Part 5 in the Perfect Prospect Model Series
This series is based on a concept of measuring customer value as a means of identifying and focusing on your BEST customers (and then using that knowledge to pursue the PERFECT prospects).
Having spent the last 20+ years working in product strategy, sales, and marketing, one thing I could never get enough of was customers that were willing to share how fabulous and effective our products were.
Even at a surface level, we can all recognize that a customer testimonial or referral is important but are all customers right for the job? What makes them a good referral? And if they are right, how can they help?
When working with clients that are implementing a Whole Company Selling program, I describe the two levels of customer involvement in marketing: passive and active.
PASSIVE MARKETING WITH CUSTOMERS
Passive marketing is the low ask, low investment from customers. At the bottom end of the spectrum, this would simply be the use of logos or company name. At the higher end of passive marketing is a customer that takes reference calls. Somewhere in the middle are things like quotes, testimonials and even filling in review websites.
Passive customer marketing doesn’t ask the customer to go out of their way significantly and is the minimum that we should hope for and expect from our customers. In fact, we should be setting that expectation from the beginning of our relationship.
This could mean including logo/name usage allowance on our initial contract or simply prepping a customer from the beginning that we always come back and ask them to share their experiences for the benefit of other buyers on their journey. The more you prep for it, the easier it will be for you to come back and ask for it.
Getting More from Quotes and References
According to Koyne's 2017 State of Customer Marketing Report, 62% of companies of use testimonials in their customer marketing efforts and 54% of buyers rely on peer recommendations in their buying decisions so it’s worth adding some special guidance around quotes and reference calls.
I give extra points to customers that will accept coaching in these areas. Testimonial quotes are always welcome in marketing but some are more powerful than others. If your customer is going to give you a testimonial, do all you can to make it powerful by asking them to include results rather than just emotional descriptors. For example, as a professional speaker, I often get audience testimonials saying that I am energetic, engaging and insightful. These are really nice and I appreciate them.
However, I’ve also received a testimonial that my presentation would help their business to increase their revenue by £2m per annum. Don’t give up your experience testimonials and quotes but do see if you can coach those customers to share results in their feedback. They are doing it for your benefit and will hopefully be open to making it even more beneficial to you.
The same coaching approach is true for references. The reference call is a staple of B2B software sales (and in many industries) and, as a salesperson, I used to hold my breath waiting to hear if I connected the right customer to the right prospect. The most valuable customers will allow you to coach them and take time for it. They’ll want to know what specific areas or examples you might want them to share with a given prospect. And, ideally, they will call you afterward and let you know how it went. Now THAT’S a valuable customer!
ACTIVE MARKETING WITH CUSTOMERS
While I appreciate and welcome passive marketing with my customers, I LOVE customers that are willing to be active marketing partners.
On the low-effort side of active marketing is video interviews or case studies and on the high-effort side is co-presenting at trade shows or other similar face-to-face support. This level of effort demands a greater commitment and willingness from our customers but it is truly powerful.
Many tradeshows, for example, won’t even accept a presentation submission unless it has a customer presenter. Sometimes, if your products and service are really good (and you’re lucky), your customers will present their success without you requesting it or being involved.
Getting More from Active Marketing
However, just like with quotes and referrals, having a good coaching relationship with clients in this area will improve the success of that marketing. What do you need them to cover for the audience you are hoping to attract? How can they choose from all their successes with you and highlight the most powerful messages?
One of my roles in product marketing has historically been to provide this coaching. I would interview the customer, craft the presentation outline with the main message and key points along the way. Often I would also create the presentation collateral to ensure that it was compelling, well made and would enable the customer to stay on topic. The customer was a part of the process throughout but I knew that most weren’t expert presenters so I made sure they had that expertise on hand so they’d have a good experience and be willing to do it again.
I’d also encourage you to be creative about how to get the best out of your customers for videos and interviews. Having done hundreds of webinars and customer interviews, it always pained me to see how uncomfortable my customers were in front of the camera.
So, I came up with an idea called KPIs and Cocktails. Instead of a stiff interview setting, I would sit with them in a restaurant or bar and chat with them over drinks. The results weren’t as polished from a video perspective but they were so much more relaxed that they shared their success in a more authentic and convincing way. And that’s the goal after all!
So, give your customers great products and services and then be willing to ask them to share their success with others – just make sure you are doing your part to make it easy for them and to get the most out of it.
Tune in next week for the sixth article in this series: Mad Customer Scientists: The Value of Customers in Innovation.
Julie Holmes is a sales & marketing advisor, speaker and Whole Company Selling leader. She works with B2B companies that want to sell more and increase their customer lifetime value by helping everyone in their organization understand and share their value with prospects and customers.