Maria Sturgeon – Teradata

a conversation with...
Maria Sturgeon
Director, Peer Advantage, Customer Advocacy, Global Marketing,
Would you describe your
Peer Advantage is Teradata's global reference program launched back in 2001. We've always reported into global marketing. We support marketing activities and sales references for all global regions. It's a pleasure to work with our salesforce and marketing constituents because they really value the program and appreciate the work we are doing to drive revenue and support our corporate strategy.
Where did the initiative
to start a program
originate, and why?
The Peer Advantage program started a couple of years before I joined Teradata. It's the longest-running program within our marketing organization. Our execs and stakeholders have always seen the value in the program because we know that peer-to-peer conversations are consistently the number one or two criteria for selecting a vendor. Analyst research from firms such as Gartner and Forrester has consistently shown that year-over-year. In addition, peers instill trust in the buyer that they are making the right decision.
Who are your internal
The program supports our sales organization with one-to-one calls and meetings at Teradata events and arranging site visits. We also help marketing stakeholders, like our PR team and analyst team, fulfill key media interviews, analyst reviews, and critical analyst evaluations such as the Forrester Waves and the Gartner Magic Quadrants. Within the last two years, we've also expanded into supporting references for our alliance team because they help manage our partners, who also help drive our revenue. I also work closely with our user experience team to help them find customers willing to provide feedback and complete surveys based on our products.
What was the catalyst for moving to ReferenceEdge?When Teradata decided to switch the CRM system to Salesforce® a few years ago, our homegrown reference management system, which was part of our former CRM system, no longer worked to the capacity needed, mainly due to integration issues. As a result, we were spending lots of time with our help desk trying to understand and resolve the problems, and it became clear we needed a more compatible tool with Salesforce.

We also had a member enrollment website where the platform was not being supported anymore, so we needed to switch platforms for that as well. It really made sense to go into a vendor selection process to find a reference management system that met our needs and integrated with our member website and Salesforce.
What were your top
3 challenges before
Even though our old system was great for many years, we could never successfully track revenue influenced and the opportunities we supported unless we did it manually. Additionally, nominations were completed with a Word document, and we captured all of the profile and attribute data from those nominations into an Excel spreadsheet. Those were the main challenges that we were never able to meet with our prior system—and now we are with ReferenceEdge.

Ultimately, it was a very long process in terms of the solutions we looked at and why—and we were able to get a cross-functional team internally with our marketing ops folks, IT, and our Peer team to look at our needs. We put together an extensive user requirements document, and in the end, we just felt that Point of Reference and the ReferenceEdge tool could best deliver what we needed as a program to move forward.
Since launch, what has
changed in terms of your
company’s reference
As a result of launching ReferenceEdge, the main change is that our stakeholders are now able to conduct a little more self-service and research on the best customer for their client or activity since reference search functionality is available. This takes some of the responsibility off us to do the leg work. In addition, the nomination process is automated within ReferenceEdge, and profile data is captured in Salesforce for all of our stakeholders to see.

We also worked with our learning team to design learning modules around requesting a reference, nominating a reference, and updating attributes. As a result, we've elevated the overall training experience for our new hires. I'm able to assign a license to the appropriate person and send them some of the training modules simultaneously. Since we have modules available for all aspects of ReferenceEdge, it's easier to get new hires on board with the tool and up to speed with Peer Advantage. Also, since everything now is done in Salesforce and that's the primary system they work with daily, I believe that's very helpful.
Since launch, how has your job changed?I spend a lot more time on reporting since I can now leverage more automated reports. With so many reports at my fingertips, I am now doing them weekly to make sure we're on track to meet our KPIs. We also just started building out the dashboards, so we hope to increase the visibility at the executive level.

My team has spent more time with the account executives, engaging them on how to update attributes of their respective advocate companies. It's been great since there are a lot of new account executives, and we can educate them about Peer Advantage and the supporting processes. We hope to automate the profiles more in the future for them to update but working with the account executives during the last year has been really good for relationship building, especially with COVID and not being able to see them face to face.

Since our program is unique in how we reward customers with business rewards, we have a new liability process with corporate finance, so I also spend a lot of time around liability reports. The reporting in ReferenceEdge really, really helps me do that every month.
What feedback have you gotten from stakeholders? Leadership?We consistently track feedback about Peer Advantage by reaching out to the account executives to make sure that the references fulfilled their part and that the requesting prospect or customer was satisfied. For example, I just received feedback from an account executive who said that Peer Advantage is one of the key tools that he leverages to change perceptions of Teradata. Of course, we get plenty of feedback from customers, too—especially those who attend our webinars. Like last year we did one with our Utah Jazz customer hosting it, and we had one of the attendees say, "the insights were great in helping us with our evaluation process."

