You know the competition is stiff if you’re trying to hire a customer reference management or customer marketing manager right now. There are the highest number of job postings we’ve seen over the past 18 years! As so many companies have—seemingly all at once—discovered the customer marketing imperative, we felt we needed to address the elephant […]
Author Archive for: david
About David Sroka
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Do your customer references generate demand? One of the many stakeholders of a comprehensive customer reference program is demand generation. The Demand Gen team focuses on the very, very top of the sales funnel, where enticing email campaigns, webinars, and digital marketing are the name of the game. B2B buyers are bombarded daily with demand […]
What customer reference program manager traps are about to snare you? Over the 18 years that we’ve been in this space, we’ve seen all kinds of reference program plans, company cultures, leadership styles, and outcomes. It’s amazing how many different ways there are to get to what is a reasonably straightforward end-goal. The goal? Make […]
It seems like a question that doesn’t need to be asked, right? Salespeople live and die on references to make quota. No, the question is really whether your salespeople use references, but are they effective in their practices? Have you ever heard of sales training, like a module in new hire onboarding, just on the […]
Are you taking advantage of one-to-many reference activities? One-to-one reference calls are the standard approach for connecting a buyer and a customer reference. They are more labor-intensive to arrange but offer the most personalized sharing of information between two parties. The high-touch reference approach generally works pretty well until demand exceeds supply, such as at […]
Marketing automation is an essential tool to accelerate advocate recruiting. We’re 100% in favor of leveraging every possible channel to uncover customer references for your program. And not just any customer, the ones that help Sales and Marketing reach their goals,and not coincidentally, your company’s growth goals—the ones by which your CEO and the rest of […]
Customer reference management is a team sport, yet how many customer reference programs out there are remote islands in their respective corporate sea? Too many! Customer reference programs are one of the most cross-functional programs in an enterprise. Yet, they’re often set up for failure when leadership isn’t involved in establishing the right conditions for […]
As the leader of your reference program, how’s your relationship with your CRO? More and more companies we work with have invested in a relatively new CxO role: the Chief Revenue Officer. While this title has been around for at least five years, it’s becoming more mainstream, and customer reference program managers need to take […]
Do hard numbers back the value of customer reference programs? Yes. Whether you’re looking at shortening the sales cycle, increasing customer retention, or improving sales productivity, the data is clear: customer references and content deliver quantifiable ROI. “References have an 80-85% likelihood of influencing a B2B purchasing decision. The most highly rated of any marketing […]
Over nearly two decades in the customer reference arena, we’ve come to recognize the signs a customer reference program is in trouble. We see customer reference programs of all stripes; in different stages of maturity and producing different levels of results for stakeholders. While each company is unique in terms of executive support, sales culture, […]
Buyer confidence is an under-appreciated factor in purchase decisions — and customer references are key to building that confidence. I can’t think of a more humbling, stressful purchase decision than the one we go through when buying a home. You juggle multiple options, each with a list of pros and cons, price/feature trade-offs, the neighborhood’s […]
“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 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 […]
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 […]
It’s time to 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 […]
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 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 […]
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 […]
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.
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 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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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?” 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 […]
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 […]
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 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 […]
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 […]
The individual chosen to lead a customer reference program often determines the program’s potential. Do they align with company goals? Do they have social IQ and EQ? Do they understand data? Here you’ll find a list of the most important traits of an effective reference manager.
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 […]
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 […]
Marketing is a creative endeavor, so it is no surprise that creative “right brain” people are drawn to it. The hurdle we need to get over is what tools these creative marketers use to do their jobs. Just as animators have moved from pen to computer graphics, and cooks from campfires to convection ovens, marketing […]
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 […]
You can do everything right, but without this critical success factor your customer advocacy program will wither on the vine
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 […]
Now is the time to reconsider the customer reference ownership model that does not include sales as part of the process. Here’s how to rethink it.
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 […]
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 […]
A customer reference program (CRP) is nothing without a list of bonafide, 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 which […]
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 […]
“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. […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
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 […]
Learn how to build and propose a business case for a customer reference program—from marketing peers
To be successful a customer reference program must articulate how it supports strategic company objectives in order to obtain the necessary executive support.
Marketing technology should support a top executive priority: data and data analytics. That includes the customer reference program technology.
Content marketing should be driven by the needs of the marketing and the specific points in the buyer’s journey. Here are take-aways for reference managers.
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 […]
B2B buyers consume less vendor content than you might think. The lesson, make sure it’s the right content, which includes customer reference stories.
News flash: The CMO’s job is changing. Okay, maybe that isn’t really breaking news. The CMO role always seems to be evolving but what is new – or at least worth paying attention to– is how CMO’s are structuring their organizations to be strategic, and what marketing professionals should be doing to adapt. These trends […]
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 reference programs, come in so many flavors. The main differences are in terms of strategic importance and scope. For a long time a company that had one or more people cranking out case studies would claim to have a customer reference program. At some point maybe that was enough. That era precedes my time […]
Demand for peer insights and opinions before buying are at an all-time high in the B2B space. What’s driving it? Fear, the strongest of human emotions, of course. An SAP study in 2015 asked B2B buyers what their biggest concerns are when making a purchase. The perception of wasting company money (52%) and losing internal credibility […]
We’re giving a tour of the *only* 100% Salesforce® native customer reference management app, ReferenceEdge, on September 10th.
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 […]
Salespeople need a “village” of apps supporting functions throughout the sales cycle to be successful . ReferenceEdge provides serious sales automation when it comes to customer reference sourcing and use.
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 […]
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.
Securing sales leadership support for the reference program is a keystone in a program’s success. It is this group that can change sales rep behavior more than any other. This post talks about the reasons for lack of support and how to deal with them.
Gaining executive support for a customer reference program is an essential ingredient to a successful program. Here’s our prescription for gaining and maintaining support.
The dark side of our business is that not every customer reference program that gets launched has a story book ending. Here are 4 of the most common factors that determine success or failure.
Customer reference programs can help many other marketing functions add impact and authenticity through the relationships they manage. Award nominations are one of these ways. Here’s a real-world story of how one client helped PR.
Bogus customer endorsements posted on seemingly genuine blogs are getting the attention of the FTC.
This podcast provides our vision for coordinating customer reference activities between marketing teams across the enterprise for more effective leverage of your most important selling assets.
Customer Reference Program promotion, from launch forward is so critical to creating momentum and support from key executives. Here is a discussion of what’s worked for our clients and how to get off to a great start.
Here are 25 ways to use customer success stories in your sales and marketing to increase buyers’ trust.
There are a number of ways to show the value of a customer reference program. The options for proving strategic value to the organization are more difficult. Here’s an approach formulated by SAP using Net Promoter scores that’s quite brilliant.
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 […]
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