Getting Personal with Customer References: Matchmaking that Works

Getting Personal with Customer References: Matchmaking that Works
Savvy Guest - Mon Jan 24, 2011 @ 08:00AM
Comments: 28
We're pleased to present this guest post by Joshua Horwitz, president and founder at Boulder Logic. Read on for Joshua's insights into why it makes sense to help your prospects and customers connect -- and how to go about it.

So, you’ve got a bunch of satisfied customers willing to brag about you and your brand, and you’ve also got a ton of hot prospects eager to hear more. What’s the best way to use what you’ve got and close the deal? We recommend BoulderLogic_matching_zebras.jpggetting your prospects up close and personal with your reference customers. Let the matchmaking begin!

Customer references are important because… 

Nothing beats a firsthand account from someone who is using your product or service. One-on-one phone calls and even in person meetings between perfectly matched customers and prospects are the most compelling sales tools in your arsenal.

Sometimes customer references are necessary…

Here’s one example. A major retail organization is looking to purchase a specialized IT automation system. The business will rely heavily on this system to run critical operations. Because it cannot go on reputation alone, due diligence requires the decision maker to speak with a current user and understand all aspects of their experience – both positive and negative. 

Let’s consider another scenario. Software providers face a lot of competition these days, many offering products with similar features and functionality. One thing that can set them apart from the rest is the top notch-service and support they provide. Over time this support helps to foster a real relationship, and this is what keeps clients signing renewals year after year. A one-on-one conversation is the best way to convey the benefits of a personal relationship like this. 

So what does this mean for you and your customer reference program?

Serving up happy customers to speak with prospects requires a hands-on, interactive approach to customer reference management. Depending on the size of your organization and the number of reference requests that come in, you can tackle this is a variety of ways. A company with one main product and fewer than 25 customers can probably get away with tracking reference activity on a spreadsheet. On the other hand, a company with multiple products and a fast-growing list of customers will fare much better with an automated solution that can immediately identify the best matching reference while keeping track of program activity, reporting, and metrics

Whichever approach you decide to take, remember these tips to keep things running smoothly

  • Check in with your reference customers regularly. Make sure these folks are happy – you don’t want any surprises when they speak with your prospects.
  • Follow up after a reference activity has occurred and ensure it was a good experience for everyone involved.
  • Show your appreciation with an incentive program. Pay attention to your reference customer’s participation and spread the love from time to time. There are a number ways to go about this and no right or wrong way to do it. Some companies choose an organized approach; they incent their reference customers by providing tangible gifts for different levels of participation. While others make it much more informal; choosing to send a thank-you note or gift whenever they feel someone has made an especially large effort. Either way, it’s a good idea to show your customers how important they are to you and your business.

While managing customer references effectively demands a good amount of coordination and handholding, the effort is worth it. Connecting people that can relate to each other’s challenges, frustrations, and goals will inspire confidence and bring credibility to your company. Remember these people are willing and eager to be set up, so go ahead and play the matchmaker! 

About the Author: Joshua Horwitz is president and founder at Boulder Logic, a company specializing in customer reference management. Companies with complex products and selling cycles rely on Boulder Logic for an easy-to-deploy, highly customizable enterprise solution to accelerate sales and marketing using their existing customers. Check out Boulder Logics’ blog.


Comments: 28

Comments

1. Chris Koch  |  my website   |   Fri Feb 11, 2011 @ 11:07AM

Hi Joshua,

Good advice. One concern though: Won't you burn out your references if you have them talk to prospects as opposed to sales-qualified leads? I would think it'd be a source of frustration for references if they are sent to people who aren't really serious.

2. Joshua Horwitz  |  my website   |   Mon Feb 14, 2011 @ 01:44PM

Good comment Chris. Thanks. A lot of B2B Marketing organizations rely on case studies and other static content only and leave live interactions to happen in an ad hoc manner. The aim in this post was to emphasize getting serious about live interactions, however sharing unqualified prospects in live interactions is not a good idea for the reason you mentioned. We could (should) write a separate post about how to gauge the timing in different types of selling situations.

3. Kelly Dear  |  my website   |   Wed Aug 24, 2011 @ 01:43PM

We only do this when the prospect is on the high $$ amount side. The way we do it is to arrange a face to face meeting with the customer and the prospect - either at our place or our customer's facility. The customer is fully on board and they know the importance of what they're doing for us. We don't script the meeting, though there is an agenda. We are part of the meeting, but our role is to answer questions and make sure all concerns are addressed. We limit the amount of time so the customer reference isn't burdened. As a thank you to the customer who participated and gave the reference we give a free service the following month. No discount, but something they are currently not getting from us. This gives us an opportunity to thank them, but also to expose them to more of what we offer.

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