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Reference Point 
September 2013                                      Gray
Hi Bill,


Customer references, traditionally, are "one to one." They're about getting one of your customers to persuade one of your prospects to buy. 


You can take it up a notch by getting particularly attractive references to create a video or success story that, hopefully, will reach and influence many buyers. This is "one to many." 


How FAR can you take this? How powerful can a reference -- or let's say, advocate -- be? 


From "One to One" to "The Few to the Masses"


The most powerful advocates can create movements. They can get large numbers in your market to move toward your brand. And it generally takes just a few of these. This is "the few to the masses."
These include people like Microsoft MVP Bill Gellin, whose individual website, called "Mr. Excel" attracts more visitors on some days than Microsoft's own Excel page. Or Damond Ling, who founded what wound up becoming SAS Canada's most important customer community, the Data Mining Forum. He was also one of the SAS "Customer Champions" who attracted thousands of customers and prospects to other SAS Canada forums and events--and were responsible for completely restoring SAS Canada's declining customer retention rates several years ago.


These are not unlike great social movements that we're all familiar with. Such as the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. which was launched by a rather unassuming but very powerful advocate, named Rosa Parks. 


So, what do these super-advocates, or what I call "Rock Star" advocates look like? How do you recognize them? As it turns out, they're not always the loudest or the most brash. They're not necessarily from the marquee brand companies. Metrics that some people are using -- like Klout scores -- don't really help. 


Here's what companies like Microsoft, SAS Canada,, National Instruments and others who've gotten very skilled at finding rock stars that achieve amazing feats of advocacy -- who can help create movements -- look for.
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Marketing Manager, Customer Advocacy Programs, SMART Technologies

Advocates Who Create Movements: A Checklist
Here's what to look for. Advocates with the potential to create movements:
  • Like to affiliate, expand their networks 
  • Have attractive (strategic) network 
  • Are perceived as peers by your target market
  • Enjoy helping others 
  • Are active in your-and other relevant-communities, live and online 
  • Are willing to tell your story: they gain value from doing so 
  • Have authority, influence 
  • Want respect 
  • Exude a professional demeanor 
  • Communicate (speak, write, post, tweet regularly); they get their names out there 
  • Are available and easy to access
Rosa Parks, for example, was not a marquee brand leader, didn't have a high people. She was "merely" a seamstress. But she was super connected in groups and communities throughout Montgomery, Alabama -- in church groups, civic groups, the local PTA and so forth. And she was highly respected, a quiet person but deeply involved in the work of these groups. When she was disrespected by a bus driver, and decided to help with the effort to fight the current law, people responded not because an African American was ordered to sit in the back -- that had happened before, several times. But this time, it happened to their friend and colleague whom they knew personally or who had a friend who knew her personally. "They disrespected Rosa." That prompted them to action. It created a movement.
SAS customers who were defecting or thinking about it responded similarly when a few well connected, and respected colleagues like Damond Ling showed them that SAS software was, contrary to what they thought, doing a great job of keeping up with their needs. They created a movement.
Think big. If you're using references and advocates just for one to one, or one to many activities, think about using them for "the few to the masses" projects. Think about creating a movement. Think big! The list above will get you started.
All the best,
Bill Lee, President  
Customer Reference Forum  
Author of 
The Hidden Wealth of Customers (June 2012, Harvard Business Review Press)
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