Many companies with formal customer reference programs provide customers with formal opt-in agreements. While these agreements (which are a formal way for a customer to agree they will participate in reference activities) are not a requirement for a reference program, the formality of signing one often makes the program feel more legitimate to the customer. That being said, we’d like to provide some tips and best practices to keep in mind when crafting your agreement:

1. It doesn’t need to be fancy – Just because it is a formal opt-in agreement, doesn’t mean it has to be chalk-full of legal jargon. Actually, we have seen that agreements that are overly complex or overly formal tend to alienate customers, decreasing the chances they will actually opt-in to your program. Since this is the first impression they have of what a customer reference relationship with you will be, you want to take a more friendly approach to put them at ease while giving them the confidence they understand what they are undertaking.

2. Let them sit in the driver’s seat – Give your customers the assurance that just because they are signing a formal agreement, they aren’t signing their life away. Assure them that they are still in control by providing a section that lets them choose which reference activities they want to participate in (calls, site visits, video reference, etc.) as well as the frequency in which they want to be contacted (as often as needed, a few times a year, only once a quarter, etc.).

3. Give a timeframe – The opt-in agreement should also include information about how long the agreement lasts. Some agreements are only good for 6 months and require the customer to renew their opt-in, while others are good for as long the customer remains a customer. The duration varies from one company to the next based on reference needs, customer relationship strength, and relevant lifespan of typical reference content, among other factors, but definitely should be included in the contract.

4. What’s in it for them? – What benefit does the customer get from participating as a reference in your program? Do they earn incentive points for participating that can be cashed in for rewards? Do they get additional exposure for their company? Networking opportunities? Whatever the benefit you offer your customer, be sure to make it clear in the agreement. We recommend providing an overview sheet of your program along with the opt-in agreement, and including a paragraph in the agreement reinforcing what the customer gets out of the deal should they opt-in.

5. Make it “easy-peasy” – The ultimate goal of an opt-in agreement for your program is to get customers to agree to participate. Thus you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. If you plan to mail the agreement to their office, include a self-addressed envelope that already has correct postage. If you plan to save some trees and use the web, ensure that it is easy for the customer to 1) find the opt-in form, 2) complete the form, and 3) that the process of submitting the form is free from technical difficulties. Perhaps make it an online form that is pre-populated with the majority of their customer information. This will cut down on the required effort, increasing the likelihood they’ll join your program.

Remember that not all customers are created equal, and some may be more skeptical about joining your program than others. Opt-in agreements can be a great asset for your customer reference program, and can help increase participation and grow the size of your program when used correctly. RO Innovation has experience working with a variety of customer reference program structures, opt-in agreements, and more. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have. Contact one of our experts today!

Jim Mooney
Jim Mooney is the Founder & CEO of RO Innovation. His passion for helping salespeople excel in all aspects of B2B selling, especially where customer references are involved, was the reason he started the company. His desire for helping others succeed flows through in the expert thought leadership he provides the industry, his customers and his employees.