Happy Monday!... Happy Tuesday!...

Jim 1

Jim 1

That was Jim Mooney’s signature greeting and a statement for his philosophy on customer satisfaction: He wanted very happy customers. The advocacy community lost a leader on Saturday when Jim succumbed to a respiratory infection and my heart goes out to his wife and sons, especially because he’d finally stepped out of the business to have more time to spend with them.I came to know Jim very well after the merger of Boulder Logic with RO Innovation, when we saw quite a few joint customers through database transitions: He was thoughtful; listening carefully and coming back with suggestions to keep the customers happy.While we didn’t always agree on everything and had our back-and-forths; I applauded his willingness to try to do right by his customers. He was appreciated and loved by many of them.

Goodbye my friend, you left us far too soon.

Small Businesses, Big Impact

happy-nsbwWe qualify as a small business, per the US Small Business Administration. Their definition of a small business varies by industry, based on NAICS code. For us it’s a business with revenues under $15,000,000. That actually sounds fairly big, but to put it in perspective small businesses with under 20 employees are nearly 90% of all US businesses.  More than half of Americans work for or own a small business and those companies create two thirds of new jobs in the US every year. We are doing our part - we are hiring! Nearly 10 million small businesses are woman owned, as is Referential.  This week is National Small Business Week in the US, give your business to small businesses this week - and every week! Smaller businesses are key to innovation and growth. Learn more here.

When in Rome....

Our managing partner, Helen Feber, recently spent a week in Rome. She joined a world wide meeting held by one of our clients, bringing customer advocacy expertise and focus to the event. Helen also taught one of our training classes, customized to meet specific needs of this client. After the training she then proctored a certification exam, the ICCAP Level 1 exam.  Referential is authorized to deliver training in support of the certifications offered by the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals and to proctor the associated exams. It was a very busy week.IMG_2771Attentive students and a wonderful teacher led to a very high pass rate on the exam.  Congratulations to all the newly certified customer advocacy professionals!Of course one can’t spend a week in Rome without some fun!  Here's Helen as she was ready to cycle off on an adventure!Let us know if your organization is interested in customer advocacy training. We even have an ICCAP authorized training center at our site in San Jose California, should you not have a meeting in Rome scheduled!

Time Zones - Thoughts From Referential's Lynn Watts

time

time

Our days are governed by time, and the concept of time zones around the world can be quite daunting. If each time zone were 1 hour apart, there would be 24 in the world. But several time zones have only 30 and 45 minutes offsets, making the total number worldwide much higher, so there are 37 different time zones! With the Referential team being dispersed across several continents we have to be very mindful of the time when reaching out to our own team as well as customers. But with this spread, we can be productive and assist our clients across most of the 24hrs in any given day.I’m always a little edgy when sending out a meeting invite to a customer, have I calculated the time difference correctly? I think we have all experienced that oh so embarrassing event of phoning someone at some antisocial hour only to find they are stirring from a deep sleep to answer your call…once is enough and we will do all within our power to never have to go through that again!Have you ever had to arrange a meeting where there are several attendees, all in different countries? You know how confusing it is too, trying to align a time that works for everyone, and being respectful of trying to keep things within business hours, working out what are the business hours in that particular country, as much as one can. It can be a challenge!Also, throw into the mix the switch between Summer and Winter time. Some countries make changes before others, which means connecting with the rest of the world a little daunting! Your usual weekly meetings are not at the ‘usual’ times, and you either end up dialing frantically into a call, when prompted on Skype by a kindly colleague who notices you missing, or sitting on an empty line as you realize you are the only one who is 60 minutes too early!I use this great little tool, World Time Buddy – it has certainly proven to be my ‘buddy’ on a many an occasion!In a few weeks time, the whole Referential team will be getting together for our regular 6 monthly meeting at US head office in San Jose. It’s a chance for us all to be in one place, see each other face to face (rather than on webcam), brainstorm, bond and, for once, not have to think about time zones before reaching out. Its amazing, although we are spread far and wide around the globe, we never feel like there are thousands of miles and varying numbers of minutes between us.

Get Your Community Talking!

