Getting the Most Out of Your Customer References

By Nov 17, 2009

If you have been involved in securing positive references from your customers you know it can be difficult. How do you maximize those efforts and get the most out of those good words? Just remember these 4 Rs: Reconnect, Repurpose, Recycle and Reward.

Reconnect: References are extremely valuable. To make the most of them, you need to be sure your effort is coordinated internally before you reach out to your customers. If you have multiple people requesting some form of reference from the same individual or organization, it can become frustrating and burdensome for your customer. To eliminate this headache, make sure that all contact with the customer is coordinated and centralized under a reference program managed by one individual or group.

By reconnecting with co-workers and having a central place to keep a log of reference activities, you will be able to see where the opportunities are.

Repurpose: Once a reference is produced for one specific reason or request, the format can then be changed to take on new forms and fit many needs. By repurposing materials and working in a coordinated, centralized manner you can get a lot of mileage out of even one good customer testimonial. There are countless ways that a reference can be repurposed.

1. Sales reference – phone call or in person visit with prospect
2. Press release – supporting quote or customer feature release
3. Web site content – published under the customers/clients section
4. Case study – published on your web site, in a trade journal or in printed form for the sales force to take along on calls
5. Testimonial recording – to easily and quickly play back for prospects
6. Press and analyst interviews – to support your external visibility programs
7. Event speaker – at tradeshows, industry conferences, company sponsored webinars, sales conferences, etc.
8. Advertising – highlight your reference in an advertisement or campaign
9. Guest blogger – feature customer reference material in the form of a guest column on the company blog
10. Advisory council – leverage the reference by inviting your customer to join your advisory council

Recycle: Sometimes it can be difficult to keep coming up with entirely new customer references. One way to alleviate this pressure is to take an existing older reference and update it/refine with current information to make it new again. Look through your past activity and consider how long it has been since anything additional has been done with a prior reference. You may have to check in with your sales, account management and operations teams to find out the current status of the customer but assuming you discover that everything is still going well and has progressed, you will have the opportunity to quickly turn a good reference into a truly great one. Because the customer has had more time with your product you are apt to be able to detail more results and a more powerful and valuable story. Some great ways to distribute this kind of content include press releases, analyst or press interviews, and case studies which are effective for demonstrating value and return on investment.

Reward: Remember to thank your customers for supporting you in this effort. Without them you would be nowhere. They are your most valuable asset and best sales tool. Make them feel they are being treated with professionalism, respect and gratitude. Instead of a company logo mug, try sending hand written and genuine thank you notes for the valuable time and effort they have given you. Good old-fashioned communication can go a long way to building a long-term relationship. Other ways to show gratitude may include appropriate company discounts or invitations to join customer advisory boards.

References are hard to come by and extremely valuable, so you want to get the most out of them. A customer reference program helps to organize reference activities and unite all the people in your company that get involved in the process. Assigning an individual or small group responsible for running and maintaining the program will keep the process running smoothly. Whether you use a “home grown” program designed and maintained entirely by your company or purchase a hosted software option to manage your reference activity, the 4Rs will play a central role by making it easier to take what you have and get the most out of it. The 4Rs will help you conserve both your internal and external resources while producing more reference material and better quality references.

Joshua Horwitz (jhorwitz@bounderlogic.com) is the founder of Boulder Logic.