As marketers it’s easy to talk about yourself. It’s easy to toot your own horn, but we are becoming very cynical.
We want to hear from our peers and our colleagues about their experience and their recommendations. Real human stories are what we all gravitate towards, and customer stories are no different.
Welcome to another episode of the State of Customer Storytelling.
My guest today is Emily Amos. She is the Founder at Uplift Content. Uplift Content is a boutique B2B SaaS content creation studio that has a track record of success with high-growth companies like Okta, LeanData, ON24, and many others.
One of their specialties is using the voice of the customer to close bigger deals faster with done-for-you case studies. They also support a ton of B2B companies with eBooks, white papers, and a robust selection of other types of content.
Emily, I’m excited to have you on today. Welcome to the show.
Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
Absolutely. Let’s talk about why customer stories matter today. This is something I’m passionate about, but to kick things off, why do customer stories matter today maybe more than ever before?
Customer stories have always been important. But now that we’re all hiding behind computer screens it’s that much more important to put a face, a job title, and a company name in front of prospective customers so they know this social proof is coming from a real person.
As marketers it’s easy to talk about yourself. It’s easy to toot your own horn, but we are becoming very cynical. We want to hear from our peers and our colleagues about their experience and their recommendations.
Customer stories are all of that. They’re taking technical information, and binging in that human element we all want. Real human stories are what we all gravitate towards, and customer stories are no different.
I think combining the fact that, you know, buyers and prospects are doing so much of their own research, you know, on their own these days. Right. It’s like, I forget the stat, but something like 80% of the, the research like buyers want to self serve. Right. and I think in the old days we sort of saw like, People didn’t need maybe as much customers story content for social proof because the sales process was different and, you know, people had more time.
They could, you know, they weren’t as distracted. Maybe they didn’t have any have as many competing attention, you know, things. And because of that, they, you know, think a lot of companies could sort of rely on, just. One-to-one conversations and being persuasive. Right. and, you know, a good salesperson can do a lot with that.
Right. But like now, like it’s, and it’s not slowing down. It’s, it’s, people, people, are gonna to self serve and they’re going to progress, you know, so much further in the buying cycle, you know? And, and yeah, I think it’s just, it’s a big shift in the way people buy and the way they want to consume it.
It’s huge. I mean, when was the last time you answered your phone, Sam for a number that you didn’t recognize, and when was the last time you called a contact us number? You know, so you’re interested in a product and you went to the contact us page and actually called the number of. I can’t even think of a time that I’ve done that, honestly.
Yeah. I agree. It’s like for me, and I think a lot of people feel this way is like, they’re just not even going to, engage with a brand
Unless they there’s enough of that social proof there to like, prove it’s like worth their time. Right.
We want to do it on our own terms. I don’t like you to dictate the selling process. I want to dictate it and therefore I need to be driving the bus. So this is what I want to do. I want to, go on the website. I want to see social proof, whether it’s reviews or case studies or other forms of customer stories.
I need that reassurance from others, that this is legit and it’s helpful and it’s going to potentially solve my.
Yeah, a hundred percent. So. I think that that’s a great point to make is that like the buyer journey is changing. People are doing more self-serving so therefore, you know, as B2B marketers, if we want to stay ahead of the game, you know, we need, we need more customer content, we need more robust customer content.
Let’s talk a little bit about. I guess the different mediums within, auction the different, you know, formats and mediums for customer stories. Right? So, you know, I think the big three being, you know, written case studies, you know, third-party, you know, reviews on, you know, various review sites, G2 trust radius, et cetera.
And then, you know, customer videos and, you know, video content, video testimonials.
Being the third of the big three. yeah. How do you sort of see, and you’ve, you’ve worked with a lot of companies you’ve Mack produce a lot of, especially written case studies. I’m curious, how do you sort of see the interplay between all these kinds of different mediums and, and, and how do you, how do you think about.
