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December 2009 Archives

Things To STOP Doing in 2010

Posted by Bill Lee on December 18, 2009 at 08:09 AM
Here are several things that customer reference managers--and anyone else for that matter--can STOP doing in 2010, adopted from one of my favorite thought leaders on personal mastery, Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting. Here's his podcast on the subject: THINGS TO STOP DOING

- Thinking you're alone. You're not. There are communities for customer reference professionals (I've linked to one). Don't forget that (some people do). Join them Form a master mind group of reference professionals. This is great for your sense of personal well being as well as professional growth and visiblity.

- Feeling guilty. Stop beating yourself up. It's probably not your fault. If it is, aplogize and move on. It will free up lots of emotional energy and creativity.

- Comparing yourself to others.It never helps. Redirect that energy into enjoying yourself and the hand you were dealt.

- Failing to invest in yourself. What will it take to make you a better person and better professional? Invest time, money and effort in these things. You either grow or die in this world. Invest in yourself. (Shameless promotion alert). The Customer Reference Forum is a good place to start.

- Creating lots of priorities. Having 44 priorities means you really have none. PIck 2 or 3 things and advance them a mile. Put the other 41 on a list to do later.

- Hesitating. Move when you're 80% ready, move. This is the classic, and most effective application of the 80/20 rule. If you're not practicing it, you're a perfectionist. And perfectionists are serious under performers.

- Spending time on the frivolous. This doesn't mean don't have fun, enjoy yourself, goof around once in awhile, have outside interests, etc. It does mean stop spending quality time doing things like cultivating references who don't matter to sales or marketing, Make a list now of those things you're doing that are frivolous. Cut them out now. You can give yourself two additional hours a week by spending 20 minutes thinking about this.

- Not planning your day. If you walk into your office wondering what you're going to be doing that day, you're starting in a hole. Write it down, the day before, in some sort of calendar system. Keep it in front of you. And close by you should have a visible list of your goals for the year that you review regularly (at least a few times per week).

- Being a victim. Refuse to be a victim. Don't hang around victims (or if you must, change the subject when they go into victim mode--you'll do both of yourselves a favor). You are master of your fate. You can't master what others do (though you can sometimes influence them). You can't control what's happening at the summit on climate change. But you can master how you respond to the deck you're dealt--or change the game for yourself altogether.

- Wasting time with people who don't know what they're talking about. In Texas, we call them "all hat, no cattle." Stop taking, or accepting, advise from people who haven't done it themselves. There are hundreds of people in our community who HAVE done it. Seek them out. 

- Assuming people are damaged--whether colleagues, customers, senior management. Start by assuming they're rational and well intentioned--until proven otherwise. This will save a lot of worry time.

What Are Your Goals Next Year for Your Customer Reference Program?

Posted by Bill Lee on December 16, 2009 at 04:09 PM

Here are some responses we got from our Customer Reference Forum LinkedIn community of reference pracitioners (with slight editing, and names of companies left out). This is a private community of more than 250 reference practitioners--if you're interested in joining, please drop me a note.


- Develop more social media friendly content.

- Reach out to more of our customer base online. 

- We also hope to use new/improved tools on tracking references.

- Increase our involvement and the number of references to facilitate more peer-to-peer requests: We create a large number of great public success stories and videos, and we will now focus more on peer-to-peer references. We will accomplish this by implementing a reference management and nomination system directly into SFDC with Sales Management's backing and support.

- Strategic/Core Customer References: We have a large number of public case studies from companies as large as ***, ***, ***, *** and we will focus even more on references directly aligned with the corporate strategy and product launches. We will do this by aligning with beta and tester programs.

 - Tracking/Measurement: We will finally have the tools in place to track how our references our used, what references are used the most, and where we need to focus our efforts, along with showing the % of deals using references and a $ tied to them.

- Revamping CRP Website: add social media and digital media tools to our CRP landing page.

- A big focus for us will be Building the Community.

- Focus on marketing literature, and internal communication to achieve greater sales awareness and participation in the regions

- Expansion of customer base and customer participation in the program.

- Adding much more Web 2.0 activity to stay in touch with customer references.

- I'd also like to start a "Customer Ambassador" program and tie it in with Beta testing and our CAB, but I'm not exactly sure how to go about it. I think that'll be more of a hobby for 2010!

- We'll be focusing on the nuts and bolts of our program - our goal is to double the number of references. Last year we focused on building the new program, but tended to overuse our key customers. It's critical at this point to find more customers who are willing to defend our service and its benefits. Thankfully our sales team sees the value of the program, but we'll need them to help recruit new members next year. Hopefully in 2011 we'll venture into more social media and open an online customer community.

We are also starting up an Ambassador program in 2010. 

- Otherwise, we are fine tuning our reference process to make it more productive and efficient all around.

- We'll take a bigger plunge into social media. 

- Beyond that we'll have a big push to drive more metrics that demonstrate the programs overall value to the business, moving beyond volume and output to proof of sales acceleration and awareness building.

- In 2010 I want to focus more on customer success stories. Sometimes I find myself just trying to get the deliverables such as videos, case studies, etc and I forget that the basis of all these are the customer successes themselves! 

- My other goals will be to provide even more support to the sales teams via sales tools and communication, communicate customer successes internally and moving customers through my reference pipeline! Happy Holidays everyone!

Tips for Reference Managers on Setting and Achieving Goals for the New Year

Posted by Bill Lee on December 14, 2009 at 10:59 AM

What are you planning for next year? This is the month to get serious about setting the stage to build and improve your customer reference program. Effective goal setting is critical to hitting the ground running and making it a great year. Here are some tips for you.


1. What did I do well this past year? Where did our customer reference program do well?

2. What strengths emerged (both personal and the reference program) that we can build on? What do I need to get better at?

