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How to Build a Customer Reference Program

Gartner gives a step process to building references

Technology providers without a good reference program are always running against the wind. Gartner issued a press release last month giving some direction to establishing and maintaining a good program.

From the release — 

Providers that apply customer references across a broad range of stakeholders close business faster, build stronger brands and sustain higher employee morale, according to Gartner, Inc. “While few marketers would debate the value of customer references, they tend to limit their use to just sales opportunities,” said Richard Fouts, research director at Gartner.

“The marketers we talked to who have achieved the most effectiveness in investments in customer reference programs have done so by applying them to a broader range of business functions. For example, customer reference stories benefit business leaders in analyst, public and media relations. Even HR executives and channels managers use reference stories in their respective recruiting efforts. So the wider you cast the net, the higher the return.

The Three Steps:

Step 1: Set your goals.


Step 2: Develop a recruiting strategy to encourage customers to act as references.

Step 3: Manage the day-to-day tactics of the customer reference program.

"Our research shows that providers who cross-index their customer references and put them to work across a broad range of business functions and sales situations build stronger brands, close business faster and recruit higher-quality talent while forming enthusiastic customer communities," said Mr. Fouts.

Customer success stories provide real evidence that a provider is delivering on its brand promise, something that can be shared with business leaders across the organization. But managing a comprehensive program of customer references — and their subsequent application across a broad range of stakeholders — is a lot to manage. Gartner recommends that marketers look into automation to make the process easier and even more effective. Companies like Boulder Logic, for example, specialize in the management of customer reference programs.

Full Release

More Stories By John Ryan

John is an experienced leader with a strong background of defining and executing company strategies. He is especially skilled in channel management, market analysis, brand marketing and selling technology products and services. He has successfully served in a number of executive positions and has been in management for 20 years. John is currently writing a book on increasing revenue generation. He has been a co-author of a comprehensive marketing methodology for high tech companies and has helped venture capitalists and private equity firms gauge their technology investments. In 2004, John served as Vice President of Marketing for the NA arm of the $6B IT Services division of Siemens, AG. John served on the board of directors at WebTrends, purchased by NetIQ (NTIQ) for $1 billion in 2001. WebTrends was highly successful dominating the web site analysis and reporting space. Prior to WebTrends, John was the Vice President of Marketing for Tivoli Systems. John has worked as a contracted consultant for established companies, start ups and top analyst firms. John can be reached at john@johnwryan.com or you can follow him on Twitter @buyersteps

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