You know, I found it interesting that you brought up third-party reviews as one of the top three, because honestly, Really think about those, that being said, I do realize they are very important. They just don’t come into my world in a big way. video customer stories have for sure written stories for sure. And I guess I would further break down the written into sales slides, for example. So taking a case study story with that story, you can do a long form story. Written, you can do a video. You can do various lengths of video just as you can do various lengths of written stories. And then of course, there’s sales slides.
There’s social. So creating little posts to promote. Full case studies or even just little snippets that might just be a testimonial, for example, or some other, result that you can highlight. So there are so many different, I think what I love most about customer stories is that they’re so adaptable and so flexible and you can really be creative with them.
That’s yeah, it’s such a good point. And the other word that comes to mind is like extensible, right? The more, I think we’re all under more of a requirement to, just to just do more with the content we have. Right. yeah. Any tips for you hit on a couple of really good ones there. Like, I think. Breaking your case studies, using, you know, creating their sales slides, maybe their social posts, any other tips you have for people out there who, who want to for marketers out there who want to produce more of that, customer driven, micro content.
I’ve seen a couple of customers, My customers, but sorry, other companies, I should say they’re doing some cool infographics with case studies and that’s something I’d like to dive into a bit more with my customers. And that is, you know, taking, taking the big story and distilling it into something more visual, and being able to read. Pull out those key points. And let me tell you, it’s much easier to tell a long story than a short story. I’m sure you know that from video two, it’s hard to be able to select those maybe two or three key points to tell a story in three sentences. it’s way easier to tell it in 2000 words. Let me tell you but I, I really love that idea of, Knowing that we all learn and absorb information in different ways.
It’s really important for us as marketers to provide our messaging in different ways as well. What have you, I’m curious, Sam for you, what, what you’re finding, what you’re seeing out there that’s interesting for you that you’d want to explore a bit more.
Yeah, I think, well, first of all, we all learn in different ways and I think in different at different times, we, we consume in different ways. Right. and it’s like, you know, there’s so many benefits to video. If you have the time to sit down and, and watch it and listen to it. Right. But, sometimes.
You know, you just, that sort of like, that’s just the image with a great pool quote or like a, a case study is more skimmable, Bennett video. Right. So, yeah, I think that the, the, and now, you know, we’re all on our phone, often and work remote environment is a little chaotic. And so, yeah, I think it’s more important than ever to give people the options, to your point, You know, consume, you know, customer stories in the format that works best for them.
And so what I think what I’ve seen, it’s definitely more, even more of a focus on micro content. Like we’ve been talking about, and also.
Not just, you know, one size fits all micro content, but also taking a more sort of nuanced approach in, in sort of, you know, mapping out the whole kind of buyer journey and then saying, okay, here’s the customer, here are the, you know, the common questions, fears or doubts that we get at this stage.
What should the correspondence. Customer content B for that stage. And then moving on to the next stage in the buyer journey a little bit further down the funnel, like basically doing the same thing. So, that to me, I think is, is a big, it’s basically just taking, you know, marketing and sales enablement, best practices, but, actually applying them through the lens of customer stories, which I think is.
Incredibly incredibly powerful. because early on, you know, if you hit someone, have you share, you know, people aren’t, you know, if people don’t, kinda know that they have, the problem, like they’re just not gonna, you know, have the attention to sit through that. Yeah, video or in-depth written case study, right.
You sorta have to
Yeah, it’s just not relevant at that point.
Exactly. And so it’s like, but there still could be a soundbite or a quote that will be relevant. So I think that, that’s what it’s all about is kind of like mapping the buyer journey and then making, use of, the, everything you have, you know, as it pertains to that, that customer story, making the most out of.
I love that. And I have never really thought about it in that way. Do you, when you’re filming, a video case study, or are you thinking about those stages and are you crafting questions specifically for those different stages?
So, yes. if our clients. Are also, bought into, you know, taking that more nuanced approach. I think for a lot of people, they might not be there yet. They just need to kind of check, check the box on like their first video testimonial in industry X. Right. They, they, so I think. with our more, kind of clients that we’ve been working with longer.
