Entries by

Hard Numbers Back Customer Reference Programs

B2B sales and marketing professionals expect to serve up—proactively or reactively—customer advocates to prospective buyers. It is an accepted part of any B2B sales transaction for good reason: compelling references seal deals. That’s where customer reference programs come in. “References have an 80-85% likelihood of influencing a B2B purchasing decision. The most highly rated of […]

How Many Customer References Should I Have?

“How many customer references should I have in my program?” We routinely get this question from reference program managers, and the answer isn’t as cut and dry as one would guess. And it’s important to get it right, for these reasons. Recruiting customers for your customer reference program requires effort in the form of clearly […]

Crafting a Customer Content Plan

Crafting a customer content plan can be daunting. Have you just inherited a customer content management “program” that’s a mess? Or, maybe there’s never been a formal content management “program,” and you’re starting from scratch. If you need to put a plan together, and quickly, here is your roadmap. #1 Identify Stakeholders’ Needs It’s never […]

How Big is Your Customer Reference Black Market?

Oh, that infuriating customer reference black market! You’ve put a system in place—technology and or a collection of processes—specifically to wrangle the customer reference process and improve opportunity outcomes. Yet, the old messy reference “model” continues in DM and email channels. We call these backchannel, out-of-the-system methods the black market. You know that a more formal […]

Get your Customer Reference Program Unstuck!

If you’re in charge of a customer reference program and it doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere, and doesn’t get the respect it should, we have a good idea why and how to get it unstuck. Many customer reference programs begin and evolve organically—that is, without a real strategy or alignment to top company goals. The […]

Is Digital on Your Customer Reference Stakeholder List?

Customer reference programs often make the mistake of leaving the Digital team off their stakeholder list.  In fact, the digital marketing team is rarely on the list of primary stakeholders (Sales, PR, demand gen, etc.) cited by customer reference program managers. Sure, customer quotes are always a reference type found on websites. But when talking about customer […]

How Well Do You Know Your Company’s Sales Process?

How well do you know your company’s sales process? How does a customer reference program manager know if customer advocate resources are being used by Sales to the fullest? This is a really important part of setting appropriate expectations (yours and leadership’s), as well as establishing continuous improvement goals aimed at winning more opportunities. When […]

Now’s the Time for a Customer Reference Consultant

Does your company need a customer reference consultant? First off, I’m not pitching a service. Rather, I’m predicting (and endorsing) a new role with marketing and customer success. There is a clear need for a more cohesive approach to customer marketing, customer reference marketing, customer success marketing or whatever your company calls it. Various customer […]

Leadership’s Role in Customer Marketing Success

Senior Executives throughout an organization need to invest in the customer advocate-centric approach that puts the customer and customer results at the heart of their enterprise. Today’s nimble organizations foster an active, cross-functional interchange of information. Marketing fills the funnel and Sales empties it.

User Adoption of Customer Reference Software

Customer reference technology — a software application to manage your customer reference program — is essential in today’s B2B companies. This post is a companion post to the User Adoption of Customer Reference Programs post. We recommend reading that first because the program itself must be adopted before any technology is adopted. No matter how elegant […]

Why Customers Choose to be Customer References

Why do customers choose to be a customer reference? Answer this question early in the life cycle of a customer reference program because it drives one of the most fundamental functions: attracting customer reference program members. It’s never too late to assess your environment if this question wasn’t answered earlier, or if the dynamics of your […]

7 Tips for Launching a Customer Reference Program

One of the biggest hurdles in launching a customer reference program is changing behavior, particularly when that program includes using new technology and instituting different processes. After all, most sales and marketing people aren’t technology wonks or process geeks. Many of our customers have achieved awe-inspiring results by leveraging our best practices combined with their […]

User Adoption of Customer Reference Programs

Customer reference program adoption by a company’s sales, marketing and customer success users may mean different things to different audiences in the company. We think of it in simple terms. The adoption goals of customer reference programs are no different than what marketing strives for in general: market penetration and mind share. For customer reference programs […]

Customer Marketing Should Care About Numbers

Marketing, as a whole, is more focused on measurement than ever before, and this is particular true for customer marketing and reference programs. CEOs are demanding that marketing be accountable for finding and cultivating prospective buyers, and technology is making attribution possible in ways that didn’t exist a decade ago. Gartner’s CMO Spend Survey report […]

Where Should a Customer Reference Program Live?

