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January 2010 Archives

SAS Features a High Profile Customer in its Advertising

Posted by Bill Lee on January 26, 2010 at 02:16 PM

While traveling recently I noticed a couple of ads by well known technology firm in airports. 

The first ad (not pictured here, to protect the guilty:) was a mess. It tried to illustrate a technology problem that the firm says it can solve. The graphic was so confusing that I actuallly stopped on the concourse for a few minutes just to see if I could figure it out. I couldn't. 

In contrast, check out this ad that was in the Providence, RI airport terminal. The fact that I noticed such an ad at all is notable; having just landed from a three hour flight I was pretty zoned out. Notice how simple it is, eye catching, and associates SAS with a prominent and successful customer reference. And it touts impact on the customers business--not features of SAS software.It doesn't try to explain the complex technology behind the solution. It just focuses on the simple, powerful impact on the customer's business. Good stuff.


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. 


2010 Customer Reference Forum: Update on Presenters

Posted by Bill Lee on January 25, 2010 at 02:56 PM

We've just added info on two more presentations on our event website: Here's the descriptions:

How Oracle Attracts Executive Customers Into Its Customer Reference Programs

by Julie Tung, Vice President, Global Customer Programs, Oracle. 

Julie will describe how Oracle attracts high-level decision makers into its customer reference program with a compelling value proposition. You’ll learn what executive customers want from you, how customer reference programs can play an important role in a broader customer engagement effort, how Julie and her team help sales get into better deals, and more. By the way, another sign of the importance Oracle places on its customer programs is it's Chief Customer Officer position, held by Jeb Dasteel, to whom Julie reports directly..

Just Getting Started: A Workshop for New Customer Reference Programs

led by Tami Andrews, Worldwide Customer Reference Manager, Dell

Just starting a customer reference program? Why reinvent the wheel? This year, the Just Getting Started workshop will be led by one of the most experienced reference pros in our community and a member of the Customer Reference Forum Advisory Board, Tami Andrews. She’s built or helped build reference programs at large companies like Compaq and HP, as well as startups like NetIQ. You’ll learn the key things to focus on in building your program, what common mistakes to avoid, how to build a reference pipeline, how to gain and keep executive support for your program, how to work effectively with sales and other stakeholders, and much more. Tami will also provide useful forms, templates, and other tools she’s found to be helpful and to help you get started.

My Interview With CRKSN About the Upcoming Customer Reference Forum

Posted by Bill Lee on January 19, 2010 at 04:36 PM

I discuss a couple of our newest presenters, Julie Tung, VP of Global Customer Programs at Oracle, and Tami Andrews, WW Customer Reference Program Manager, Dell. Julie will show how Oracles attracts key customer executives into its reference prrogram with a compelling value propositions. And Tami will be leading our "Just Getting Started" workshop for new or "young" reference programs that want to avoid "reinventing the wheel." I also mention some of the terrific opportunities attendees will have to network, build relationships with their peers, and exchange ideas and best practices. Whatever issues you're facing in your reference program, we'll get you the best available answers.

To listen to my interview: It's on the Customer Reference Knowledge Sharing Network's blogtalk site.

How Cisco WebEx Creates Compelling Customer Content thru Video

Posted by Bill Lee on January 13, 2010 at 04:26 PM

An interview with Diane Davidson, Manager, Customer Success Programs, Collaboration Software Group, WebEx, Cisco Systems

Below is a preview of the workshop that Diane will be presenting at the 2010 Customer Reference Forum, March 2-3 in Santa Clara, CA on the Nuts and Bolts of Using Video to Create Compelling Customer Content. It includes several links to terrific customer videos on Cisco's website.

LEE: Diane, tell us a bit about yourself and your customer success programs at Cisco WebEx.

DAVIDSON: The evolution in the computer and associated industries over the last 30+ years has been stunning.  Most of my work in high tech has been in enterprise type business models but since 2003, I have been very involved with internet software and SaaS subscription models. 

During the last 20 years, the world of customer references has changed as much (thank goodness) as the world of computing at large.  Of course everything is digital.  And of course, since the iPod was introduced in 2001, the speed of change has only accelerated.  In the mid 90s we still did everything in hardcopy, with binders of references for our sales teams.  Now our assets are all digital, on our website, in repositories, on iTunes, on YouTube, etc. Publishing has a whole new meaning.