Absolutely. With, with some of our newer, newer clients, they are. They’re okay. To just like, you know, be like, that sounds cool. We’re not there yet in terms of the maturity of our, you know, customer story program. But, so yeah, does, it depends on.
I would love to ask you say. What you feel is the interplay between the written story and the video story and how, how they should be working together and how they should be displayed and dished up to audiences.
Yeah, that’s, that’s a great question. so I think the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s possible to, do both in like one suite. So I think that is like, you know, from a purely practical perspective, you know, anyone who’s thinking about creating a written case study should also be thinking about a video version as well.
And vice versa, like anyone thinking about a, video, testimonials should also be thinking about, you know, the written case size. So, so that is, so that would be the first thing. as far as like, as the interplay, I think a lot of it kind of comes down to kind of design and implementation and I do see like more, kind of tools coming out, to like, I think path factor is one of them, but like I bet are creating a more interactive.
Experience and, for, you know, content. And I think that is, you know, for sure, you know, a lot of companies are just doing that on their website, but I think that like the people, the more kind of interactive, you can make it, I think that’s going to be a win. and it’s just going to be more engaging.
Also I think another key thing. Is, you know, making, having it in multiple situations. So you have like having the, and this kind of ties back to what we talked about with the buyer journey is like, so you, you have the, you know, the base case, which is like the main video and the full written case study.
And then maybe you have, Your customers page, you have, the video and then like a paragraph of the case study. And then they can, if they want to, you know, view the full, full length case study, then they can click into that. And so for me, it’s all about like the, the main principle is just, letting people self consume in the way that they want to, and having a good user experience where they can.
Go deeper into any area if they want, but balancing that with like not throwing too much information, too much text at them at once. but at the same time, inviting them to, you know, always go deeper into the story. yeah, that, that, that’s really how I think, how I think about.
So are you saying that you see the written story as the more detailed version and the video is the higher level, really human, personal touch to the story.
So, yes. However, I think. in a perfect world. even our customers, for example, they’re not just a lot of them are not creating just one video. So they have like the they’re creating, also deep dives. So like there might be, the one, you know, 92nd overview video, but then there’s maybe three 62nd videos that are extremely detailed.
Those would be more topical and, people aren’t going to watch them first probably, but they might want to, progress into that. so I think, traditionally yes, I think there’s, because also with tax, one of the great things about taxes, you can, you can kind of skim it, scroll through it, go up and down, you know, do that with video.
You, you can’t quite do that the same way. So therefore I’m, especially being on video around, like having it be more snackable, having, if, if you’re gonna, you know, it’s better to have, you know, five different videos of 60 to 90 seconds than it is to have, one, five to seven minute video.
That’s cool. And so how do you tie the four videos together? How do you, how do you help the viewer or user. Understand what they’re going to get and each, and which one they should choose.
So, great question.
It comes down ultimately to aligning on, you know, the priorities of their, you know, their business and their marketing initiatives. So, You know, and also what often, what is the most priority for their sales team? So just for example, maybe it’s, you know, the priority is, actually first of all, and then that actually often starts with like, doing a gap analysis of like what’s missing.
So maybe, you know, we determine that, you know, they want to move into a certain. Industry, move up market into industry, X, but they don’t have really, there’s a gap around like the customer stories that they, that they have to support that priority and they need, they need more. and then the question is, so then we’ve kind of identified, well, the persona.
That we want to capture. And, and then it’s the question is, well, what are the, the questions, fears and doubts that, the buyers and the prospects we’ll have, that the sales team is going to have to overcome. So with that in mind, then we kind of can work backwards and say, Let’s make, you know, the main video to kind of tell the overall story, general purpose, you know, 60 to 90 to 120 seconds.
And then let’s make, 62nd objection, crusher video, maybe three 62nd objection, crusher videos, which, and we, we use that term. basically like an objection crusher for us is like any sort of video typically around like 60 seconds that like specifically addresses, or relates to like a really common, question, fear or doubt.
