Depending on who you talk to, the term “outsourced” can carry a negative connotation. But when it comes to customer reference programs, outsourcing should be seen as a good thing, because it can bring outstanding results. In fact, according to recent research from the 2011 Annual Customer Reference Program Benchmarking Report, outsourcing is a trend that is on the rise! Research shows more customer reference programs are ramping up the use of outside contractors and agencies to handle duties ranging from content creation to reference management. Statistics show that not only are outsourcing customer reference activities commonplace for companies, but they are also beneficial for driving results!

The majority of companies (42% of respondents) budget $146,000 on average for reference programs (up 10% from last year), with about half of that going to third party contractors (up 23% from 2010).

  • Large companies (revenue >$10 billion) budget around 70% for outside contractors, up 34% from last year.
  • Mid-size companies (revenue $1-10 billion) dedicate 35% of their overall budget to contractors or agencies.

A notable trend in 2011 was the increase of external full time equivalents (FTEs). Smaller companies (revenue less than $1 billion) showed a 231% increase in full time contractors. Likewise, very large companies (revenue larger than $10 billion) have the largest external FTE of around 11, an 11% increase from 2010.

The majority of programs (73%) surveyed in the report rely on outside contractors or agencies for common services like writing. In 2011, programs increased their use of outsourcing across nearly every function – with positive results.

  • Programs that turn to third party outsourcers for activities such as writing customer success stories, reference asset development (like video and audio interviews) and customer reference recruitment increased the number of case studies they produced by 308% and signed up more than 2x as many reference customers.
  • On average, programs that outsourced reference management functions fulfilled reference requests 48 hours faster than programs that handled the function internally.


When it comes to customer reference programs, indeed “outsourcing” is beginning to carry an increasingly positive connotation for many companies and is becoming more important for success. However, just because outsourcing is all the rage, it doesn’t mean you should just jump in willy-nilly. Take caution when choosing an outsourced partner for your customer reference program, and consider the expertise, experience and professionalism of the contractor or agency – do they know what they are doing, and what’s best for you? Bear in mind, every customer reference program is different and your needs may be different than your peer’s program. With over 20 years of combined experience in customer reference management, and understanding of customer reference programs in a variety of industries, RO Innovation offers a complete set of professional services customizable for your unique business needs. Check out some of the professional services we offer companies, or chat with one of our customer reference experts about what outsourced services might be right for your program.

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.