As you kickoff 2014, spend a few minutes thinking about this: there is much more value to be harvested from customer references and advocates. Indeed, they represent the most dynamic area in marketing today.
I call this "The OTHER 90%" and you can liken it to the computers in our lives: our smart phones, our laptops, our tablets. We're tapping maybe 5 to 10% of their enormous power. And something like that is going on right now with customer advocates and references. We're tapping maybe 10% of their enormous potential to create sustainable growth for our companies.
Here are a few examples of how customer programs are tapping some of that other 90% as we speak (some of which will be presenting at the 2014 Summit on Customer Engagement). This is so important that we're making this the theme of this year's Summit.
The Expanding Role of Advocates
Companies are increasingly using customer references and advocates throughout the buyer's decision journey--not just toward the end when the deal is ready to close. In fact, customer advocates increasingly play an important role after the sale into the post-sale customer lifecycle. Sirius Decisions is compiling significant research on this (and will present it at the Summit), and we're preparing a workshop that will provide tools and processes for bringing references into these important areas of marketing and customer relationship building--unlocking part of that "other 90%."
Capitalizing on Yelpification
On the buyers side of the equation, the " Yelpification" of business means that buyers increasingly expect and demand to hear from customers during their buying process. Independent organizations (like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon, IT Station, and many others) that help buyers do this are proliferating. Which means that companies must get proficient at getting customer advocates into these conversations. Cisco, for example, is using the "Internet of Everything" to help their references do so using social media, forums, user groups, online communities and so forth-again, unlocking more of that "other 90%."
Providing Advocates When and Where They're Needed
Related to that, companies like SAP are developing apps to push robust reference information to field sales people, making it accessible to them at the point of sale. This will free them from having to say the dreaded "I'll get back to you on that" when a prospect asks for references, which can stall or kill a deal. And thus unlocking more value from references.