So, at the end of the day, it’s really all about, you know, reverse engineering, knowing, knowing the problem that we want to solve. And then, you know, reverse engineering it, to kind of fill those gaps.
Love that. And so where do those. When did you call them? Objective? Objection, coffers. where do those live?
So often there, those are just used, you know, by individual sales reps in an email, however also. could be like an FAQ page. So like a lot of people have an FAQ page, every one of your, you know, FAQ’s or not every one of them, but many of them could be supported by a customer answering that FAQ.
Yeah, love that.
That’s very cool. so the, so those are not attached in any way to the customer story. They are separate pieces.
Correct? Correct. And I mean, they could be, you know, in a sense, like if you, built out a page and it had all five videos on it and the case study, and it was like a really. Cool deep dive into this, you know, that specific customer. So they certainly could be, on the same page, but definitely a different video and, yeah.
Interesting. Very interesting.
You, I know you have maybe asked, you’ve asked a lot of interview questions, right? what have you learned, any tips that you could share for, you know, marketers who are listening to this.
And, you know, maybe they have to write some interview questions.
Maybe they have to conduct an interview. you know, maybe, they’re looking for, for our partner to do it for them, but either way there, they don’t really know keys is. Yeah. What kind of tips could you share around just that, that important process of interviewing your customers? Because I, as.
Similar to us. I mean, it’s kind of this situation where like, you know, good questions, get good answers. And like the reverse is also true. You know? It’s like, if you don’t ask any questions, you’re also, you’re not gonna, you know, get, get as good content. So there’s questions. It’s all about the questions that you, ask.
For sure. 100%. So I would say, first of all, do your homework, make sure that you have some sort of creative brief or writers brief or whatever you want to call it from the customer. I know we all have our different documentation, but essentially what we want to know before we write the questions are, Do you, you being our customer, do you have a specific angle in mind that you want us to focus on?
Is there a specific product or service that maybe that it maybe it’s a new product or, service that you’ve just launched and you don’t currently have any case studies on that new service or, products. So do you want us to focus in on, on that, for example, is it a new. Industry, is it a new use case as in a new size of company?
So any detail around that is really helpful to know so that we can, put more or less emphasis on certain things in order to pull out angles, for the story. And then when we go to create The questions themselves, they really need to be focused around. the ultimate outcome of the story. So we, you know, there’s a fairly standard, What’s the word I’m missing the word structure. there’s a fairly standard structure for case studies in that is there’s some sort of background or intro.
Then you go into the problem or challenge. Then there’s the solution where you get to talk about the products or services that our customer provides to solve the problem. And then there’s a result section where you get to use concrete numbers and really. give some hard evidence for how this, how this really impacted, the customer. And there’s, there’s another section, which is a section that I like to include. And that’s the forward looking or the future section where you have the opportunity to talk about whether the customer, whether the customer plans on expanding their use of this.
Software for example, whether a new team within the organization is going to implement it, whether, more employees will start using it, things like that, where, it’s that added social proof of, yeah, we love. Today. And we like it for this particular use case, but we like it so much that we’re going to even, we’re going to expand our use of it in some way.
And that’s a really nice piece to be able to add at the end. So to circle back to the questions, you need to make sure that those questions, relate to each of those sections. I mean, I think we all have, our standard list and it’s a list that you probably develop over the years. I don’t know what you would say, Sam.
I mean, I think that you tweak them as you go, you hear, maybe hear a question from somebody else and you’re like, Ooh, that’s a really good one. You add it to your list. but ultimately you don’t want a thousand questions. You need to make sure you probably only have, I don’t know, 15 or so. so you do need to be quite, specific and clear on what you’re trying to elicit. And I think the other piece there is This is a conversation. So you can ask the question and if you’re not getting the kind of information you want, that’s, that’s been your job to hop in and guide, guide them towards giving you the answer that you need. the other piece I would add there is just to be friendly and make them feel at ease and comfortable so that they’re willing to share.
