Customer reference programmes don’t struggle because there is a lack of stories to tell. They struggle because the process of capturing them is ineffective. Our eBook, ‘Success stories made simple’, guides you through our 3-stage approach to capturing stories like clockwork.
Below are our top 5 customer reference tips that will make it even easier to implement this process:
1. Don’t just target big brands.
It's easy to understand the appeal of big brands. There’s definitely value in being associated with a well-known player. But exclusively pursuing them for your reference programme can cause issues:
- Approvals get a lot harder. Big companies want to protect the value of their brand and have sizeable legal departments. They can halt your case study or event appearance with paperwork.
- You risk alienating smaller prospects. We all like reading about people like ourselves. If you only seem to work for the Microsofts, Virgins and IBMs of this world, your smaller prospects might question how much attention and commitment they’ll get from you.
- You can leave yourself with very few leads. A good reference programme has new content appearing regularly. If you pursue only your biggest customers, you’ll find your pipeline will run dry pretty quickly.
2. Make sure all stakeholders are in the loop.
Giving stakeholders visibility into the programme will result in them feeling more invested in its success – and therefore more likely to cooperate.
To get sales and support colleagues on board:
- Communicate the aims, process and benefits of the programme.
- Consider an incentive to reward case study nominations.
To get customers motivated to participate, you could promote exclusive benefits for those that take part (such as credits for future purchases, product roadmap access, executive briefings).
3. Always be on the lookout for success.
Many customer reference programmes fail simply because they don’t pursue enough stories. There will be plenty in your client base, so you need to keep ’em coming.
If you're only progressing one or two nominations, the best you can hope for is one or two case studies.
In reality not all nominations will result in a customer reference—it's worth anticipating that 20-25% of candidates either won't meet your qualifying criteria or won't complete the production process. So source more nominations than you need, to be sure of producing a consistent stream of stories.
4. Tell the story
The formulaic writing style of the past won’t cut it if you want your stories to capture and hold the attention of your targets.
To do this, the story must be told from the customer’s viewpoint, engage on an emotional level, and put the vendor’s (your) angle beneath the customer’s.
Our experience is that some of our clients feel uncomfortable with this approach—until, that is, they start getting feedback from sales and new customers about just how compelling and convincing this new style of customer reference really is.
5. Make the stories accessible
It’s vital that sales know about the reference content and can find what they need, when they need it. Create a central repository of references and supporting assets; the trendy term is ‘asset curation’.
Building an easy-to-use ‘search and select’ tool can help sales colleagues find the stories that match the region, vertical or solution they’re talking about.