One things many companies, especially start-ups, need to do is to recruit customers to serve as third-party spokespeople to provide quotes for the media and analysts as well as talk with prospective customers.
One of the challenges of enlisting customers is to make sure you have a database set up to take advantage of the customers, their different stories -- so that they don't remain only in the heads of the sales people.
Here are some steps to consider as you develop a compelling customer spokesperson program:
- Create a template of contact info: The template is important to make it easy to gather and search among your different customer. The template should include sections that include the general story for which they could serve as a spokesperson as well as customer segment, internal sales rep, etc.
- Write a letter to explain this initiative: To explain what you're looking in terms of the program and their help. This will help customers understand their commitment.
- Design media training guidelines: This is to help customers know how to describe your company and product. (You might be surprised that even enthusiastic clients might not describe you and your product the way you would like them too.)
- Develop standard internal interview questions: This will make the database consistent so you will have a better idea of what the customer is willing to do, which can range from a willingness to talk with the media based on a background-only basis (i.e., not for direct attribution), talking to the media on a first-name-only basis (Norman, a father of three, said…), providing an attributed quote willing to provide photo, willing to talk only to analysts or some customers, only, etc.
- Create a process to triage media opportunities. This is important to help work with reporters, who are often on deadline, along with customers, who are often busy working on their own jobs. Part of that process should streamline the demands on your customers, provide your customers with background on the opportunity so they can feel comfortable conducting the interview, easily confirm interview times, and provide them with any resulting coverage (which they can use internally).
- Distribute periodic updates/info about your company: Once you have identified the customers who have agreed to serve as spokespeople, and once you have interviewed them, you need to make sure they are up-to-speed on the latest developments in your products and company -- so that they can talk to reporters about current products and direction. Depending on the number of customers willing to serve as spokespeople, these updates can be distributed as part of a newsletter or as part of personalized outreach to these customers.
- Check in personally to make sure the client continues to be happy. Beyond updates on your business, it's important to check in to make sure your client continues to be happy. This is an important way to maintain the quality of your third-party spokesperson program. For example, customers may move within or leave their organization, and the worst time to find out is when you're trying to get them to talk with a reporter on deadline. Periodic check-ins enable you to keep the list current.