Customer references are a great way to consistently prove your credentials to potential new customers and overcome any objections they may have. However, the amount of time your reference customers are willing and able to give you will vary.
So, to make sure you capture these stories, you’ll need to offer them a range of reference options and allow them to choose the level of involvement that best suits them. For example:
Level 1: Logo and name only
Use of your customer’s name and/or logo on your website and in marketing collateral requires the least amount of commitment but can offer a lot in associative credibility. Just remember that you still need to get the green light before you do so.
Level 2: Testimonial
Customer quotes that endorse your are another quick way for your client's to voice their approval of you. They concisely capturing the essence of the story and are valuable in backing up intangible aspects of your solutions.
Level 3: Text-based customer success story
In an ideal world, your customer will be willing to participate in a telephone or in-person interview. From this you can capture a much richer story in the form of a press release, newsletter article or case study.
Keep in mind that, for one reason or another, the client's name may be off limits, but that doesn't mean the story is too; there are many ways anonymous case studies can work for you.
Level 4: Video story
Nothing brings a story to life more than video. However, compared to a written reference, video often requires much more time from your client. On top of the initial call to discuss the story, organising logistics enters the fold, as well as actually performing at the shoot.
Having said that, the end result is definitely worth it, especially considering that you can use the information gathered to create a written case study and pull out some key quotes.
As a thank you for the additional effort your client has invested, you could also offer to that the film crew you use shoot some video for the client's own purposes.
Level 5: Speaking engagement
If customers have a very high level of goodwill toward your company, they may be willing to speak at a conference, trade show, seminar or similar event. The additional commitment here is evident, so make the most of it: such presentations can be recorded and broadcast on your website as a video or podcast.
And remember, as with video case studies, you can capture these stories at the event and subsequently turn them into written pieces.
Level 6: Reference visit or telephone reference
The highest level of commitment a customer can make to your company is to agree to be a reference site. The customer will agree to take telephone calls or host visits from your qualified potential customers to allow them to discuss their experience with you and see elements of the solution in action.
Being sensitive to competing demands on your client's time, and adapting your approach to fit, is key to capturing the success stories your aiming for. Often, a client who has found success with your solution will be more than happy to share their story in some shape or form. However, if you think there's an opportunity to take it to the next level, you can position the reference in different ways to get clients bought in.