small discreet asks and as you create an environment where the customer of course is going to say yes to that, then they kind of move further and further along, whether that’s a funnel or a line.
So I’ll give you an example. let’s say. customer signs. And then within that first week, you have somebody in say, product marketing, reach out to that customer and say, you know, congratulations for becoming a Malbek customer. We’re so excited to have you be part of the family. we think that there are some really interesting takeaways from your particular set of use cases.
And I have put together. One slide that captures my understanding of your buying journey. Would you be willing to look it over and tell me if it accurately captures what your company went through and making the decision to purchase Malbek? We would like to use this as an internal training tool. As we onboard new account executives.
So I’m not asking them to, put their logo out there. I’m not asking them to, say okay, to a press release, a named press release. I’m not asking them to do anything. Public-facing, I’m asking them to. Give me a checkbox of yes. Does this story accurately reflect? And that becomes the building block of what can come next.
So even if they never get beyond, yes, you may use my customer story to help train internally. We’ve still gotten value out of that. We can still use that from a messaging standpoint internally to get new reps onboarded. I have another customer, Awesome. Huge advocate of callbacks. She is with a very large med device manufacturer and their corporate policy is that they are completely unwilling to do anything named at all. I was still able to get this individual to come on our podcast and talk about. Her contract management challenges. We never mentioned the company that she was with. and she was able to share ways that she had transformed contract management within her organization. And we will be able to now take that podcast and we can turn that into the basis of a blind case study.
So I think part of it is also just getting really creative and thinking outside of the box of how you can use customer stories. One of the things I really appreciated from this analyst that I mentioned a moment ago. He said, don’t be afraid of the blind case study. If you have a really nice substantive story and you have to put a little disclaimer at the bottom that the name has been changed to protect the not so innocent based on corporate policy, everybody gets that we, we all understand in the B2B world, that larger companies are probably not going to give you.
Okay. But there is still a really valuable story there to tell. And you can tell when it’s in the own words of, an actual customer. So I would say get creative and just be really upfront and honest that, Hey, this story could really benefit you, but we had to blind the name because we don’t have authorization to use it in this way.
But if you get further along in a sale cycle, we would be happy to connect you with this customer.
I love that. I mean, those are two really, really good tactical takeaways for the listeners. I mean, I think the whole idea that, you know, the first one, like advocacy doesn’t always need to be external to be, to be valuable. It can, and it can start small, right? That, that, that’s such a good example. It’s they’re still advocating for you.
There’s still. Adding value, but it’s not, you know, it’s really thinking outside the box from the typical kind of external ask
And then yeah. But the levels of permission that is, that is a great one. I think, you know, the other thing is in many cases I think you can sometimes like, tow that line where it’s like, 4,000 person company in X city, in New Jersey in this industry.
Right. It’s like you legally, like aren’t saying who it is, but like anyone who wants to know, or even like, look the person up on LinkedIn. Right. So it’s like, you can, there, there can still be that social proof in that credibility you know, and it’s, well, it’s technically blocked. Right? Cause anyone can, if they want it could, you know, put together the dots.
And Becky speaking of video, I know that, and Malbek, you made a pretty big transition from just strictly a written case studies to actually moving towards, customer videos. I’m curious, just, what did, what did you kind of learn in this process or what have been some of the, the functional kind of benefits that you’ve realized from, you know, expanding those customer stories into video?
So I think that there is a place for written customer stories in addition to doing video testimonials. but I think the reality is. Everything is moving towards video more and more. When you think of, you know the most popular up and coming social media platforms today, everything is gearing towards an expansion of video communication.
And, you know, I can’t help, but think about tech talk and you know, my, I have, teenage kids and, just yesterday I had my daughter like walk me through exactly. How creating a tick tock video works and you may laugh because how I’m a marketer. How do I not know that? Well, I just did. That’s not a platform I really use in my job and haven’t really used at all in my personal life.
But when she explained it and how simple it was, it’s really just taking the idea of video when you think of the YouTube craze. Right. And it’s just not gone away at all. It’s made creating video content so much easier. We are wired to process visual information faster and retain it longer. So I think it just makes sense to ensure that your customer testimonial.
