This week I had a chance to interview Craig Nunes, VP of Marketing, 3PAR about how they are engaging previously 'unreferencable' customers - or "the other 90%" - through a remarkable application of Social Media and web-based survey tools. Craig will be a presenter at the 2009 Customer Reference Forum.
Craig's presentation at this year's event will describe how he and his Reference Team developed this capability, and how it's significantly improving public awareness of the firm's value propositions, as well as helping to recruit new references from "the other 90%" previously considered unreferencable. Enjoy a preview below:
A. I have been with 3PAR since 2000 and am Vice President of Marketing. 3PAR
provides a highly virtualized storage array for virtual (utility) data centers within medium to large enterprises, cloud service providers, Internet and Web 2.0 companies, and government agencies. We were founded in 1999 by the engineers and architects who developed the core of the Sun Server products back in the '90s. 3PAR is headquartered in Fremont, California and has offices across the US, Europe and Asia. The company is also publicly traded on the NYSE Big Board under the ticker symbol 'PAR.' Gartner has positioned us in the enterprise disk array market as leading in vision for 5 straight years and has recognized the company as #2 in the US Hosting market.
Q. Can you also give us a quick overview of the Reference Program at 3PAR.
A. Until recently, our customer reference program was very conventional, aimed at the following:
· Customer success stories or win announcement published via a press release and pitched to targeted journalists
· Supporting product launch activities with customer quotes
· Placing customers in speaking opportunities at large storage events
I would characterize our efforts as blocking and tackling, but not making the most of an awesome customer base and viral enthusiasm.
Q. What led you to implement the Social Media/ Web-based survey platform you're using? What problem were you trying to solve? Also, what do you call the platform?
A. We have been selling our products into the social media space - to firms such as MySpace and Facebook - and have watched with interest as these and other Web 2.0 companies have revolutionized communication. Our customer base is very passionate about our solutions, and about 10% ALREADY are publicly vocal about them. We were looking for a social media strategy that fit our B2B application, specifically finding a way to engage the OTHER 90% who weren't able for a variety of reasons to publicly reference for us. That's when we ran across TechValidate.
Q. Tell us a bit about how the platform you set up at 3PAR, and how it functions. How difficult and costly was it to implement?
A. We turned to TechValidate which is a web-based software service that allows us to engage our customer base in a very natural way, pose questions to them, and derive "certified" value statements that can be used on our website and in our public announcements. Set up was very simple. We developed a couple of simple questionnaires and an email list of targeted 3PAR customers. If you like immediate gratification, you will love applying social media to your customer base -- responses to the survey arrive in real-time with nuggets of pure gold.
Q. Can you describe for us some of the more important results your Reference Program has achieved using the platform?
Once our surveys were closed, after about two weeks, we were able to perform quick and simple analysis with the tools provided by TechValidate's website. This led to a new type of reference. Previously, 3PAR customers like Credit Suisse or Deutsche Bank, large financial services firms, were very strict about what could be publicly referenced. However with this new platform, we are now able to reference what might be called "aggregated testimonials" like these non-market specific statistics called "Tech Facts:"
"50% of 3PAR customers surveyed say they have saved at least $50K of Capital Expenditures (CAPEX) costs over the past 12 months with 3PAR Thin Provisioning."
"32% of 3PAR customers say they have reduced physical capacity requirements by at least 10 TBs over the last 12 months with 3PAR Utility Storage"
These could have just as easily been done by market or by application type, depending upon your preferred segmentation.
Once results are distilled into useable conclusions (Tech Facts), they are certified by TechValidate. We have now leveraged these results into content for a couple of press releases and webpages - and we just started in November! And I can tell you that when we issue the releases with third-party certified statistics such as these, the media is much quicker to pick them up and use them in their articles. Our Tech Facts possess an inherent credibility versus the traditional vendor claims in a press release.
Another important result: we're picking up additional new references from this platform as well. That is, we're converting about 10-20% of that 90% who weren't referencing in the traditional way, and converting them into traditional references. I'll be describing how that works at the Forum
Q. What are your plans for expanding and building upon this platform, going forward. What do you see as it's ultimate potential?
A. We are just scratching the surface in this area and have more learning to do. We are also interested in how we can take information from this tool and publish it within our BoulderLogic customer database so that our sales team can not only view the traditional information we capture about a given customer, but also details about a customer that may surface from a TechValidate survey.