Is Digital on Your Customer Reference Stakeholder List?

Customer reference programs often make the mistake of leaving the Digital team off their stakeholder list.  In fact, the digital marketing team is rarely on the list of primary stakeholders (Sales, PR, demand gen, etc.) cited by customer reference program managers. Sure, customer quotes are always a reference type found on websites. But when talking about customer insights driven by intent data, applications for customer content go far beyond mere “one size fits all” quotes sprinkled throughout the site or a case study-specific page. That’s not really moving the UX needle very much.

Customer-Delivered Educational Content

Thought leadership infographics, blog posts from experts in your company, and analyst reports about your industry are all compelling influencers for buyers. But what if real-world customer experiences were woven into the UX fabric more, well, more intentionally? Practitioners—peers—discussing their challenges and success strategies, now that’s powerful. These are the people in the trenches, living in the buyer’s world with earned empathy.

Imagine interviewing your customers on the prevailing issues in an industry, the domain specifically, even particular capabilities of your solution, then being able to serve up just the relevant segments of the interview based on intent data indicating interest in an industry, competitive comparison, the service experience, integration with another system, etc. The buyer no longer needs to sift through a lot of “noise” to get answers to their specific burning questions/concerns. Now, what if there were 4, 5, or more different customers’ perspectives on a particular topic? That would provide a buyer with an understanding and the confidence to set concerns aside and move forward. Isn’t this what we’d like as consumers? We consult friends and family and read multiple product reviews until we’re satisfied peer experiences don’t rule out a purchase. In the case of reviews, it can take a fair amount of time given reviews’ unstructured monolithic nature. In the B2B digital experience, the content can be carved up—targeted—to make the buyer’s process more efficient, effective, and satisfying.

Print vs. Video

The content itself can be print or video. If the content is better suited to or has a greater impact in one format or the other, the choice is made easier. Here’s where a focus group of current customers would be quite valuable. The question of them is, “When you were searching for a solution and needed answers around topic X, would this printed content or this video content have been easier to absorb?”

Impact on Reference Requests

If the buyer’s digital path consistently provided interactions with your customers, how does that affect the 11th-hour need for customer reference calls? Imagine you’ve encountered 5-10 different customers, print or video, candidly and authentically (not conventional marketing fluff). Would you feel comfortable enough to forgo reference calls altogether, or maybe require fewer of them? Depending on how you present the customer content (how authentic and credible), that outcome is entirely possible. That means less pressure on the customer reference team and fewer reference fire drills, which wouldn’t be missed by any parties involved.

Working with the Digital Team

Does the Digital Team know about the customer reference team? Does it now what sort of customer content you have or could produce? Do you know what the Digital folks need to support the intent data they’re leveraging? Being a consultative reference program manager, you’ll start by connecting with someone from Digital and asking them to provide an overview of how they use intent data on your company’s site. That should get the brainstorming started. You’ll identify a variety of opportunities where specific customer stories will provide high value to a buyer, at just the right time. That’ll generate a list of deliverables that will fit into the defined data-driven site navigation roadmaps.

If the Digital team is adaptive, learning, and tweaking, their needs from your group will change over time. Meeting with them monthly, or at least quarterly, will ensure they’re maximizing the value of your customer reference assets. You may want to consider having a Digital representative on your customer reference program advisory board if this group ends up being a substantial stakeholder.

Another Facet of Program Metrics

We evangelize on the importance of aligning the reference program, and database specifically, with corporate imperatives. If the program supports Digital’s departmental objectives while also furthering overarching company goals, conversion rates will show those contributions. Learn more about this from our blog, Why Customer Marketers Should Care About Numbers.,

A customer reference program’s potential reach is mind-boggling, especially to leadership, which, let’s acknowledge, has had a very narrow understanding of the profession. Here is another opportunity to expand those incomplete, long-held perceptions 😉


If you’re interested in more about the value of the Digital team and UX for your customer reference program, take a look at the CMSWire post, 3 Ways to Improve B2B User Experiences With Intent Data,