Big changes.  But some of the underlying struggles remain – finding customers who can get clearance to talk is, by far, the biggest challenge.  Story content is also important as we try to look for fresh messages and great metrics.   And, after creating these ‘customer assets’, finding ways to ‘push’ them to lots of folks is also a challenge.

Historically case studies and references were created mostly to help close sales transactions or substantiate a launch.  These days they are so much more.  They are about getting the light bulb to turn on in a prospect’s or customer’s mind so he or she says “Oh, I can use WebEx to do…”  I know this may sound silly, but it is such fun to listen to an enthusiastic customer talk about what they have accomplished using a product or service.   

LEE: Why and how do you see the move away from traditional customer content (written or audio case studies) to video?

DAVIDSON:  It’s not really an ‘either – or’ situation.  What we think about is what kind of content do we need?  What are we using it for and what is the best medium?  In many situations we have a written and audio version of our customer reference story and we add the video. 

Video is compelling.  You get to see and hear the person which helps you get a feeling about the authenticity of the message.  Written content is the hardest to get this feeling. Audio is better than written and video is the best. Body language is so important and you can see that in the video. 

I learned something from the transition to blended learning back in the late 90s.  When folks were engaged in the transition from instructor-led training to eLearning or blended learning, we discussed when to use which medium – instructor led F2F, Instructor led distance learning, and eLearning.  Depending on the content, the criticality of the information, and other factors like affordability, you chose the delivery vehicle. Additionally, you tried to create all the content once, in ‘chunks’, store it in a repository, and deploy it many times in many types of training modules.  ‘Chunking’ the information was the basic concept.  Get it into easily consumable pieces. 

References are very similar.  One makes use of quotes, written, audio, and video case studies, etc.  In one instance you might need a complete story.  In another you might need a powerful video segment that drives home a point.  We first realized this in our written stories – lots of good content but hard to find what you were looking for.  So we extracted key messages, quotes, and other details to make it easy for folks (Sales, Marcom, PR, etc.) to find what they need. 

Now we are focusing on our video content and ‘chunking’ that content into very pithy 30 second chunks, each chunk focusing on a key message.  These ‘voice of the customer’ chunks can be used in lots of ways –  presentations, leadgen pieces, websites, marketing collateral, pass along emails,  etc.

We also have lots of types of videos.  We have a range from relatively inexpensive (done with a Flip camera and edited) all the way up to high production videos, and everything in between.

LEE: Your CEO John Chambers is quite visionary, and in particular has himself placed a great deal of emphasis on video collaboration. How do you see your program as fitting in with his strategy?

DAVIDSON:  Well, as you can imagine, I fully support that statement that John Chambers is an incredible visionary.  He ‘walks the talk’.   Actually I was not so thrilled about the video idea when I started down the path. Relative to the written case study and the audio podcast, quite expensive and logistically more complicated. 

However, after we did our first one, and I found a moderately priced method, I was sold.  When I looked at the result, it wowed me.  Here’s a little example.  We had a customer we were recording on a Flip camera.  So we are on a WebEx with him, seeing him via WebEx video, and he has his Flip camera filming him at his desk.  We asked a simple question,  “What motivated you to move to WebEx”? His response:  ‘Before we had WebEx, our main collaboration tool was the airplane.’  Totally unscripted.  You put that in written form and it does not pop.  When you watch the guy say that on the film, you just go ‘wow’.  Every video has a couple of these simply incredible sound bites where the customer comes up with his own way of saying something that ‘just works’. 

So video is the next best thing to being there in person. It removes distance and feels much more personal.  I love WebEx.  It’s made my life a lot easier in so many ways.  But video makes it a lot better, more human, more intimate, more real.

LEE: Tell us about your “Five to Thrive” program.

DAVIDSON:  When the economy took the very deep dive in October of 2008, John Chambers and team developed what he and they believed to be business fundamentals for the recession.  Some of the steps are just sound business (or even personal) fundamentals and some pertain to the new collaboration tools (hardware and software) available to companies.  The overall idea is to get your house in order so you are positioned to win when the ‘turn around’ commences.  We have been very public with this in our marketing materials, blogs, and an interactive tool that we created that takes you through the concepts and uses customer case studies in various formats to support the key points.  The basics of Five to Thrive are :
1.   Save to Invest

2.   Unlock Employee Potential
3.   Drive true customer intimacy
4.   Outpace the competition
5.   Transition to a borderless enterprise

LEE: Can you give us an overview of the video options that you use, and how and when you use them?

