How far will your references go?

Jonathan Gitlin - May 18, 2017

It’s not easy to have the right customer references on hand. As mentioned in our previous post, only one out of five of an already finite pool of your happiest customers are willing to go on the record to endorse your company. This means the majority of your most satisfied customers (who you really want to hear from) aren’t volunteering to be a reference.

But identifying who your references are is only part of the equation. You still need to decipher how they’re willing to help.

You may have several ideas in mind, depending on the needs of your organization. Sales may be knocking on your door for a phone reference in order to close a deal while colleagues in Demand Generation need updated customer stories to include in an upcoming campaign.

What reference activities are most popular?

Based on years of collecting response data from over 6.5 million of our customers’ customers, we were able to identify the following breakdown of the types of reference activities people are most likely to volunteer for:

The psychology behind the numbers

The numbers reveal what we might expect from human nature: the faster, more private, and less risky the activity is, the greater the likelihood that the respondent will participate.

This is particularly evident when it comes to phone references, which allow the customer to engage with a small, private audience from a flexible location and without the pressure of having their every word scrutinized. Out of all reference volunteers, 70% indicate they would be a phone reference—by far the most common reference activity.

The situation drastically changes when we look at reference volunteer rates for the more public and time-intensive activities, such as participating in a video (29%) or providing a press statement (28%).

In the case of collaborating on a video, the reference would need to prepare for the interview and potentially travel to the company’s location, both of which can be time consuming. We also know that many customers need approval from Legal and PR teams prior to public interviews, which can increase friction. Plus, there’s no telling who and how many people will view the video, making any measure of privacy impossible to accomplish. Suddenly, you’re asking your customers for a lot more than a reference—you’re asking them to put their public persona and reputation up for scrutiny.

Getting your references to act

So what can you do if you really want to jumpstart your video testimonial collection, or get a raving testimonial for a press release, but your customers are hesitant to commit? The answer is: make the activity as easy and painless as possible for the client, and be upfront about the effort required from their side. This can mean filming them at the location of their choosing while asking a minimal number of questions that would elicit the most valuable responses for your team.

Timing is also key. It’s helpful to approach customers during the appropriate stage of the client relationship while keeping in mind that some activities will require more knowledge or experience with your product or service than others.

And just like sales builds a pipeline of prospects, focus on building a pipeline of reference volunteers from each of your target vertical markets. Our clients use their TechValidate outreach projects to build a database of reference volunteers, while tagging each of them with the associated activities that they’re willing to perform.

Regardless of what method you use to identify references, inquiring about what activities each reference is willing to participate in is an important piece of the process. It will give you a clear path on how to most effectively engage with your references while meeting the internal needs of your organization.


Learn more about how TechValidate can help your team collect more references.

Jonathan Gitlin

Jon Gitlin is a Customer Success Manager at TechValidate.

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