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Taking your Reference Program Online

Posted by Bill Lee on January 20, 2009 at 01:45 PM

The 2009 Customer Reference Forum is just a few weeks away and this week I had the chance to chat with Intel's Rhett Livengood and Umang Shah, formerly of Xerox and VMware about a fabulous workshop they're planning.   

The workshop will be a 90 minute "bring-your-laptop-and-get-your-hands-dirty" event showing how to move your reference program online. When you leave, you'll have a Web 2.0 strategy, together with the tools and knowledge you need to implement it as painlessly as possible. 

Q. Rhett and Umang, can you give us a quick overview of your Customer Reference programs and the role you play in them?

RHETT: I manage Intel's Worldwide Customer Reference Program and Enterprise Customer Reference Board (CRB).

UMANG: I have managed worldwide Sales and Customer Reference programs for Xerox, BEA and VMware.

Q. How is the current downturn affecting your reference programs?

A. The day-to-day management of our reference pipeline hasn't changed but we're seeing many organizational changes in our customer base.  Executive sponsorship of our program is strong with pressure to control spending and make the most of our existing reference customers.  There is a greater focus on one-to-many events wherever possible.

Q. The workshop you're planning is called "Get Your Hands Dirty in Web 2.0: Bringing Your Reference Program Online in an Hour and a Half."  If attendees bring their laptops and some reference content, you'll get their reference program online right there during the workshop. And when they leave, they'll have a Web 2.0 strategy, together with the tools and knowledge they'll need to implement it as painlessly as possible. How will you pull this off?

A. With today's Web 2.0 tools and the knowledge on how to use them, anyone can get started on moving their reference program online. This session is designed to be a "kick start" using real references data and content from Customer Reference ForumĀ® attendees. The session will be a "master class" with industry experts telling you the "answers".

Q. Tell us a bit about the strides your own reference programs are making in leveraging social media tools?

Rhett: We moved our entire reference program online in 2008. In 2009, the challenge is to continue to "go where our customers are online" and refine our processes in developing online content.

Umang: Our focus at Xerox was mutli-pronged. We minimized traditional case study development and took advantage of multimedia (podcasts, webinars), blogs, LinkedIn, and even Twitter to push our content out to our customers. Furthermore, we took advantage of 3rd party sites that our customers tended to visit.

Q. Where are you finding that Web 2.0 is making the biggest, measurable impact on your reference programs? Where is it helping your reference programs make the biggest impact on sales and marketing?

A. The communities that we foster and others that develop on their own allow our customers to interact with each other more easily and share feedback with us directly and quickly. Additionally, our reference content is getting so much more exposure than ever before. For example, Rhett has increased exposure for his reference summaries by 100X over his standard reference library.

Q. How is Web 2.0 helping you to cut reference program costs and streamline operations?

A. We are able to cut reference program costs by reducing the number of new, expensive case studies we create. Social media lets us do this by leveraging our existing content, optimizing it for the web, and then syndicate that content to get the most traction out of it.

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