Facing Tighter Budgets, Companies Adopt New Strategies to Meet Growing Demand for Customer References

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In a new survey sponsored by Mainstay Partners and the Metrics Special Interest Group, corporate managers say that leaner budgets are forcing them to work smarter to meet skyrocketing demand for customer references. Outsourcing and sales-impact measurement are among the latest strategies reference programs are embracing to boost effectiveness.

New strategies are helping companies cope with the surging demand for customer references, according to a new report released today by Mainstay Partners and the Metrics Special Interest Group (SIG). The report, “Measuring What Matters: the 2011 Customer Reference Program Benchmark Report”, summarizes the results of a survey of customer reference programs at more than two-dozen companies around the world.

The survey, which focused primarily on customer reference programs in the high technology industry, found that the demand for customer references is stronger than ever, with program managers reporting a doubling of “reference requests” over the previous year. The requests, which typically come from internal sales and marketing departments, ask reference managers to provide everything from customer case studies to video testimonials as part of the companies’ ongoing sales efforts.

“We’re seeing an explosion in the demand for customer evidence,” says Amir Hartman, co-founder and managing director of Mainstay Partners, the market research and consulting firm based in Silicon Valley that co-sponsored the report. “Increasingly, companies are requiring objective proof that new IT investments will actually pay off – and that means that customer references, testimonials, ROI studies and the like are taking on greater significance throughout the sales cycle.”

In the face of this rising demand, however, the survey found that companies aren’t boosting budgets for customer reference programs. This is causing more programs to stretch dollars by relying on outside contractors for services like writing and other creative services. Managers are also taking a closer look at the kinds of reference materials they create and trying to better measure what effect they have on clinching deals and retaining customers.

“We’re seeing more and more reference programs coordinating with sales organizations to really quantify the impact of reference activities on sales and revenue generation,” says Abby Atkinson, chairperson of the Metrics SIG. “We think that the most successful programs are taking steps to measure this, but it’s not always easy.” In fact, the survey found that as many as 62 percent of reference managers still couldn’t say how their programs impacted sales.

The 2011 report is the third in a series of annual reports designed to establish a set of accurate metrics and measurements for evaluating reference program performance and success. Looking ahead, Mainstay Partners and the Metrics SIG plan to include more programs in the survey, refine the list of performance measures, and build on the database of results.

A copy of the 2011 Benchmark Report is available at http://www.mainstaypartners.net/downloads/benchmark-report-2011.pdf

For more information on Mainstay Partners, visit http://www.mainstaypartners.net.

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