Reference Point
a newsletter for customer reference professionals
October 2009
How are you engaging customer references emotionally? There is growing interest in - and evidence of - the value of developing strong emotional bonds with customers. Gone is the notion that customers - even B2B customers - engage with companies primarily for rational reasons. Researchers at the Gallup organization believe that "more than two-thirds of consumer loyalty and spending decisions are based on emotional factors." See here.
Getting such emotional attachment won't just improve your reference program. It will also contribute to overall firm success. In a series of studies, Gallup has found that businesses that optimize customer engagement outperform their competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth. Their customers buy more, spend more, return more often, and stay longer.

Reference programs are in an excellent position to help build those emotional bonds. Often the "relationship owner" is a sales or account management (AM), who gives their closest attention to customers when they want to sell them something. Reference managers, on the other hand, have an interest in keeping customers engaged and connected consistently - it's in your interest. What we're learning is that this will not only be good for your program, but also for your firm's growth and profitability. 

Here are some tips for keeping customer references emotionally engaged:
Avoid obvious turn offs
Examples are asking for reference commitments up front upon signing the contract (the only exception here is to tie reference commitments to performance goals), engaging with customers only when you want references, relying on rewards and gifts to keep references happy (not to be confused with thoughtful, appropriate gifts to show appreciation, while relying on performance to keep them happy).
Learn and care about their issues and problems
Former Motorola CIO Patty Morrison calls this one of the first tests she applies in deciding whether to build a relationship with a vendor representative - including the reference manager. Think this is outside the scope of your responsibility? See how SumTotal Systems' Kathryn Perkins used that approach to build her refererence program and raise its visibility and importance both within the firm and with customers. 

Tie customer reference deliverables to regular performance reviews
Someone such as the customer's AM engages in regular performance reviews to make sure that the customer is receiving the value promised. That's the time to discuss references because it tells the customer you care, and the reference activities that naturally flow from such discussions can be exciting. In areas where delivery excels, for example, suggest doing a white paper or case study that would prominently feature the customer's role in the success. In areas where delivery is falling short, AMs are sometimes negligent in getting the problem corrected. Offer to step into the breach (as Kathryn did at SumTotal.)
Understand the customer reference's emotional drivers
What's her personality type? Is she a Driver? Analytical? Expressive? Amiable? Different types respond to different approaches and have different emotional triggers. Here's a useful checklist.  An Expressive, for example, loves the spotlight and will likely be excited about getting up on stage or in the media with his success story. A Driver may be ambitious to raise her professional stature, which can guide you in developing reference opportunities that will excite her.
Integrate references with other customer engagement programs
This will allow you to provide more options to customers - not just referencing, but other activities such as advisory boards, customer communities, user groups, customer events, etc. Such integration clearly creates better opportunities to leverage key customers. But, it also deepens emotional ties to your firm. SAS Canada's Wally Thiessen, who heads up customer programs, has taken this approach. Customer engagement at SAS is 50% higher in Canada than a comparable region that has not been able to achieve significant integration. And it's leading to improved business performance, as the Gallup studies suggest: customer retention rates - once a strong point for SAS Canada that began falling off earlier in the decade, have risen steadily since Wally and his team began integrating key customer engagement programs.

All the best,

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- Summit on Customer Engagement in Boston
- 2010 Customer Reference Forum
- Join our Linkedin community
- New Research: How Effective is Your Customer Engagement?
- Local meetings of reference professionals
- Jobs: Who's Hiring? Who's seeking a position?
2009 SUMMIT ON CUSTOMER ENGAGEMENT (Invite your boss!)
October 20-21 (opening reception, October 19, 7pm)
Boston, MA, USA

You still have time to join Customer Reference and other Customer Engagement professionals - along with senior marketing executives - from Intel, EMC, SAS, Wells Fargo, AT&T, Microsoft, RIM/Blackberry, AmerisourceBergen, Hewlett-Packard, Harris Broadcast Corporation, Hitachi Data Systems, National Instruments, Citrix Systems, Infor, Kronos, Siemens PLM, Lexmark International and dozens of other top firms. Learn how senior executives value your reference program and, in detailed case studies, how other reference programs are achieving that value.

