Startup Storytellers with Catherine Staite

Tell us about GoCardless and your role there

GoCardless is on a mission to become the world’s bank payment network. We collect instant, one-off payments, or automated, recurring payments without the chasing, stress, or expensive fees.

My role is Head of Customer Advocacy, and our team identify and nurture customers to tell stories that deliver value for them, as well as GoCardless.

I spend most of my time working cross-functionally with internal teams in sales, marketing and customer success, building relationships with customers and creating film and written content with our agencies.

What do you think makes a compelling customer story?

For me, a compelling customer story needs to do three things.

Firstly, celebrate. I like to see the customer at the heart of the story, we want to give them a platform to share their own vision, mission and successes.

Then educate. A customer story may be an important piece of validation for a business to share with prospects and customers, but done well it can also be a channel for sharing best practice and giving peers with similar challenges confidence and guidance.

And finally, illustrate. We always aim to include impactful metrics in our stories.

What tips would you give startups that want to kickstart a customer advocacy programme?

Build your advocacy programme around delivering value for your customers. Understand the things that matter to them, then think about how your story could help.  Here are some examples of value you could offer (but there’s many more too!):
  • Is the customer you are working with focused on hiring talent into the business? Offer to include a paragraph or mention in a video story that promotes why someone would want to work there.
  • If you film with a customer on location, offer to share the footage with them so they could use it too.
  • Offer to collaborate with your customer’s social team on how you will release the story on your social networks to encourage maximum amplification of both brands.
In your own organisation, it’s about identifying and aligning with key internal stakeholders to build your strategy. Customer advocacy is a team pursuit. And to create content that your business values, you need to make sure you have a strategy that prioritises the customer validation it needs.  Ensure your customer advocacy strategy clearly aligns to your business strategy, then set up a measurement approach so that you can report back on ROI.

How do you make customers feel comfortable when telling their story?

We always aim to create a relaxed and informal environment for customer interviews, whether the stories are written or filmed.

Where possible, we do not share questions in advance. Not only does this lead to a more authentic and natural conversation, it means the customer does not need to do any preparation. The success of this approach comes down to us knowing the customers and their stories really well. It is on us to prepare questions that we know will help them tell their story in the best possible way. 

And of course, we always offer full approval on all content. So, our customers know that we’ll never share anything they have not reviewed and signed off. 

Finally – and perhaps most importantly – we try to make it as fun as possible!

What’s the customer story that you’re most proud of?

This feels a bit like asking me to choose my favourite story – and I don’t think I could do that, as each story is special because it symbolises a strong partnership with a customer that often leads to more advocacy work together! If I had to call out one example, it was a story that I worked on during the pandemic. The company that I was then working for offered a service to organisations trying to help the community. And this customer had pivoted its usual software and business operations to connect volunteers to people in need.  We created a film with them – the first produced virtually due to pandemic restrictions, as opposed to filming on location – and made it an asset that they could also use to promote this service to the community.  That is one story I am particularly proud of. Because it was nice to be able to contribute something positive to the world at the time.

Want to learn more? Find out how to give your customer stories a boost in our blog Translating Customer Success into Advocacy and Sales.

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