Video is the best medium for telling stories. Books are great. I love books. I read a lot of books.
But when someone’s online trying to buy something, they’re not going to read your book. They’re probably not even going to read your webpage. Even if they do, it’s really hard to communicate that visceral, emotional story that exists in your customer testimonials or even explainer videos.
There’s a time and a place for all those things, but video is unparalleled in its ability to tell stories.
Alrighty folks, welcome to the State of Customer Storytelling podcast. The show that is all about helping you get the download on the most current practices and strategies related to customer marketing and customer storytelling.
The State of Customer Storytelling is brought to you by Testimonial Hero. Testimonial Hero helps over 300 B2B software companyies easily create stunning video testimonials that close deals faster. You can view examples and find out more at testimonialhero.com.
Today on the show we have Alex Dunn, Director of Demand Generation at Levelset.
Alex, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me, Sam. Always a pleasure to chat with you.
Absolutely. The first question I wanted to ask you is, what’s your favorite way to leverage customer stories in your marketing plan? Where do you personally find the most value when it comes to customer storytelling?
Am I allowed to say at all points of the journey? There’s an element of having your customer’s voice everywhere, from before anyone knows about your brand, all the way to the day that they are signing the contract.
Depending on what awareness they have of your brand or what awareness they have of the pain your brand solves, hearing from customers, either at a soft sell way or a no sell way, all the way to, “Hey, you gotta check this out!” The best place to use it is everywhere.
I love it. Just to give folks a little more context on your background, tell us a little bit about your current role and what you’re focused on at Levelset.
Also, congratulations for the big acquisition by Procore.
Yeah, definitely. That was an exciting time to be alive last October at Levelset, which is a SaaS company for construction payment professionals. So, for people in construction who manage the complexity of payment. It’s kind of esoteric and a niche, but it’s very, very interesting as you peel back the onion. We were acquired by Procore, who’s kind of the 800 pound gorilla in the construction tech space.
It was the second largest acquisition in construction tech. We’re really excited and it’s really fun. I’ve been at Levelset for over four years, doing a variety of different marketing roles. The last two and a half years or so my role has been very focused on the very top of the funnel, driving as many eyeballs as possible to our website by producing content at an alarming rate.
And I want to focus in on that, you know, driving eyeballs, because we were talking in the pre show a little bit about user generated content and you know, how a Levelset you all have actually, You know, created, or a really prioritized a way to, you know, get, you know, get content created, you know, featuring your customers.
And it, it’s not a endorsement necessarily. It’s not a testimonial, but at the same time, it is, you know, user generated content. It is customer content. Okay. I want to dig into that, you know, from a couple different angles, but just to, at first and foremost, you know, what was the idea behind that?
Why, why did you all want to you know, spearhead that initiative?
Yeah, I don’t think that there’s an exact simple answer here. other than. At our core, you know, I, I believe that no one cares about Levelset, and I think that every marketer should believe that no one cares about your brand. but people do care about themselves. And when you can get the community of your target audience talking together, and it’s, it’s more of like them talking to their peers, versus someone talking to them about a brand.
It becomes a lot more genuine and excellent.
So when I started in the content realm of Levelset, we, we knew we had three different types of content we could use to drive as much traffic as possible. And every year we try and double our organic traffic. Year-over-year, we’re always trying to double our traffic, trying to get more and more eyeballs.
And we can do that by producing our own content. which we call Levelset generated content. That’s your, your blogs and your topic pages and your helpful guides. Everything that you create as a brand to deliver, help, or deliver valuable content to your customers, then you have. User-generated content.
And that’s like, that’s the magic. That’s where we get into that customer stuff. Where the users on your website can start contributing content to your little content universe. So that’s people asking questions, leaving comments, leaving reviews. All these different ways you can collect content. we even go to the extent that we kind of award people in the industry for doing great jobs and we interview them and we use their like interview content about how they got great at their jobs to produce content we have people who are, have been in the industry for 20 years, who we have, teach webinars to other people in the industry. And it’s this idea of using that user generated content to foster a commuter. Which then gets more people to come in and learn from the community and contribute more. And it it’s like a virtuous cycle. and then the third type of content is data-driven content, which is content that we, either create or display based on data that flows through our system or data that we go and get from the market. So those are our three major buckets of content. And I guess like the one we want to zoom in on, in this customer conversation here is about that user generated content. And it’s really a huge part of our, of our play. last year we had over 150 experts from the end of. Come in and either teach a class, write a blog, post, write a guide, or do one, one thing or another within that user generated content world. And even within those, they’re not talking about our brand at all.
