By Janelle Glover
Are you a Reference Manager in need of a software tool to help you track and report on reference candidates, projects, and assets? While there are many different tools available to choose from, they all fall under three main categories, and each come with their own pros and cons.
Below we’ve outlined these categories and highlighted some important factors to weigh up as you consider your options for running an efficient reference program.
What they are: A shared spreadsheet that can be accessed and edited by sales and marketing teams anytime. If this spreadsheet is locked, or lives on one person’s computer, it won’t be super helpful. When using a spreadsheet for your customer reference information, it must be centralized. One option for this is using Google Sheets and implementing a standard reference request process within your company. This process should help ensure your references aren’t overused, preventing reference fatigue.
Pros: Affordable, accessible, built specifically for your company and includes the information that is most relevant to your reference program.
Cons: It’s a siloed system without a clear historical log for when updates are made, larger margin for error when manually filling in information, can quickly become overloaded with information, and can be difficult to navigate.
What they are: These are systems that only hold customer reference information, but aren’t integrated with any other tools that your company may use such as Power BI, Gainsight, Influitive, Salesforce, and Slack. A spreadsheet can be an example of this, however, some programs and tools that are built specifically as customer reference databases also exist without integrations.
Pros: Accessible, holds all the information you need it to, and may be more straightforward and easy to navigate than a system with integrations.
Cons: Does not integrate or connect to important tools like Salesforce, Power BI, Gainsight, Influitive, or Slack to help pull content over, thereby increasing the need for additional manual data entry.
What they are: Integrated systems are reference management tools that connect to other programs your company uses, such as CRM or product databases. Some programs will connect to Salesforce with a plugin, however, if a program is classified as a ‘native Salesforce application’, the program will be installed directly into your Salesforce environment. This allows you to fully benefit from the Salesforce platform, provides real-time data, access to workflows, offers UI consistency, and many more benefits.
Pros: Connects to important tools like Salesforce, connects to other third-party apps like Slack, allows users to benefit from the features available on these other platforms, and syncs data across systems.
Cons: Cost can be a limiting factor along with the need for some minimal IT support from your company’s Salesforce admin to ensure product updates are regularly tended to. These are often required quarterly.
While there are several up-and-coming options appearing in the market today, a few of the leaders in this space include:
Whichever option your company selects, it’s important to ensure your internal teams are always adding advocates to your program, and continuing to grow your pool of references. This will help maintain a healthy reference funnel and meet the needs of future reference requests while managing any advocate churn.
If you need help selecting the best solution for your program, contact us! We’re an agency with experience supporting customer reference marketing programs using a variety of tools, and we’d love to help you get the most out of your reference program. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation with a Porter Consulting customer reference expert.