Customer reference nomination campaigns are essential for a successful customer reference program. Customer reference nominations are like sales leads for your customer reference program. It’s common for customer reference programs to get new advocates into the program by getting nomination from sales, account management, or customer success. Any customer-facing colleague in your organization, at any time, could have a happy customer willing to tell their story. These are Sales Qualified Leads, for Marketing to further qualify. The nomination is just the first step of the reference cultivation cycle.

The devil is in the details when it comes to nomination success. Here are some essential components of an effective nomination process.

Customer Reference Nomination Specifications

[Just like leads from the demand gen team, you won’t get what you want without defining the need]

  • Know what you’re looking for in advance. A nomination “campaign” goal is to recruit customers that support your company’s top growth goals. A blanket request for nominations could result in having to work through prospective advocates who aren’t needed while missing out on ones that are. 
  • Nominators must know specific attributes of qualified candidates. These could include industry, reference activities the customer will do (speakers/presenters, case studies, press releases, reference site visits, etc.), organization size, and use cases.
  • Whether you’re filling in gaps or building a brand new segment of your reference database, be detailed about your needs.

Nomination Campaign Communication

[The demand gen team needs to be crystal clear on the list to generate]

  • It’s not enough for you, as program manager, to know your needs. The nominators, and ultimately the customers do too.
  • Include all your requirements in your request for nominations (email, Slack, etc.) and on the form you’ve devised for collecting those nominations.
  • Be sure to define what  characterizes a “reference” for your organization. For example, it could be that the client must have a year’s worth of experience with the solution, is using certain parts of the solution, or  has a global footprint.
  • Give immediate feedback to anyone who submits candidates outside the target criteria, so they don’t waste any more effort on the “wrong” profile.
  • Let those teams that could be nominating know what the process will be, and what’s in it for them.
  • Roll the nomination campaign into an existing rewards program, or launch a new program for nominations. You’ll reach your goal a whole lot faster if you incentivize the nominators. Be sure the “rules” of the game are clear.

Customer Reference Nomination Data Collection

[Ever seen a demand gen team not work from a database with standardized fields?]

  • The trick is to make it easy for those customer-facing team members to bring advocates to the reference program’s attention.
  • We’ve seen companies create forms (Word, Acrobat, and web-based) to avoid inconsistency in the information submitted. That’s a good first step rather than relying on free form emails, or Chatter/Slack posts.
  • Ideally, customer reference nominees’ information is captured in a database, making it easier to track and manage. If you have a reference management tool already, leverage it; don’t reinvent the wheel.

Customer Reference Campaign Qualification

  • Have the steps for qualifying/vetting nominations in place and ready to execute before the first nominations start coming in.
  • Ensure you can process nominations in a timely fashion. Like sales leads, there may well be a “shelf-life.” Contacts change employers and roles. Maximize the value of those advocates as if there’s an hourglass next to each contact’s tenure in your program.
  • Letting nominations sit on a shelf is frustrating to those who nominated. If they don’t see action, why will they bother next time they’re asked to nominate?

Customer Reference Campaign Value Realization

Close the Deal on Your Customer Reference Nomination Campaign

  • After nominees are qualified, start converting those “rough-cut diamonds” into finished “jewelry.” They only have potential until the market knows about them.
  • Whether a new customer advocate participates in live activities (e.g., reference calls, webinars) or some form of content (videos, quotes, case studies), time is of the essence. Once a customer is activated as an advocate in the program, get them into use.  If a customer agrees to be an advocate, don’t let them sit idle for long.

With a well-defined nomination process, your chances of successfully building a reference database that fuels your company’s growth increases exponentially. Next thing you know, you’ll be nominated for club—and rightfully so!