They’re talking peer to peer, to the others in the industry. to provide that help. and we have a few little sayings that I’ll mention that kind of like feed this content machine that we built. one is more common, more, we’re all like the more content we create, the luckier we get, and the other is help first sell second.
So we’re very, very focused on that health first content. and when we go and make decisions around what content we want to create, we use. Pretty good SEO muscles around, like, what are people searching for? What are they looking for? Where do people need help? But also like our main north star principle is w what will be the most helpful thing to someone who is struggling with XYZ problem or challenge.
That’s such a good principle. And in terms of the. Industry experts, the 150 industry experts that, you all involved, tell me a little more about that. I’m curious, like, are those like, are some of them pro like prospects that you like to sell to? Or is it like, you know, some are prospects, some are just, you know, maybe more like analysts or partners, or like, how does that break down and how do you sort of think about. that whole mix of, you know, the benefits, because I’m sure there’s a relationship building component as well, in addition to the, you know, the content, but yeah, I’d love to hear. How do you guys think about that?
Well, the way it breaks down, which I think was your first question was in probably pretty evenly across the board on, there are plenty of peoples that are, are not at all involved in levels. as a customer or don’t pay us or anything. there are a couple that are, you know, kind of industry pros, like construction lawyers, who aren’t customers at all, but like they love our audience and what they have to teach and be able to provide that help and that value to our audience.
That’s really valuable. So I guess the way we think about it again, like kind of coming back to this idea of a community, that can kind of help each other, you know, I’ve been in the industry of construction payments, whatever that is for, you know, four years. But there are so there’s like so much more for me to learn.
I don’t know. I don’t deal with the pains firsthand, the same way people in the industry do that have been doing this for 20, 20 years, 30 years. and what they have to say is, is way more valuable. and, and they’re proud of that. Like if you’ve been in industry. More than 10 years, like you are proud of what you’ve learned and what you’re able to teach other people.
And there’s a huge feeling of giving back. I think that’s present in construction. It’s a very relationship, heavy business. and we position everything we do around user generated content as giving back. We’re trying to give them a platform to act as thought leaders. We’re trying to give them an opportunity to network with peers and we’re trying to do.
Give all this information that can be created in this like shared knowledge or unshared knowledge and make it shared, through our, our various content programs.
That’s such a great point and I want to underscore it and it’s that, it’s that two way exchange of value. Right. And I think what I’m taking away from this is like, you know, as marketers, you know, when, whether it’s a customer, an industry.
You know, the, you know, first of all, to your point, you know, help first sell second.
And it’s like, you know how, and then it’s like, how can we make this a two way exchange of value? You know, whether it’s, you know, UGC content, customer content, it’s all about, you know, helping that person achieve what they wanna achieve as well.
Yeah, there’s a, there’s a great book called give and take by Adam Grant. And there are some principles in there that are kind of like no brainer, but there’s also just this kind of mental framework that you develop after spending enough time with the book, that I push on everyone on my team. When, you know, if you have ever gone to go get a testimonial, which if you’re listening to this podcast, you probably have tried to go and get a customer testimonial and you have to ask for something you’re, you’re making an app.
You you’re a, you’re a taker. And in almost every one of those situations, if you kind of take a step back and think like, how can I frame this as me giving them an opportunity to do something? and, and there’s almost always an opportunity to do that where you’re not asking for, Hey, can I have a day of your time for filming or 30 minutes of your time for a zoom interview?
Where you can say like, Hey. I want to give you the chance to talk to your peers about how you got so damn good at your job. Like there’s always kind of a cool way to frame it. and then when you start doing it at scale, and you’re starting to show that content of your customers, you’re trying to really extract knowledge from the industry and put it out there as a resource. good stuff starts to happen pretty fast.
