Reference Point
5 Things You Should Know About Marquee Customers
September 2016                                                                   Gray

Most firms get the importance of marquee customers (sometimes called "rockstars," "customer champions," "MVPs" and the like). But there's a lot of misconceptions and confusion about them. In this issue of Reference Point, we're going to clarify what you need to know about marquee customers. 

By the way, these findings come from our soon-to-be-released, groundbreaking research on "Advanced Practices in Customer Advocacy and Engagement." The full report is due for release later this month. Participating firms include Adobe, Citrix, Misys, BMC, LinkedIn, Rackspace, and several other top firms. 

Dedicated to engaging customers who dramatically increase the growth of your business, 


5 Things You Should Know About Marquee Customers 

What Marquee Customers Are and Are Not. One common misconception is that a marquee customer is a famous brand--a widely recognized "logo" firm. Not necessarily--especially if you're doing relatively marginal business with such a firm. 

The most potent marquee customers have two key traits: 

- They're highly influential in your market. A famous brand like GM will be well known to just about everyone, but won't necessarily influence buyers in your market. You want to find their peers who do influence them. 

- They're exceptionally innovative. That keeps them on the leading edge of their industry. And if you work with them, marquee customers will keep you at the forefront of your industry.


Save the date! The 2017 Summit on Customer Engagement is set for next March 7-8. We'll open early registration soon. To keep informed as our plans and agenda develop, please contact us by replying to this email. 

Advanced Practices are coming on September 15.  Stay tuned for our highly anticipated report, "Advanced Practices in Customer Advocacy and Engagement." C-suites increasingly recognize the critical importance of customer advocacy and engagement. Now they want to know, "How do we do this?" And they want proven best practices. This report will unveil those. It's based on in-depth qualitative interviews with leaders--including several Chief Marketing Officers--at top programs in the world. Participating firms include Misys, Citrix, LinkedIn, IBM, Adobe, Oracle, Salesforce, BMC, Intel, Rackspace, and several others. To keep informed when the Report is ready, please drop me a note (you can reply to this email). _____________________________________________________ 

Marquee customers create exponential growth. That is, growth in several dimensions. First, they'll buy from you. Second, if you help them innovate they'll value that hugely, and dramatically expand their purchases with you. Third, they'll have a major influence in getting others in your market to purchase. And it takes just a few of these to have a major impact on the growth of your business, an excellent example of the 80-20 (or 90-10) rule--just a few of your customer advocates have an outsize impact. Adobe, a $3B plus firm, has just 20 or so marquee customers. Salesforce, with a huge market of literally millions in its customer community, has just 145 MVPs (their term for marquees). 

It's not hard to engage marquee customers in advocacy. That is, if you choose real marquee customers (see key traits, above), and engage them in advocacy properly, it isn't hard. Marquees want you to succeed. Especially if you can develop relationships with senior management within your marquees. If you can, that means they see your solution as strategic, and they want you to keep investing in it, so they'll be inclined to refer and promote you. Two keys here are, first, respond to their input on your products and solutions. Rackspace, another participant in the advanced practices study, is diligent about responding to input from marquee customers like Southwest Air, Fidelity, Salesforce and others. Their input propelled the firm all the way from being a data storage firm to managing clients' entire cloud. 

Second, position advocacy requests based on value to them rather than a favor to you. For example, instead of asking a marquee customer to please do a case study for your next marketing campaign, ask her if there are others in her network who should know about the success she's achieving--such as her C-suite, other business divisions in the firm, or to her professional peers. That's how to get a "yes."

Marquee customers are the key to scaling customer advocacy programs. Scaling advocacy programs is a common problem in growing businesses. The way to get a handle on it is to prioritize, or "tier" customer advocates, with marquee customers at the top of the pyramid. That recognizes that customer advocates are not all created equal. Remember, you just need a few marquees, because they're extremely impactful. That's why you devote the most time and resources to those few, which often includes building personal relationships with them--to make sure you're keeping them emotionally engaged with your business and leveraging their immense potential. 

As for the other, lower-tier customer advocates--they're still important, but not nearly to the degree that marquees are, so automate those relationship as much as possible. 

Marquee customers are the foundation for engaging your C-suite. If you want to get more support and recognition--and job security!--from senior management, marquee customers can be key. Customer advocacy managers at some of the Advanced Practices firms--such as Adobe's Lisa Hanna and BMC's Kim Ellis--work closely with senior management to identify who their potential marquee customers are or should be, and how to engage them in advocacy. Advocacy programs often struggle to establish the value of their programs, but senior management--as well as their investors--implicitly gets the importance of marquee customers and will support programs that cultivate them. 

In addition, it's astonishing that in a lot of firms, no one is developing long-term relationships with marquees. Sales people and even AM's tend to be focused on the next sale, and in any case don't stay long in their jobs. Customer advocacy managers, who tend to include many relationship-oriented people, appear to spend longer times in their jobs as well. BMC's advocacy managers, for example, have been on the job for an average of 6 years each, and are more ideally suited to build deep, long-term relationships. After all, who's more interested in ensuring the success and continued well being of customers than the ones who are responsible for communicating their success to the market!
All the best,