When you visit a new restaurant and are impressed by the experience – the food is good, the staff are friendly, the service is fast – you might take to social media or to the restaurant's website to share your good experience. This doesn't happen as often in the business-to-business world, but why should that be the case?
Professionals often perceive customer references as something that only benefits the vendor or service provider. Therefore, they consider providing a reference to be a favor to the other organization.
In the technology space, satisfied project managers and IT directors will sometimes take an hour of their time for a reference call or a case study interview following a successful go-live. They see some value in passing that favor to the vendor, probably believing the vendor reciprocates with careful support, enhanced product training, or maybe a friends-and-family discount for future purchases. But rarely is this a deeper desire to proudly showcase an achievement. Once this single hour is allocated, the project leader expects to return to work without being solicited as a reference again anytime soon.
We believe that customer referencing must be different. If you installed an amazing new tech product or received great service, go tell everyone about it – your management, your like minded peers, your social network, your customers – and reap the benefits.
How Personal Branding Can Accelerate Your Career
We are in a new age where competing for customers with the traditional four P’s of marketing – product, place, promotion, and price – simply isn't enough. Organizations compete on an entirely new front: customer experience.
Technology buyers have means and opportunity to conduct extensive research online and through word-of-mouth from the early stages of the buyer’s journey. Therefore, technology manufacturers must meet them in that research and prove not only product features and functionality, but first and foremost the ability to deliver a smooth customer journey in buying and using it. They do this through customer references.
Think about your current career path and ask yourself: Are you in it for the short term or the long term? Whatever your answer, you can learn how to reap the most rewards from your current situation. If, as Warren Buffett said, it “takes 20 years to build a reputation,” then consider this a fast track.
Growing Inside Your Current Organization
You are an agent of change, a visionary and innovator who improves business efficiency, supports strategic business goals, develops new approaches and workflows, or reduces costs for your organization. You’re proud to have made a difference to your business, your project team, and your customers.
Now is your chance to showcase your project success, reassure your management they made a good hire, advance your career, establish yourself as an expert, and promote your company in the process.
According to Forbes, managers look for specific signs that an employee is ready for a promotion before moving them up the ladder. The first people in line for a promotion are excellent self-starters with quantifiable performance and impact – people who take responsibility, lead projects, offer solutions, and have excellent communication skills.
You clearly have technical expertise and project leadership skills. Now, put yourself out there – give interviews, shoot videos, post on social media, share best practices with peers, talk to the press and analysts, go on stage at the next industry event. Measure accurately the benefits your company has gained from your effort and highlight them as much as possible. Your technology vendor will be happy to support you.
Any marketing or PR materials you release around your tech project will not only help to advocate your tech supplier’s product or service, but also promotes your company. With a little help from skilled marketers, you can create these messages in a way that adds to your brand identity and helps to further your company’s positive image and reputation in the market.
Looking to Move on to External Opportunities?
Consider your vendor’s request to give a reference not as a hassle, but as a wonderful and scarce opportunity to shine. It is a boost to your reputation and a chance for a bigger paycheck down the road.
According to a 2018 CareerBuilder survey,70% of employers add social research to the talent acquisition process in order to gain more information about candidates. This includes blogs, Facebook profiles, Twitter updates, and other sites. The goal of the research is to find information that validates a candidate’s qualifications, ensures the candidate is a professional with an appropriate online presence, and to check what friends, peers, or former managers are saying about the candidate. The result of this exploration could make the difference between landing a great opportunity and being passed over. Make sure recruiters and hiring managers like what they find.
LinkedIn is one of the most popular online recruiting tools due of its ease of use. The site empowers recruiters to search for candidates based on criteria such as skills, projects, industry, interests, or expertise. The more activities you do for your tech vendor, the richer your profile will be – and the bigger your leverage for salary negotiations.
While technology makes it easier to find jobs, it hasn’t replaced the value of face-to-face networking. Conferences and industry networking events are still the best way to make connections and to get yourself noticed by recruiters. And it will be extremely easy for them to notice you if you are the one on stage, talking about your most recent successful project and the measurable benefits your company has derived from your contribution.
What if Your Organization Has a Policy Against Providing References?
Savvy organizations empower their employees to become brand ambassadors by speaking about the company, its culture, and its projects on social media and in industry events. Go on – be a hero! Take that cause internally and fight for the change. You and your colleagues should be able to speak about your professional success publicly and reap the career-boosting benefits.
Take these arguments into battle if you find them helpful:
- According to Forbes, many business professionals google someone before doing business with them. Being able to showcase your projects enhances your reputation in front of those you interact with – more so if they are new to the company, if they are external customers, suppliers, contractors, or from other lines of business. Having a marketing team by your side to write the story of your success will make it easier for your team receiving support and budget in the future.
- The same source states that a bad reputation costs a company at least 10% more per hire. By not allowing employees to shine and to be proud of their achievements, and to receive public recognition for their success, companies limit employees’ ability to be reputation builders for the business. Encourage your organization to empower employees as ambassadors of your brand. It will be a great win for everyone involved.
- Potential customers and investors also do thorough research before deciding to commit part of their budget to you. Having engaged employees that showcase your technology projects could make the difference between a new customer and a lost opportunity. It could help the company obtain investor meetings faster than equally skilled, but less mediated, competitors. Moreover, companies that are willing to go on stage often receive cool industry awards that strengthen their reputation in front of customers, partners, and investors alike.
No rock star or movie star ever flies solo. They have an agent who represents their interests in front of music and movie studios, finding them the best gigs, and making them famous. They also have a personal wellness team: a chef, a trainer, a makeup artist.
We want to be your team. To be honest, our cooking is not that great, but we are highly skilled marketers that can represent your best interests when joining your vendor’s customer references program. We make sure that you and your brand shine in all content that is created, get you the best opportunities, and help advance your career.
Get in touch! We’d love to hear your story.