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2009 Customer Reference Forum Takeaways

Posted by Bill Lee on March 11, 2009 at 12:12 PM

Despite the economy, we had strong representation again at last month’s 2009 Customer Reference Forum. Most of the world’s leading reference programs attended, including Microsoft, Oracle, EMC, Intel, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, SAS Institute, Hitachi Data Systems, Siemens, Sun Microsystems, Genesys, Teradata, Qwest Communications, Research in Motion, Salesforce.com, Alcatel-Lucent, Red Hat, National Instruments and dozens of other great firms.

Please
click here for a recap, including information about our President’s Award Winners for top presentations: Craig Frampton, Leslie Vaughan, Kerry O'Shea and Elizabeth Stack SAS Institute;  Laura Ramos, Forrester Research; Cynthia Hester, Hewlett-Packard.

Here is the major takeaway that emerged in presentations and discussion throughout the Forum - from the fireside chat with ex-Motorola CIO Patty Morrison, the keynote by Forrester Research’s Laura Ramos, the discussion in our Peer Exchange session with experienced reference pros, and other discussions:

Reference Programs can, and should,  increase their visibility with senior management. They are well positioned to do so – particularly in this economy. And we define “increased visibility” with senior management to mean that Reference Programs get the budget they need to make the contribution they’re capable of, along with ongoing attention and involvement of senior management.

  • Ex-Motorola CIO Patty Morrison described how reference managers can play a key role in building close relationships with senior decision makers at your customers. Particularly if you offer such customers the full gamut of what might be called “Customer Engagement” opportunities - including referencing, advisory board and community participation with their peers. This allows your customers to engage with their peers in a meaningful way, which they value highly, and it gives them direct contact with senior decision makers at your firm, as well as input into your firm’s strategy, which they also value highly - provided their input translates into action on your part. In addition, it lets them partner with you in promoting not only your business but theirs as well.

  • Forrester’s Laura Ramos described a larger vision of “Community Marketing” that can include customer decision makers. Laura believes that Reference Programs can and should play a key role in such efforts - "their time has come" as she put it. One of the most compelling findings in Forrester's research is - contrary to come conventional wisdom - the growing propensity of decision makers to use social media in business decision making/ adoption activity.   

  • At our Peer Exchange session, experienced reference pros identified a key need: raising their visibility with senior management. As Patty and Laura pointed out, they are well positioned to achieve this.   
  • As several other presenters mentioned throughout the Forum, senior management understands  that references are even more critical in a downturn, as buyers become increasingly cautious and therefore increasingly dependent on “proof points” -- the most credible of which are references.

What are the implications of this for you professionally and for your program? Stay tuned! We’ll look at those in the next post.

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