Why do customers choose to be a customer reference? Answer this question early in the life cycle of a customer reference program because it drives one of the most fundamental functions: attracting customer reference program members. It’s never too late to assess your environment if this question wasn’t answered earlier, or if the dynamics of your customer relationships have changed recently (significant sales turnover, executive turnover, mergers/acquisitions, etc.).
The companies that are most successful at building a solid customer reference base have strong customer relationships.
There are 3 basic relationship reasons customers choose to be a reference
- Service excellence from/chemistry with their main point(s) of contact
- Love of/for the product/solution
- Desire to be professionally associated with the brand (makes them look cutting edge)
Consider all three drivers when developing a recruiting approach/model.
Strategies for Service Excellence / Chemistry Advocates
If service excellence (and most likely chemistry with an account exec or CSM) is at the heart of a customer relationship then the people closest to the account are in the best position to identify and even invite the customer to join the reference program. However, don’t limit your thinking to only leveraging the AEs and CSMs. Strong relationships may exist between customers and:
- Sales leadership
- Advisory board leaders
- Product management
- Professional services
- Sales engineers
The account “owners” ought to be able to identify who will likely have the greatest goodwill accrued with the customer.
Strategies for Love of Product & Brand Association Advocates
Love of the product/solution and perceived value of brand association elevate the customer’s loyalty to the company, transcending the individuals closest to the account. Recruiting campaigns (i.e., direct outreach) from customer marketing are more likely to be successful in these situations. Not to discount the relationships, but the recruiting process is faster and more prolific if 1-on-1 recruiting conversations don’t need to be coordinated across multiple departments and people.
Consider how each program prospect relates to your organization before deciding on the best approach for recruiting for the customer reference program. It’ll save you trial and error time, and get you to your ultimate goal more efficiently. That goal being a robust, qualified, and relevant database of customers ready to engage in a variety of reference and advocate activities.