Satisfied customers are great, but they can still be teased by a competitor’s lower price or product features. Loyal customers are not swayed by the sweet talk from your competitor since they are committed to doing business with you. The acid test for loyalty is referrals. If your customer refers you to their friends and colleagues, they are loyal. It is as simple as that.
If you ranked all the tools in the marketing tool bag which includes product promotion, pricing, advertising, personal selling, and public relations, you will find that reference accounts top the list in effectiveness. Reference accounts are the most believed and trusted form of marketing. Let your happy clients do your selling for you.
If your existing clients are happy, ask them to write it down or ask them for permission to have a prospect call them. Most of the time they will be glad to help out. If they say no, they will be complimented that you asked.
Peer references resonate because prospects find them believable. Meanwhile, the prospect is disinclined to believe the sales rep, even though the rep may truly be expert on the subject and may know far more than the buyer. This also explains why advertising is such an inefficient tool: it is obviously paid for by the sponsoring firm and is not believable. Likewise, the buyer knows that the rep is paid to sell. References provide a work-around for this trust problem.
By the way, the venture capital community figured out about reference accounts a long time ago. They frequently build portfolios of firms that sell to each other and act as reference accounts for each other. A little incestuous you proclaim? I agree. Nevertheless, it works and I guess all is fair when it comes to the VCs.
No better salesperson exists than the happy customer. Reference accounts are critical to the successful marketing effort at any business.
John Bradley Jackson
© Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.