Whether your community is an AdvocateHub, based on LinkedIn, uses company forums or some other structure, you’re probably faced with challenges in starting conversations and then keeping community members involved. This blog post from Influitive has tips on conversation categories that are engaging and should incite conversation.Many communities have welcome posts that can serve an onboarding role for new participants and a central point for questions about how the community operates.Threads which allow participants to introduce themselves to others are popular. Start the thread with some simple questions to give people ideas of what to cover in their introduction. Access to information about news and events is a key benefit of community participation.  Ask questions of your members in those posts to start conversation. What are their thoughts on your new announcement?  Will they be attending the next big event that your company hosts? The blog also shows how posts about product feedback/updates, thought leadership, and best practices can help encourage participant activity. Examples of successful posts are shown with each category, examples you can leverage in your own community.Influitive recommends fun posts, posts about pets or kids or favorite vacation spots might be an easy place for your members to begin posting in your community.  With a little positive reinforcement, you may see them become active across all categories.What tips do you have for increasing conversations in your community?

Crocs and the Power of Their Gen-Z Advocates!

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crocs5-660x410

An interesting post on the Glossy blog tells the story of how Crocs has leveraged user generated content from their Gen-Z fans. They have zoomed up the list of teens’ favorite brands, from 27th in 2018 to 13th last year. With well defined user segments, Crocs knew they had a young set of fans, and they were becoming an increasingly important consumer segment. Crocs wanted to increase their digital activity and relevancy and looked to user generated content from this younger segment. If you’ve thought of Crocs as footwear for gardeners, they are now seen everywhere from London Fashion Week, the pages of Vogue, to the feet of Dame Helen Mirren. Customer advocates are partially responsible for Crocs huge increase in popularity. A story worth a read, really highlights the power of customers telling a brand’s story.

Referential's Andreas Silva: Takeaways from the Summit on Customer Engagement 2019

Andreas @ SCE 2019

Last Friday wrapped up another year of Referential’s sponsorship for the Summit on Customer Engagement. Once again, it was great to see familiar faces and meet new ones. Every year serves as a great reminder that we are not alone in the Advocacy world!There were plenty of great speakers, which gave me a lot to think about and how I can continue to elevate the Customer Advocacy Programs I support for my clients. Here are a few takeaways that I plan to implement.

1. The Power of Positivity

We see all the time on our LinkedIn feeds different articles and blogs about the Power of Positivity and how it can transform one’s way of thinking and how to go about each day. While the intention is good, it’s really hard to remain positive around everything all of the time. It takes a lot of discipline and commitment to be mindful of your demeanor.However, one trick that we learned from the keynote speaker, Mark Levy, was to begin each meeting (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) with your team going around to each team member and having them share their proudest moment since the last team meeting.Mark had the entire audience go through this exercise with a partner. It was shocking that it was hard at first to come up with 3 different moments that I was most proud of. It’s normal that we tend to dwell on the negatives and overlook where we may have excelled and made an impact.As a result, there was this tangible feeling of excitement in the room. Everyone got a moment to reflect and remember that the work that they do IS very meaningful. Advocacy Professionals can use this same exercise with their team and with their advocates to fuel a consistent, positive vibe.

2. Find new ways to track ROI

For most programs the monthly metrics are traditionally tracking things like:

  • Number of reference requests handled

  • How many pieces of new content were generated

  • Number of new customers recruited as advocates

However, these metrics are very advocacy focused and not specifically speaking to the key performance indicators of the Sales, Marketing, and Executive teams, so they don’t see the correlation to how that affects them and they tune out.Advocacy Managers need to think about making minor adjustments to the metrics they are tracking to better show the effectiveness of the program. For example, they can look to track:

  • How many unique clicks a new case study received in a given month, quarter, or year. From there the Advocacy Manager can look to track how many new leads were generated, which shows impact for Marketing.

  • # new leads generated from an event where a customer advocate provided a presentation to an audience. Tracking these leads from beginning to end can then show the revenue that was brought in – impacting the bottom line – from the efforts of the Advocacy Program.

  • # Sales Opportunities where a case study or video or some sort of customer evidence was shared. If the prospect found that content relevant and interesting, the program can attribute some of that revenue to the customer evidence provided. Advocacy Managers can then take a step back to see what types of content are most impactful and what types of stories they are telling. They can even evaluate if the deals that received customer advocate support closed faster than those that didn’t.