DAVIDSON:  I’d like to save this for the workshop but suffice it to say that we use everything from casual Flip videos to highly produced more polished videos.  We also find value in shooting special customer videos that we use inside the company for training purposes.  Perhaps a customer will not let you use something publically, but they have some great things to say that are good for training your sales force or motivating your team.  We capture those and use them internally.

LEE: You’ve been experimenting with having customers record their own videos, using a Flip camcorder. How is that working?

DAVIDSON:  Yes we have achieved some solid results using this approach.  Of course it’s a different look and feel than a highly produced video, but it works.  We are also intermixing video.  For example, we may go onsite to shoot the HQ location and our key interviewee but there are other folks in quite remote locations that can add power, key messages, perspective, etc.  We will have them record their pieces via Flip and cut those into the final film.  It can be quite powerful.

LEE: Can you share some samples of customer videos you’ve developed? 

DAVIDSON: Well I’d prefer to save our link to the interactive tool around “Five to Thrive” that I mentioned—I’ll unveil and demo that at the 2010 Forum.  But here are some other useful ones I’m happy to share. 

- Cisco Video of one of our customers,  Kroma. I particularly love this one – high end video, shot onsite with lots of b-roll, music, high production costs.  Great video.

- This one is about our customer,  Cabelas.  This was done onsite.  Medium priced.

-  One of my personal favorites – done onsite at Kohn Pedersen Fox, a global architectural firm in NYC, still medium costs

- This is The Food Group – this was done with one of a Flip Camcorder – great video.  Low end, least expensive, but still takes editing time to put it together.

Moving Customer References Into Community Marketing: Chat with Forrester's Laura Ramos

Posted by Bill Lee on January 6, 2010 at 08:54 AM

Laura is at the forefront on the issue of how the rise of social media is changing, and will continue to change, B2B sales, marketing, and branding realities. Her take is that social media--far from being a threat due to increasing loss of control of the conversation--presents a great opportunity to engage customers and markets in a dynamic new way, through "community marketing." As you'll see in our interview below, a firm's customer references can--make that, must--play a key role.

Laura will be leading a panel at the 2010 Customer Reference Forum, March 2-3, Santa Clara, CA, USA. Panelists will include Jamie Grenney, Sr Director of Social Media, and Rhett Livengood, Director of Global Sales and Marketing, Intel. They'll talk about the practical "how to's" of moving references into a community marketing effort, with Laura providing big picture perspective on howForrester sees this dynamic trend playing out.

LEE: Thanks for joining us Laura. Forrester is showing increasing interest in community marketing, so let’s start with a definition: how do you define community marketing and how do you see the concept evolving?

RAMOS:  We see community marketing as the next frontier for B2B marketers to cross as we move from marketing practices focused mainly on broadcast messaging – a practice founded on years of outbound advertising and promotional activity -- to a blend of traditional and digital, individual and group, prospect and customer marketing approaches.  Community marketing is about using marketing to engage prospects, current customers, industry insiders, and partners in dialog that transparently and collectively improves the probability of creating effective solutions to the most pressing business problems. It’s about bringing technology and services suppliers into customers’ adoption activities in support of better business outcomes. It’s how Web 2.0 technologies enable new ways to innovate, collaborate, and partner that create more productive business operations.

LEE: What role do you see reference programs playing in Community Marketing efforts?

RAMOS: Customer references validate product claims and streamline the sales process, both vital activities in B2B marketing.  Reference programs play a vital role in Community Marketing because the community of a supplier’s current customers – not individual accounts -- becomes the focal point for revenue generation activity.  In the near future, the customer community helps to attract, engage, persuade, support, and retain future buyers of a supplier’s products and services.  As business buyers embrace the social Web, reference management can play a breakout role in the transition from collecting testimony to building community adoption.

LEE: Can reference programs add to the value that businesses must provide to attract customers into their community marketing efforts? If so, how?

RAMOS: Customer reference programs can play a vital role in executing a community-centered marketing strategy that not only attracts new customers, but also turns your best customers into advocates within the community. These programs transition from sales support to community build in 3 important ways:

1) Reference customers make community activity intimate and influential, not just interactive.  Involving references in online, social activities — like peer discussions, rating and voting on products, content contribution, and so on —helps create positive product experiences and increases the likelihood that buyers will, in turn, advocate to others.

