Types of customer reference vs. levels of commitment
Customers may be willing to engage with you in a number of different ways. This will be driven by their own aims, but also by the amount of commitment they are able to give.
When designing your customer reference programme, consider how you can deliver maximum benefit to customers without asking them to invest a lot of their valuable time. Customers should be able to choose the level of involvement that suits them.
Knowledge of the different types of customer reference, and agreeing with customers how they wish to participate, up front, will allow you to collect all the information you need in one hit and use it for multiple purposes:
Level 1: Logo and name only
Use of your customer’s name and/or logo on your website and in presentations or similar sales and marketing material, requires the least amount of commitment. But remember, you still need their permission.
Level 2: Testimonial
Customer quotes that endorse your company’s work are valuable when you have to work that little bit harder to engage with your audience, eg when using direct mail or PR activity to reach your target audience.
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 and to review the copy before publication. This can take the form of a:
- Press release: participation in the production of a press release, typically after a contract is signed or renewed.
- Newsletter article: participation in the production of a newsletter article about their relationship with you.
- Printed case study: participation in the production of a printed story that will promote the successes they’ve had by working you.
You may also want to consider asking customer to provide or to have photos taken of employees and/or the company’s premises, to accompany the story.
Once this has been approved, by the customer’s organisation, it can be distributed among potential customers and the press and be published on your website or promoted through social media channels.
Level 4: Video story
If your story is one of real human interest, and worth further investigation, why use text at all? Asking customers to participate in the filming of a video case study that will promote the successes they’ve had by working with you can be a powerful tool — audio and video can be used to show the emotion behind the words. A 3-minute video interview can be used at conferences or seminars, online and promoted through social media channels.
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. Get the most value you can from this commitment: such presentations can be recorded and broadcast on your website as video or podcasts.
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. This customer will agree to take telephone calls or host visits from your qualified potential customers that want to talk to them about their experience with you and to see elements of the solution in action.
There may also be opportunities to have customers talk to industry analysts and key press about the business success they’ve achieved as a result of working with you.
But just a note of caution: remember these visits/interviews will more than likely be unchaperoned, so think carefully about which customers will best ‘sell’ your services.