Kim Glover, customer reference marketing professional and consultant with Porter Consulting sat down with David Sroka, CEO of Point of Reference to discuss some best practices for implementing and working with customer reference databases. David shares some great benefits realized with his company’s customer marketing technology, ReferenceEdge.
Question: What do you see as the most critical reason for companies to decide to implement a customer reference database or tracking system?
David Sroka: If you recognize that recommendations from peers are one of the most—if not THE most—powerful influences on a B2B buyer, then you start asking:
- How do we best centralize detailed advocate information?
- How do we make it fast/easy to find, then leverage those advocates for any need?
- How do we make sure they aren’t overused?
- How do we attribute value to advocate activities, and therefore our success?
If a company can’t operationalize and scale these functions for employees that depend on advocates to meet their goals, it’s time to consider purpose-built technology.
Q: What value does implementing a system offer for organizations and how can this be quantified?
DS: There are two types of benefits: activity-based and outcome-based. Outcome benefits correlate directly to money. Improved win rates, productivity gains for sales and marketing in particular, and shortened sales cycles. Successful programs can show what percentage (and it’s quite often significant) of revenue is influenced by a reference. For a customer marketing manager, being able to track quality nominations, strategic accounts added to the program, fulfillment time statistics, data gaps, etc., is the only way to influence buyer decisions with customer advocates.
Q: Can you speak to the types of automation customer reference systems can or should offer organizations and how the automation features translate to ROI?
DS: Having the ability to associate advocate activity (e.g., reference calls, group events) to sales opportunities is the bare minimum. A system ought to have multiple options for identifying and recruiting new program members because advocate turnover is inevitable. Without a steady supply of new advocates, all other program benefits are hampered. It’s impossible to overestimate the value of a competent, focused program leader. If they have the skills, bandwidth and passion to meet the reference needs of their stakeholders, the ROI will follow. Practical automation of processes—that make sense—is what that leader needs in order to allocate their time effectively.
Q: How does a system like PoR’s ReferenceEdge stay current and adapt to future needs?
DS: Our application stays current through a combination of user feedback, specifically our roadmap wishlist (we use Trello), continuous evaluation of new Salesforce functionality partners can leverage (e.g., Tableau AI), and product management brainstorming with client-facing staff. We provide up to 3 product updates annually and they’re pretty packed with new capabilities and enhancements.
Q: What advice or recommendations do you give to an organization that is looking to implement a customer reference system for the first time?
DS: #1 – Commit a resource, who has the bandwidth and passion for customer advocacy, to run the program. I can’t underscore that enough. When programs fail the cause is nearly always a result of a lack of leadership (no owner, wrong owner, distracted owner, etc.).
#2 – Begin with a mindset that an advocate program is a team sport, which makes sense since advocates are a company asset, not exclusive to sales, PR, events, digital, etc. Each “player” has a role to play and stakeholder department heads should understand their commitments (what they owe, what they get). Once this foundation is established the program can take root and really flourish.
Do you need help selecting the right database for your customer reference program, or with implementing a database at your company? Porter Consulting works with a bevy of customer reference marketing professionals who can help lighten your load! Email us at email@example.com to schedule a consultation with a Porter Consulting customer reference expert.