2) Social referencing involves your best customers in community building. Tapping reference customers predisposed to sharing experiences and speaking on your firm’s behalf is the best way to attract a community following. In B2B marketing, social media value will come from using Web 2.0 tools  to deepen customer relationships after deals close and implementation challenges begin.

3) References deliver content that creates conversation — and value for — buyers. Success stories and insight are the currency needed to sustain ongoing community activity. Because they participate readily, reference customers double their value when they energize community activity and discuss best practices.

LEE: You’ve attended a couple of our conferences. What do you see customer reference programs doing that is exciting? What can or should they do to get better, and play a more important role in their businesses?

RAMOS: Today, I think the most exciting achievements happen when marketers give back real value to reference customers. The biggest benefit of advocating on behalf of a vendor should be membership in an exclusive community of like-minded participants where interacting with each other, as well as prospects and the public, is part of the draw and reward.  To play a bigger role in business, customer reference managers need to take advantage of emerging social business behavior more. They need to move beyond the physical, group setting and let references engage outside the boundaries of the formal program. Less than 30% of respondents to our earlier survey of customer reference professionals enabled their references to build profile pages, guest blog, rate community-contributed content, or author wikis, activities that permit customers to strut their stuff in the online, virtual world and create broader connections without having to trip through the legal, communications, or approval cycles that plague the production of more formal testimonial or case studies.

LEE:  Let’s broaden our scope a bit to the concept of customer engagement—the full range of ways that firms can interact and build relationships with their customers. How do you see community marketing fitting in that broader effort? How do you see reference programs fitting in to that broader effort?

RAMOS: In B2B marketing social media will have is greatest impact on building vibrant customer communities, not on branding or lead generation, which is where everyone seems focused today.  Eventually, however, firms will create successful communities in the same ways they successfully engage customers today: by offering different levels of exclusive interaction in exchange for more committed participation. Look at the range of activity – and value – customer advisory boards, councils, user conferences, loyalty programs and the like offer.  All of this activity can be extended through online, virtual means – many of which are still developing and being invented by the industry today. In the end, it’s all integrated and integral.  We will continue to meet with our customer face-to-face to learn from them, bond with them, and show our appreciation. It will become easier to extend these relationships with offline, virtual, asynchronous activities that meet both buyer and supplier goals.

LEE: A great deal is being written about the decline of traditional media, including trade publications. Can you share some thoughts on how community marketing efforts, and customer reference programs, might fill the growing void of trusted, objective information about businesses?

RAMOS: In our research, Forrester sees a similar decline in how B2B marketers view the effectiveness of some traditional mediRAMOS: However, the top source buyers consistently turn to inform and validate purchase decision making is their peers and colleagues. We see this in our research time and again, and it is a result that hasn’t changed significantly in many years – business people trust and rely on each other when deciding what to buy.  I see Web 2.0 technologies give buyers new ways to reach other like-minded individuals and communities become the focal point for these interactions. As we figure out how community enables better business outcomes, I see reference programs play a key role as these programs evolve from supporting sales to sustaining community interactions. I see them create real value for buyers who rely on the community to help them solve business problems and implement new business capability by using the advice of each other to implement products and services they buy to the fullest.

LEE: What advice would you leave customer reference managers with as they prepare for the eventuality of community marketing?

I see the social Web uping the ante for customer reference professionals, moving the function off of the sidelines and placing it squarely in the center of the community marketing evolution. Customer reference professionals must play a crucial role evolving reference programs from solicited testimonials to interactive communities — where participants gain more by joining the online conversation than by supporting the vendor’s agendRAMOS: To start this transition on the right foot, there are 3 things customer reference managers should focus on in 2010:

1)     Keep the customer reference function in house. While outsourcing may produce a short-term boost in reference participation, marketers should not abdicate the opportunity to interact directly with your firm’s most loyal and outspoken customers.

2)     Upgrade their teams’ social media acumen and look at the numbers. Start with the basics: Understand what Web 2.0 tools are and how they can create new means for customers to reference in ways that they may have been unwilling or unable to do so earlier.

3)     Make community participation part of the customer reference agendRAMOS: As you plan your 2010 customer reference program, find those enthusiasts who have a vested interest in sustaining vibrant community activity. Support their efforts by showing them how reference customers can lend expertise or firsthand experience to their community-building objectives. Leverage your customer reference assets to gain a chair at the community marketing table.