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A Preview of Adobe’s Presentation at the 2010 Customer Reference Forum

Posted by Bill Lee on January 26, 2010 at 11:18 AM

I “e-chatted” with one of the most thoughtful reference teams in our profession: Adobe’s Lisa Hanna, Sr. Manager, Customer Reference Program, Holly Lugassy, Sr. Manager, Customer Programs and Emily Chu, Customer Reference Manager.

They’ll present at the 2010 Forum in Santa Clara in March. Below they provide a preview, talking in particular about how they:

- changed the strategic visibility of their program and the respect of it receives, 

- how they define and capture strategic references, and 

- what sorts of reference content they focus on creating and how they measure and track it.

Btw, Lisa, Holly and Emily will be sharing onlinei tools and processes they've used in their program transformation with attendees at the Forum.

(These are just some excerpts from our longer, wide ranging conversation.)

 BILL: What things did you do to improve the strategic value of your reference program?

LISA, HOLLY & EMILY (ADOBE TEAM): Customer conversations used to be focused on the purely tactical value of a reference: product used, deal size, company name.  We began to frame our stakeholder discussions on the business value of the customer as a company, how their implementation is helping them meet their needs and then tying that directly to our corporate and product messaging.  So it was less of a conversation about listing all references that use the product and more about how the customer reference examples support the business messages and goals. 

Also, we provided customers ‘insights’ on what their motivators were, personal and professional; what they valued about our company/products; what their business landscape was like; how easily we could work within that to accomplish our reference goals.  This resonated extremely well with our stakeholders as we were presenting our customers holistically, in-line with messaging and as more than a product.  By doing this, we came to be regarded as the customer ‘experts’

We also augmented the program to emphasize with our stakeholders that we don’t have resources to go after every possible lead and to start thinking about who are the best use cases to showcase and prioritize. This really lead to the prioritization of the customers perceived as strategic.

BILL:  How did you define and identify strategic reference customers?

 ADOBE:  We first did this last year and will perform another audit this year.  Audits needs to be done annually as the sales/marketing needs and messaging changes annually so a customer may be strategic one year and more opportunistic the next.  We defined a strategic customer as this: brand or recognizable global name;  implementation use case matches product messaging and sales goals; target reference involvement is maximum exposure (e.g. a high-level press opportunity or Adobe Corporate Event). For each new lead that came in, we worked with the teams to identify them as strategic. 2010 will take this concept forward to another level as our strategic review needs to become more focused on a smaller set of customers that have broader corporate appeal and provides value to multiple stakeholders (sales/marketing). This will enable greater resource prioritization for the reference program with more time focused on the relationship development with these customers.  

 BILL: How did you get them into the program?

ADOBE:  Many were existing reference customers.  Others came through the Spotlight program, which highlights large deals that closely match the definition of the strategic customer described above.  The spotlight program really took off last year and our plan is to leverage it even more in 2010 as a primary strategic lead source.

 BILL: On a tactical level, what sort of reference content are you focusing on and how how do you track and measure it? 

ADOBE: We measure it annually. We categorize content into four main categories:

- Press/Analyst Material: press articles, analyst reports, magic quadrants, press releases, any media coverage.

- Sales Enablement: material developed to help close business and be used in a selling cycle. 

 - Slides: presentation material that may be used to build / augment another presentation.

- Success Content: material that describes the customer, their implementation and their resulting benefits including success stories, videos and implementation overviews.  

Content has risen steadily With 1244 pieces delivered FY 2008 (cumulatively across each of the four categories) and now have 2643.  

 During our session at the reference forum, we will spend time reviewing our online tools with our peers. 


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