Obviously, with switching to a new sales tool, you're likely to have pushback from those folks who were used to our previous methods, so it was an education process. ReferenceEdge is really easy to use in terms of submitting a request or nominating a new member company. Often, we do have quick meetings with the account executives or the marketing person completing the request to walk them through it, and after they see it, they're like, "Oh, you're right—it's super easy." I think they do appreciate it being within Salesforce.
What aspects of ReferenceEdge do you value the most?For me, it is definitely the automated reports and the ability to flesh out a complete reference profile: what they’re referenceable for, activities they’re amenable to, etc. As I mentioned, I'm in ReferenceEdge daily and weekly doing reports just because it's become so critical to proving the value of our program. We're constantly refining our reports and attributes as needed to align with our program and corporate goals.

When we introduce a new product or solution, we can quickly modify the nomination form to ensure that we know the best references who can speak about that product or solution and that reference search results are accurate when searching on the new solution.

Our ability to also track within the profiles if a company is on caution for some reason is also critical in delivering the right reference. For example, last year with COVID, we saw many members not wanting to complete references. With ReferenceEdge, we're able to update that and keep that information accurate as well.
Tell me a little about your use of ReferenceEdge Group Events.One of the Peer Advantage program's core strengths is organizing webinars and events to leverage a customer. I collaborate with our analyst team to create 1: Many events with a customer, an analyst, and one of our key subject matter experts or executives moderating the session.

When COVID changed things, we saw the volume of our one-to-one references going down. However, we knew that our customers had a lot of stories to share, and they were willing to share them, so we organized several webinars throughout the last year. We used the group events functionality in ReferenceEdge to help us record who attended those webinars and then associate opportunities with those webinars to track the revenue influenced.

One of the great reasons this program has sustained is that we have members of our program that have been here since 2001. So, even though you constantly have new customers coming in and contacts changing, we do have long-term members who know our team. We have a history with them and can—especially at face-to-face events—organize a lot of unique personal touches with those people to recognize them and know that they're valued and appreciated for all their work. We truly enjoy working with them.

We make all the contact with our customers, and that's one of the things that Point of Reference helped us customize. When we send out the contact invite, it goes directly to the customer with a copy to the respective account manager just to keep them in the loop. But again, because this program has been so longstanding and has a very good reputation within Teradata, our account executives really trust us to go directly to that customer to make the ask.
How do you measure program success?Since program launch, we've measured two KPIs: the volume of references, both sales and marketing, and then new member companies because you continually need new advocates as part of your program. But with the capabilities of ReferenceEdge, we can successfully add revenue influence as one of our KPIs. We're just thrilled to be able to add that in terms of the opportunities we track. It allows us to track several areas; one is total overall Annual Recurring Revenue growth and total contract value, and then we're also able to look at a full funnel for the next 12 months to see what the potential ARR growth will be as well as the potential contract value. It is extremely helpful to see how that changes week to week because I provide a weekly report to management in terms of what is influenced.
How does Point of Reference’s service compare with other vendors with which you’ve worked?I met Point of Reference’s President, David Sroka, at a conference many, many years ago. He has been very gracious in introducing me to many of my peers in the advocacy world. He knew Teradata was not ready to move into a new customer reference system until we switched our CRM platform, so as soon as I knew that we had to do that, one of my first phone calls was to him to say we definitely wanted to consider Point of Reference as a potential solution.

I know that our program has presented some unique requirements for Point of Reference, and I really appreciate the staff's ability to customize where needed. I also appreciate the thought leadership as related to best practices. Our original account director was phenomenal—I mean, just phenomenal—and I greatly appreciated her being assigned to our account. We recently transferred to a new account director, and she jumped right in, quickly adding value without skipping a beat.

The staff has just been wonderful. We work with the Point of Reference co-founder and CTO a lot, too. He worked with our web agency when we've had integration issues, mostly API challenges with our website. He is always great at looking at the problem, going back and thinking about the issues involved, and then resolving them. So, the overall experience working with Point of Reference has been great.

Another thing I've enjoyed is the virtual user group. I think those are phenomenal in connecting their clients. You always learn a lot from other companies, and other companies may learn from you. I provided some feedback on the last one via the chat feature. I've already had several people reach out to me, mostly to educate them about our rewards program and the business rewards we offer, and how we manage that. It's always great to get a new perspective from a peer in the advocacy industry. So, I appreciate Point of Reference in taking the lead in organizing those, and I look forward to participating in more.