Reference Point
  a newsletter for customer reference professionals
  September 2012


  1. What Can You STOP Doing?
  2. The 2013 Summit on Customer Engagement: Early Registration is About to Open.
  3. Update on The Hidden Wealth of Customers
  4. Reference manager looking for employment
  5. Links to job openings, other reference meetings, and more


Whenever I ask someone what's going on with their job or business, I'm often shocked by how overloaded their day is. Last week I had lunch with an old friend, who runs the entrepreneurship program at a major university, and felt MY stress levels going up as he described the demands of HIS job these days.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, bogged down, mired in minutiae, here are some tips for pulling yourself out of the bog and mire. And into the sunshine of high productivity--and perhaps a state of life balance as well--to finish out the year.

Toss Your To Do List. Create an Accomplishments List.

Don't start your day or week by looking at to do lists, project lists, your email in box, etc. Don't try to organize the mess. Ignore it for now. Instead of a To Do list, create an Accomplishments list.

Do this by working backwards: Focus on the major results you want to achieve. Ideally, there are just 3 or so of these. Write these down somewhere so you can keep looking at them during the week-put them on the wall if you have to.

Then think about the fastest ways to achieve them. Turn these into goals and put them into your calendar for the week. For example, if you want to find 10 new customer references for a certain important product line, that goes into your Accomplishments list. You might reasonably figure that, to find the 10, you'll need to talk to 20 specific sales people for referrals, as well as research a particularly vibrant customer community that may have emerging potential references. Those two tasks are what goes into your calendar.

Ask: What can I stop doing? Do this regularly.

You can start by looking at all the things you've been doing for more than 12 months, and put them, as the great Peter Drucker put it, on trial for their lives. Ask of each one:

  • If I stopped doing this, would anyone notice or really care?

  • If a colleague would object, ask him, "What impact does this routine we've established have on customers? Would any of them notice or care if we just stopped doing this?"

  • If you can't stop doing it, can you delegate it, automate it, or appropriately have someone else take over the task?

For example, a reference program I was working with was mired in "concierge" services, responding at all hours (even at home) to reference requests coming in from around the world. Constantly being plugged in to the Internet and having to respond at a moment's notice to incoming requests is a huge productivity killer. Studies too numerous to count confirm this. It keeps reference managers from building relationships with key customer advocates, it keeps them from pursuing high-value initiatives like creating customer content and engagement that could improve demand generation efforts, for example.

So the solution is, either automate these or find a way to outsource such routine reference requests to lower cost countries. For this particular program they decided to automate.

Every Quarter, Take in the 30,000 Foot View

  • Every quarter, sit down with your boss and go through a list of things you're doing that are taking away from your productivity, keeping you from giving full attention to truly important projects, or that you'd just like to stop doing.

  • At that same quarterly review meeting, briefly review corporate strategy. That is, take a 30,000 foot view of what you're doing. Spend a few minutes reading announcements, public comments from your CEO and/or CMO, perhaps at the most recent shareholders meeting or analyst call. Make sure you and your boss understand how your program fits corporate goals. You may well find plenty of ammunition to stop doing things that don't matter.

Let's say your firm (like many firms) is moving a major share of marketing budget to social media and customer videos and other content. This presents a tremendous opportunity to bring references into these initiatives, and cultivate more. It deserves a major chunk of time. You can't do this justice if you're spending 3 hours a day on things that don't matter.

Where Did My Time Go?

Find out! Consider keeping a time sheet for a couple of weeks. It sounds like giving yourself one more hassle, but in fact, can be very helpful in getting control of your time. Don't obsess over every minute, but do keep a note of what you're working on in 15 minute increments. Then review after two weeks. I can almost guarantee that you will be shocked by the amount to time you are a) spending on stuff you should drop, and b) not spending on stuff you should be spending quality time on.

All the best,

Bill Lee, President
Customer Reference Forum and Customer Strategy Group
Author of The Hidden Wealth of Customers (June 2012, Harvard Business Review Press)

Twitter (follow me)
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LinkedIn Community (connect with other reference professionals)


The 2013 Summit will be held March 4-6 at the Sofitel Hotel in San Francisco Bay. To keep informed as our plans progress, please email me with "keep me informed of the 2013 SCE" in the subject line. We'll be opening Early Registration soon.

As a quick sneak peek:

  • The business head of an $11 billion business unit for a major corporation will keynote on
    The Power of Customer Engagement and Advocacy-Up to the C-Suite. You'll leave knowing how your CEO regards your reference program, and what it takes to make her realize its importance.

  • The senior marketing executive for IBM's Global Services Business will show us how to go From Chasing References To Harvesting Advocates. Her presentation will include important recent research IBM has conducted on marketing and customer advocacy.


The Hidden Wealth of Customers: Realizing the Untapped Value of Your Most Important Asset (Harvard Business Press, 2012).

Media attention for The Hidden Wealth continues strong, with interviews or excerpts published so far in Forbes Online, Fast Company, 1 to 1 Media, Rain Today and others.


Customer Reference Programs at the Tipping Point, Harvard Business Review Blog Network

Marketing is Dead, HBR Blog Network (making the case that customer advocacy will increasingly replace traditional marketing approaches). This article got more than 4,000 recommendations on HBR's facebook, and was the #1 more read and #1 most commented on HBR.

How to Electrify Your Customer Relationships, Forbes Online

How to Turn Your Customers Into Rock Stars of Influence, Fast Company

A Growth Opportunity Most Companies Ignore, Rain Today, podcast

Leveraging the Power of the Internet:
"Customers can help organizations turn the Web from a threat into an opportunity" 1to1 Media


Couldn't make it to the Summit? Is it time to take your customer reference program to the next level? Having trouble getting there? I can bring Customer Reference Forum's knowledge, research capabilities, and the most extensive network of reference professionals and suppliers in the world, onsite to you.

Learn more.


For practitioners only. Exchange ideas and best practices with peers, get your questions answered quickly, expand your network. We're now up to 380 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.


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 kara@manfredi.us.


We'll be finalizing on date and location in the next few weeks, but you can plan on February or early March, 2013.

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.


Kara Manfredi, Founder and President of the Worldwide Customer Reference Networking Group on LinkedIn, and Customer Reference Forum Advisory Board member since 2008, is seeking a job. To learn more about Kara Manfredi please visit her LinkedIn profile http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=2750256&trk=tab_pro. You can also email her directly at kara@manfredi.us.


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