Content is available in video format. You’re also going to need some written as well. I think people like to be touched in different ways and some people are going to be more receptive to reading a case study. That’s going to feel maybe more real or serious to them than maybe a video testimonial, but I would suggest interspersing the content as you’re reaching out to your prospects.
And. think about different ways to use your customer videos. I mean, we did recently did a, an employee video, which is really about the culture of Malbek, but I see that as yet, just another way to connect with our customers. So while it’s not necessarily telling a customer story, it’s telling the Malbek story in a way that is, you know, really emotionally connecting with the viewer, Letting them know what is Malbek like, who are these people that would be taking care of me?
What do they value? It’s putting a face to the name and I think it helps make Malbek more real and more certain to them as they’re watching that video.
It’s a great point in terms of the, the employee video. And, tell us a little bit more about that. So, in addition to just kind of humanizing the people behind the brand, which has, huge, you know, actual, marketing value. Are you also thinking about that for kind of recruitment marketing?
Cause I know that is like a big, you know, becoming a bit of a buzzword right. As the talent landscape shifts and you know, everyone’s got to kind of market for recruiting more, but yeah, I guess how are you thinking about using that employee kind of culture, video employee testimonial video.
Yeah. So I’m looking at that video as a way to speak to a number of different audiences. When I think of, you know who the different groups are that may be coming to Malbeks website, you know, that could be, prospective employees, right. People who are looking to apply to open positions at Malbek. So it definitely gives them for a flavor of what mole back is all about I do think though, that customers also and prospects, look at things like the, about page of a company. I know I do when I’m looking at purchasing software, I often will go and see who are the leaders and how do they represent themselves as a company?
Is there diversity at that company? What are the values? What are the things they’re talking? How do they speak about themselves? So I think it tells you a lot about the company, but, you know, partners will also be coming to our website too. And, and for us, you know, given our stage of growth, investing.
Right. So it’s speaking to a number of different audiences and I think it was, it’s just a incredibly powerful tool. You know, what do they say? Like 93% of communication is nonverbal. So, I mean, think about what a disadvantage your ad. If the only way you can communicate is through the written word. If we’re able to communicate with facial expressions and body language, in addition to the words that we’re speaking, there’s going to be more layers to that communication.
I love that. And it’s so true, especially today, you know, it’s like we don’t just do business with companies. We have, we do business with people. you know, if you’re, if you’re a marketer or if you’re a company and you’re not, sharing that, you know, the people behind the company like you guys are at Malbek, you know, you’re really putting yourself at a disadvantage, you know, so kudos to you and your team for doing that.
In terms of, marketing leaders who, they, they like what they’re hearing and they want to sort of catch up in terms of, customer stories and, and maybe employee stories as well, specifically for video. you know, what advice would you give someone who is basically like, okay, I get it, you know, video’s here to stay. you know, what advice would you give them to, to kind of get start.
I would say, call Testimonial Hero, because you guys make it so simple and affordable.
Well, thank you. I really appreciate that, Becky. That’s exactly what we strive to do. And it’s honestly just been a pleasure working with you and your team, and we’re not slowing down. Customer storytelling is only becoming more important. So, lots of good, exciting stuff.
Alright, folks, that’s been another great episode of the State of Customer Storytelling, with Becky Holloway.
A couple of things I really want to underscore for the listeners is this whole idea of a continuum of referenceability. It’s so powerful, just a small mindset shift that I think can really transform everything around how you build your reference program.
Another great takeaway from this episode is starting with small discrete tasks, even something that is more of an internal advocacy activity, like getting a customer to give you some feedback on a slide to be used in a training situation. It’s still an advocacy activity that I think is just such a great tip that we can all use. Remembering that not all advocacy is the big external stuff. It can be valuable internal stuff as well.
Last but not least, levels of permission and the blind case studies can still be extremely powerful. Especially when there’s a specificity in them. The more detail, it still can work really well.
We’ll see you in another episode, and as always, if you like the show, please like, share, subscribe, and if you have anyone you’d like to be a guest in the future, just shoot me an email.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
That’s all for now, and we’ll see you in the next episode.