What a Strategic Customer Reference Program Manager Does
High-impact customer reference programs don’t just happen automatically. They require dedicated resources and a senior marketing manager at the helm to drive adoption, cultivate relationships, and deliver results. Too often, companies think the reference program manager is a junior position, or that it can be done while also doing content development, events, PR or other related jobs—and still make a big impact on revenue. It cannot.
A tactical program is purely reactive, and chronically understaffed, and adds the bare minimum of value. The role described by the diagram is fully engaged, proactive and aimed at supporting top company growth goals. Run by the right individual, a strategic program will help many stakeholder departments hit their objectives by providing swift access to the most credible and compelling influencers in the buying cycle: peers.
Hover over any of the activities on the diagram to read a description and our best-practices.
As an reference program manager, you can ensure your program’s relevance and extend your reach by establishing a customer reference program advisory board for the program. Comprised mainly of sales, but also stakeholders in marketing and customer success, this board provides feedback and suggestions and acts as ambassadors for the program. They are the program’s power users and champions in the field.
Each market segment needs a minimum number of referenceable customers. Your recruiting efforts should be driven by any gaps in the database. Taking an undiscriminating beggars can’t be choosers approach won’t help build a stable of advocates where they’re most needed. As program manager, you should continually identify where the needs are and target prospective advocates in those categories.
ReferenceEdge: The Reference Lead Finder feature systematically provides a continuous pipeline of candidates.
It’s important to keep your program and system top of mind with new and existing stakeholders (sales, marketing, etc.). Sharing program successes is a key deliverable. Do this by attending team meetings/functions, including program news in newsletters/Chatter feeds, and having a presence at company events (e.g., SKO), etc. Keeping leadership informed of the program’s impact is part of your role.
ReferenceEdge: Share ReferenceEdge dashboard charts on various stakeholder audience dashboards so real-time information as always top of mind.
Whether or not your program develops content, it is important that relevant content can be easily found. The prerequisite is tagging the content accurately and consistently, and updating or retiring aged content. Reporting on content engagement by both sales and prospects will identify content characteristics that are helpful (and persuasive) to buyers, which helps you prioritize content development activities.
ReferenceEdge: Content Collections are invaluable to the user who doesn’t have time to hand-pick content for a prospect. Plan to adapt Content Collections to the ever changing needs of the sales force.
Policies and penalties alone are not enough to change user behavior when it comes to adopting new technology. Change is hard even when the benefits are well-known. We advise rewarding users for desired behavior as part of an ongoing contest. Competition and recognition are powerful motivators for sales. The prizes need not be expensive, but they should be chosen as a result of feedback from your CRP AdBoard.
ReferenceEdge: Enable ReferenceEdge User Rewards so that each nomination, profile update and peer-to-peer assist receive positive reinforcement.
Your stakeholders’ needs evolve and so should your reference management system. This might involve updating product lists, revising SLAs, adding new search attributes, introducing new content types, etc. Sources of input for these changes may come from attending sales meetings, analyzing program dashboards, or your CRP AdBoard.
ReferenceEdge: Use the many pre-built ReferenceEdge reports and dashboards to identify areas requiring attention or improvement.
New Member Onboarding
The process of converting a customer contact into a customer reference can be handled with either a tech touch or high touch approach. We believe one-on-one conversations with each reference candidate are the way to form a meaningful partnership. This method enables you find out the customer’s preferences as well as strengths and weaknesses, which helps you determine how they will be best used by the program.
ReferenceEdge: Nominations are easily converted to Reference Profiles with a few clicks. No need to transpose data.
You’ll want to be sure anyone who should have a license to use the customer reference program application has one, and licenses held by recently departed employees are reassigned. Your Salesforce admin does the actual issuance and reassignment. Many admins set up rules so that anyone with “X profile” gets a license, and another rule that revokes the license when a user leaves the company. Your role in that case is simply help the admin define the logic for issuing a license for ReferenceEdge.
User training is an ongoing requirement. Ensuring all users are trained at the time of launch is usually handled, but there will always be new users and those that missed a training session, as well as those who forgot what they learned by the time they need to use the system. As program manager, you should offer recurring monthly training to catch those who need it. Added benefit: These training sessions provide an excellent opportunity for feedback.
The program manager role, in its most evolved state, is an internal consultant position. You should be meeting with teams that use references (PR, AR, social, events, executives, etc.) in an effort to identify gaps and anticipate needs (new product launches, new segments, etc.). Aligning your program with top company goals guarantees maximum impact. To do this, you must be aware of those goals and included in planning sessions so that your program is proactively positioned to support those objectives.
ReferenceEdge: After identifying the metrics by which the leadership team will assess program success, ensure you have the right reports and dashboards to quantify that success. Schedule reports for and share dashboard charts with managers that
If the data can’t be trusted then your program’s core asset has no value. The main requirement is that reference accounts and contacts are fully and accurately tagged: who is an advocate, for what, what activities are they available for, how often? The initial data set is important for users’ first impressions.
ReferenceEdge: The Profile Update feature ensures existing data stays updated by the people closest to each account and related contacts.
One of your key goals should be to develop advocate rapport beyond, “Would you take a reference call for us?” Program managers should proactively reach out to top advocates to ensure 1) they are happy with their experience as a customer and an advocate, 2) to update their profiles and preferences, and 3) develop co-marketing activities.
ReferenceEdge: The Reference Use Feedback feature will provide insights into each reference use as evaluated by the sales team. Use feedback to address any negative outcomes immediately.
Assuming the peer-to-peer model is used for the majority of reference requests, concierge assistance should be no more than 10-20% of all request activity. However, when a user is unable to find what s/he is looking for in Reference Search, additional research and outreach is necessary, and that responsibility belongs to you, the program manager.
Tracking program performance is at the heart of program leadership. Your program’s metrics should include operational statistics as well as indicators of contribution to top company goals: those areas that CxO’s are measured on. Set your monthly, quarterly, and annual program goals and then put the necessary reports and dashboard in place to make sure you’re moving the right direction.
ReferenceEdge: The dashboard and reports provide immeasurable value in identifying changes as well as trends that require additional discovery or intervention.
Proactive consulting will identify, among many things, opportunities to create connections between the reference program and related stakeholder departments and their technology solutions. This is where the equation 1+1=3 applies. By integrating systems, you achieve consistency and timely data updates that don’t rely on human memory to happen.
ReferenceEdge: Pre-built integrations are available for Influitive, Slack, Tech Validate, and Gainsight forming a powerful advocate technology stack.