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 lack of momentum, adoption and ultimately the end of a much needed program. We haven’t weighted these elements statistically, but some areas deserve more urgent attention than others.

Here are the remaining 5 program elements:

Program Promotion
  • Having a launch it and forget it mentality. A Customer Reference Program, just like Lead Generation, Customer Acquisition, Customer Retention, and Social Media programs, require marketing effort. The audience (your internal stakeholders and uses) needs regular and ongoing touches. Programs that have a cadence for training new stakeholders, soliciting feedback, fine-tuning the program, demonstrating the relevance to company goals, and sharing success stories—do better.
Program Metrics
  • Ignoring program performance metrics until being asked for them. It’s essential to keep an eye on program trends. The only way to capitalize on positive developments in a timely fashion and respond to trouble signs is to have and share what’s happening in the customer reference program. If the program leader isn’t monitoring their dashboard and understanding what they see, they will spend more of their time reacting rather than positioning for future needs.
Content Strategy
  • Producing content that doesn’t get used/isn’t needed. It takes resources to create content, so customer content must meet the needs of your internal clients, and also be promoted and easily accessible. If your customer content isn’t being used, it may be a result of not aligning content subjects to company growth goals, or not regularly soliciting feedback from stakeholders. Either way, the program’s relevance is diminished.
Information Systems
  • The advocate database is neglected. Customer advocate data is dynamic data, and not just due to natural attrition. It needs intentional and regular tweaking, or it will fall out of use. Company growth goals and stakeholder feedback should inform the recruiting goals and initiatives for the customer reference program. If recruiting is merely opportunistic, your program can never be more than transactional and will have limited usefulness.
Outside Expertise
  • You’re reinventing the wheel on a daily basis. Don’t go it alone. There’s a community of expertise for you to leverage. It’s important to build a network of seasoned peers, participate in online communities, attend in-person events for the customer marketing domain, and take advantage of reputable vendor partners. No matter how seemingly unique your challenge may seem, someone out there has encountered it and has a useful perspective.

Programs require regular maintenance and attention by a dedicated and passionate leader. They don’t run themselves despite what someone levels removed from the day-to-day may imagine. When a program is running well the reference chaos fades away, people are finding what they need in minutes, not days or even weeks. The company is better positioned to win more deals, faster and more efficiently.

Your comments are always welcome!