Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gartner Highlights Three-Step Process for Technology Marketers to Create Comprehensive Customer Reference Program

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.

Gartner has developed a three-step process to help technology marketers structure a comprehensive customer reference program to achieve higher returns. The process is based on conversations with providers that manage customer references as a structured marketing program rather than an ad hoc activity.

Step 1: Set your goals. Whether the goal is 100 percent referenceability or some other metric, the objective needs to be meaningful and clear.

Step 2: Develop a recruiting strategy to encourage customers to act as references. Providers need to stop asking customers to be references and start selling them on the value of being a customer reference. While reference recruiting is usually seen as a post-sales activity, it’s something that can actually begin before the sale. For example, some providers offer price considerations, a free service or some other premium if a prospect will agree to consider becoming a reference six months after they sign.

Step 3: Manage the day-to-day tactics of the customer reference program. Customer references should be managed with the same discipline as any marketing program by putting someone in charge. This doesn't have to be a full-time role, nor does it have to happen from Day 1, but in order to maximize return on investment in the program, this commitment must be made.

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.

More information on CRM can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

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