“Where should a customer reference program live?” We get asked this question frequently during our sales process. A prospective client recognizes the “customer reference problem,” and the need to put some focus on fixing it, but isn’t sure what department the customer reference program should call home. Ten years ago, the vast majority of customer […]

Customer Reference Program “Bad Practices” – Pt. 2

In part 1 of this post we covered 6 of the 11 program elements outlined in our maturity model assessment tool: Program Vision Staff Composition, Organization & Perspective Managing Upward Field Relationships Customer Reference Relationships Horizontal Integration As a reminder, these are common pitfalls we look for when making our client health assessments. They foreshadow […]

Customer Reference Program “Bad Practices” – Pt. 1

We’ve accrued many customer reference program best practices over the years. Our clients are innovative and driven people so there’s been plenty of material. We share those best practices every chance we get, but, I don’t think we’ve ever shared the other side of the best practices “coin.” That is, the bad practices, the common […]

Advisory Boards for Customer Reference Programs

Advisory boards are essential for customer reference programs. As a customer marketing/customer reference/customer advocate program manager, you need regular feedback to ensure the program is on track to meet the needs of its stakeholders. Relevance is the name of the game. Your primary objective is to provide the most valuable assets (customer advocates and customer […]

Building Your Customer Reference Army

A customer reference program (CRP) is nothing without a list of bona fide, satisfied customers. It’s the first building block among many blocks in assembling a legitimate program. You know there are plenty of candidates out there, but what’s the best way to get to that treasure trove? You have a number of options and […]

Engaging Salespeople in Customer Reference Programs

Sometimes salespeople act like Greta Garbo―they just want to be left alone to do their thing in peace. That isn’t okay if that includes ignoring or circumventing your customer reference management processes and tools. One of the many responsibilities of a customer reference program manager is promoting, persuading and rewarding reticent salespeople to embrace the […]

Compromises that Kill Customer Reference Programs

Compromise is generally accepted as an important element in getting things done, but it can kill an otherwise great customer reference program. We’ve been in the customer reference world for going on 14 years. In that time we’ve worked with many reference programs of all flavors. When they struggle to reach their full potential the […]

To Build or Buy? Customer Reference Management Software

It’s a cyclical question in our domain. Does it make more sense to buy “off-the-shelf” customer reference management software to run your customer reference/advocate program, or to build it? It’s pretty attractive to think about the license fees that can be avoided if the internal IT group can develop a tool. So why not go […]

Rewarding Your Customer Advocates

Rewarding your customer advocates, yes or no? Is there a “right way” or a better way? The topic of rewarding customers for being references has always elicited a spirited debate. The same goes for spiffs for Sales and other teams that are part of the customer reference ecosystem. Bribe or Basic Etiquette? At the heart of […]

Mining for Customer Advocates

Are you mining your customer base to find your most precious asset: Customer Advocates? Satisfied customers who are willing to share their success stories as your client are the lifeblood of a customer reference program. Yet, most of the companies we start conversations with have not fully identified those clients, don’t know how many they […]

9 Tips for Selecting Your Customer Reference Management Software

Recently there was an excellent post on MarketingProfs outlining key considerations in selecting marketing technology.  The “Nine Critical Issues to Consider Before You Buy Marketing Software” had a lot of applicability to selecting customer reference management software specifically. Here are 9 technology agnostic “DO“s specific to our customer advocate domain: 1) Know All Your Pain Points […]

Produce Reference Customer Content That Stakeholders *Need*

If you’re in the customer advocate practitioner community you already know why developing and curating customer-centric content is a must-have component of your customer advocate program. When it comes to making decisions about technology, B2B buyers value peer opinions above all other vendor-produced content. Setting a quota of X case studies or videos in a […]

