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Reference Point 
December, 2012                                      Gray
Hi Bill,

In this month's issue:
  • CUSTOMER REFERENCE PROGRAMS AND NEW MARKETING, Part 2
  • Info and initiatives to keep you abreast of New Marketing
  • Update on the 2013 Summit
CUSTOMER REFERENCE PROGRAMS AND NEW MARKETING

Second of a two-part series
 
Last month's issue provided a battery of evidence and resources you can use to build the case for the critical importance of your customer references and advocates in 2013. Use these in your communications with stakeholders and senior management at your firm--trust me, they'll find it compelling. When I presented it to the Forrester Research Technology Marketing Council in San Francisco recently, the CMOs and other senior marketing executives in the audience loved it. All but one attendee found the information valuable--more than half of those found it "very valuable,"the highest rating.

 

In this issue, I'll give you 5 key steps for using the evidence and resources from last month's issue to position your customer reference and/or advocacy program as a central player in this new world of marketing.
Read why reference programs are becoming increasingly important. Share with your sr. leaders. 

"I want to personally thank you for the work you do. "Marketing is Dead" haa profoundly impacted how our marketing leadership views the work I do." 
Deena Zenyk, 

Marketing Manager, Customer Advocacy Programs, SMART Technologies


Learn to Speak the Language of the C-Suite
 To make this case, you have to speak the language of the C-suite. No more bringing a PPT deck that's all about your reference program, number of references, number of reference requests filed, customer content assets created, etc.
 
Instead you must start with their agenda--those of your CEO as well as your most important executive sponsor. Most likely, at or near the top of their agenda is "growth." Do some more digging and you'll learn more specifics about their growth goals. These might include better new product launches, penetration of new markets, or perhaps shoring up declining retention rates.  
 
Make the case that customer advocacy--with your reference program at the center--are keys to growth today,using the research from last month's issue. Also use case studies not only from within your firm (if you have them), but also from other companies, showing how customer references have helped generate leads, launch new products, penetrate unfamiliar new markets, boost sagging retention rates and the like. This will position you as an expert in the field. (I've compiled dozens of such case studies--feel free to contact me on this.)
 
Place Your Reference Program in the Larger Context of Customer Advocacy
"Customer advocacy" means the full range of activities customers can do to market and sell your business. In addition to traditional references, these include referrals, co-marketing, participating in your communities, advocating and defending you online and in the media, speaking on your behalf at your events or other events, posting favorable reviews, spreading word of mouth, responding to surveys or "challenges," and so on--the possibilities are numerous and growing in number. It's the most innovative area in marketing today.
 
If you can only talk about "our reference program," you'll get left behind in this new world. If you can talk about business growth in today's world, and how customer advocacy is critical to it (with your reference program playing key roles in this) you'll thrive.
 
Make the Case For Playing a Central Role 
Why can reference programs play a central role in this new world? There are lots of reasons. Better than anyone else in your organization:
  • You know how to build the relationships with such customers.
  • You know how to draw out the real value they receive from your products and services
  • You own the data on them and know how to manage it.
  • You  (or at least, many of your peers) know how to draw information from them of critical importance to your firm, such as how they're really using your product or service, when they're unhappy with something they won't reveal to their account manager, and the like.  

Make this case, and reinforce it when you communicate with your senior management and other stakeholders. 

 
Provide a Vision of the Future
There is a great deal of uncertainty in C-suites around the world--and possibly in your firm as well--about how to grow businesses in this new world, where buyers are increasingly using their own resources and networks to check you out, bypassing your marketing and sales departments. How do you grow a business in such an environment?
 
But the future isn't really that hard to see--and you (yes, you!) can provide them a compelling vision. Buyers are increasingly recreating the community buying experience we naturally use in our local neighborhoods and associations. What do we do when we buy a new smart phone, laptop, refrigerator, a new roof for the house, find a family doctor, and so forth? We don't go looking for sales people to talk to or marketing materials to read. We ask our friends, neighbors, colleagues--our peers--"what are you using?" Forward thinking firms aren't fighting this phenomenon. They're helping buyers recreate this community buying experience, even on a global scale. For more on this, see my article, Marketing is Dead (in the right margin).
 
Keep Abreast of Innovation and New Technology
Finally, customer reference practitioners must keep up with their field. It's an area of great innovation today. Venture funding for exciting new technologies is coming into the area. We're planning research this year with SiriusDecisions and the CMO Council. IBM has published research in the area of customer advocacy--which Katharyn White, IBM"s head of marketing for its global business services unit--will share with us at the Summit. You can find more research in last month's Reference Point.
 
It's an exciting time to be in customer reference management--and somewhat scary as well.  But if you adapt along the lines suggested above, you'll not only thrive, you'll find that the the sky is the limit.  
 
All the best,

Bill
Bill Lee, President
Customer Reference Forum
Author of
The Hidden Wealth of Customers (June 2012, Harvard Business Review Press)
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LinkedIn (connect with me)
LinkedIn Community (connect with other reference professionals)
ABOUT THE 2013 SUMMIT ON CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT
March 5-6
Redwood City, CA USA
 
Our primary objective at the 2013 Summit is to give you the resources you need to excel in the areas I just described above. 
 
Early registration is still open. To take advantage of the $200 early registration discount, please click here. For those sending 3 or more, additional discounts are available (contact me directly).

 

Now in our ninth year of presenting the world's leading conference on customer references and advocacy, we'll bring you all the benefits from those years of experience and a global community of some 2,500 members.

 

Our Theme: Customer References and the New Marketing 

Customer advocacy--with customer reference programs playing a central role--is increasingly seen as the future of marketing. Those of us in this profession are experiencing an explosion in innovation, technology and creative solutions in the field. We'll keep you ahead of the curve. 


Learn Best Practices and New Ideas, Selected From Our Community of 2,500 Customer Reference and Advocacy Practitioners
We'll keep you abreast of latest trends and best practices, with 8 breakout sessions by leading edge practitioners--your peers in the field. I personally vet each and every one of these. We'll also give you free access to all 11 webinars in our Master Class Series on Customer Reference Programs. That's 19 total presentations. And don't forget our deep-dive, two hour workshops covering important challenges in customer reference and advocacy management.

Gain Unmatched Insight Into How a Passionate C-Level Executive Leverages Customer Advocates  

Our keynoter is Chuck Ball, who runs AmerisourceBergen's multi-billion dollar health services business and is passionate about the value of cultivating and deploying customer references and advocates. When it comes to building senior management support for your program, you'll learn how to speak the language of the C-suite.

   

We've found at the Summit that when our participants get the strategic perspective of C-level executives like Chuck--in addition to the latest information on customer reference program tools and implementation from practitioners--they have a better understanding of what's important to focus on, and avoid getting overwhelmed by the details. 

 

Gain Key Insights on Trends in Customer Advocacy From IBM's Famed Global Services Research  
Katharyn White, who runs marketing for IBM's Global Services business, will present key findings from its respected CEO and CMO studies on why and how companies are moving toward a model of customer advocacy. Katharyn not only knows the trends, she's also on the forefront of implementing these for IBM Global Services itself.




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