3. It’s time to re-think Customer Content

In the past, customer stories have always showcased really happy, positive customers who would be completely lost without “X” vendor. While the story is upbeat and bubbly, and the customer is talking about how great it is to work with the vendor, it’s just not fully believable. As humans, we know that we can design the “perfect plan” only for something to not go quite right. It’s time that customer stories reveal the truth: “Even in tough times, working with “X”, the support team worked hard to make things right quickly.” It makes the stories more authentic and genuine.Traditionally, customer content features someone like “Mark, Vice President of Technology” or “John, Chief Information Officer”. However, the readers and viewers don’t know who Mark or John are and why should they be listening to what they have to say. There needs to be more emphasis on the customer’s backstory, meaning the readers and viewers should get to know the individual on a more personal level. How did they get into the industry? How were they able to get to where they are today? Knowing that sort of information not only establishes credibility but it also helps the readers and viewers connect with that individual on a deeper level. They may share similar backgrounds and are able to relate to what they are currently going through; enhancing the human-to-human connection. Most professionals have LinkedIn and can do their research on who that individual works for. Instead of the traditional “Company ABC can sleep at night because of Vendor X”, why not try “Meet John, and learn how he transformed his organization’s IT processes.”Not only do programs need to consider how to get more creative around their customer content but they also need to think about different ways to encourage customers to create self-generated content. An example of this would be when a customer advocate makes an impromptu Tweet mentioning their success with Vendor “X” demonstrating how much they truly believe in the power of the vendor’s products and services. They are advocating as an individual and not on behalf of their company, which will attract the attention of their network of peers. Encouraging advocates to post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram can really bring out a vendor’s biggest fans. The detractors are equally as important as they are taking the steps to make their voice heard. Taking the time to make things right for those detractors can ultimately turn them into advocates.Many Advocacy Professionals have wonderful, creative ideas to elevate their programs, it’s a shame to not be able to sit in on every single session at the Summit because there’s always more to learn. I hope you find the three main points listed here are at least a great way to get the conversation started on new, effective ideas to elevate your program!

One Interview, Many Customer Assets

This ZoomInfo blog post is full of tips to get the most from your webinar content. The tips apply to your customer advocacy video content as well. Do you create the video, publish the video, and then sit back?  That content can do so much more in terms of raising awareness for your advocate and your program. The article is short and worth a quick read, you are likely to come away with several ideas you can put in to use immediately. Some of the ideas include:

·      Create a blog post with highlights of the content, include a link for those that want to learn more

·      Create an infographic of the content.  If the content lends itself to that format know that an infographic is read 30X more than a text article!  See this Hubspot blog post for more information about infographics

·      Create short clips for social media use

We do the above for our video clients. In addition, we use the content of the video interview to create a case study or success story.  That longer format allows us to tell a more complete customer story.  The quotes from that document are then pulled to be used as independent assets in marketing campaigns, on the web, even all over the walls at customer events.

A single interview should result in many deliverables, of different formats, with different uses. It’s a great way to get huge value from a single interview and have your customers really shine.

Any additional ways you use customer video content? Please share.

How Much Data is Enough Before a Decision?

This article from Harvard Business review by Ed O’Brien shows we use less data than we think to make decisions. Somewhat surprising in this age of easy access to information. People think they assess all available information before making a decision, but experiments show that isn’t the case. We make our minds up quickly, before we have a chance to work through all the data.

In a series of experiments, published  here, O’Brien and his co-author Nadav Klein tested the hypothesis that people overestimate how much information they will assess before making up their minds.

This was confirmed in several experiments. Two examples:

  • How many paintings do you need to see before determining if you like the style? Prediction 16 or 17 paintings, reality: 3 or 4 paintings.
  • How many essays will a hiring manager read? Participants wrote on average 4 essays, hiring managers read on average 2.

How do you make sure you look at ‘enough’ information and not decide too quickly? The article gives a range of advice. One tip is for experiences that don’t change much over time deciding quickly is appropriate, but don’t judge an employee’s performance too soon. And keep the perspective of others in mind. Will they really focus on your full multipage resume or should you put more effort into optimizing less content?

Very interesting read. Do you consider enough information before making decisions?

 

Move to Video! Thoughts from Referential's Alexander Feber

IMG_20171010_120507More than ever before, people are relying on reviews and opinions to help them make decisions, whether it be in their personal life or in a business situation. So why not take your success stories to the next level. Anyone can read a case study, but it doesn’t have the personal touch that video does. When an advocate shows their passion and their excitement for your product, it is leagues ahead of just an online review or endorsement.

We all want to ensure the products we buy are going to behave in the way that we desire or need them to. So by choosing to capture your advocates’ passion on video, enables your potential buyers to understand why the solutions are working for them and to be activated by the advocates’ excitement into purchasing.

Bring the power of video to your success stories – producing both 2-3 minute pieces and 30-60 second ‘snackable’ soundbites that can be shared on solution pages and blog posts – and have the world see just how genuine and authentic your advocates are about the value your solutions provide.

