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Positioning Your Reference Program for 2009

Posted by Bill Lee on January 13, 2009 at 09:00 AM

We all know that cutting costs and streamlining reference programs are important in our current environment. But they aren't ALL you should focus. In all likelihood, your senior management is looking beyond cost cutting and streamlining.  Technology CEOs in particular are hot on the trail of exciting new opportunities in this tumultuous, historic economy.  

Key Question for 2009: Is your reference program positioned to be a player - to provide robust support - for your senior management's 2009 strategic initiatives? 

Here's a suggested test:

1. Are you aligned with your firm's efforts to GROW revenue in this economy?

Yes, I said "grow revenue." In this economy. Trust me, senior management at every technology firm in the world is looking for markets with growth potential.  There is huge opportunity out there - in markets such as the Federal Government, Financial Services (the entire industry is undergoing radical restructuring), Health Care, and others. There are huge opportunities in markets with entrenched market leaders. There are huge opportunities in helping companies - in any industry - cut costs and streamline operations.

At Hewlett-Packard for example, Mark Hurd is planning to challenge Cisco's core business. He's also planning to place strong emphasis on services that help customers streamline their technology infrastructures and business processes. Those are just two.

Are you aware of and is your reference program aligned with all of your firm's goals for growing revenues in 2009? 

2. Has your CRP team thought through what it can do - what it must do - to support revenue growth initiatives?

New value propositions from your firm will require new case studies and success stories. New customers and new markets will require fresh new pipelines of customer references. And in a recessions, buyers will demand more references - more proof points - not less. Do you have the budget and staff to support these efforts?

3. Has your CRP team thought through what new value it can provide in this environment?

SAS Institute's reference team, for example, is increasingly playing a key role, not in just creating and managing references, but also in helping product developers refine the new value propositions SAS is developing in this economy. Reference programs are ideally situated to provide significant help with this.  (The SAS US Reference team will be showing how, at the 2009 Forum). Is your CRP looking for such new areas to provide value?

Or take Intel and Xerox, who are finding creative ways to integrate references into their social media efforts, dramatically improving the measurable visibility of their reference material, while cutting costs of content production - a two-fer. (They'll be leading our social media workshop at the 2009 Forum).

4. Do you have clear criteria for being adequately staffed and funded to help your firm pursue these new opportunities - criteria that will get rapid buy-in from senior management?

Let me suggest one: you are properly funded if no salesperson in the field will have to spend one single hour hunting down a reference. As Infor's Abby Atkinson will show at the 2009 Customer Reference Forum, every dollar your CRP saves by not being able to fulfill reference requests will cost your firm $2 in sales salaries and benefits, plus $5 in lost revenue. All these numbers are conservative, and easily calculated using numbers probably already known to HR and Sales. In fact, she and Mainstay's Amir Hartman, who run our Metrics Special Interest Group, will provide an ROI Calculator to help you assess the impact on your own firm of underfunding your own program.

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