If you haven’t done so before, volunteer to be a reference for someone else. Find a vendor you like, reach out to them, and offer it up.
The first thing you’ll find is this: you’ll be amazed at how nicely you’re treated. Honestly, it’s pretty cool. But more importantly, you’ll quickly realize that there are big benefits to being a reference for a company.
As a marketer looking to make “the ask,” these benefits are your most important asset.
“It’s not at all hard to rave about the products and services that you really love and support. It feels good to say ‘way to go for being awesome, company that I love.’”
Here’s a typical request for a reference. Caution: just reading this might make you shrivel up in second-hand embarrassment.
Notice the following:
The request is framed around “we” and “us,” not “you”
There’s nothing in it for the customer
The requestor assumes that the customer will say no, and is clearly asking for a favor
Asking for customer references this way is just plain weak—no wonder people are scared to death of doing it!
How to ask for a customer reference
When I do a reference, I try to ask only the people who I think would be interested in speaking with the prospect in question. This could be because of a similar background or interest, or because I see two people who I think might potentially get along. I also give my customers some detail about the person they are going to be speaking with to make my request more personalized.
Compare the previous request with this one:
What’s different now?
The entire request is framed around “you”
Clear statements of value and benefits for taking the call
Tone that suggests, “I have an opportunity for you—why wouldn’t you take it?”
In my experience—they usually do take the request, and they like you better for it.
“Ask nicely, explain the benefit to the customer, and do as much as possible to make it easy for the customer to connect with your prospect.”
One more point: marketers often avoid asking someone for a reference because there are recent customer support tickets in their account. It’s one of the first questions people ask when trying to identify a reference: “Are they having support issues?”
However, being a reference is about much more than just the customer’s use of your product.
In fact, it’s not uncommon for people who have placed support calls to serve as amazing references—specifically because they have stronger relationships with the company.
If you take care of your customers, they will reciprocate. You need to know their disposition in advance, but don’t avoid them just because they have had a problem in the past.
One of our top advocates once revealed to me that he’d always do a reference call for one of his vendors because he likes to meet new people and learn from them, regardless of his personal feelings of the product.
Proof positive: it’s not about you.
Be bold: you’ve got a lot more advocates than you think
Go for the ask—and do it personally. What you’ll quickly realize is that you’ve got a lot more referenceable customers rooting for you than you even thought—and there’s nothing more powerful than an army of brand advocates to boost your sales & marketing engine.
Don’t be shy. It’s a win-win.
Grow Your Customer Base: Cut Your Customer Reference Program
Find out how you can transform your customer reference program by developing better relationships with with loyal customers in this eBook.