Improve your skills - training from Referential

As we have been heard to say at Referential, customer advocacy professionals don’t just grow on trees!  It’s a specialized skill set requiring a keen understanding of frameworks and methodologies.  Referential offers a tiered education program designed for advocacy practitioners at any stage of their career. Do you need to study the fundamentals of advocacy program design? We have a course for you. Want to master proven strategies for engaging customers or investigate both established and emerging methods of asset creation and metric reporting?  There is training for that as well. Our education program provides in-depth training across the full breadth of skills and experience necessary for advocacy practitioners to thrive in any industry. Referential training is tiered to support the Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals (ICCAP)  three levels of certification. In addition to our classes, training can be customized to meet individual needs or interest in specific topics.   See our training page  for more information about the content and intended audience of each training offering or contact us to discuss customized options. We're here to help you polish your skills and excel at advocacy!

 

Customer Advocacy Certification – Special Exam Sessions at SCE 2019

The Institute of Certified Customer Advocacy Professionals (ICCAP) will be holding three examination sessions immediately prior to the upcoming Summit on Customer Engagement event in Burlingame, CA. For those of you not familiar with ICCAP, it is a coalition of industry experts and practitioners who are committed to promoting excellence and accountability in the customer advocacy industry. The mission is to institutionalize industry standards and empower customer advocacy professionals.

ICCAP offers three levels of certification testing, all of which will be offered on March 13, at the Summit on Customer Engagement venue:

  • Customer Advocacy Professional I – demonstrating an understanding of the fundamentals of customer advocacy.
  • Customer Advocacy Professional II* – having at least two years of experience (or equivalent) and demonstrating knowledge of either being charge of a sub-team on an advocacy program or having more direct accountability for delivery/SLAs.
  • Customer Advocacy Professional III* – having at least five years of experience (or equivalent) and demonstrating knowledge of being able to start an advocacy program from scratch and/or having total ownership for a well-rounded one.

*= For these levels of certification, in addition to passing the examination you will be asked to provide details of your experience and 2 reference contacts that can vouch for your expertise.

To learn more and register, note that space is limited, please visit the ICCAP site The event special pricing for March 13 is $249 per exam; almost half-price!

Meet the Referential Team: Lauren Ruffin

LaurenMeet Lauren Ruffin, Referential’s newest team member, shown here with her grandpa! Lauren joined in September 2018 and has been diligently writing case studies, blogs, award nominations, profile slides and other assets for a variety of Referential’s clients. Prior to joining, she worked in the non-profit sector serving a broad range of functions in non-profit development including grant writing, fundraising, event planning, and marketing and communications. She is looking forward to continuing her support of the non-profit sector by working with clients to help them position their advocacy programs to be compelling and fruitful for the non-profit organizations their companies serve. Lauren enjoys being able to experience and contribute to the full spectrum of activities that managing a customer advocacy program requires. She is thoroughly impressed by the range of skills and experience shared among her colleagues and feels lucky to learn from and work alongside such a capable staff. She has come to greatly appreciate the level of planning, organization, and collaboration the staff invests into managing each client’s customer advocacy program. She continues to be in awe of how many programs the team is able to coordinate at once. 

Lauren also enjoys learning about customers’ stories during the asset creation process. She is fascinated by the infinite number of ways we as people perceive and experience the world around us and continues to be intrigued by the myriad of benefits a single product from a client can offer to different customers. One of her favorite parts about working in asset production is the creative challenge of capturing the details that make each customer’s narrative unique and retelling their stories in a way that is true and authentic to their lived experiences.

She is grateful for the warm welcome she received from the Referential team and how patient and kind everyone has been introducing her to the world of customer advocacy. She is very thankful to have the help and guidance of so many experienced customer advocacy managers and appreciates the team’s propensity for a good laugh. Afternoon strolls with teammates and the perk of afternoon tea – thanks to Referential’s British managing partners – are some of her favorite parts of day-to-day life in the office.

When not clacking away on a keyboard at work, you might catch Lauren cruising around the Bay in her red Prius to try out new food or taking time out for gardening. She likes to take breaks from indulging in various TV series to walk her dog, Koge, and will almost never turn down the opportunity to turn up some music and dance with reckless abandon when no one is watching. 

Lauren loves to connect with people and looks forward to translating that passion into continuing Referential’s tradition of fostering welcoming, inclusive environments for customer advocates so they feel comfortable and confident sharing their stories.

