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Some ideas build, gain traction and sometimes coincide with a sweeping movements that propel a young business to greater success.

Suddenly Jim Mooney, founder of References-Online, is in the middle of a movement given a boost by social media, which has delivered tools for greater and greater customer engagement.
Mooney, who now has 20 employees and Fortune 500 clients, noticed a gap, and grabbed on the idea of employing customer engagement as a core business. A salesman more than seven years ago, Mooney had begun asking if there was a more efficient way of building relationships than having prospects call the company’s customers for references.
“Can’t we have a third party do these interviews that we hope go well when we send a prospect to one of our customers for a reference,” he recalls asking at the time.
References-Online found a market for services that deliver more engaging and interactive ways to connect with prospects during the reference phase of the sales cycle. Mooney formulated a system that would organize, send and track video and audio references of customers to his new prospects to help them get a recommendation that felt like a “word of mouth” referral. 

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Not finding anything, Mooney took his idea and made it a company.
By establishing References-Online, he not only created a new tactical approach to sales cycle optimization, he also invented a class of service in lead nurturing with customer reference management. Mooney, however, didn’t assume that if he built the service, companies would begin lining up outside his door.
He has been busy revising all along. Eventually it became his business model, customer-design-services. Each iteration of the References-Online solutions has been carefully planned from direct customer and prospect feedback.
“If you’re familiar with Skype, what we do is send people a little camera along with a sheet of instructions,” Mooney said. “We get them on the phone and then help them get positioned, tell them move to right or light to get a good picture. Then we let them tell about their experience with References-Online.”
Mooney is not alone. Others are listening to the marketplace. Elan Shamir, President of YourTrueNature, makes the Advice from Nature product line. Shamir discovered an interest and market for bookmarks that carry information on nature and wisdom. He says he approached his customers and learned the price he should be selling at. In the bargain, he also picked up ideas for books that he markets.

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Still others employing customer-driven design:

  1. Mark Behrans, President of TriSynergy Consulting LLC;
  2. Julian Gallow, an experienced executive currently working in Business Development for Aegis.

Reference-Online is preparing to launch yet another product born of requests from his customers. Many have voiced interest or have committed to purchasing. Mooney’s new endeavor also harnesses the vast power of social media principles in rating and offering valuable feedback in internal sales and marketing environments.
In addition to founding References-Online, Jim has had success at all levels of sales including the selling of complex business solutions to large corporations including Coca-Cola, American Airlines, Wal-Mart, United Airlines, Shell, Phillips, and Northwestern Mutual Life.

By Raymond Alvarez – Social media consultant and writer