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.
- Sales reference calls
- Analyst reference calls
- Customer logo on website
- Press release announcing the customer
- Written customer case study
- Customer blog post
- Contributed content for media
- Customer video
- 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.