A common approach for identifying new customer references for your program is nominations. 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 important considerations.

Spec Definition

[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. The goal of a nomination “campaign” is to recruit customers that support your company’s top growth goals. A blanket request for nominations could result in unusable advocates and be a waste of everyone’s time.
  • Potential nominators must know specific attributes of qualified candidates like industry, reference activities in need (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.


[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.
  • Include all your requirements in the 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.

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 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, the submitted information is captured in a database, making it easier to track and manage.


  • Have the steps for qualifying/vetting nominations in place and ready to execute on 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?

Value Realization

This is what it’s all about folks!

  • After nominees are qualified, start converting those “rough-cut diamonds” into finished “jewelry.” They only have potential until the market knows about them.
  • Whether live activities (e.g., reference calls, webinars) or some form of content (videos, quotes, case studies), time is of the essence.

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!