Should You Pay Your Customer References?
It’s tempting to offer payment to your customer references. But it’s the wrong approach.
Why? It calls into question the integrity and objectivity of the reference. Which negates the value of the reference; data shows that the most trusted source of information for B2B buyers is their peers, but that trust evaporates if the glowing reference has been paid for.
But there are nuances in the idea of paying customers. Straight out cash is what taints the well. But a formalized program with clear, and public rewards, is more than OK. It’s effective.
Your rewards program should be specific to your customers. Are the majority of your customers gadget geeks? Are they senior executives who would value discounts? Do they pride themselves on being subject matter experts? Are they actively looking to create buzz for themselves and their organizations?
Start with the high level rewards. Polycom’s customer reference program is a great example. Just some of the “payments” for customer references are:
- Participation in beta programs
- Speaking opportunities
- Award submissions
Other popular rewards include:
- Exclusive, regular (and formal) access to executives
- Sneak Peeks at new products
- Invitations to elite networking events
- Featured roles at user conferences
- Reduced registration fees for user conferences
- Swag, swag, swag
We recommend making the rewards even more enticing by socializing your references’ activities. You can feature them on your blog (which can also be a way to earn points), promote their stories via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Include them in a “featured customer” video.
Lastly, there’s one other aspect of payment to consider. Many organizations – particularly branches of government – cannot accept payment from vendors. If you were to offer them any of the above-mentioned-rewards, they would have to be of a value less than $25.
In these cases, many companies choose to offer donations to the charity of the reference’s choice.
We’re curious – how do you “pay” your references?