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Reference Point I How To Create A Killer Rock Star Value Proposition

Posted by Bill Lee on October 16, 2013 at 04:46 PM
How do you move customer references and advocates to the level of "Rock Stars" -- those rare advocates who can have a major impact on your business? The short answer is: take the same approach top sales people do

First, position your advocacy program as something that provides tremendous value to your advocates -- as opposed to asking for favors, or quid pro quo arrangements ("we'll do X for you if you give us a testimonial"). Then create an irresistible value proposition that entices potential Rock Stars to participate. Here are the main elements.

Develop a Powerful Rock Star Value Proposition (RSVP) ...
... similar to a traditional customer value proposition for your products and services.

No sales person worth her salt would ask a potential buyer of her products or services to purchase them as a favor. Great sales people don't really on monetary incentives either, a sign of weakness or even desperation. Rather, great sales people emphasize value - "here's what using our solution can do in terms of improving your business and making you better at your job." 

Great advocacy pros take the same approach with potential advocates. BUT, they keep in mind one critical difference: when you sell value to a buyer of your products and services, the relationship is governed by market norms. A strong advocacy relationship, on the other hand, is governed by social norms.

While your sales people are fine by emphasizing monetary value (such as ROI, reduced costs greater efficiencies), as a customer advocacy professional, you should emphasize social value. Your opportunity, and it's a big one since most companies don't get this, is to help your advocates build social capital. And unlike your products and services, which will appeal only to a small share of your market, social capital appeals universally to the vast majority of people. In a phrase, it's an easy sale.

Create a needs or "opportunities" assessment. 
This is similar to what sales people use to quickly identify potential buyers. You can use something similar as you get to know your potential Rock Stars -- a good needs assessment tool will guide you in WHAT you want to get to know about them. 
Specifically, your sales people have a list of customer needs or opportunities that your products and services can meet.Their customers might need access to mobile devices, faster data processing, point of sale information, and so forth. Salespeople use this to quickly determine if a prospect would be interested in their offerings.

Your team can create a similar needs or opportunities assessment. Our research has shown five main types of social capital that are particularly appealing to potential Rock Stars:

1. Expand your affiliation networks.

2. Help you learn and grow.

3. Build your reputation.

4. Establish a higher status.

5. Have a say in your products and services. 

 By offering to help a potential Rock Star to increase any of these, you help him derive greater value from his peer and other support networks. Helping him increase his reputation, for example, makes him more visible to the rest of his network. Helping him learn important information makes him a person of greater interest to his peer group -- much like your neighbor who knows the best contractors and handymen in the area.

Use this information to create exceptional value for your Rock Star advocates. 

Now as you build your relationship with potential Rock Stars, your needs assessment can guide you into having conversations like these with potential Rock Stars:

YOU:  "I've noticed that you're active in a number of peer or professional groups. What do you get out of those?"   
PRS (POTENTIAL ROCK STAR): "I really enjoy spending time with my professional peers. I like to help them, and they help me."
YOU: "Would you be interested in expanding your peer affiliations?" (#1, above)
There's a high likelihood she'll say yes, making her open to participating in your customer community or advisory board.
YOU: "I notice you do a good deal of blogging, and seem to have great access to information that your peers really value. You seem to like to learn, and to make your 'insider' knowledge available to others." (#2, above)
PRS: "Yes, I love being in-the-know and have cultivated a lot of sources."
YOU: "It might make sense for us to give you an early heads up when we issue new releases."
Chances are excellent he'll say yes to that, and blog or post about it your early releases to his audience.

You get the idea. For PRS's who enjoy building their reputation among their peers, it might make sense to offer to line up interviews with the media or speaking arrangements. For those who want to have a say, you might want to give them access to your product teams. And so forth.
To sum up: to land Rock Star customer advocates, there's no need to rely on legal requirements, monetary or other "market-based" incentives, asking for a favor, or crafting quid pro quo arrangements. These are, at best, boring and can undermine the very credulity of someone you want as a spokesperson and advocate. Offer the something much more exciting and valuable: a stage, a platform, insider access, an audience.Offer to help build their social capital.
All the best,
Bill Lee, President  
Customer Reference Forum  
Author of 
The Hidden Wealth of Customers (June 2012, Harvard Business Review Press)
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Reference Community Comments

agree with Bill that incentives are not needed to enlist "rock stars"

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