Setting program goals seems like an obvious thing to do for any Customer Marketing Manager. In the beginning, centralizing all your advocate information and tagging it for easy discovery is job #1. You may determine there aren’t enough of a particular type of advocate by segment such as industry, product, use case; or their confirmed commitment to do specific activities (speak, review, reference calls, etc.). You may not trust data you inherited and need to validate the existing data before making it available to stakeholders in PR, Events, Sales, Social, etc.
After tackling what we’d consider the basics, the program can launch (however you define that event). Maybe it’s only supporting Marketing, or Sales, or CABs, or a customer community; or maybe it’s providing services to the full range of functions that rely on advocates.
Goals Over Time
The first stage of a program, building the foundation, is somewhat linear. There is a sequence of objectives, and until those are achieved, the program is sort of in stealth mode. But after it’s launched there are quite a few activities that have to occur simultaneously, and in-flight. There’s no way to pause any single motion without losing momentum and jeopardizing the program’s success. These balls all have to stay in the air, all of the time.
1) ongoing recruiting
2) data tagging
3) data maintenance
4) managing time-sensitive requests
6) quantifying program value
7) addressing change resistance
Thinking about these operational requirements in a realistic way, is it reasonable to think that they can be addressed one at a time, in sequence, once the program has launched? Hopefully your answer is a resounding “No way!”
That’d be like getting a car on the road but focusing on steering alone, or just the accelerator, or just the brake, or responding to only one road rule at a time, and so on. Not possible. A driver, like a program manager, has to give attention to all these things in order to successfully get from point A to point B.
If you only recruit and build a hefty advocate database, but never promote it to your stakeholders, it’s wasted effort. You’re an advocate collector for the sake of collecting.
If you don’t maintain the robust database you built it will become outdated, and lose its value.
If you make changes (e.g., new processes, new technology, policies) and don’t manage the people side of change, you are setting yourself up for failure. Same goes for new employees, stakeholders of your program. Their acclimation to and embracement of your program has to be an organic part of running your program, not to be ignored. Stakeholders are your raison d’être!
A Framework for Goal Setting
If you buy into the idea that the program manager must constantly attend to a myriad of motions to keep the program humming, then how do you set priorities for what is a finite amount of bandwidth—even more demanding if you’re a team of one?
Your primary mission is to support lead generation, acquisition and, for some, retention. Your company has set growth goals based on attracting and acquiring certain types of accounts. That could be by industry, size, geography, product need or other criteria; or combinations of criteria. All your efforts should be tailored to supporting marketing and sales initiatives, and meeting their respective goals. If you’ve got a database full of the wrong stories, you effectively don’t exist to your stakeholders. Same goes for content. If it’s mis-targeted, time and energy was simply wasted.
Measuring a program’s impact by tracking revenue influenced is fairly standard. It’s straightforward to understand, and there’s a dollar sign involved, which is expected by leadership. They’re measured quantitatively, one way or another.
We view this stat as the outcome, not the source, of a well-run program. The source is activity. You can’t say you want to influence $100 million in revenue without building the scaffolding to get there.
The scaffolding includes the number or percent of events or social posts featuring an advocate, or how advocates speaking at events boosted lead generation. It could be the number or percent of opportunities where advocate content was leveraged or a reference call took place. Initially, these counts might be low (i.e., 15% of opportunities), but your goal is to grow that number to 30%, 50% and beyond. Should you shoot for 100%? Probably not. In the case of opportunity close rates, some just don’t require a reference. Take, for instance, the opportunity that’s with a former client. They already know your brand and your product. They are both the reference and the buyer.
What’s a reasonable target? Remember estimating in grade school? Let’s say you have a sales team of 100 reps. They each have a quota. What percentage of that quota should you hope to influence with high-quality advocates? You have to know what percentage of buyers request references, which may differ by product or deal size. Dive into the particulars, understand the important factors, then and only then, establish meaningful goals.
User adoption of your program is the result of change management. Promotion and education are part of change management. So is the acceptance that people resist change, and people have different reasons. Plan to address the sources of resistance at an individual level. Approaching at a team or division level will only get you so far, never addressing 100% of the resistance. Resistance is not one-size-fits-all.
We find our most successful program manager clients are fearless, action-oriented and persistent when it comes to setting and achieving goals. They are never content. As soon as they knock down a goal, they ratchet it up for the next month, quarter or year. Keep these considerations in mind, and improve your goal attainment. You’ll win executive confidence, support and, deservedly, get the budget you need to take your program to the next level.
- Customer marketing programs don’t succeed if, following initial launch, the program manager is single-threaded. All parts of the system must be firing, and tended to, or it breaks down.
- Program goals must be aligned with corporate growth goals. That is the only way to use limited resources to affect what leadership cares about.
- There are many small activities that make goal achievement possible. If you ignore those small things, goals sound good, but mean nothing.
- Be bold on your goal setting, and don’t stop getting better. But don’t set goals that aren’t anchored in reality. You won’t be taken seriously.
- If change management is not baked into your daily motions your chances of success are limited at best.