How Can You Get References from Reluctant Customers?


Customer references are perhaps the best way to generate awareness and confidence in your product, especially in the B2B space. However, what if your customers refuse to recommend you because your technology or service is too good to tell the public about? As a software vendor, you strive to deliver a product that provides your customers with a competitive advantage, but what should you do when this hinders word of mouth marketing and, potentially, future business?

In an article titled “What to Do When Satisfied B2B Customers Refuse to Recommend You”, The Harvard Business Review provides tips like those listed below for B2B companies in this situation:

Explain the product’s network value. Many B2B products become more useful when most players in the industry adopt them. Take price-optimization software: Until the majority of companies in an industry use it, the industry cannot price intelligently as a whole. A competitor using manual methods might fail to pick up on subtle cues, easily detected by optimization software, suggesting that gradual price increases would be appropriate. In such a scenario, the competitor might inadvertently launch a bruising price war. Make the case to your customers that providing references will hasten industrywide adoption and increase the product’s value for everyone.

Point out the perils of remaining a lone wolf. An ecosystem of users, tinkerers, and enthusiasts is helpful to companies seeking to troubleshoot, customize, or even understand complex products. If others within the industry use the same product, user groups, online communities, and customer conferences can make these tasks less cumbersome and resource-intensive. With a larger customer base, you, as the vendor, also have greater motivation (and resources) to provide education, services, and product improvement. You can let it be understood that without a large customer base, you might even reduce your investments in the product.”


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