Reference Point

January 2016                                                                     Gray

2016 will usher us into The Age of Peer Power. Like minded people with common interests are taking control from the organizations that serve them and banding together to achieve mutual goals. And that includes empowered buyers and customers--who increasingly want to seek each other out.

Readers of this newsletter (like you) are sitting right in the center of The Age of Peer Power. Below are the key trends shaping the success of top customer engagement and advocacy programs in 2016. They'll be the focus of the 2016 Summit on Customer Engagement--and they should be the focus of your program this year.
Early Registration is Open: The 2016 Summit on Customer Engagement will be March 1-2, 2016 in Redwood City, CA. Register now to save $200.

If you're sending your team (5 or more) contact me directly for additional discounts.

Deep Dive Workshop: Competing for Customers: How the Best Companies Use Customer Success to Deliver Results That Matter
led by Carol Sato, VP, Global Customer Programs, Oracle, and Amir Hartman, Founder, Mainstay, on  

Advanced Practices Track: Reimagining an Award Winning Customer Advocacy Program For Today's Social World
by Lee Rubin, Sr. Manager, Global Reference Programs, Citrix

Register now (save $200)
Learn more.


Click here for my executive-level
Top 10 Trends in Business Growth for 2016, which you can share with your senior management.

In 2016 leading customer advocacy and engagement programs will increasingly:
1. Look to demand gen as a powerful model.
Over the last decade and a half, with the rise of the Internet as a primary communication tool, large budgets flowed into demand generation programs. The best demand gen programs did a superb job of building systems and data analytics to capitalize on that trend. Now in The Age of Peer Power--which we'll explore in depth at the 2016 Summit--top customer advocacy and engagement programs are applying important lessons learned from their demand gen colleagues. So should you. Several of the trends below build on this idea.
2. Map the customer-engagement journey.
The Buyer's Decision Journey (and variations thereof) developed by SiriusDecisions, McKinsey, Forrester and others enables powerful, customer-focused demand gen campaigns. Leading firms will build and perfect a similar model for moving customers through the post-sale "engagement" journey, moving them through these phases:
 - Loyal customer
- Customer reference (willing to take reference calls)
- Customer advocate (interested in participating in broader advocacy efforts such as media interviews, speaking and so forth)
- Customer contributor (participates in communities, advisory boards, forums, and so forth)
- Customer evangelist (proactively promotes and defends the brand).
Among other things, this will help improve data collection and analysis, dramatically elevating the professionalism of the field.
3. Develop customer-engagement personas.
Buyer personas provide effective shorthand for tailoring demand gen campaigns to different types of buyers. Customer engagement programs will get equally sophisticated about developing customer-engagement personas to tailor their advocacy and engagement offerings to customers. This approach is already unlocking huge value at companies like IBM, Salesforce, Cirix and others who realize the futility, for example, of hammering happy customers with reference calls they find boring or a waste of time, when the same customer might love to get interviewed by industry media or speak at conferences.
4. Lead the charge into technology's next frontier: rich data for the entire customer journey.
Demand gen programs have developed robust data for moving prospects through the buyer's journey. But false and dysfunctional divisions remain between prospect and customer, and between customer and advocate. Leading firms will continue to sweep these distinctions away in 2016, realizing that the buyer-customer-advocate (who is, after all, one person!) needs a single view of the company in all phases of the customer journey.

What typically happens is, after communicating regularly with prospects through the buyer's journey, laggard companies shut down communication after purchase on anything not involving delivery of products and services. "We don't want to bother the customers," goes the feeling. Leading companies in 2016 will realize that customers want more communication and interaction--especially with other customers--through advisory boards, events, forums,  customer communities and the like. Technology can help this along by developing rich data for moving customers into these engagement opportunities.

5. Get more sophisticated with their measures.
Customer reference managers for years have looked for metrics showing direct impact on purchases and revenues. That didn't happen--which often results in defaulting to the use of irrelevant metrics such as reference asset utilization or reference activities. But there are ways to develop metrics that senior management cares about.

Here are two examples.
Engaged customers are more valuable--before they even start advocating. Leading customer advocacy and engagement programs in 2016 will start with a powerful base of value: customers who participate in these programs become more valuable themselves as customers-before they even start generating new business for you. Customers who engage in advocacy programs tend to be more profitable than those who don't. Same goes for customers who engage in peer communities like advisory boards or user groups. Leading engagement programs in 2016 will track this value and report it, easing the way for them to develop advocacy and engagement initiatives that don't always present immediate payoffs.
Influence counts. And of course such customers will provide references, speak to industry groups, interview with the media, provide high-value input into your product roadmaps, and so forth. Showing direct impact on revenue is rarely possible. But leading programs in 2016 will continue to find metrics that are possible and do impress the C-suite. For example, prospects who consume customer content or interactions can be tracked, resulting in perfectly persuasive metrics that show "influence" if not direct causation--which is plenty (as it should be) for senior management to authorize necessary budgets for them.
6. Strengthen their links to demand gen programs.
Not only can customer advocacy and engagement learn from demand gen, leading programs will get better at integrating the two. Here's one example. As I've preached about for more than a year--and as more companies are realizing--demand gen campaigns need to emphasize fewer communications from corporate, and more interactions with and communications from customers. I can vouch from my own interactions with senior management at clients; they get the importance of doing this.
Savvy customer advocacy programs in 2016 will run with this concept. They'll create  (largely customer-based) campaigns designed to better match the buyer's journey, by providing buyers with more content and interactions that they crave--with your customers.
7. Move toward taking a seat at the HEAD of the table for the entire customer experience.
Leading firms increasingly see the disconnect between the ideal of striving to create a great, holistic customer experience, yet placing the responsibility for that in the hands of a sales organization driven by commissions. The organization best equipped to take responsibility for the entire CX is your advocacy and engagement program: they don't work on commissions, and they are more interested than anyone in creating great, holistic customer stories.
Chris Adlard's customer advocacy program is moving increasingly into that position at Misys. Also, Adobe is adopting this approach in a particularly interesting and powerful way: Adobe's advocacy program is being moved into the firm's HR function, the idea being that the organization responsible for creating a great employee experience is in the best position to create a great customer experience as well.
All the best,

Bill Lee

Center for Customer Engagement (C4CE) | +1 214.907.5600 | bill@c4ce.com | http://www.c4ce.com/
3225 Turtle Creek Blvd
Suite 1801
Dallas, TX 75219