And, I think part of that is also knowing that they get to review it before it gets published. So they don’t have to worry if they send something that wasn’t quite the way that they would like it in print. They do have the opportunity to, to fix it or tweak it, before it gets published.
Mm. Yeah, it’s, it’s true. It’s not, not only about the right questions, but it’s about the overall vibe and that’s going to affect the answers to. It’s just making them feel comfortable. And, you know, everything that goes into that is, is such a Sandra Good point as well.
And I would say for video, it’s even more important that comfortableness, I mean, before, before we started recording, I told you I was nervous and I think video brings out the nerves right. more so than a phone interview.
It’s true. Although I think. thanks. Well, due to the pandemic one, we’ve all I think, had to spend more time on, on zoom and on video calls. So I think people are becoming slightly more comfortable, right. Then like maybe like two years ago, but for sure, without a doubt, it’s definitely, there’s a need to, you know, spend the extra time and make sure.
Yeah, but surely the customer is comfortable. And I think I love the point that you brought up around, like asking the customer about the angle or like making sure that like, cause that is a, it’s such a simple thing, but like, involving the customer and say and saying like, Hey, like, this is what I had in mind, but like, What do you have in mind?
Right. And just giving them an opportunity to co-create and collaborate and, and you know, have their voice in the creation process can, makes them feel way more bought in, but also can really like take you to new areas of content that you, are amazing that you never would’ve thought of.
Yeah, for sure. This ties in directly with the overarching case study strategy. And sometimes as writers, we’re not involved in that strategy though, we would always love to be. but by asking about the angle that helps us have that discussion around strategy and, and which stories we should be telling.
And so if we don’t already know which stories we’re aiming to tell, this allows us to ask. Why are we telling this particular story? Why have you chosen this customer to, to highlight.
For sure. And, One thing that, you know, I always like to hit on, on this podcast is like future trends and like, where do we see, you know, things going? I know we we’ve talked a little bit about that, but specifically for, for, for you in, in kind of your business and, and, written case studies, What trends have you seen over the past, you know, couple years, I’d love in like, where do you see things going?
I’d love to hear more about that as well.
Yeah, that’s an interesting one. And when I think about. All of the case studies. I mean, I keep my eye open. I’m sure you do too, at what people are producing in, in our industry. honestly I can’t see any particular trends. I feel like it’s still very varied in that there’s long ones. They’re short ones.
People are still doing PDFs. Sometimes they’re doing. You know, little micros there, maybe just choosing to do video or they’re just choosing to do written. I don’t have a good answer for you on the, on the future trends. I’d love to hear what you think.
Yeah, I think, well specifically for, for written one trend, I think is maybe more original photography and or higher quality visuals. like for example, we had, we’ve had some instances where we actually, you know, Our main businesses is video creation, but, you know, we have also done photo shoots in both, to, to support, you know, a written case study.
And also, you know, we’ve had at least one instance where we did just did a photo shoot and we didn’t even do a video shoot is just a photo shoot, original photos for the written case study that the client was producing internally.
And, So like just the prominence and the requirement for, more and higher quality visuals within the written medium as well.
And like original photography, like just setting the bar higher, I think is that that’s definitely one thing I think is gonna continue.
Yeah. And I I’m, along with that, I’m glad you brought that up. Along with that is better designed.
Templates. you know, we’ve all seen the big wall of text and part of our job as writers is to make sure it’s not just a wall of text by adding headers and sub-headers and bulleted lists and various.
Chunks and components, but ultimately without a great design, it’s still going to fall flat. so it’s so important to get design, right. And, and be constantly looking at it. How can we improve this design to make the numbers pop, make it more interesting and engaging to go through? I mean, none of us have time.
We. If we see a big wall of text, nobody wants to read that we need to make it interesting and fun and engaging. So we need color. We need design. We need photos. We need all of that to work in tandem with the text.
Incredibly credibly powerful point. And I think even, five years ago, like design, web design, you know, especially like it wasn’t quite as important for B2B as it, as it is now.