That’s absolutely true. And, you know, such a, I think a real reoccurring, topic on this show and you know, this idea of, you know, the different things that can, can motivate your advocate. And, pure recognition and is powerful and I’m going, it’s also valuable, right? It’s, it’s valuable if someone, you know, if you’re going to someone in your, you know, honestly being like, Hey, like we want to hold you up.
As a example, you know, as one of our lighthouse accounts, you know, shine a light on you. you. know, hold you up as an example of best practices in your industry. That is extremely, you know, that content that’s great. And that’s extremely valuable, for that, individuals, you know, personal brand professional brand.
Right. So, such a good, such a good point there.
Yeah. And just to kind of like tag on a little bit there at the end.
I, another book I’ll recommend to the audience is the power of moments by chip Heath and Dan Heath, brothers that write these great kind of marketing framework books made to stick is like another one of my favorites by them.
But the power of moments uses this framework. It’s called the epic framework where you want to create a moment that has elevation. Pride insight and connection. And if you can create a moment like that, which you very much can, in these interactions with your customers and give them an epic moment, show that like give them the pride that they should feel as an expert, show that they have insight that other people don’t connect them with other people by, by taking that content that they created and putting it in front of your whole audience. which 1:00 AM I missing? Elevation. So yeah, like your cat, can you make an elevated moment? Can you bring them a swag bag? Can you take them out to lunch or cater lunch for them? Like, what is the thing that kind of elevates the moment and ties it all together? it’s a great book and it’s a great framework to use. when you go to take your customer and, and make them the hero of the story that you want to tell as a brand, we actually call people who, you know, come to our website and leave a review. when they leave a good one, we’re like, that’s a payment hero. We call them payment heroes and we have a definition for what a payment hero is at Levelset. And it’s these people that are the most informed, the most knowledgeable, they’ll be stressed like they’re, they’re bringing in the bacon for, for their business in an industry where payments are very hard to chase.
Hmm. I love that. And we’ll put that link, that book in the show notes for everyone. And that’s definitely one that I’m going to be checking out and, just a great, super simple, but powerful four letter framework, epic. you mentioned reviews and I wanted to transition to that. in terms of, I know, you know, we were, you were mentioning you have, a really.
You need kind of a cultural process where, you know, you actually you’re actually, you know, as part of your review, initiatives, you’re also leveraging you’re leveraging reviews, sharing every single review internally, you know, and tell me a little bit about, you know, how you do that. You know,
Why you do that?
Good question. As a business, we’ve always been very service focused. and we have a channel in slack called the wow channel. And, we, we love to create wow moments and this kind of bubbled up after we landed a huge customer. this was before my time, we landed at gigantic enterprise customer and we totally dropped the ball.
We, we failed and we lost the customer and we. like, I don’t even know, like religious about creating wow moments for our customers and wowing them. and, we started using Trustpilot, which is, you know, one of the handful of true review sites out there. if you don’t use the one I’d recommend that you do, it’s a great way, To not only show off your brand to people who are interested in it, but also to create that positive validation of your support teams or your customer success teams that are busting their ass every single day to try and. Deliver a great experience to your customer and get that upsell, get that retention, prevent the churn, all that stuff.
So we started using Trustpilot, not a huge fan of them as a company, I’ve had some off-color experiences with them,
And just to clarify you, you all, you guys use Trustpilot is that because you sell to more like an SMB audience and that’s just a lines.
I think we used it because it was like the big one at the time and we just started using it And then like once you started using it you kind of like can’t transfer out, which is one of the things I was like oh, that’s kind of annoying. But anyway, just the other week we had our 3000 through view, five-star review from a customer. when I started with. 400, four years ago. So we’ve gotten several thousand over the last few years. And, like I said, when someone leaves a five star review or any review for that matter, I like to think they’re all five star reviews. Cause it seems, it feels like that there’s so many of them, it gets piped into our wild channel on slack.
And then whoever earned through review gets to put a photograph of Taylor swift on the Taylor wall. So in our office, we actually have over 3000 photographs of Taylor swift. Paste it on the wall. And it’s like this great experience where you, you earned you, you worked your ass off, you created an epic or a wow moment for someone.
