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Building Customer References: 5 Steps to Engage Customers

Building Customer References

One of the biggest problems marketing departments have is getting their customers to speak on their behalf. It’s additional work for customers, and they often don’t understand the value it can bring. Some customers aren’t deterred by the additional work, but they don’t want to be named publicly. For many, it can be difficult to get buy-in from executives, especially those in highly-regulated industries. 

Because of this, it’s important to ease customers into becoming public customer references through a strategic process to help build your credibility and create a level of comfort for your customer. Here are five steps to building a successful customer reference program:

Build customer references into contract

Build low-commitment and/or medium-commitment activities into the contract during the new customer onboarding process. Customers may negotiate them out, but some may not.

For companies new to customer reference programs, we recommend starting customers with low-commitment activities and building to higher-commitment activities.

Low-commitment activities:

  • Sales reference calls 
  • Analyst reference calls
  • Customer logo on website

Medium-commitment activities:

  • Press release announcing the customer 
  • Written customer case study 
  • Customer blog post 
  • Contributed content for media 
  • Customer video 

High-commitment activities: 

  • Customer presentation at events 
  • Media interview

Reach out to the customer

Identify impactful customer use cases and have the customer success manager responsible for the accounts make the first contact with the customer, asking for a call to discuss outcomes from using the platform. 

Include customer’s marketing team

Don’t go straight to the customer’s executive team. Loop in their marketing and/or PR team to present the opportunity. Collaboratively you can present the opportunity to their executive team, and have a higher chance of getting them to say yes.

Prepare the customer spokesperson

Conduct a call to prep the customer spokesperson on the outreach plan and define a talk track for media conversations.

Secure media opportunities

Work with your PR team to secure opportunities with fitting media, prepping the customer spokesperson before each opportunity as necessary.

Remember to approach these conversations with customers slowly and strategically. Explain the value to them, and that you want to be their partner, not just another vendor. Start slow and build your way toward more higher-commitment activities like media interviews. This could take a while, but it will definitely be worth the wait. 

For more ideas on how to build customer references, check out our Building Customer References ebook.

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About Allyson Johnson

Allyson is a PR director with a background in PR and broadcast news, and also has her accreditation in public relations (APR) from the Universal Accreditation Board. She has a passion for planning television segments and working with startup SaaS companies. She has secured coverage for her clients in Forbes, Inc., HuffPost, Business Insider, and TV stations across the country. When she's not working, you'll likely find Allyson at a racetrack (she's been drag racing since she was 7-years-old!), or playing with her rescue dog, Ellie.

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