Right. It’s it’s It’s it’s no longer, like a nice to have. It’s absolutely like a need to have. And, cause yeah, like you said, it’s like, there’s so many things so much, you know, so many competing things for our attention and like to hold our attention.
It’s like the bar has just been set higher from a design perspective and every, in every situation.
And it speaks to credibility too. If you’re thinking about doing business with a company first impressions matter. If it doesn’t look good. What does that say about your product? What does that say about your customer service? What does that say about ultimately how much you care? so it, it really is important.
Yeah, I love that you brought that up first impressions matter, and that is that’s actually something that, in pertaining to video quality and like the quality of video testimonials. That’s something that I get asked a lot, is like, well, like why does it, why do my video testimonials need to be high quality?
I thought like everyone was super happy. I thought authenticity was like the rage. And like, I can just, you know, record my zoom meeting and, honestly, like there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but first impressions do matter. So if you want to use the video in a first impression, Situation like under homepage.
It’s like, do you really want to put something that’s like cheap and cheerful on your homepage alongside the rest of, you know, what you have there? maybe not you, you know, so it’s like, I think there’s definitely like a time for cheap and cheerful, but it’s not often, you know, to set the right first impression.
You do need a, you know, a level of Polish and, also I think, this is something that I’m, I could go on about for, you know, at length, but, it’s, it’s that, high, high quality and authenticity do not have to be mutually exclusive. Right. I think a lot of people, and this goes for, writing design and video, I think a lot of, people think, oh, like if I go to the high quality route, I’m, that’s not as authentic and like, well, that’s not actually the case because like what else?
There’s other things that, influence authenticity, in video it’s, things such as like, well, are you asking questions in a way that get people to. You know, actually give genuine answers and like, are you asking questions at all, first of all, cause some people would script their videos and that like no way, like that’s not going to be authentic at all.
So, so yeah, I think that is, that is something that I am very passionate about is this idea that like, if we’re being honest, like authenticity and quality do not have to be like mutually exclusive concept.
Yeah, for sure. For sure. we need to be showing our best. Like what’s the expression put your best foot forward? I don’t know. I like, it has to be the very best. There’s so many other options. We’re we’re all just analyzing our options and saying, oh no, not that one. Not that one. Why? Oh, well they had a typo on their homepage.
I’m not doing business with them. I mean, literally we’re looking for excuses to disqualify options.
It’s true. The way our brains work as buyers is we’re looking for that shortcut, right? A shortcut is often like making a snap judgment around whether something is credible. Does this have the social proof?
That’s a great point, and that takes us right back to where we started: why customer stories matter more than ever.
Emily, this has been fantastic for our listeners. How can people get in touch with you and Uplift if they want to connect or learn more?
I would love for you to reach out through LinkedIn. My name is Emily Amos. A M O S. You can also find us at Uplift Content on LinkedIn. Our website is UpliftContent.com.
Fantastic. I definitely recommend everyone connect with Emily. She shares a lot of great tips around customer stories and case studies. Thanks again, Emily. This was an absolute pleasure.
It was great to be here. Thank you.
Alrighty folks, that was another episode of the State of Customer Storytelling. An awesome episode with Emily Amos.
A couple of things I really want to underscore are: breaking up your customer stories into all this different micro content. If you have a case study, are you using it for your sales slides? Are you using it for social posts and infographics?
Just challenging yourself to do more with what you have, and the fact that we all learn in different ways. So, different formats for your customer stories.
We talked a lot about the buyer journey, and the nuances of customer storytelling throughout the buyer journey.
Emily flipped it over to me for a little bit. Hopefully that was some good insight as well for folks.
Then we talked about interview tips and trends. How first impressions matter, and the need to get that first impression right.
Lastly, we also talked about how quality and authenticity aren’t mutually exclusive.
If you have any other guests that you’d like to have on the show, just shoot me an email. it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you. We always love suggestions on the show.
This has been the State of Customer Storytelling. We’ll see you in the next episode.