And they took time out of their day to talk about how we help them or how they’re helped. And it’s a, it’s a major positivity boost within in the company and the team people celebrate it and react to it. I mean, our Taylor 3000 party, there was so much confetti everywhere, you know, there’s, there’s champagne being popped.
So we really celebrate those moments internally, not because like, woo hoo. We checked off the box of 3000, but we literally created 3000 of those payment heroes. We see our direct impact of how we can bring, a little bit of happiness to the people in the industry that are mainly stressed out about managing payments.
That’s sort of interesting because I think a lot of people. A lot of companies and brands, you know, kind of have this kind of branded term for their employees. Right. You know, and maybe you guys do as well. and, but actually I think less of them have like this kind of branded hero term for, for their customers.
And it’s, it’s powerful when you can kind of create. That’s shared language and you know, that just makes everything more, more meaningful and you kind of branding it. And then secondly, like, I, I love the slack channel integration because you’re right. Like a lot of, a lot of people working on the product are fairly far away, you know?
Well, in some cases it’s very far away from the customer, right? If we’re talking about engineering and stuff And then other people, you know, dealing with the customer might own only deal with them when it’s like putting out fires, right? Like, like support or, you know, success sometimes.
So like, I it’s so powerful just to remind everyone, like we are making a difference here and like, automating it is just, is the key. And I hope that people listen to this and think of how, how can I do something super simple. Just pipe it into slack. Every time XYZ happens.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s it’s really cool. And like you said, people in engineering, people in different offices, people that aren’t on the front lines, working with the customers, seeing this on a daily basis, like on an hourly basis, sometimes it’s just like it. You can feel the momentum. And the desire to like want to go get another five star review by making your code that much better by making your marketing program that much cuter or your social posts that much like snappier. there there’s so many little things, that momentum of five star reviews and customers coming in, like I said, taking time out of their busy day because you actually helped them.
And it’s so much more creative, you know, of a solution than just saying, Hey, like, we’ll, you know, we’ll give you, like, if you get a review, we’ll give you like, you know, a gift card or something right there. I like, I have no idea where the Taylor swift, you know, Genesis story came from, but I like that it’s like a creative and different thing that is like something unique to, you know, to you guys in your culture.
And it just makes it, it’s just such a, become such a cool.
You know, kind of cultural, reinforcing activity.
Yeah, I actually don’t even fully remember the story of how it started, but I just remember one day they were like a couple of tailors on the wall. And then like couple of weeks later there was like a hundred. And then all of a sudden it went from one wall to another wall, to another wall. And just like, it’s spreading, like, I’ll say wildfire, I suppose. I don’t know what the, what, what spreads that you don’t like, or that it’s like positive these days. But yeah, it is really cool and very bizarre. You can check it out on our Instagram. I think it’s a level side. Life is the Instagram handle and there might even be a Instagram called level swift, which has all the Levelset Taylor swift content.
Our director of support was really into Taylor swift. And I don’t know how or why it came out this way, but it was a very big part of our culture for, for one reason or another. I don’t even listen to Taylor swift that often, like, don’t hate me for it. I think she was great, but I don’t, I don’t put her on all the time. but I feel like I want to, because it’s just really part of the company.
Absolutely switching gears to talk a little bit about, you know, we talked about reviews. I want to talk a little bit about, video, cause I know, you know, you guys have done quite a lot of video, both with us as, well as, you know, internally, as well, and kind of built up that, you know, that competency as well.
How do you think about just like video as, as a medium, when it comes to. You know, customer stories and what do you, what, what are you particularly, I guess, appreciate about video.
It’s a good question. mean, I don’t know how obvious this is to everyone, but I feel like it’s super obvious is that like video is the best medium for telling stories. I mean, books are great. I love books. I’ve read a lot of books. but when someone’s online trying to buy something, they’re not going to read your book.
They’re probably not even going to read your webpage. And even if they do, it’s really hard to communicate that visceral. Emotional story that exists ideally in your, your customer testimonials or, or even explainer videos. you can show, without telling, you can tell with a feeling and emotion, you can lay down.
