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Strategy vs. Tactics & Customer Reference Management

· No Comments · Best Practices, Customer Reference Programs

I read a Jeremiah Owyang post last week and it really dovetailed nicely with my post earlier this month. Many reference program managers are mired in the day-to-day tactics of their function and are unable to rise above the dust to transform their program into a strategic asset. Understanding the difference between strategy and tactics is essential before an elevation of the program is possible.

Jeremiah’s offers:  The Difference between Strategy and Tactics: Strategy is done above the shoulders; Tactics are done below the shoulders. That’s a good framework.

I’ve applied some of Jeremiah’s post to the customer reference management world and the strategic and tactical aspects/roles.

Strategic Program Manager

  • Purpose:  Sets clear goals that advance company objectives and organize resources
    – Customer reference database and customer content library goals should support company objectives related to growth in specific segments (industry, geo, etc.), product launches, market repositioning, etc.
  • Role:  Influences resources in the company. Has the big picture of how a set of tactics support their goals.
    – Key resources are executives, peers in PR, AR, IR, RFP team, etc. Evangelizing the program and identifying synergies between teams yields big results.
  • Accountability:  The program’s impact on company objectives
    – A monthly or quarterly scorecard demonstrating the program’s effectiveness proves accountability.
  • Scope:  Responsible for all 11 elements that comprise a customer reference program
  • Duration:  Keeps an eye on the 6-12 month horizon of company needs
    – The tactical resources must focus on the day-to-day, but the strategic manager is staying a step ahead to be well-positioned to meet future demand.
  • Methods:  “Uses experience, research, analysis, thinking, and then communication.”
    – Activity data, user surveys and analysis of outcome statistics (e.g., revenue influenced by segment), data/feedback on content helpfulness, and sales advisory board input all provide valuable insights.
  • Outputs:  “Produces clear organizational goals, plans, maps, guideposts, and key performance measurements.”
    – The program’s goals should fit on a single slide and each should be measurable so that team members, and executives can quickly determine its success. We’re big proponents of one-page scorecards with graphical representation of stats that anyone can absorb in a minute.

Reference Team Member

  • Purpose:  Focused on achieving “sub-goals” that support the reference manager’s program goals
    – Filling gaps in the customer reference database and the content library often begin with a recruiting effort. Recruiting goals align with high level program and company goals.
  • Role:  A specialist with a limited focus and related resources to manage
    – Database maintenance, nomination qualification and processing, request fulfillment and content creation are all limited in scope and essential to program success. The emphasis on all of these should be automation, productivity, efficiency, and of course, quality.
  • Accountability:  Very specific aspects of the program
    – Each team member should have measurable goals such as a quantity of deliverables, internal customer satisfaction, and ultimately measurable influence on lead gen and deal closure.
  • Scope:  Responsible for him/herself or a small team such as writers, reference recruiters, etc.
  • Duration:  Focused on short-term goals, often more reactive due to the ever changing needs of sales and marketing teams.
  • Methods:  “Uses experiences, best practices, plans, processes, and teams.”
    – Success in these positions is more dependent on networking with peers for best practice tactics, and learning from immediate feedback from internal customers. While some patterns and trends may be observed most analysis is done by the strategic resource.
  • Outputs:  “Produces clear deliverables and outputs using people, tools, time.”
    – The main output is timely, qualified customer references that are easily searched and requested. That’s what’s needed to impact lead gen and new revenue—it’s that simple.

Even if you’re a team of one hopefully this post helps you delineate the strategic from the tactic elements of a reference program. If you’ve been trying to elevate your role and have a bigger impact on the company’s success use this information to build your case for getting more resources so you and the program can reach full potential.

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