This article comes from the panel, ‘The power of customer stories: Why you need more & how to find them’, at our 2023 Las Vegas Customer Marketing Summit, check out the full discussion here

We all love a good story, right? Hearing how a product or service positively impacted someone's life or business always tugs at the heartstrings more than any stats or corporate speak. 

Customer stories bring that emotional connection and credibility that keeps us engaged. So it's no wonder the brightest minds in customer marketing are laser focused on harnessing the power of customer stories.

At our Customer Marketing Summit, Callie Rojewksi, Director of Customer Advocacy at Menlo Security, moderated an insightful panel on this hot topic. 

She was joined by two customer advocacy pros: Dr. Tiffany Raymond, Head of Global Customer Advocacy at PayPal, and Michelle Viray, Senior Customer Marketing Manager at Coupa.

These experts covered a lot of ground on why customer stories matter, how to get stakeholders aligned, tactics to capture compelling stories, and creative ways to maximize their impact across the business. Any customer marketer who wants to level up their advocacy game will find tons of real-world inspo in their conversation.

Let’s dive into the key takeaways every customer story obsessive needs to know!

Stories that turn customers into advocates

We’ve all seen those lifeless case studies that read like an instruction manual. “Company X used Product Y to achieve Z% increase in whatever.” YAWN. Who even reads past the first paragraph?

Our panelists kicked things off by emphasizing why authentic stories directly from happy customers beat lifeless case studies any day. 

As Dr. Tiffany Raymond put it, “Customer stories are critical to bring sales and customer success into the fold as advocates.”

Think about it. Buyers inherently trust stories from other customers way more than anything a company says about itself, they offer credibility and social proof that your marketing alone can’t match.

Michelle Viray shared a brilliant example from her own life. She recently walked into a sneaker store already wearing their brand. 

While shopping for a new pair, another customer came in and she spontaneously ended up selling them a pair too!

As Michelle explained, “I think I’ve never turned it off … Stories spread organically and turn customers into advocates.”

Now that’s the sign of a powerful customer story! It hits you right in the feels and passionately sells for you.

Callie Rojewksi added that stories also shine a spotlight on those hard-working internal team members who partner closely with customers. 

Like customer success managers who spend hours troubleshooting issues or account managers who bend over backwards to help customers. A little recognition and PR goes a long way.

Clearly, customer stories are marketing gold. But how do you go mining for these gems? Our panel had some nuggets of wisdom to share...

Fostering internal relationships to bring in the stories

Every marketer knows producing standout stories requires massive collaboration across the business. As Michelle put it, start with figuring out the “why” first.

Get to know your internal stakeholders and what each team needs from stories. 

Maybe product marketing wants proof points for their messaging. 

Sales needs battle-tested examples for prospective deals. Customer success wants to highlight clients they’ve made insanely happy.

Understanding these diverse needs will help you align on the right stories to prioritize. Then you can loop cross-functional partners into the process to get their buy-in.

For example, Michelle emphasized the value of building a “story pipeline” to communicate status. This can be as simple as a spreadsheet or Asana board everyone has access to. 

Make sure stakeholders are tagged as “drivers” so they feel ownership in getting customer approvals.

Tiffany also discussed how she engages sales and customer success reps as advocates to recruit customer stories proactively. 

The sales incentive was clear - at PayPal, 85% of their top performing reps had participated in case studies. Building those customer relationships through stories contributed to their success.

Now those teams help spread the word and act as “trainers” for new hires, educating them on the value of stories in their toolkit. As Tiffany put it, it’s about “building the next generation of internal advocates.”