Video are like an audio that elevates all of it. you can play with the pacing to like, oh, there’s just all these things you can do. That’s very hard to do with texts. or with infographics or, anything like that, e-books you name it? there’s a time and a place for all those things. I love, I love all types of content equally.
But video is unparalleled in its ability to tell stories. And I know you always like to say this, Sam, whoever tells the best story wins, and like, how are you going to compete when you don’t have an awesome story?
Yeah, no, I, I mean, I completely agree. And the other thing that I, I mean, another thing that’s great about videos, like video is sort of the, the master medium, or like you can, you can always take your video and you can. pull the transcript, use that to write your case studies. You can pull quotes from that for your slides and your sales tax.
But like, you know, it doesn’t work in the reverse. Like you can’t take like. you know, a written case study and all of a sudden turn it into, you know, a video at least with like the emotion of a real person, you know, on camera. Right? So like, I personally like, as like, as Margaret is right now, like, you know, we’re all focused on, you know, creating more great content and doing more with the content that we have, like this whole idea of like, Atomizing content, like breaking it up, you know, micro content, making it more snack.
Well, I think, you know, videos is lends itself to that because you have these, all these different layers and then, you know, you can split off like audio grams. You can split off texts, but yeah, it doesn’t work the other way around, in most cases.
Fast for sure. And also say one thing I thought about while you were kind of talking through that was, you know, if anyone who’s listening to this has ever done any type of like video testimonial or conversation with a customer It’s those unscripted moments that you couldn’t write. If you tried where your heart beats a little faster, you kind of get like cold chills, because they said the line of your marketing that you’ve never written and you didn’t know existed because they have such a personal experience that you as.
The marketer or salesperson, like we do everything we can to connect with our customer, but we’re not our customer and the way that they feel, if you ask the right question and they just like, say that one thing that you never even thought of, but it’s so damn true. You’re like, oh my God, this was. Every penny, like video is not easy to make.
Like it’s almost always better to hire someone to go do it for you. And I’ve seen a lot of companies. I failed a lot of this, my myself, trying to try to do it myself. It’s hard to get the right questions to elicit the right responses. And when they come with the right question, And someone’s speaking from the heart and they’re loosened up and, and letting it roll, man.
They say stuff that you’re like, okay, I need to go to my home page and change the first, you know, I need to like go drop that quote in and change my value prop because they, they know it better than I did.
Yeah. It’s when it comes to like the positioning and the, you know, customer research aspects. It’s so powerful. Right. And kind of going back to like, you know, Video versus tax. I think a lot of, you know, marketers, you know what, when they just go to get like a text quote, they might even, you know, write it for, you know, sometimes that’s kind of the old fashioned way, you know, it used to be very common.
It’s like, I’ll write a quote in like, you know, get it approved. And, but like, it’s exactly what you think you want, but. By going that route. And sometimes customers will even ask about sure, like, you know, show me something and I’ll prove it. Like, whatever, like I don’t have time, but like, by taking that shortcut, know, we miss out on the kind of serendipity, that, you know, actually occurs from having those, you know, more thoughtful conversations, like you said,
And they usually like peel back the onion a little bit on why? sometimes you don’t even ask the right question and they like go down the path and talk about their reason for making this decision to buy your software or use your service. I literally never even thought about that use case. So it’s really interesting.
I mean, you get a lot from the experience of creating customer content and then like the experience of actually being part of the creation versus like just the outcome, which is why you’re doing it in the first place is to get it in front of more people. so it’s kind of like a nice little bonus.
And what about any tips for any marketing leaders who, you know, that they like what they’re hearing and they want to kind of. Get caught up or really, you know, dive in with their, customer storytelling strategy, you know, what perspective or, you know, advice would you give, for someone who’s kind of, you know, in the earlier days or, you know, just getting started.
W where should they get started?
That’s a good question. every business is so different. I’m having a hard time thinking of like, what would should anyone do? a few times, you know, I’ve, I’ve tried to do I’ve biting off more than you can. Chew is never a good idea. Like if you can get, you know, if you were to start today, I’d say work with someone who knows how to make great testimony.