Customer Reference Program Measurement

“How do your customers measure customer reference program impact?” We get that question all the time. The good news is that it isn’t hard or complicated. It can be time consuming if you don’t have the right technology, but not impossible. Before going further it’s important to separate measurement of activities vs. measurement of outcomes. […]

Customer Reference Program Workflow Killers

All business operations have potential snags and customer reference programs are no exception. We have spent a decade and a half analyzing methods, designing systems, and helping streamline customer reference management processes to ensure client success. The people who need those references, salespeople predominantly, are resourceful and independent. When a program or project is working […]

Transforming Customer Reference Chaos into Strategic Asset

Many years ago a client, a top five strategic consulting firm, asked if we had any tools to help get her arms around the customer advocate program she recently inherited. It just seemed there were so many pieces and parts and some stakeholders yelled more than others, and that’s how the program evolved before she […]

Customer Content is Only Powerful if it Can be Found

There are so many ways to tell your company’s story through your customers. And the stories are out there along with customers willing to tell them in one form or another. But companies continue to struggle when it comes to getting those captured stories—customer content—into buyers’ hands. The Case for Customer Content According to a […]

Customer Advocate Programs Can Help Buyers Connect Emotionally

Emotional appeal is fundamental to business-to-consumer marketing. People select products based on how that product meets a real or perceived need or fulfills a desire. This was the subject of a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, and it got me thinking about how we in the B2B customer advocate community can contribute to the […]

4 Essential Skills for Customer Marketers

Marketing draws people with an essential combination of creativity and relationship building skills, but the demands of marketing program manager roles are changing. While those skills are still important, they need to be matched by proficiency with technology and data analytics, and a big picture perspective. As the B2B marketing function continues to evolve the […]

CMO 2017 Trends | Good News for Customer Advocate Programs Pt II

This is part II of the CMO 2017  Trends post, which correlates recent predictions from Sirius Decisions and Association of Data-Driven Marketing & Advertising to the customer advocate world. When a trend or movement has reached critical momentum, people sometimes use the analogy of a train: powerful, gaining speed, and hard to stop. Automation of […]

Integrate Functions and Technology: The MarTech Stack

When 96% of any group votes in favor of something, that’s a landslide. So, for those of us in the Marketing Technology business, the results of a recent Marketo study are worth our attention. According to the 2017 Marketing Benchmark Report – North America report published by Marketo a full 96% of the 1,300 plus […]

Sales & Marketing: Meet Your New Customer Advocate Partner

There are many ways that a Customer Success team can add value to the enterprise. From our customer advocate program perspective, CS fills an important, and often missing, part of the puzzle. Ownership of the customer relationship has often been a murky or even touchy subject. Salespeople are busy bringing in new business and often […]

Customer Advocacy: What B2B Can Learn from B2C

Behind every B2B purchase is a person—a person who is used to the online shopping experience as a B2C customer. Savvy B2B companies understand this and are adjusting their online marketing and purchase processes to emulate consumer experiences. Granted, there are significant differences between an individual purchase of a consumer good and the intricacies of […]

CIO-CMO Collaboration & Customer Reference Management

Move over Brad and Angelina. Get out of the way Kimye. Take a seat Will and Kate. The hottest new couple (at least in business) is the CIO-CMO. Today, being a digital business is synonymous with simply being in business. The lines between technology and brand have disappeared because the customer now experiences the brand […]

Overcoming the Top 4 Reasons Customer Reference Programs Fail – Inadequate Technology

This post addresses the fourth most common reasons customer reference programs fail: technology, or more specifically, a lack of technology. But a tool can only be as successful as the data stored within. These are our thoughts on why both are very important considerations.

Customer Reference Program Maturity Model Podcast – Element 4: Field Relationship

In this podcast, the fifth in the Customer Reference Program Maturity Model series, David and I discuss how the relationship with the Sales team impacts CRP success. Ultimately, if Sales isn’t using the reference program assets and systems, what’s the point? If you want to know how to find nirvana with the Sales team check […]