Using Points in Your Customer Reference Program


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When it comes to reference programs, points often make people think of frequent flyer type rewards for participating in customer reference activities. If your vision stops there, you may be missing ways that tracking points can be used to drive a really effective customer reference program. Here’s a brief rundown of three models we’ve used with clients in the past.

1. Simple Ranking
By assigning a relative weight to different reference activities (often based on effort required from the customer) it becomes easy to track not only which customers have participated more times in reference activities, but those who have extended themselves the most. This approach doesn’t imply communicating anything to the customer, but means being able to answer the question of which customers are the most valuable references.

Here are sample activities and how you might allocate points to each:

  • Phone call = 50 points
  • Press release = 100 points
  • Case study = 250 points
  • Onsite visit = 500 points

After tracking different customer’s participation over time, you might have a points balance for each. By sorting from high to low, you can see at a glance which customer has contributed the most.

  • Customer D has reached 1200 points
  • Customer C has reached 800 points
  • Customer B has reached 350 points
  • Customer E has reached 200 points
  • Customer A has reached 0 points

2. Status Levels
The next approach involves creating different program tiers or levels with different privileges and treatment accordingly. Each tier would be established based on reaching some point total in a given time period. Here is an example of sample tiers. It’s not really necessary to share the details of these tiers or even their current level with the customer directly. Levels provide a way to segment or group your customers.

  • Tier 1 = 1,000+
  • Tier 2 = 250 to 1,000
  • Tier 3 = 0 to 250

Here is how those customers would fall into tiers:

  • Tier 1: Customer D
  • Tier 2: Customer C & Customer B
  • Tier 3: Customer E & Customer A

3. Transaction
This is the formal rewards program that first comes to mind. We could go into a discussion of the pros and cons of a formal transaction model, but many companies have set up successful transactional rewards programs. The key point to mention here is that the benefits you offer are often not necessarily marketing schwag, product discounts or conference tickets. In surveys asking customers from different businesses what they’d like most to receive, the answers are often more related to things that further build the relationship, like access to executives or input to product management.


While each organization is different, our most commonly recommended approach is to use points to create status levels and show your appreciation to your customers accordingly. If you can then combine this with another angle like the brand recognition of the customer, you can have a pretty solid picture of your true VIPs and where additional evangelism of your reference program is warranted.

If your customer reference program has only a few dozen participants, you may not need anything formal to know the contribution your customers are making. As your program grows, having an objective measurement and a fully automated way to track becomes more critical.

Joshua Horwitz
Boulder Logic
Joshua Horwitz is president and a founder at Boulder Logic, a company specializing in customer reference management. Companies with complex products and selling cycles rely on Boulder Logic for an easy-to-deploy, highly customizable enterprise solution to accelerate sales and marketing using their existing customers. Blog:


  1. Hi Joshua

    Interesting post.

    When I was involved in Aviation CRM at PricewaterhouseCoopers, we talked of the 5 Rs of Customer Loyalty. The 5 Rs applied to both B2C and B2B customers. The Rs were just different for each group.

    In ascending order of importance:

    1. Rebates – Money off for showing the right behaviour. Like McDonalds McCafe cards where you get a free coffee after you have bought four coffees
    2. Rewards – Points and other rewards. This covers all the points categories you mentioned. It is important that non-linear points scales are used to reward incremental increases in the right behaviour accordingly
    3. Recognition – Recognition that you are a real person, that we know who you are and that you are important to us. This also provides additional benefts befitting your importance
    4. Relationships – Personal services for special customers. Swissair (don’t you miss the airline? I do) used to offer a concierge service for elite customers travelling abroad
    5. Referral – Very special services for customers who are higly influential of other customers. A customer can be higly influential without being higly valuable themselves.

    Points are an important part of the picture, but obviously not the whole picture.

    Graham Hill
    Customer-driven Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter


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