Every business needs a great team

Any business needs a great team to be successful.  Employees are central to that and we’ve been so pleased with our growth and ability to hire quickly.  We’ve also assembled a small team with specialized expertise.  For example, we use a payroll company rather than figure out payroll intricacies and the necessary reporting on our own. We have decided to change one key member of the team, our accountant.  While we manage our finances and track everything through QuickBooks, we don’t have tax expertise in house.  We never quite got comfortable with the approach of the tax professional we’ve used since incorporation and decided it was time to investigate a change.

Since we specialize in customer reference programs no one will be surprised to know we started by asking other small business owners for referrals.  We did additional research to narrow a long list down to a couple of firms and have met with each. While we can’t make a wrong decision, there are big differences in their personal style, firm size, approach to ‘on-boarding’ new clients, and fees.  Whichever we choose, we’re confident we’re about to begin a long term relationship with this new team member.

Project 'Find the Customer Reference!'

We were recently asked to do a special project for a new client.  They had a high priority need for customer references for a specific product.  A rather new product at that. And, of course, a very short deadline.  Major events were on the schedule where they needed speakers and new collateral because who better to tell your story than a happy customer? Sometimes you need to call in reinforcements, which they did.  They didn’t have the bandwidth to take on this special project so called us.  We have the processes in place already, and the people.  We were able to supplement their staff and contact every single sales rep that had sold this product, discussed their customers, and then went on to talk with each customer who was a potential reference.  We were able to help frame the stories to highlight business benefits, not just the ‘speeds and feeds’.  Putting extra resources on this, in a very short window, was really successful.  We’ve uncovered several new references already and we're not yet done.

While typically we run major programs for our clients sometimes we’re asked to do special projects such as this.  It can be a huge help to have extra bandwidth when you need it – big or small we can help with your customer reference challenges!

Promotional Items - We're Repeat Customers

You’re bound to need something. Maybe you want to send a gift to your customers at the holidays.   Often companies give away a ‘memento’ when they exhibit at trade shows.  We’ve also needed large quantities of collateral printed, more than we can easily handle in house.  Thanks to the good old web it’s easy to do research and we end up going back to the same company.  We’ve order samples on several occasions – there’s nothing like seeing the color in person rather than on a screen and knowing you’re ordering something made with attention to quality.  We’ve also had a few times, like right now, where we need items quickly.  Feeling confident in delivery matters.  I did just get notified an order placed yesterday won’t ship today – weather means an early shutdown, but we’ll still get things in plenty of time.  And it’s good to know they’re keeping employees safe by sending them home before the weather gets worse. 

As you know we’re repeat sponsors at the Summit on Customer Engagement, which begins February 25 nearby in Redwood City, CA.  Last year we had fun mood pencils, hold them and the black pencil magically turns bright blue.  Stop by and see what we have this year.  Thanks to 4Imprint.com we’re once again very happy with our choice, and are sure you will be too!

Tax Time Is Nearly Upon Us

Time to send last year’s data off to the accountant.  We had a meeting about a month ago to review preliminary information and make sure we understood what he would need.  That was really helpful, cleared up some confusion right away and settled on a preliminary schedule.    This is our first tax season with this particular professional.  He came highly recommended from a friend with a similar size and type of business.  That personal recommendation was huge in our decision making.  Although, as we’re a company that specializes in customer references,  you would expect we’d want references before making big decisions ourselves! 

All our financial data is in QuickBooks so it was pretty painless to send it off.  Let’s hope the tax results are pain-free too!  

People ask for the strangest things

“Let me get this straight, your customer wants to implement software using a methodology we don’t recommend?  And they want a reference customer who will tell them it’s OK?”    Yes, that’s what I heard the other day.  For several of our customers we do the ‘matchmaking’ of sales rep or marketing request to the customer reference which best meets the need.   Usually the request is for a customer in a similar industry, or using a particular product or product feature, maybe they want someone in a specific geographic area or a current customer the same size as a prospect.   In this case the sales rep had a prospect who wanted to talk to a current customer who had implemented in a way that’s specifically not recommended!   In the end we helped the sales rep realize this wasn’t a good idea, for many reasons.  He went back to the customer so implementation would follow best practices. 

Not only do we do reference matching but sometimes we need to provide guidance on strategies to overcome issues and keep sales moving forward.  But it really is true, people ask for the strangest things.

Many brains are better than one!

It’s happened to all of us.  We have an ‘opportunity’ at work and we need some ideas, our mind is a blank or what we’ve tried in the past just isn’t bringing the results we need today.   That’s something we’ve seen with a few of our clients.  Maybe the challenge is finding new sources of customer references, maybe it’s how to get the most out of your user conference.   The list can go on.  Our clients have found many brains are better than one! We’ve done focused brainstorming  sessions, including key members of our team as we all bring different experiences and expertise.   The client brings the reference program lead and any important stakeholders.   One client even brought their brand new summer intern, what a way to give them a quick education about customer reference programs!  The sessions have been very successful, whether in person or over the phone.  At the end of each our clients have an actionable list of new ideas.   If you’re interested in a brainstorming session for your reference program contact us.  We've found this always results in a steady stream of new ideas. What other approaches have you used?

A problem solved is a reference created

A few posts ago I wrote about user group meetings being a great source of new customer references.  Another great source – your company's support organization.  You might think they mainly work with customers having problems, an unlikely reference source, but when a tough situation is handled well you have a new potential reference.  Learn about your support team’s success stories and follow up with those customers.  Sign up for the support newsletters and if possible attend their group meetings. Scan your support forums for customer advocates, they’re already speaking on your behalf and likely to happily join your formal reference program.  Look at not only company hosted forums but public ones as well, they’re a good source for references that can speak to the details of your offerings.

Many companies build a reference discussion into their maintenance agreement renewal processes.  Does yours?

Reward support reps as they give you reference leads or hold a contest for leads.  Your support team is a great ally as you increase your reference pool.  We tend to talk with sales, but think about pulling support into your recruitment processes too.

Any other thoughts on how to best work with the support team?