Building a customer reference program (also referred to as a user reference program) is a vital tool for sales and marketing teams. The purpose of such a program is to gather and fulfill requests for references to help sales teams obtain new clients and provide customer success stories. Marketers also gain value from such programs as buyers are more frequently seeking peer advice when making purchasing decisions. To successfully implement a customer reference program for your business and increase the impact of your efforts, there is a strategy that should be followed.
How to Build a Customer Reference Program
To get started, you will need to compile a targeted list of potential customers/end users that can be tapped for quotes or to validate the company/product’s effectiveness. Then, those individuals should be vetted by a senior marketer to evaluate whether the customer and the business are an appropriate fit. Once they have been deemed suitable, you should consider conducting an informal interview to determine that the customer is qualified and capable of performing in such a capacity.
Spend some time prepping the customer with potential questions from the media and provide direction as to how to effectively respond to those questions. Be clear and set expectations regarding how the program will work in terms of future interview opportunities and any benefits to the reference customer company. You may want to consider providing some sort of incentive to those involved in the program as their participation may prove to be time consuming (potential interviews from media and/or for case study, etc.).
Benefits of a Customer Reference Program
According to the Customer Reference Professionals Association, “A well-managed customer reference program can attract more prospects, shorten sales cycles and increase customer wins if managed effectively.” They indicate that customer references are the most influential and effective sales tool most organizations possess, directly influencing revenue goals, helping sales close business, and persuading analysts, media, and investors that corporate claims are legitimate.
Creating, deploying, and managing a well-rounded customer reference program will result in the following:
- Comprehensive database of customer references across products, industries, and geographies to utilize for quotes or sales reference
- Even distribution of utilization across customer references to avoid overuse and/or underuse
- Sales team can easily identify and contact suitable customer references that are appropriate for each specific opportunity
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