Building Customer References: 5 Steps to Engage Customers

When making a purchase decision, B2B buyers want to hear from current users of the platform. What are their likes and dislikes? What are the things they need to be aware of before purchasing the software? Oftentimes, buyers do this through customer case studies and references. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 73% of B2B buyers say that case studies are a key factor in their purchasing decisions.

While things like customer case studies and references are valuable, they’re not always the easiest to secure. For some customers, the effort to participate seems like too much work for little gain. While others are open to sharing their experience, but they don’t want to be named publicly. It can also be difficult to get executive buy-in, especially those in highly regulated industries. 

Building a successful customer reference program takes time. However, there are steps you can take to ease customers into becoming public references, helping build your credibility and creating a positive experience for your users. Below are five ways to encourage participation in a customer reference program.

Build customer references into the contract.

Adding low-commitment or medium-commitment activities into the contract is a good way to gauge a customer’s level of comfortability in participating as a reference. Some may remove the item from the agreement, but others will keep it in. When taking this approach, we recommend starting customers with low-commitment activities and working your way up 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.

It’s likely you know who your power users are, but if you don’t, work with your customer success team to identify impactful customer user cases. Once you find out who those customers are, have your customer success manager reach out to them, asking for a call to discuss outcomes from using the platform. You can’t have a customer reference, well, without a customer, so connect with them directly or with your CS team to stay up to date on potential opportunities.

Include customer’s marketing team.

While your customer is the one using the product, they’re likely not the ones setting the marketing strategy or making the final decision on all things marketing. Rather than involve your customer’s executive team, loop in their marketing or PR team to present the opportunity. Be sure to have a plan in place on how you intend to use the customer reference, what the next steps look like and how the relationship/experience will work. 

By working together with your customer’s marketing team, you have a higher chance of getting buy-in from the executive team and ultimately being able to leverage them as a public reference.

Prepare the customer spokesperson

Whether your customer spokesperson is media-trained or not, it’s important to touch base with them to discuss the outreach plan and key messaging to be used in interviews. Your SaaS PR team should connect with the customer to inform them what to expect during the process. If a customer needs additional support, consider scheduling a separate media training session that helps them practice potential questions and work through their messaging.

Secure media opportunities

While hearing from company thought leaders is valuable, reporters want to hear from a vendor’s users. With your customer spokesperson ready to go and the outreach plan approved, your SaaS PR team has what they need to get the ball rolling and secure media opportunities.

During this process, when sharing media requests with your customer, be sure to showcase the potential value the interview can add for them and their company. Yes, they’re talking about their experience with your platform, but it’s also a way to boost their thought leadership and brand. 

Remember, building customer references takes time. You don’t want to rush this process. Instead, approach these conversations with customers patiently and strategically. Use low-level commitment activities to show its value early on while building up to higher-commitment activities like media interviews. In doing so, you can further build your relationship with your customers and continue building a strong brand with their references. 

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

5 Questions to Ask Your SaaS Customers When Creating Success Stories

As a B2B SaaS company, your customers are your biggest champions. No one is better positioned to advocate for your solution than the organizations using it every day. This is why, when it comes to your brand’s media relations efforts, SaaS customer stories need to be a core component of your strategy. 

From full case studies to media interviews and executive quotes, your clients can get involved in various ways — and make a serious impact on your brand’s perception in the marketplace. Not only is their participation valuable to your brand, but your customers will also benefit from the exposure. 

As part of your media relations toolkit, your customers will earn free media coverage to strengthen their brand, position themselves as an innovator by implementing a solution to resolve business challenges and build a presence for a company spokesperson to be an industry resource moving forward. 

Yet, before you can really tell your brand benefit story through a customer’s eyes, you first have to understand their story. Here are five questions you should ask your customer to start on your customer advocacy journey: 

1. What is the focus of your business? 

First and foremost, it’s important to have an idea of the industries in which your customer operates and who they serve. Should your outreach around their success be tailored to practitioners in the HR space? Or is their story better suited for sales and marketing publication readers? Determining which industries best fit your customer’s focus is the foundation of your media relations strategy. 

2. How does your company use our solution? 

It’s incredibly challenging to highlight your customer’s success with your solution without a detailed understanding of how they’re using it. While you probably have a general idea, dive below the surface of the standard use case to uncover the unique points needed to shape the customer’s specific story. 

3. What problem were you trying to address by purchasing our solution? 

I might argue that this question matters the most. Uncovering the roadblocks stopping your customers from achieving their goals before they implemented your solution is the backbone of their success story. Not to mention, this is the part that will really resonate with readers facing similar challenges. 

4. How does our solution help your team or company achieve its objectives?

Every problem calls for a solution. In your customer advocacy campaign, that solution is your product. When sharing your customer success story, providing insight into how it’s helping them achieve their objectives is critical. Further, showing actual ROI validates your claim, so consider following up with:

  • Did you track any KPIs before using our solution?
  • Are there any measurable benefits to using our solution?
  • What metrics are you tracking with our solution?
  • Do you have additional data to support your ROI?

5. What is your overall impression of us as a partner in your success?

To close it out, this question allows you to really drive home some of your value props outside your product’s hard features. What stands out when your customer thinks about you as a partner to their success? Is it your unparalleled customer support? Is it your next-level user experience? By asking your customers to elaborate on the most pertinent aspects of your brand experience and product, your company can shine as a key element to their success.  

These are just a handful of questions you can ask your customers when highlighting their success. If you’re interested in more information on how to promote your customers’ stories as part of your media relations strategy, check out our Building Customer References ebook. 

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The customer journey can feel long, especially in the B2B SaaS market. After moving prospects through the first four stages — awareness, consideration, purchase, and retention — you may think the journey is complete. After all, you have a customer using your product and you’re confident in your relationship. What could come next? The final step of the B2B customer journey: advocacy. Continue reading “3 Steps to Finding Your Customer Advocate in the B2B Customer Journey”

How B2B SaaS PR Can Help Power the Customer Journey

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