In part I of this post we talked about the need for executive support of the change management that comes with implementing a customer reference program. At a high level the program wants the following to occur as soon as possible after a program launch:
- The program is viewed as THE one and only source for reference information and content
- Black market referencing is replaced with a more formal, technology enabled approach
- All consumers of referenceable accounts begin coordinating their efforts from one system, one version of the truth to prevent overuse
- Marketers start (or ramp up) injecting customer stories into campaigns and social media
- Every customer-facing position in the organization is brought into a culture of referenceability—it’s part of everyone’s responsibilities
Who at the executive level wouldn’t want these things to happen? Well, it turns out executives have a lot of competing demands even if their primary objectives are fairly narrow.
If you want to get their attention and connect the dots between the program and their objectives you have to spell it out. Let’s take these one at a time.
- The customer reference program can quantifiably influence revenue. A March 2015 survey by IDC adds more credence to the power of peer/colleague opinions on B2B purchase decisions. The study shows 95% of respondents put peers/colleagues at the top of the influence list. If customer references are used at the right time and in the right way then risk is mitigated for the buyer, deals move with more velocity, and the win rates improve.
- Finding and providing references is time consuming. Sometimes finding relevant, persuasive customer accounts can take days if not weeks. This is a productivity killer for not only salespeople but for those who support them in marketing, customer success, etc.Cut the search time from days to minutes and everyone wins. It’s a no brainer.
- Once a customer is identified as a potential reference the potential for overuse or disorganized requests is added to the customer’s experience with your company. It’s imperative that the activities meant to amplify and promote your customers’ (and your company’s) success don’t lead to annoyance and bad feelings about the relationship.An effective reference program will provide tools that provide visibility to all the parties that manage reference activities (PR, IR, AR, social media, etc.) into work in progress.
Each organization may have other top line objectives that don’t fall into these three areas. Your job is to understand your organization’s strategic goals and demonstrate how your customer reference program supports them. Once you have your case clearly articulated you will have an easier time asking the management team for help in reinforcing new processes, policies and procedures. The program may be a topic on weekly sales calls, company kick-offs, performance measurement, and not just once at launch. Any change management consultant will tell you that some changes take months, and some take years to happen. The magnitude of the change and degree of persistence applied to reinforcing change are the variables.
If you’ve built your case around core company goals your management team will thank you for having the company’s best interests in mind, and with sufficient support success will be at hand!