- 29th June 2012
A very popular inquiry for our clients is asking how to get more customer references. This is an important challenge for marketing and sales alike due to the critical role that peer-based content and advocacy play in the buying cycle. It’s a matter of trust: SiriusDecisions research shows senior leaders making purchase decisions consider information from peers an important resource at every stage of buying. There’s power in the stories real people tell. Sellers work hard to identify those willing to speak on their behalf.
Now, I’d like to turn that conversation on its head and talk directly to the buyers. We all know sellers care about references, but what’s in it for you to step up and talk about the great customer experience you’re having?
Here’s a list of six ways you’ll benefit from supporting a reference program. (Hint to sellers: If you’re not offering these benefits to advocates, you should be.)
- Become an influencer in your area. Ever wonder how non-CMO-level marketers get invited to speak on webcasts or at conferences or get quoted in the press without having to write a book? The path to becoming better known in your field can start with a great reference story. Find ways to share positive outcomes you delivered. Consider offering to be a traditional reference or reference for an analyst’s review process. You could also offer a case study, or to be a source for press quotes on behalf of your supplier. These raise your profile outside your company and help build your presence as a market influencer.
- Get better attention from your vendor. If a vendor knows you speak publicly and to prospects on a regular basis, it’s reasonable to think they’ll be more attentive to your needs. You gain more leverage in the relationship by making it clear that future sales will be at risk if you become unhappy. This does not mean the supplier is held hostage to your unreasonable demands. It does mean that the squeaky wheel others can hear generally gets oiled faster.
- Meet more peers and build your network. A broad network of peers is a significant asset for any professional. When you offer to be a reference, you have a built-in way to meet more people in similar roles at other companies. This is valuable because you can learn about different ways others are addressing the same types of challenges you face, while helping them by sharing your experience.
- Learn about new developments sooner. If you are part of an advisory council, user group or other community, a key benefit is early access to news. Most companies use these groups to preview what’s on the roadmap or introduce new offerings, as well as share announcements and changes. You will also benefit from more time to digest the impact of these changes to your situation.
- Have more say in what happens. If you are an involved member of a reference or customer community, you should be asked for feedback on planned developments to ensure something new is not met with negative feedback that goes public. Hopefully you also get more access to company executives (e.g. at customer events).This access, plus the knowledge that you share experiences publicly, means your input gets heard more loudly than others who remain silent.
- Prove the value of your investment. This may be the biggest benefit of all. If you structure your project around demonstrating how well you reached the goals set for the investment, you will have a great story to tell both internally and externally about what you did for your business. The vendor will be delighted to have quantifiable results to share, and your internal leaders will know that you have been a good steward of resources.
About the Author
Megan Heuer is Vice President and Group Director, Data-Driven Marketing, at SiriusDecisions. With more than 15 years of industry and professional services experience, she has worked both in – and for – organizations to build a wide variety of collaborative sales and marketing deliverables that drive systematic, predictable growth. Follow Megan on Twitter @megheuer