Official blog of Customer Reference Forum®. Learn from our community of reference pracitioners

« June 2006 | Main | August 2006 »

July 2006 Archives

Building Referenceability into the Contract

Posted by Bill Lee on July 26, 2006 at 08:49 AM

Cheryl Bartlett-Gutierrez at BearingPoint has a question for the community. To respond or contribute, please use the comment feature, below.

**********

Bill,

I would be really interested in knowing more about what folks are doing to build referenceability into their contracts upfront with the client.  If you have best practices on the topic, we would greatly appreciate it.  I will reach out to one of the folks I met at the conference as they had an approach I would like to learn more about.

Thank you,

Cheryl.

Under-funded/ Over-comitted?

Posted by Bill Lee on July 21, 2006 at 08:25 AM

Bruce Frymire at CyberSource would like to exchange ideas with reference managers who find themselves under-funded and over-committed. In particular, he runs CyberSource's reference program by himself with no outside resources. If you'd like to explore forming a community of similarly strapped, smaller scaled programs, please see Bruce's email to me, below. I offer this space to start the discussion for those who are interested -- just use the comment feature, below.

At the moment, Bruce is under pressure to develop case studies and other customer collateral. If you have some creative ideas on this, feel free to comment on that as well.

**********

Bill: I think you're doing a tremendous job in the reference world. I do feel that the contingent I represent (small companies with even smaller PR or reference-development budgets) remain largely under-served--even by your outstanding efforts.

My interest at this point is not really listening to people who have two staffers, two agencies and a part-timer in Europe working for them. I'm focused on how one begins a program and makes it work alongside my standard PR and IR functions. At this moment, I, working solo with no outside resources, have about 40-50 ready references for sales purposes. Taking these people to the next step of providing material for case studies or white papers seems almost inconceivable both to them and to me--particularly from a time perspective. I have explored the notion of hiring outsiders to probe our customer list and then actually do the interviewing/writing, but so far the powers that be have refused to provide budget for that purpose.

I seem to be capable of keeping our existing references pretty happy. And I can grow the list by, say, a dozen or so a quarter if I work at it. But the pressure is on me to turn these references into bigger resources, capable of developing reference collateral. The only success I've enjoyed recently works as follows:
1) Learn (usually by luck) about an especially happy customer.
2) Call the customer and get details about their problem/solution search/resolution.
3) Gain permission from them to communicate that story to a trade press editor.
4) Get the story in print and then use reprints as our resulting sales/marketing document.

If you learn about any people who find themselves in my under-funded and over-committed position, I'd be glad to join in communicating with that group. I’m sure they’re out there, but hard to find.

Bruce
Bruce Frymire
Director, Corporate Communications & Investor Relations
CyberSource Corporation


Gaining Buzz for a Reference Program

Posted by Bill Lee on July 13, 2006 at 08:06 AM

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.

Dream Scenario

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.

don't out-spend, out-inspire

Posted by Bill Lee on July 10, 2006 at 10:47 AM

Following is a great little checklist to refer to the next time you're putting together a success story campaign, customer videos, events or other messaging efforts based on your customer references. It's from a great blog put out by Kathy Sierra called Creating Passionate Users.

It will help you avoid a problem common to us marketers. Our job it is to develop motivating messages that attract the interest of buyers. Unfortunately, we often put them to sleep instead. Our efforts to develop and stay "on message" can translate into "boring people to tears" with eye-rolling corporate-speak.

What a shame when this happens to those of us who run customer reference programs, because the most powerful possible marketing message comes from happy customers. But check out the success stories and case studies out there -- many of which are available on corporate websites. of course -- and you'll find they often lack candor and emotional appeal, or even a clear explanation of business value provided. In the race to get references, meet deadlines, build robust and user-friendly data-bases, and all the other pieces required by an effective reference program, we can overlook the whole point -- to create powerful customer messages.

Out-Spend or Out-Inspire, courtesy of Kathy Sierra


Here's a link to Kathy's post on the subject.