Reference Point:
Getting More Budget: Lessons from Lead Gen

DECEMBER 2015                                                                    Gray

 Companies have poured billions of dollars into lead generation programs over the past 15 years or so. But now customer advocacy, and in particular customer content, is primed to win a large share of these budgets. The reason is obvious. In the age of the empowered buyer, customer (peer) content is king. And the success of lead gen programs to win big budgets provides a great template for showing customer advocacy leaders how to win big budgets too.

Here are a few tips for showing you how, with guidance from Citrix, which does this as well as anyone I've seen.
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Focus your metrics on revenue impact. (Yes, you can!)
We all know it's very hard to show direct impact of references and advocacy in general, on revenue. Many customer advocacy programs have more or less given up trying, and focus on metrics related to advocate activities (so many case studies created) or reference asset utilization (so many reference calls completed). Don't. Senior executives won't fund that. Take a page from lead gen and focus on your sales pipeline (or in today's terms, the buyer's journey). Then get creative.

Lee Rubin, Senior Manager of Global Reference Programs at Citrix, did just that.  When the firm had a user conference coming up in Barcelona a few years ago, he looked through the list of attendees and cross referenced it with a list of "sales opportunities," listed by sales as having 60% or greater likelihood of closing: that came to 36 who had registered to attend.
He then invited them to a special Customer Reference Forum event at the conference. 20 attended. Of those, 85% closed deals within four weeks of the event, generating $1.5M in revenue, and another $425K in new pipeline, for a total of $1.925M.

That got the attention of senior management, which lead to discussions--and more budget.

Follow lead gen's path.
Now look at your sales pipeline/buyer's journey and start measuring things you do that are relevant to that. No, you won't get direct correlations with closed deals, but the fact that you're tracking buyer and sales activity related to your customer content and other advocacy assets, will get attention.

Lee did this in a straightforward way, by following lead gen's lead, so to speak. He collected data on which reference assets buyers were consuming, as well as which assets sales was requesting and presumably passing along to buyers. He then totaled up how much revenue--as well how much pipeline (new business opportunities)--these prospects generated. Lee reported that such asset consumption "influenced" the purchases of such customers, a reasonable conclusion.

Lee was expecting a total influence on purchases somewhere in the low millions of dollars. To his astonishment, total influence the first year (2013) was more than $200M! The following year, it would be $500M. That led to more senior management engagement, and more budget.

Develop robust data.
 Notice in the above: you'll need robust, trustworthy data. To get that, you'll need to create a self-service reference/advocacy platform that sales and marketing must use--no excuses. Which means you must have a platform that sales and marketing are excited about using, which can only be done by working with sales and marketing to build and refine it.

One key aspect of this is staying abreast of the ways sales is selling. For example, today they must be able to access the customer content they need on mobile devices. Sales also needs search capabilities that really do give them the reference/advocacy content appealing to the particular prospect they're working with--that is, content appropriate to her industry, the problem she's trying to solve, her "stage" in her buyer's journey, etc.

Go granular.
Once you get to the point you can show the influence of your program on sales, then go granular. Start tracking the impact of individual assets. Also track where--at which stage of the buyer's journey--are they most effective. This is the approach lead gen programs take, recognizing that they create important value not just when they close deals, but when they move buyers further along in their journeys.

For example, Lee is now building a customer content "showroom" that helps uncover which content is more valuable, and when in the buyer's journey, and makes recommendations to help sales leverage that knowledge. For example, for prospects at the 10% (early) stage of buying, short videos are particularly effective. At the 25% (more likely to buy) stage, infographics and eStudies are effective. And so forth.

For years, led gen programs have landed huge budgets. Today, customer reference and advocacy programs own the content and interactions buyers most want to consume. It's now a short step to adopt the lead gen approach toward getting those big budgets your program needs and deserves.

All the best,

Bill Lee

Center for Customer Engagement (C4CE) | +1 214.907.5600 | |
3225 Turtle Creek Blvd
Suite 1801
Dallas, TX 75219