Thursday, May 17, 2012

R.E.S.P.E.C.T is the key to Customer References: Take Aways from the 1st ICRPC Conference

I just returned from an invigorating week at the 1st International Customer Reference Professionals Conference, ICRPC for short, in Cambridge, MA.

This event was the brainchild of Claudia Koenig, a Customer Reference heavyweight out of Heidelberg, Germany, who already hosts a bimonthly conference call for collaboration in this space. Attendees and speakers hailed from around the world, with dynamic representatives from Italy, Costa Rica, Germany, Sweden, the UK, Canada, US, and Australia. I considered the event  a roaring success.  After two and a half long days with this extremely engaged community, my head is  swimming with many new ideas to apply to my own work enabling and celebrating Saba's customers and community members.

Here are some of my quick thoughts from our collaborative week in the city on the hill:

Lessons and Laughs in International Business
We spent a lot of time talking about cultural differences, laughing over our worst faux pas from navigating work with international clients, and jotting down tips to prevent those terrible "foot-approaching-mouth" moments. Our companies and roles were all different of course, most reference professionals at the event sit in their marketing organizations, but there were a few who reported in through sales, sparking some great tips about how to engage the sales team for reference recruitment. Lastly, the scope of experience varied greatly, many people come from more than 10+ years experience working with customer references, but a fair number of us were new to the space, soaking up the ideas and offering a fresh perspective on the industry.

Social Tools
Across almost every presentation we saw a focus on new, social tools, and how best to take advantage of them while avoiding public blunders.  Rhett Livengood, Director of B2B Customer Engagement Programs at Intel, talked about empowering references to participate in LinkedIn communities, linking them with the conversations that matter. Nick Martin, Social Media Consultant at Projectline introduced a new way to highlight our videos and case studies, sourcing and packaging dynamic Customer Evidence so that prospective customers using Social and Search will find our best customer stories. 

Engaging the Big Names
Miriam Rack, CEO at MRM Reference Consulting, LLC said the best way to engage the big names in reference activities is by asking yourself - What can I give them? By looking into their marketing strategy, you can see what story they want to tell, and propose partnering on creating content that will benefit both organizations.

And Finding the Big Stories
I particularly loved listening to Cynthia Hester, Director of the Customer Reference Program at VMware. She shared the journey she's taken since joining VMWare and how she focuses her program around two important concepts: Empowerment and engagement. By communicating continuously with her key internal stakeholders, VMWare is aware of what's new with customers, where the gap areas are, and what the customers care about so she can find and highlight those big stories.

Those were just a few of my favorite moments from the event.  I'll leave off with a quote that Jill Shaul, Marketing Programs Manager form Cisco shared with us from a 2010 Gartner webinar on Customer Success Stories:

“Customer reference stories are amongst the most powerful tools in the sales arsenal and yet it is a discipline which is often neglected or left to chance. Well executed case studies are worth their weight in gold; Few things are coveted more within marketing circles than compelling customer case studies from recognized industry names.The reasons for this desire are clear. Customer case studies help sales people to sell.”

How do you leverage your best customer stories?

1 comment:

  1. You're so right Deirdre - the generous sharing from the customer reference professionals at the event gave me new ideas, too. Can't wait to apply them to the swedish market.