And as a Reference Point subscriber you can still save $75 off the registration fee, there are also additional discounts if you have attended a previous event, are sending 3 or more people from your firm to the event or are a client of one of our sponsors - each qualifies for an additional $75 off for up to a total of $300 in savings.

Featured presenters
Register now
February 23-24
Bay Area, CA (Location to be finalized soon)

Mark your calendars and submit your travel requests!

Early Registration is now open.

For practitioners only. Exchange ideas and best practices with peers, get your questions answered quickly, expand your network. This recently launched community is already up to 200 members. If you're not a member, join us - just reply to this email "sign me up for your Linkedin community" in the subject line.
Our new research group, Customer Strategy Group, is partnering with Forrester Research, the BMA (Business Marketing Association) and  ITSMA (The IT Services Marketing Association) on this new research project. The report will be presented to and made available to attendees at the October Summit and is a $495 value (to be available to non-attendees after the event).


The Boston Area Reference Professionals Group  The next Boston area reference meeting will be on Friday November 13th from 9:30-12:30, EDT at Dassault Systemes located in Lowell, MA. Topics will be starting a reference program from scratch, a review of Boulder Logic Software and a review of the October Summit on Customer Engagement in Boston. If you are interested in attending this meeting please contact Kara Manfredi at karamanfredi@deltek.com. If you are not located in the Boston Area and would still like to join, please let Kara know as some members are located in other states. Attendees have the option to dial into the meeting.

The next Bay Area Reference Group Meeting will take place November 17th in San Jose. Meetings are open to senior-level customer marketing managers. Vendors are invite-only and space is limited!  If you are interested in attending, please send an email (and include your title) to amy.shever@sap.com.

Who's Hiring

Quantum Corporation has an immediate opening available for a Public Relations and Customer Reference Manager in San Jose, CA.

DSI, is seeking a contract to hire Sr Customer Reference Program Manager at their Alameda, CA offices.

McAfee, Inc, is seeking the right candidate for a part-time contract position as a customer reference recruiter in their Santa Clara, CA offices.

inEvidence, the customer reference specialist is seeking a bright Manchester-UK-based account manager with customer advocacy experience to join their fast-growing team.For more information on these positions, click here.

In addition follow this link to view an open position for an IT EMEA B2B Marcoms Manager at DayJob.com

Who's Seeking a Position?

Barbara Goldsmith is seeking a contract position, either part or full-time, in the customer reference field.  Barbara has 10 years of experience as a customer reference project manager outreaching to clients' customers in the high tech industry. Most recently Barbara has managed  the customer reference initiative for some of Oracle's recent acquisitions. Her experience includes outreaching to a client's customers, engaging  customers in reference activities such as case studies, success stories, customer quotes, press and analyst briefings, speaking engagements, etc. in support of particular products a customer purchased.  Customer reference opportunities showcased how various products solved a business problem, the benefit received, and cost savings to the business as a result. To see her resume, please click on her name.

Chris Jennings, who formerly managed i2 Technologies' customer reference program, is seeking a new customer programs position. During his seven years at i2, he facilitated over 1,500 references, enrolled over 200 of i2's 380 maintenance paying customers into the reference program and helped close nearly $75M in new business. In addition, he established numerous senior level relationships with many of the worlds best Fortune 500 companies. Chris is based in Connecticut and can be reached on his mobile phone at 203-895-2026 or chris_jennings22@yahoo.com. To view his resume, please click on his name.

Mary Olian, who formerly managed the client reference  program worldwide for IBM's InfoSphere brand, is seeking a full-time or consulting position. Mary is an accomplished marketing professional with expertise  in developing and executing marketing programs aligned with corporate  objectives across multiple organizations and distribution channels worldwide. She is known for leveraging persuasive communications with customers to secure their participation in reference activities, to help drive sales growth, demand generation, and brand awareness. Mary can be reached at maryolian@gmail.com. To view her resume, please click on her name above.

Laurene Price is seeking a part-time consulting or permanent position in the Customer Reference Management field. Laurene's experience includes working with customers and sales teams to develop and maintain references, creating systems requirements for reference reporting systems, and acting as a point of contact within the company for reference data and policies. To see her resume, please click on her name.

We can let our community of more than 1000+ reference pros know about your position opening. To post a job (for now, this service is free), please click here.

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