Reference Point
a newsletter for customer reference professionals
September 2010

What ELSE could your customer reference program do?

The ways in which customer advocates or promoters can improve your business are almost limitless--and go well beyond providing traditonal sales and marketing references. To stimulate your thinking, here are some of the creative ways I've encountered where reference programs are playing new, important roles that are having substantial impact on business results.

- Improving demand generation
Intel, for example, credits well-designed testimonial videos and other customer content for an explosion in qualified lead generation from their web sites (a tenfold increase).  Within a few years, the firm expects such efforts to bring in 10% of all its new business. The key to this growth is content from its existing customers.

- Building key-customer executive relationships
The reference team at a major software firm builds their own relationships with such customers, often bypassing account reps. It is not uncommon for reference managers to introduce account reps to customer executives, rather than vice-versa.

- Providing a superior customer engagement experience that improves retention rates.
SAS Canada credits its integrated customer engagement efforts--which include a combination of reference program, user groups, key account management and communities--with restoring its lagging customer retention rates from 88% to a near perfect 98%.

- Automating customer content generation.
A growing number of firms including Hewlett-Pachard, Hitachi Data Systems, EMC, Symantec and others are making rapid progress in automating creation of highly effective yet relatively inexpensive customer marketing content. And they're getting much of the content from "the other 90%" of customers who don't participate in ordinary reference activities.  

- Improving early adapter rates.
A mid-sized enterprise software firm's customer reference program recruits key customer references into product upgrade launches. The result has been substantial improvements to new product adoption.

- Helping to launch "solutions selling" efforts
One of the most lucrative and difficult transitions a firm can make is from selling products to mid-level technology users to selling solutions to senior decision-maker buyers. A mid-sized engineering software firm is making this transition and its customer reference program is playing a key role in the process. For example, they are using case study development to uncover the financial impact of products on current customers, extract the competencies needed to achieve such impacts, and then use that knowledge to train the firm's sales people to sell solutions to higher level executive buyers.

- Improving strategy through engagement with executive customers
Engaging with key-customer executives can be particularly lucrative for B2B firms. Studies by the Geehan Group show that firms that specifically target decision makers in customer engagement programs achieve customer retention rates of 90% (vs. 72% for those who don't) and account growth of 12% (vs. 4%).  Most remarkably, customer executives who are so engaged are far more likely to participate in referral activities: 94% vs. 28%.  Reference programs can clearly play a vital role in developing these relationships, as for example, CA Technology's Flagship program does.

- Improved R&D and new product development
By skillfully engaging in strategy discussions with key customer executives on its Executive Advisory Boards, Harris Broadcast was able to generate 50% of its revenue from products developed during a difficult 24-month period when the economy was tanking.

- Gaining greater penetration into existing customer accounts
Reference programs can provide considerable value by getting referrals to other key users of their firm's solutions, developing relationships with them, and encouraging them to join the reference program as well. These sorts of referral relationships don't have to stop with acquiring new references.  Why not uncover new buyers while you're at it?

These are just a few of the creative ways that customer references and reference programs are helping firms improve performance.

What are some creative new ways your reference program might make a major impact on your business? By the way, feel free to share these with me and we'll let the community know.

All the best,

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- Join our Linkedin community
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- Jobs: Who's Hiring? Who's seeking a position?


March 1-2, 2011
San Mateo, CA, USA

Save the date. We're expanding our premier event for Customer Reference and other Customer Engagement Professionals to include keynotes by leading executives and thought leaders in the profession, together with in-depth tracks on Customer Reference Programs, Communities and Social Media, and Customer Advisory Boards and Executive Forums.

Plan to join your peers from many of the leading B2B firms in the world:
* Network, build relationships, and learn best practices from your peers.
* Get answers to your toughest challenges from experienced reference pros.
* Learn how leading firms integrate their reference, communities, social media and advisory board programs for maximum leverage.
* Learn how to get budget, resources and respect from senior management.
* Learn about vendor offerings in a no-sales, non-threatening environment.
* Just getting started? We'll have a special track for you.
. . . and much more.

Registration will open later this month. To keep informed as our plans progress, please drop me an email (you can reply to this) with "keep me informed of the 2011 Summit" in the subject line.)


Is it time to take your customer reference program to the next level? Having trouble getting there?  Bill Lee brings Customer Reference Forum's knowledge, research capabilities, and the most extensive network of reference professionals and suppliers in the world, onsite to you. Currently we're offering two workshops (with more on the way):

- Building a Just-in-Time Reference Capability
- Bringing Customers Into Your Social Media and Lead Generation Efforts

Learn more.

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 330+ 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.

For the Boston Customer Reference quarterly meetings schedule, please check with Kara Manfredi for updated information, at karaManfredi@deltek.com

To follow and attend the San Francisco/Silicon Valley Customer References Council, you can go to their new LinkedIn community site (just copy and paste "San Francisco/Silicon Valley Customer Reference Council" into the LinkedIn search engine for "Groups").

For the next Bay Area Reference Group Meeting please send an email (and please include your title) to amy.shever@sap.com.


For information on who is hiring and to apply, please click here.

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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