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When customer engagement strategies are implemented right, it allows for companies to continue to support the success of customers and keep building relationships within an account. These engaged customer have a better chance at upsell and cross-sell, increasing their lifetime value. But every account has a ceiling, where it has reached its full potential for cross-sell and upsell, or maybe never had the potential to begin with. However, this doesn’t mean that the monetization of customer experience ends. A customer’s life-time value still has a substantial ability to grow by transitioning from methods used to influence customer experience to methods that can build a partnership between a company and its customers.

Customer partnership is when a company’s customers shares in the desire to grow and better the business, products or services. Here the company acknowledges the immense influence their customers have over the business and their role in its continued success. This leads a company to then better enable customers to impact their revenue growth even further. Below are 5 steps to start enabling this.

5 steps to integrating customer partnership into your business practices

Remember the phrase, “You jump, I jump Jack.”? It comes from Titanic, but relates to customer partnership. It goes along with the idea that if your customers succeed you succeed, and vice-versa. Enforcing this message with customers is key to a customer partnership. This should have been conveyed starting all the way back in the sales process, but no matter when it starts make sure it is perceived as sincere by following it up with action. By making sure you support your customers’ success you start to build a foundation for partnership. Here is how.

1. Offer training to customers on new products and features.

Every business is constantly innovating. That means that customer need to be supported. Through customer engagement you might be sending email updates or having an account executive reach out to inform their customer on new opportunities within a new feature or product. But this doesn’t offer true support. It is often then left up to the customer to take the initiative to learn and apply this new product or feature.

As part of taking on and applying the idea of customers’ success being your success, try offering free training. This might be hard for bigger businesses with a great deal of customers, especially if those customers that have whole teams or departments that would need to be trained, but there are ways around that.

  • Offer training to managers and then have them train their teams
  • Create videos to scale customer partnership. This could get as granular as creating videos for each department if they are using different functions of the feature of product. Then be open to calls and questions on the training.

2. Ask customers what other products or services they would like to see developed

Customer should be using your product or service regularly. They often have ideas about what would make it better and what other features, products, integrations and services would help their success. By asking them to have input in product development you make them feel like they are a part of the business, not just a buyer. Here customers can start to feel like they are in a partnership with the business and start to share in the desire to better the company.

But no matter what these suggestions are, make sure that customers know their ideas were heard. For instance, when a customer gives you an idea try telling them that you are going to pass this along to your manager. Follow up shortly after with positive feedback. Some responses could be:

  • “That was a great idea. It turns out we are actually developing something quite similar that should be available soon.”
  • “We’ve been discussing developing something like that and it should be in development in the near future. I’m sure your input will help push it forward.”
  • “My manager thought that was a very interesting idea. It is definitely something that will be under discussion for future development. Thank you for thinking of it.”

3. Provide them an easy way to help build the business

Once you have established a foundation for partnership with your customers you can start creating other ways for them to be a part of the company and generate greater revenue. By creating an automated referral program customer can easily help grow the business and revenue. By previously using customer engagement strategies and foundational customer partnership methods you have already proven the value of your product or services to your customers. This means that there is a high likelihood that referrals are already happening naturally. It is just a matter of scaling that process for revenue growth and creating a program that drives a greater number of referrals.

Try using referral software that gives customers the ability to refer using multiple channels that are trackable, including:

  • Social media
  • Email
  • Lead form
  • Verbal referral
  • Shareable URL
  • Printable cards

Through a referral portal customers would also get full visibility into their referrals’ progress and status in real-time to stay engaged with the referral program. To understand the effectiveness of referral software, customer referral data was analyzed in the report, The State of Business Customer Referral Programs. It found on average, customer partnership with referral software provided over 3X (13% conversion rate) higher lead to deal conversion rate when compared to a study done on customer referrals made ad hoc by Salesforce’s Implicit.

4. Have them assist sales in the qualification of referral leads

The power of referrals comes from the relationship that has already formed between the customer and their referral. This means that customers have intimate knowledge of the referrals wants and needs. After a referral is made, sales can reach out to the customer and partner with them to qualify the referral lead. That way a salesperson knows the needs of the referral from first contact and can address them correctly.

Referral software that enables the breaking of lead routing rules also helps to enable the partnership between sales and the customer. This way the customer’s referral gets passed to their salesperson as a way to extend the relationship and trust between that customer and salesperson to include the referral.

This type of sales assistance was showed to increase deals generated from customer referral partnerships by 17 percentage points (30% conversion rate) when compared to the overall conversion rate.

5. Reward customers for bringing in new customers

There is no doubt that customer partnership requires work on the side of the customer to continue to generate leads, qualify them and offer any continual nurturing to the referral. To help reciprocate this effort, a company need to provide added value to the customer. There are many types of referral rewards that do this:

  • Gift cards
  • Bill credits
  • Checks
  • Merchandise

Based on the data from, The State of Business Customer Referral Programs, the majority of customer referral programs (52%) chose to use gift cards to compensate their customer referral partners. These are easy to automate and scale which removes any manual hassle associated with incentives.

To understand the value you should be rewarding put yourself in your customer’s place. On an hourly basis, how much is there time worth? The average reward provided to customers using referral software was $111, but it went up to $2,500. The cost of the product or service being referred should also be taken into consideration.

The structure of a reward is another consideration. By using a more advanced reward structure like escalating rewards, which increases the reward amount with each successful referral, you can continue to drive referrals and communicate the value of a customer’s continued partnership.

To see more data on customer referral partnerships download the report, The State of Business Customer Referral Programs.