Reference Point
  a newsletter for customer reference professionals
  March 2012


  1. Key Insights From the 2012 Summit on Customer Engagement
  2. Links to job openings, other reference meetings


This year's content was our strongest ever at the Summit. We always ask attendees to rate each presentation, on a scale of 1 (Poor) to 5 (Fantastic). The average presentation rating was over 4--for 17 presentations and workshops. Thirteen of the 17 were over 4.

With so much great information coming at us, it's hard to pick the key insights. Here's my take:

  • Sean O'Driscoll pointed out that there's a higher form of advocacy than "promoter." It's "defender." Promoter's may love you, continue to do business with you, and say they'll refer you. But defenders will take on your critics on your behalf and join your communities. Reminds me of the great song by the Band's Levon Helm about his "little Bessie girl" up on Cripple Creek: "I don't have to speak, she defends me." Check out the video from Martin Scorcese's "The Last Waltz"

  • Harvard Business Review is about to become the most powerful advocate for customer reference programs to your senior management, with the publication of our book, The Hidden Wealth of Customers, in June. This is "our" book because while it's my name on the cover, it includes many of your stories inside (with (enthusiastic) permission of course). This means greater executive support, budgets, and opportunities for career advancement-IF you adapt to the new world of marketing.

  • CMO Scott Olrich pointed out that you can make this case to your CMO: Who's out front in our lead generation efforts? It should be our customers. Who's speaking for us at industry events? It should be our customers. How do we test the relevance of our marcom? If our customers wouldn't use it to market themselves, toss it.

  • Keep your eyes on gamification, which is rapidly progressing from hot topic to important trend. Making customer reference and referral activities fun and competitive--rather than a chore--has great possibility for our space. For the moment, it seems most relevant for SMB markets (which are more B2C like). But that could change too. Aren't C-level buyers competitive too? Wouldn't they vie for a seat on a prestigious industry council with A-list peers?

  • With growing awareness of the importance of customer advocacy, senior management should and could regard customer reference professionals--who've been doing customer advocacy for years!--as key players in the new world of marketing. But reference professionals risk being marginalized by bigger budget programs like social media and demand generation. Here are three reasons why customer reference professionals should be at the heart of the new world of marketing:

    • You know how to tell customer stories, and how to help customers tell their own stories.
    • You know how to build the relationships.
    • You are helping build "the new customer value proposition"-which includes providing opportunities for affiliation and status to customers, in return for their advocacy, influence and participation in peer communities.

  • Silo'd marketing departments that compete for budgets and take months to roll out and test campaigns are not just anachronistic--they're dysfunctional. Campaigns must integrate to reach buyers where they are, and incorporate real or near-real time feedback in order to adjust to market reaction on the fly.

All the best,

Bill Lee, President
Customer Reference Forum and Customer Strategy Group
Author of the forthcoming Harvard Business Review Book, The Hidden Wealth of Customers

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To get involved with the recently formed community of customer reference professional in EMEA, contact Claudia Koenig at referencecommunity@googlemail.com

Will be held from 14th until 16th May 2012 in Cambridge (MA), USA. Visit the event website for more information and early bird registration.


To get involved with the recently formed community of customer reference professional in EMEA, contact Claudia Koenig at referencecommunity@googlemail.com


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 val.stephen@acxiom.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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Contact Information

email: bill@customerreferenceforum.com
web: http://www.customerreferenceforum.com