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Metrics for Impressing the Toughest Executive

Posted by Bill Lee on September 13, 2006 at 09:13 AM

Today we're having our 3d – and final -- teleconference in our Summer Teleconference Series. We’re talking about “Metrics for Impressing the Toughest Executive.”

OUR PANEL
. . . who have graciously agreed to continue monitoring this post and responding to your questions for the next week, bring a lot of experience:

Gayle McClary, Senior Director, Global Customer References, Oracle Corporation --
the world's largest enterprise software company. Gayle has been at Oracle for 7 1/2 years holding various positions all focused on demonstrating to customers the value of Oracle
Solutions. For the past 2 years she has held leadership positions on the Global Customer Marketing and References team. This global team recruits and secures customers for Oracle Tier 1 events, press, media and analyst activities, sets the global reference standards and policies and manages the global references system. One key part of Gayle's role is to help establish and track reference metrics.

Barbara Krasner, Director of Customer Advocacy Marketing at Lucent Technologies.
Barbara launched Lucent’s Client Reference Program in 2004 within the services business and within five months was asked to take the program Lucent-wide—with no additional resources! Her career began with the pre-split AT&T in Market Research, where she formed an in-house creative agency and doubled B2B direct marketing response rates. When AT&T split into three companies in 1996, she was the brand strategist behind the Lucent brand. She joined Lucent’s services business in 1998 and led teams in marketing communications, strategy and market research.

And I’m delighted that Barb and Gayle are founding members of the Special Interest Group on Metrics (SIG) we’ve formed. This group will be composed of a few experienced, bright reference professionals who will:
- meet regularly
- research this issue by exchanging ideas and bringing in outside resources
- develop true best practices
- present findings at future events or in reports or other media as appropriate and useful to the community
-

DREAM SCENARIO

OK, let's get started. Where do we set the bar on metrics for a reference program?

How about this? Your program has a few, powerful metrics that accomplish several things.

- They’re easily understood, even self-explanatory.

- They’re not onerous to track: your systems make collection of data and crunching of numbers relatively easy – or at least, doable!

- Senior executives agree that your metrics provide a fair measure of the value of your program. When the numbers are good, their pleased – and yes, impressed. When you need and deserve more budget, the numbers provide a compelling basis for getting it.

- While simple and few in number, your metrics aren’t “one size fits all.” They take into account the special needs of important constituent groups, such as sales and marketing. They provide compelling evidence – again, without a lot of explanation -- of how you’re doing in meeting the needs of these other constituent groups.

- And, through various communications tools, you’ve kept people aware of the importance of your metrics and how they relate to overall company performance.

HOW DO WE GET THERE?

The theme of the discussion was that there are no real magic bullets for measuring the effectiveness of a reference program – not in the real world. But there are a lot of things you can do to measure your program meaningfully, in a way that gets executives’ respect, attention and even budgets!

Here are some of my main takeaways.

Make yourself accountable. Barb started Lucent's reference program by proposing ongoing, long-term targets, presenting those to senior executives, getting their feedback and adjusting accordingly. That got their support off the bat. And resulted in creation of a Customer Reference Council that includes heavy hitters including her boss, a VP, the CMO, and presidents of various regions. They meet twice yearly, get engaged in what the program is doing, push back at times, and support it.

Keep it simple. Gayle outlined the areas that her program focuses its measurements on: effective reference recruiting, effective fulfillment and taking care of references. Her team asks, Are we recruiting the right references at the right time to meet the needs of our global sales and marketing campaigns? And they parse this question by looking at key milestones in the customer life cycle. Two key indicators for the Oracle reference program: How many new customers become references? Did they choose Oracle over a competitor? Lucent uses an indicator called the Customer Advocacy Index to measure how many customers become references. The goal: 100%.

Impact on sales. This is huge, because it relates to impact on revenues, obviously. Everyone knows it's difficult to say exactly what impact a particular reference had at a particular point of the sales cycle. But some indicators do provide insights that senior executives find useful, such as measuring the total contract value of proposals in which references were requested and used, as well as looking at the value of such deals that closed. Surveying sales people is tricky -- what sales person wants to give someone else credit for the deal she closed? Barb uses a creative variation: recognize sales people who support the reference program. "We get sales people to reference us," she noted. And that gets them to support the program. Contrary to their mercenary reputations, sales people need love too:) A ripe area for discussion is to parse this further by tracking how references are requested and used at different points in the sales cycle.

Don't forget other constituencies. A sales campaign often has much different reference needs than a marketing campaign, for instance. Part of the art of managing a reference program is to a) recognize that they have different needs and therefore you'll use different fulfillment metrics, while b) working to get the different groups to harmonize their needs where it makes sense. You don't want Sales, for example, pushing for references that use dated, non-strategic products or services.

The above just scratches the surface. If you'd like a recording of the full teleconference, drop me a note (bill@customerreferenceforum.com) -- there's a small charge.

Reference Community Comments

The biggest metric that would help me most with the execustives at my company is the amount of revenue the reference program influences. Currently we don't have anything in place to track this. What is the best way you suggest to do this? Currently our reference database isn't tied to our accounting software, and it doesn't appear that it will integrate in the near future, so we don't have a way to automate this process.

Barb - Can you explain more about your accountablity to management? Anything other than just targets and deliverables? Also, the customer advocacy index - does it measure how many customers are referenceable, or something else? How does it fit with the customer sat survey?

All - Any insight in tracking customer evidence? (case studies, etc.) Do you just track how many produced and for what products, or are there other metrics to track? It's difficult to see where collateral are used once published and sent to sales.

Jon Eyre - Your sales force tracks deal size. Use their information to figure out dollar amounts, then manually track which deals use references and add up the amounts.

Jon--our efforts to track revenue are not automated--yet. Right now, we track potential revenue through the value of the deals/bids we support and enter the information into an Excel spreadsheet. Then, we persistently follow up with our sales contacts to determine if and when we won the deals and confirm the value of the contract. Thanks, Jessica, for pointing up a similar process.
Jessica--I'll start with the Customer Advocacy Index. It's a weighted algorithm based on answers to two questions in our customer sat survey: (1) have you served as a reference within the past 12 months; and (2) would you be willing to share your experiences with Lucent Technologies with peer companies? Relative to your first question, my scorecard for fiscal 2007 will consist of six metrics: (1) potential total contract value; (2) value of deals closed: (3) number of references acquired (because regions and product/marketing managers hold quota for them); (4) consideration rate (percentage of bids that contain references); (5) conversion rate (percentage of new customers who agree to serve as references); and (6) Customer Advocacy Index. I set targets for each of these and they're blessed by the company's regional presidents and CMO. I track the number of sales activities we support (bids, site visits, etc.) and marketing activities (presentation support, analyst and media relations, etc.) but do not report on this in my scorecard. All of our "collateral" are on the web and I can use download stats to get a handle on their usefulness. Hope this helps.

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