Reference Point
TAKE Your Seat At the Table

NOVEMBER 2015                                                                    Gray

Running an effective customer reference, advocacy or related engagement program requires collaboration with a lot of stakeholders. And the most important of them--like sales, field marketing, account managers, social media and of course, the C-suite--have zero patience for anything that's not highly relevant to them. Many of you struggle with getting their cooperation or even attention. Some of you depend on the proverbial executive sponsor to get their respect on your behalf.

I suggest that it's time to TAKE your seat at the table, and stop overly depending on others. Below are a few tips to help you do so when you get (take!) the opportunity to present to important stakeholders.
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Mindset: Own Your Resource.
On principle, most enlightened stakeholders get the concept that great customer stories are the lifeblood of any company today. Own the fact that you and your team are the ones who build the relationships with the customers who have the best stories to tell. You know those stories best and are doing the most to help these customers tell them. So begin with that mindset.
Present Your Program As If You're From the C-suite: Part 1.
When invited to present to an important stakeholder, I often see customer advocacy managers come with a deck that is basically "all about our advocacy program," including its history, number of customers in the program, activities they're engaged in, etc. This approach will start "thumbs flying" under the table, as listeners zone out and start checking their emails.

Start your presentation instead with two slides: the first should make clear that you're here to talk about the company's strategy.

The second shows which part of the strategy you're addressing, which of course is the part that's directly relevant to your audience. Here's a good "process visual" that will help you describe your firm's strategy briefly, which you can frame as the "CUSTOMER JOURNEY." For this example, the relevant part of the strategy is "Penetrating developing markets." If you start a presentation in this way, and your audience is under the gun to make some portion of this strategy work, trust me, you'll get their attention.

Present Your Program As If You're From the C-suite: Part 2.
Then for your next slide, show the "gaps" in the current strategy that are relevant to your audience. If you're talking to field marketing people, and there's a gap in the "creating awareness" in the early part of the Buyer's Journey, then show that, as follows. If you're talking to product people and there's an issue with "quality," show that. That will really get their attention. You've started your presentation with an issue that's keeping them up at night. Instead of checking emails, they'll be thinking, "OK, does she have something fresh to say we haven't thought of?--I'm all ears!"

Rebrand Yourself.
In general, move away from describing yourself as "the reference manager," or "customer communities director." These are programs. Describe yourself as a SOLUTION that's relevant to your audience. "I'm in the business of grabbing the attention and awareness of new prospects using our one resource that they're most interested in hearing from (customers who are peers to the prospect)." Or, "we're in the business of substantially raising the percentage of deal closes."
Whatever your struggles are in engaging critical stakeholders, it's not because you don't have something valuable to offer--customer advocates are increasingly the coin of the realm for building businesses these days. Your problem may be much simpler: not "speaking the language" of your stakeholder. These tips will help you quickly correct that.
All the best,

Bill Lee

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

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