And get one mate, find a customer that is most similar to, you know, like if you’re about to do a customer story, Like you probably have some product marketing fundamentals, you know, who your persona is, like, figure out who that core persona is. Find the customer that is that core persona as much as possible and go and create one story. go interview them for 30 minutes with a good production team and get some help writing some great questions. I’m take it from there. Like it’s always learning experience when you go and listen to that. And you know, sometimes you get a dud customer I’ve, I’ve interviewed some people I’d be like, Ooh, that was a little weird. Like they were not ready for that. you know, find people that want to be on camera, find people that love your product and want to help other people like that. With the challenge that, or here product solves. So
Finding the right person and just starting, just, paralysis by analysis, trying to do a five video storytelling, like sure.
Like if you want a discount to get a five video package or anything like that, like go for it, but don’t do them all at once because you’re going to learn so much from that first experience. that’s like pretty invaluable. and then you can, each one will be like 20% better than the one behind.
I love the tip of, especially around just like focusing on, you know, your, your most important persona. And it’s just such a simple, you know, actionable tip. It’s like, well, if, if you’re just getting started with, you know, customer stories, customer videos, the best thing you can do is create, is understanding, you know, who your, you know, your ICP is your ideal customer profile and like, make that, you know, video testimonials.
You know, aligned with that ICP. Right? Cause that’s how it’s just going to be the most useful that’s going to, how it’s going to fit into the most campaigns. That’s how it’s going to be used in the most sales situations. and that’s how it’s going to be like highest leverage, right.
Definitely. The other thing is like, Hey, if you don’t know that if you don’t have product marketing in, in the bag, like find a place where all your customers are going to be, try And get a couple of them in a low budget way. like I’ve, I’ve seen a lot of people do that. I did it just last week. I was in Texas.
We were having a community event where we just invited a bunch of members of our community. There weren’t even that many customers there, but it was just people within the credit management world. And, We were at two quick testimonials from people. Cause we were just standing there, you know, polite your iPhone, ask them a couple of questions. Jessica started like you’re going to start seeing really great stuff. And then when you’re ready, you know, working with the Testimonial Hero or some, some sort of agency that is designed for this customer storytelling and customer content, they’re going to make your life a lot easier. at least in my experience, I mean, every marketer ever is really busy all the time with too many things that sales needs that, that, you know, revenue teams looking for CEOs asking about, just get started.
Yeah. I love that. Alex has been great. for folks who, you know, want to, you know, get in touch with you or have any questions at all, what’s the best way, for people to connect with you.
Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn. You can also send me an email. ImAlexDunn@gmail.com. I M A L E X D U N N at gmail.com. I’m also in the Demand Curve Slack community for marketers. You can DM me there. It’s just @AlexDunn. I can give you my crypto wallet if you want to send me some cryptocurrency. Just kidding.
I might take you up on that. We’ll see how the market recovers.
Well, thanks so much, Alex. Always a pleasure to chat. We’ll have to do this again sometime.
Thank you for having me on. Thank you for spreading the gospel of customer content. It’s been a really powerful driver in my business, both internally talking to the teams, and externally. The more we do it the more our CEO starts salivating and gets greedy about getting more of it. The flywheel is spinning over here, and we’re not going to stop making customer content anytime soon.
I love it.
Alright folks, that’s been another great episode of the State of Customer Storytelling.
A couple of things to highlight, a couple awesome book recommendations by Alex. Give and Take, by Adam Grant. The Power of Moments, by Chip and Dan Heath. That two way exchange of value; when you’re asking your customer for anything, don’t just make an ask. I love the Levelset mantra of help first sell second. Also the idea of not just customer content, but actually user-generated content or industry content, getting 150 plus industry experts involved.
A couple other things that we really hit on. The power of video and the power of atomizing video. Also customer reviews, culture making, morale, and using customer reviews and celebrating customer reviews, and actually using customer reviews to boost morale and create “wow” moments internally.
This has been another episode of the State of Customer Storytelling, brought to you by Testimonial Hero.
We look forward to seeing you in the next episode.