Customer References Are Critical

By Mark Roberti

End users telling about their successful RFID deployments is the best way to grow adoption and technology companies, but not all solution providers get it.

If you've attended an RFID Journal event, you know that the vast majority of our speakers are retailers, manufacturers, logistics providers and other companies that have used radio frequency identification technologies successfully. It's not always easy to find end users willing to speak about their deployments. After all, they have jobs to do at their companies. Some solution providers help us by encouraging their customers to speak. Strangely, other vendors try to hide their customers.

I say "strangely" because there is no better way to sell your products and services than to have one of your customers stand up and tell everyone how great they are. In fact, Geoffrey Moore, in his seminal work Crossing the Chasm, says this is the primary way in which new technologies are sold.

Moore argues that practical companies (which the vast majority of companies are) are skeptical of new technologies and the promises of salespeople who peddle them. They've heard all the promises before and have been burned more than once. That's why technologies go into the chasm after the visionary stage. The vast majority of companies don't want to touch new technologies, even if a few companies have already used them successfully.

To get through the chasm, Moore argues, new technology providers must focus on companies with a problem no other technology has been able to solve. After a vendor has solved that problem, the provider can then use this customer as a reference to convince other skeptical companies that the new technology can solve their problems, too.

RFID has crossed the chasm, and there are a lot of great deployments in each industry. But many companies are still skeptical and need to be convinced that RFID is right for them. Many retailers, for example, are running pilots, but there are still many that are not convinced the technology can deliver a lot of value.

For these reasons, it is critical to have customers stand up and talk about how they are using RFID successfully. End users of the technology have no reason to lie, and so they are credible references that can break down other businesses' resistance to investing in a new technology.

I guess some solution providers are afraid that if their customers attend an event with a lot of other RFID companies, they might wind up finding a different or better solution. But that strikes me as somewhat defeatist: We are afraid to lose the customers we have, so we'll hide them away and not use them to get more customers.

I believe the benefits to having customers speak are overwhelming. This is the best way to get new customers, and to grow your company and the RFID industry as a whole. I also think it's beneficial to end users to talk about their RFID projects—and, as I pointed out in a recent column, Richard Jenkins, Marks & Spencer's head of RFID strategic development, agrees with me (see Why Marks & Spencer Talks About RFID).

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.