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The OTHER 90%

Posted by Bill Lee on January 15, 2014 at 03:25 PM

from the January issue of Reference Point.

As you kick off 2014, spend a few minutes thinking about this: there is much more value to be harvested from customer references and advocates. Indeed, they represent the most dynamic area in marketing today.

I call this "The OTHER 90%" and you can liken it to the computers in our lives: our smart phones, our laptops, our tablets. We're tapping maybe 5 to 10% of their enormous power. And something like that is going on right now with customer advocates and references. We're tapping maybe 10% of their enormous potential to create sustainable growth for our companies. 

Here are a few examples of how customer programs are tapping some of that other 90% as we speak (some of which will be presenting at the 2014 Summit on Customer Engagement). This is so important that we're making this the theme of this year's Summit.

 Some examples:

The Expanding Role of Customer Advocates

Companies are increasingly using customer references and advocates throughout the buyer's decision journey--not just toward the end when the deal is ready to close. In fact, customer advocates increasingly play an important role after the sale into the post-sale customer lifecycle. Sirius Decisions is compiling significant research on this (and will present it at the Summit), and we're preparing a workshop that will provide tools and processes for bringing references into these important areas of marketing and customer relationship building--unlocking part of that "other 90%."

 Capitalizing on "Yelpification"

On the buyers side of the equation, the Yelpification (also here and here) of business means that buyers increasingly expect and demand to hear from customers during their buying process. Independent organizations (like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, IT Station, and many others) that help buyers do this are proliferating. Which  means that companies must get proficient at getting customer advocates into these conversations. Cisco, Cisco for example, is using the "Internet of Everything" to help their references do so using social media, forums, user groups, online communities and so forth-again, unlocking more of that  "other 90%."

 Providing Advocates When and Where They're Needed

Related to that, companies like SAP are developing apps to push robust reference information to field sales people, making it accessible to them at the point of sale. This will free them from having to say the dreaded "I'll get back to you on that" when a prospect asks for references, which can stall or kill a deal. And thus unlocking more value from references.

 Using Advocates to Create Movements

Apptio is unlocking new value from its customer advocates by marshalling them to create a social movement in the firm's market. This is a major step forward from the passive approach of having customers passively respond to reference or advocacy requests. It's also a step beyond traditional marketing's approach of having agencies, marketing communications, and sales trying to persuade buyers to take action. Apptio is tapping into a deep human motivator: peer influence (or "positive peer pressure")--a far more natural and effective way to persuade or "move" buyers. And of course, you have only one resource that is peer to the buyer--your customer advocates. Exciting stuff. And more (much more) unlocked value from advocates. 

Getting Robust Advocacy From Marquee Brand Customers. No, Really.

Everyone covets advocacy from marquee customers. But many struggle with this, due to customer policies against doing so or enormous hurdles imposed by marquee customers when they do agree to do so. This was the subject of a panel at the 2013 Summit. But some companies manage to break through and win robust advocacy efforts from big name firms. This year, we'll go into depth at the Summit about how one company, Citrix, manages to pull this off with marquee brand customers like JP Morgan, Aetna Insurance, Deutsche Bank, the Department of Veterans Affairs and more--unlocking tremendous value from a class of customer advocates that many firms aren't harvesting.


In 2014, as we progress into the age of Yelpification, it's going to be an important year to tap new, often latent, value from your customer advocates. It's a good year to start tapping "the OTHER 90%."



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