The Music Lounge - Eat, Drink and be Merry
Reference Point 
February 2013                                      Gray
Hi Bill,
In this month's issue: 
  • The Level 4 Customer Value Proposition (The Secret to Filling Your Reference Pipeline and Avoiding Burnout)
  • Update on the 2013 Summit on Customer Engagement (we're filling fast)
The Secret to Filling Your Reference Pipeline and Avoiding Burnout
'How do we keep our reference and advocacy pipeline full?" and "How do we avoid reference burnout?" are two of the most common questions I hear.

The short answer to these is to make it worthwhile, even compelling, for customers to engage in reference activities. But let me be clear: resorting to incentives, discounts, special deals, freebies, extravagant gifts, and the like are NOT what I have in mind. Such things can seriously undermine the integrity of the reference process. How would you feel if a colleague recommended a cell phone service to you, and you found out later he was being compensated to do so?

Companies who succeed at getting customers to do amazing feats of referencing and advocating are doing so by reinventing the customer value proposition: they're developing what I call a Level 4 Customer Value Proposition. Here I'll outline what this means with a few examples. I've also includes some graphics in my blog posting of this issue of Reference Point, here
Btw, I've presented this to several executive audiences recently--at forum's like Forrester's Technology Marketing Council in San Francisco, an invitation-only Executive Breakfast at the US Net Promoter Score Summit in Miami, and at a meeting of the Dallas Chapter of MENG (Marketing Executives Networking Group), as well as posting on this on the Harvard Business Review site (from which this article is adopted)--and it was greeted with great enthusiasm. Feel free to use this post and the graphics on my blog in your own communications with your boss and senior management (with proper attribution).
Read why reference programs are becoming increasingly important. Share with your sr. leaders. 

"I want to personally thank you for the work you do. "Marketing is Dead" haa profoundly impacted how our marketing leadership views the work I do." 
Deena Zenyk, 

Marketing Manager, Customer Advocacy Programs, SMART Technologies

Here's how the progression to Level 4 works, and I think you'll see why this is both effective at getting customers passionate about advocating while preserving the integrity of the process.
At Level 1. . .
Buyers perceive you as the supplier of a commodity. They're entirely price sensitive. And more companies are at this level than think they are. Think PC makers, who load their computers with features and functionality believing they're adding value and creating differentiation. In fact, the vast majority of their customers not only don't care about such features, but find that all the clutter detracts from the user experience.

At Level 2, 
Buyers perceive you as helping them get a job done. They associate your product or service with their desired outcome, and the fact that you help them achieve that in some way that makes you stand out. Significantly (and ironically) companies that reach Level 2 often remove features or functionality that competitors provide. Think Apple, or Southwest Airlines, or for a more recent example, Zipcar.

At Level 3, 
You engage the customer emotionally, which strengthens loyalty and retention. And here's where it gets interesting. Some firms have such great offerings (at least, great compared to the competition) that their products or services alone are enough to create significant emotional attachment, again, such as Apple and Southwest (when I fly Southwest, I can actually feel my blood pressure drop as I interact with their friendly people.)

But not everyone can create such awesome products or services - and even when you do, maintaining that emotional connection through your products and services may be fleeting. (With TiVo, for instance, customers have come to rely on the service so much, they don't even think about it.) Firms that excel in the new world are discovering that they can create strong emotional attachment by moving to the next level...

At Level 4, 
You're helping customers build their social capital - that is, helping them to build and expand valuable support groups and communities.

Helping customers build social capital may seem far removed from the concerns a competitive business--or a customer reference program--should occupy itself with. But think about it: these days, buyers and prospects are open to receiving, and are even seeking, information from your customers--their peers. Helping your customers build social capital is the way to make it attractive to them to provide this information.

This is an area of tremendous creativity. Click here to see a continuation of this discussion on my blog site, where we'll look at some specific ways that companies like Microsoft Business, Eloqua and CSC are doing this to inspire remarkable feats of advocacy

All the best,
Bill Lee, President  
Customer Reference Forum  
Author of 
The Hidden Wealth of Customers (June 2012, Harvard Business Review Press)
Twitter (follow me)
LinkedIn (connect with me)
LinkedIn Community (connect with other reference professionals)
March 5-6
Redwood City, CA USA
We are significantly ahead of registration levels from previous years, so if you're planning to attend, please do register as soon as possible. To do so, please click here. Please contact me directly for a discount if you're sending 3 or more people.


Our Theme: Customer References and the New Marketing 

Customer advocacy is increasingly seen as the future of marketing--IF reference and advocacy managers adapt to the new world of marketing. We'll keep you ahead of the curve--as follows:


Keynotes by C-suite Executives 

Customer reference managers who focus only on reference tools and processes are getting left behind by today's rapidly changing world. You also need tools and insights to develop the strategic importance of your program.


So, this year we have not one but three senior executive keynoters: 
  • Chuck Ball, who runs AmerisourceBergen's multi-billion dollar health services business (co-presenting with author and thought leader Sean Geehan) on The Power of Customer Engagement and Advocacy--Up to the C-Suite;
  • Katharyn White, who runs marketing for IBM's highly respected Global Services Business; on From Chasing References to Harvesting Advocates, and 
  • LIsa Arthur, CMO of Aprimo, on Winning the Marketing Revolution (customer reference programs can and should play a key role). 

All are passionate about the value of customer references and advocates. When it comes to building senior management support for your program, you'll learn how to speak the language of the C-suite.


Learn more.



Customer reference and advocacy are the most innovative area in marketing right now. Learn why, and how to keep pace, from leading reference and advocacy practitioners on topics such as:
  • Creating Apple-Like Customer References and Advocates (KACE)
  • Getting Marquee Brand Customers To Reference (panel)
  • How Customer References + Communities Create Supercharged Advocacy (Jive Software)
  • Aligning Customer References with Corporate Strategy (Infor)
  • Measuring-and Increasing-the Full Value of Customer Advocacy Programs (SMART Technologies)
  • Meeting the Reference-and Advocacy-Demands of a Rapid Growth Business (Box, formerly Box. net)
  • Getting Serious About Reference Program Automation (Marketo)

Learn more.


Deep Dive Workshops

We'll have 4 deep-dive implementation workshops on topics such as 

Arming Your Sales Force: Right Content, Right Time; as well as Reference Database Management: Applying Technology to a Relationship-Driven Programs, and more from top experts in these fields sharing their years of experience with a broad range of customer reference and advocacy programs. 


And More ...

Attendees at the Summit will have full access to all 11 webinars of our Master Class Series on Reference Customer Programs (see below for more information on these). That's 19 total presentations (Breakouts and Master Class webinars) on reference programs that will keep you fully up to date on best practices and latest trends in this field.


Plus we'll share the latest research findings relevant to customer references and advocacy from IBM's famed Global Services Research group, PLUS two research projects that Customer Reference Forum is conducting, in partnership with the CMO Council and SiriusDecisions.


And that's just what you'll find at the Summit...  We're also conducting the new ...


Master Class Series on  Customer Reference Programs (free for Summit participants)

In addition, we've added a monthly teleconference series, the Master Class Series on Customer Reference Programs, to provide you with more critical concepts and tools for running a reference program in today's world. 


Send to a Colleague 
This email was sent to by |  
Customer Reference Forum | 3225 Turtle Creek Blvd | Suite 1801 | Dallas | TX | 75219