Why is a Customer Reference program important for a company?

There are many different groups within a company that benefit from a Customer Reference Program but generally there are two groups that have the most impact – Sales and Marketing. These are the teams that tend to raise the most amount of noise as it benefits them the most.

On the sales side there are two main reasons for a Customer Reference Program. The lesser of important reasons is to promote customers “like us”. Prospects generally want to speak to a customer who is in the boat as them – same IT budget, same network setup, same employee size, same industry. By giving them customers to speak with who are like them, they can better see the value of your solution.

But, by far the most important reason for a Customer Reference Program from a Sales perspective is to let Sales focus on selling. It’s not always easy finding a customer to fit the need of the prospect and sometimes it takes 5-10 emails and 5 calls – and that’s just for one reference request! Now figure out how much time it takes to do each of those tasks, multiply it by the amount of time it takes to actually find the correct person to send the emails to or make the calls to. That, over the course of a week or quarter or year, can add up to a lot of time. Now, if you were the VP of Sales would you want to be able to hand over that task to someone who is specializing in finding reference or would you want your Sales person to waste valuable selling time looking for customers? (I hope if you’re a VP of Sales that that wasn’t a difficult question.)

Marketing folks tend to like reference programs because it helps to build brand recognition. By announcing customer via press releases or case studies or media opportunities, people start to find out more about your company. And, there’s no better way to promote your company than through third party validation. Me saying that I’m the coolest person I know doesn’t really hold a ton of value. But if Joe Shmoe tells everyone that I’m the coolest person he knows, then there’s more credibility there.

Having a person focus solely on customer references also reduces the chance of a customer being overused. If Sales person 1 and Sales person 4 are using the same customer for a reference call and then the Public Relations team jumps in and asks for a press release and the Field Marketing team asks the customer to speak at a seminar, there’s a good chance that the customer will become tired or irate. It is easily forgotten that you are not the only vendor the customer is working with so you have to be mindful of his/her time.

A centralized Customer Reference Program also allows for the most appropriate customer to be used for the most appropriate opportunity. With one person, or a team, focused on references it’s easier to keep track of the critical details of the customer so that all references given are the best references for that specific opportunity.

At the end of the day, the benefit of a Customer Reference Program is increased brand awareness and sales which then lead to increased profits. Are you sold on it?

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