Gaining Buzz for a Reference Program
Yesterday we had the first of our Summer Teleconference Series. Following is a summary and some key takeaways. Also, we've moved the discussion here, online, as our panelists continue answering questions on this important subject. Whether you participated in the teleconference or not, feel free to join the discussion.
By the way, our panelists, who will continue to monitor and respond to questions, are:
- Holley Garmany, Senior Manager, Customer Development at Network Appliance
- Sia Pappanastos, Customer Advocacy Program Manager at VeriSign
- Eddie Miller of Big Sky Communications
- Dan Montoya, VP of Operations and Client Implementations at References-Online
For more information about our Summer Teleconference Series, please click here.
Here’s the “Dream Scenario” for a reference manager who’s done a great job of promoting her reference program:
-- Sales. Sales regards you as a partner. They’re feeding you references – not hording them. They’re going through your organization to obtain references -- not around you. They regard the Customer Reference (CR) organization as vital to the sales process.
-- Product Marketing. Same with Product Managers and Product Marketing people. They regard the CR organization as vital to building a customer base for new offerings.
-- Senior Executives. Senior executives tout the value of references – including the value of your program. They don’t regard you as overhead or a cost burden. They understand where and how you add value, and they are receptive to your budgetary needs.
-- Customers. Customers are delighted to participate in your CR program. It enhances their sense of partnership with your firm. They don’t regard reference activities as a hassle.
-- Channel Partners. An often overlooked marketing resource, your reference program is making an impact on sales through resellers, distributors and other channel partners.
How to Get There
Here are some important takeaways from today’s teleconference:
-- Don’t stake out turf and inform Sales of what you need from them. Find out what THEY need from a reference program, through surveys, presentations or other interactions. You may find out that what they need wasn’t at all what you were planning to provide.
-- Promote the program regularly through short, easy-to-read communications that provide value to the audience. For sales, this might include providing “sales tips” based on interviews with customers that reveal fresh insights that Sales and Senior Execs weren’t aware of.
-- Develop a strategic approach to references. For example, when NetApp executives grew interested in achieving greater customer retention and share of wallet from its installed base, the “Evidence2Win” team changed its focus from Customer References to “Customer Development,” going after references and gaining information that would improve retention and up-selling/ cross-selling. A key value add the Evidence2Win team provided was locating references within a customer’s organization who played key roles in selling to other groups within the same organization.
-- To develop support from senior executives, find one who has a serious need you can help fill. When a VP of Marketing at one firm was besieged by PR, Sales and Market6ingh for names of references, the CR team did a stellar job of providing a bunch of reference names quickly. The VP was delighted, which opened the door for providing additional reference-related services such as content creation and leveraging references in new ways. He became a big and vocal supporter, and the reference program budget grew accordingly.
-- Don’t forget the visceral appeal of references in gaining buzz for your program, particularly live or recorded (video or audio) references. Senior executives can become much more aware of the value of references when they see and experience customers speaking passionately about your company.