3. What can I STOP doing because it's a waste of time or resources? What can I DELEGATE to someone else (employee, vendor, another group) in order to focus on more critical goals?

4.  What are my goals for 2010?

Thinking through these, and participating in our community discussion, will sharpen and expand your thinking on these issues. You'll come away with some powerful goals.

The second step is making your goals for 2010 happen. Here are some tips on that:


How good are you good at setting, and achieving goals? Most people aren't. If you can get good at it, you'll be miles ahead of the game. Here are some tips to help you:

Goals should be:

1. Written down, and always visible.

This is the most important key to achieving goals: Writing them down, and keeping them in front of you are powerful motivators. Writing them down and filing them away, on the other hand, is a waste of time. Put them in your calendar (and make sure you look at them daily or at least several times a week). Or put them on your office wall, where they'll be constantly visible. These will be your rudder during the storms of busyness or competing demands.

2. Specific.

"We're going to improve our social media efforts" or "explore video testimonials" are not specific.  

3. Measurable.

How else will you know you've achieved your goal?  Measures are sometimes guess work, but don't shy away from this step.

4. Actionable

"We're going to make 100% of our customers referenceable this year" may be biting off a bit too much. Where do you start? For a firm that has only 15% of its customers in its reference program, what you've got is an aspiration, not a goal. See the next tip.

5. Realistic.

Stretch goals are great and thinking big, reaching for the stars-all of these are great. But then divide them into realistic steps. I can't step out of my door and go climb Mount Kilimanjaro. But I can pretty quickly find out how to get there, what it would cost, when I could go there, and what would be required to climb it. I can do that in the next couple of days. Then I can plan how to address these issues and figure out the best options, in another few days or a week at most. Then I can . . . you get the picture.

6. Time Based

"We're going to start developing YouTube style customer testimonials sometime in 2010" is not a goal. (not specific, not time based)  "We're going to create 3 YouTube style customer testimonials by January 31" is a goal.

Back to our aspiration of "building our reference pipeline in 2010." How might it be reformulated as a series of powerful goals? Perhaps something like this:

"We're going to meet with the following managers and executives--x, y, z, w--to identify who our most strategic customers are by January 31. We're then going to have meetings/ appointments with 10 such customers by February 28 in order to learn what it would take to develop a more powerful value proposition to attract them and other strategic customers into our reference program,. We'll then roll this out to all strategic customers by March 31. Our initial objective is to attract 50% of strategic customers into our reference program by April 30. We'll also do follow-up analysis my May 31 with those customers who won't participate in the program, and develop a gap analysis showing clearly why they aren't doing so."

2010 Forum Update: Workshop on Creating Compelling Customer Video

Posted by Bill Lee on December 9, 2009 at 02:43 PM
This just in as we add to our lineup for the March Customer Reference Forum. With the rise of social media--and the decline of attention spans!--video is becoming an increasingly important tool for disseminating customer content. 

Diane Davidson with Cisco WebEx will lead a workshop on showing how to make a rapid and  successful move into video production, at the 2010 Customer Reference Forum, March 2-3 in Santa Clara, CA.

Attendees at the workshop will learn:

  • how to think through the issue of when video is likely to be more effective than traditional written and/or audio customer case studies.
  • how to think through nuts and bolts information such as development, costs, tools to use (from Flip cameras to high end), and much more  
  • How to analyze the options for video creation such as appropriate length (90 seconds, 3-4 minutes, 5-7 minutes, or longer)?
  • What production styles are appropriate and when (from Flip camera to high end)?
  • How do you manage factors such as costs, and video shelf life?
  • How do you determine what customers are good video candidates?    
  • Where do you publish your video beyond your corporate website?   
  • How do you justify the costs and get a reasonable to excellent return on your video investments?  

Diane will also demo an interactive tool that utilizes all types of customer assets (written, video, and audio) to educate and stimulate interest from prospects and customers. 

How Research Helps Red Hat Create Collateral that Sells

Posted by Bill Lee on December 4, 2009 at 07:21 AM

Ever wonder how your reference collateral is actually perceived, and used, by the technology purchasers you want to target?  How is this dynamic changing with the rise of social networking? From written case studies to customer testimonial podcasts and videos, reference collateral is a major expense and is undergoing serious transformation. Red Hat's Kathryn Poole and Eccolo Media's Lorie Loe have teamed up to get research based-answers to these questions and more. They'll be presenting at the 2010 Customer Reference Forum on March 2-3. Meanwhile, here are some of the insights they'll be sharing:

White papers are still the most influential collateral to buyers making purchasing decisions (84% said they were moderately to extremely influential), and the most frequently shared (89% had passed a white paper along to others).

 - Video is on the rise. Rapidly!: the number of buyers who watched a video to prepare for making a purchae decision jumped from 28% in 2008 to 49% in 2009.

 - Collateral is highly viral: prospective buyers share it. In addition to the 89% of buyers saying they shared white papers, 85% share case studies, and nearly as many share brochures/ data sheets, podcasts and videos.

 - Digitial is king, but printed collateral stll has a place: 80% of buyers prefer to read written content online rather than printing it out. But that means 20% still prefer old fashioned printed.

 - Quality matters: 51% of buyers said that high-quality writing is either very or extremely influential (another 35% said it as moderately so).  In fact, while objective third party collateral is generally preferred, buyers say they prefer good writing from a vendor over mediocre writing from a third party.

 - Collateral is yoru calling card: A significant majority of tech buyers consume collateral before they issue an RFP or talk to vendors.

 - Decision makers and influcencers: Not surprisingly, decision makers consume more of each type of collateral than influencers, but influencers are big sharers: they pass it on more often and to more people than the DMs.