Baby strokes!

My six year old niece started her first swim lessons this week. Monday she was nervous and thought about bailing out of lessons – little did she know that her granny was going to make her go in the water if she liked it or not. After 30 minutes of class with two other little kids and a whole lot of attention by the instructor, she was able to blow bubbles and get ¾ of her face in the water.

Tuesday she was much braver. She swam 42 loops (in the baby pool) with her arm bands on and loved it. She was really getting the hang of it yet still she wouldn’t put her face completely in the water – it was a bit too scary.

Wednesday I told her I’d give her $1 if she put her whole face in and low and behold, I’m $1 poorer today. She also was able to swim with the kickboard and holding on to the instructor. She went as far as the middle of the pool.

Today, Thursday, she was swimming by herself in the big pool. The instructor would stand in the middle of the big pool and she’d kickboard out to him. When she got to him, he’d pick her up and throw her back in the pool and she’d be completely under water. She’d pop back up, swim to the side and then head out back to him where he would throw her again to be completely submerged in water. She loved it!

Think of your references the same way. Sometimes your contact will not have done one before and might need some hand holding or guidance. Take baby steps with them and once they feel comfortable working with you on a press release and/or case study, introduce them to the idea of speaking with the press and then maybe an analyst or a video testimonial. They might even look to their PR or Legal department to get approval and might get shot down. That’s okay, my niece didn’t learn to swim or stick her head completely under water in a day but by the time she’s done with her lessons next week she’ll be a pro!

Types of customer references

Doing a quick search on the Internet for blogs regarding customer references, I noticed that a majority of them ask how to find a reference for a particular software application or some other product. Most of these are from the perspective of the person (generally sales or a consultant) looking for answers for their customer/prospect. Very few of the blogs talk about how to run a Customer Reference Program and how to pull one together from scratch. I’m hoping to help answer some of these issues with this blog.

Types of customer references
When starting your reference program it’s important to realize the many different types of references. Start with basic 101…is this is sales or marketing reference? Although they might seem like they are the same and ultimately will affect one another, they are generally two very different types.

Sales references include:
Customer speaking with a prospect over the phone/email
Prospect wanting to visit a customer to see how the product works
Name dropping in a prospect call/meeting

Marketing references include:
Press release
Case study
Speaking with analysts
Speaking with the media
Website listing
Use of name and/or logo in Marketing material

In general, it’s usually easier to find a Sales reference than a Marketing reference for one basic reason…Sales references are generally not going to be made public. It’s that simple. Marketing references are used for..well, marketing reasons which means letting pretty much the world know that customer XYZ is a customer of vendor XYZ.

Because it’s a public reference, most customers will have to get approval by their Legal and/or Public Relations team if not more people. This extends the approval process and scares some people away as more time and effort is needed.

Rule #1: When using a customer for a public reference such as logo use on a Website or in a press release always get the customers approval at least once before doing so. If a customer has approved a quote and you want to re-use it, that’s generally okay. But for the first time usage, make sure to get approval!