Does your company need a customer reference consultant? First off, no, I’m not pitching a service. Rather, I’m predicting (and endorsing) a new role with marketing and customer success. There is a clear need for a more cohesive approach to customer marketing, customer reference marketing, customer advocate marketing or whatever your company calls it. Various customer reference activities occur today in pockets of your organization. If it’s not a coordinated effort guided by a vision—like brand messaging is—your company is leaving a slew of benefits on the table.
The objective of this marketing genre, regardless of what you label it, is the same: Reduce buyer reluctance to make a decision—in your favor—by providing ample evidence of customer success. Peer influence is a significant driver in our personal buying decisions, and while there are differences, it also impacts most corporate buying decisions today.
A SiriusDecisions study of more than 1,000 B-to-B buyers revealed that 71% of a buyer’s vendor selection decision is based on customer experience.
Customer Reference Consultant Defined
To ensure your organization can address the need for peer influence, your company needs a strategy and a strategic leader with a consultative approach. So, what does this Customer Reference Consultant role look like? It’s a cross-functional position with a goal of relentlessly seeking out ways to incorporate customer perspectives and experiences in any forum or channel that influences buyers, analysts, partners, investors, and employees. While this might be achievable on a part-time basis, done correctly, this job would keep one skilled resource plenty busy producing tangible results in a mid- or large-size company.
This internal consultant should pay special attention to the organization’s growth goals and tactics. If the goal is to grow revenue by 10% by focusing on 3 new, previously untapped, verticals, then PR, digital, events, demand gen, and other “consumers” of customer content, must have the right stories and content to support their respective goals.
Once reference opportunities are identified, there needs to be an effortless way to match advocates with those opportunities. That necessitates reliable, up-to-date customer reference information, and a search capability for that data that supports granular search criteria. Of course, a steady flow of new referenceable customers that cover all the important segments (industry, product, use cases, etc.) is the foundation of such a program.
The Power of Customer Reference Consultants, Inside and Out
Customers who’ll act as your advocates are strategic weapons in the brand and market share theater. They demonstrate a company’s value like no corporate messaging alone can, and provide real-world examples, illustrate the personal and professional gain potential while lighting the path to competitive advantage for buyers. Customer advocates also make the purchasing decision comfortable, even exciting.
A Customer Reference Consultant has intimate knowledge of their company’s customers and is a natural participant in strategic activities at the highest level: new product planning, acquisition discussions, VC meeting preparation, company event planning, partner onboarding and acculturation, and more. Why? Because what the consultant learns by listening to customer experiences should be the foundation of company messaging, employee training and inform the design of processes that impact the customer experience going forward.
We believe we will see more of these positions emerging in those companies that heed the steady drumbeat of B2B buyer studies, and most importantly, “get it.” If you want to make your company’s solution the clear choice for buyers, creating the Customer Reference Consultant role is one of your best investments.