Wellness: A Company Priority

We kicked off a team wellness challenge today.  As partners with Influitive we have our own AdvocateHub which we call Rendezvous. We’re going to use the Experiences capability as our foundation. The Experience capability is almost like having a mini Hub within a Hub.  We’ll have choices of challenges around a monthly theme. Not only are we all going to improve our wellness, we’ll learn a bit more about the AdvocateHub from both the administrative and user perspective. challengesMonth one of our challenge is focused on food and drink.  We can choose from 5 different challenges throughout the month, repeating or choosing to do a new one each week.  Eat less sugar, eat more fruit and veggies, drink more water, eat home cooked meals all week, or try out a new diet. As we complete our chosen challenge each week we’ll earn points towards individual and group goals. 

Next month the theme will be increased physical activity.  Follow our blog and you’ll see updates on how we’re doing. It’s good to focus on wellness and this approach allows us to have personal choices while still working towards a common goal as a team.

The SCARF Model: Product Insights, Customer Motivation

This article from Justin Owings discusses a fairly simple model for motivation and how it can apply to your products and your customers. What makes your customers, your advocates, act?  What makes them pull away or ignore requests? The SCARF model was created by Dr David Rock. It is about understanding motivation. You can read Dr Rock’s publication SCARF: A Brain-Based Model for Collaborating With and Influencing Others. At the basis is the thought that we are motivated to approach good stimuli or rewards, and we disengage or avoid stimuli we see as bad or a thread. 

The acronym "SCARF" stands for status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness, and fairness. Very briefly, if you use the model to gain insight to your products you might think through the following questions:  

Status: how does your product elevate the status of your customers?

Certainty: How does the product assure users it does what it's says it does?

Autonomy: How does my product empower my users to act?

Relatedness: How does my product help me connect to others?

Fairness: Is my product fair?

Dr Rock originally created the SCARF model to help us understand our motivations and the motivations of others. As we see above the model can help you gain insights to your products. The model has also been used as a framework for thinking through personas and then crafting collateral and messaging which then resonates with target markets.

What are your thoughts on the SCARF model and how it might apply to your products, processes, or customers?

 

Meet the Referential Team: Saravanan Sakthivel

saravanan sakthivelSaravanan Sakthivel – or Sara for short – is based in India. Referential is the first company he’s been with in which he works entirely remotely. Although he’s in the eastern hemisphere, he never feels too far away from the rest of the team because everyone is good about connecting with him via Skype and there’s overlap in working hours with other teammates’ time zones. Sara has over five years of working with customer advocacy programs and has been a full-time consultant with Referential for more than a year. His favorite part of the job for clients is recruiting new customers into their programs. He enjoys being able to identify and leverage clients’ happiest customers, and then help them share their success with the rest of the business community.

When he’s not working, Sara spends times with his family, which includes his wife and 3-years old son. They like to watch television together to relax. They recently had a vacation in England visiting family and while there, Sara got to spend a day sightseeing with his Referential colleague, Lynn.

Sara describes Referential’s culture as being strong and friendly. He loves working alongside the rest of the team; it was the work culture that attracted him to join the company in the first place. Sara plans to keep on learning and moving to the next level in consultancy with Referential. He always gives a hundred percent of effort in fulfilling the goals and targets that he’s tasked with.

Issue That May Impact The Success Of Your Advocacy Program

We all aim for advocacy program success but there are valuable learnings from the failures of others.  This blog post  from Influitive discusses the 7 most common reasons an advocacy program fails and how you can address the issue before it becomes a problem for your program. Here are the key issues they have seen:

influitive failures

influitive failures

While the post is through the lens of an Advocate Hub the information is really applicable to all the various ways we structure advocacy programs.

Each of the seven areas is described, you’ll understand why they are potential problems, and then there are recommendations to fix, or even avoid, the issue. There are also links to more information. For example, one way to address the issue of a generic advocate experience is to customize.  But how?  The blog post includes links to further information about developing and using personas to target your information and asks.

One blog post won’t avoid all potential problems, but this does have good information and is worth a read.  Address these issues so they don’t become problems for your program in the future.  In the comments add any additional ideas you have for others, let's learn from each other.

Learn from 777 Million Facebook posts!

If your company uses Facebook as part of their marketing portfolio you should look at this post  by Susan Moeller of BuzzSumo. To help us all understand how we can drive more engagement via Facebook BuzzSumo analyzed 777 MILLION posts. 

As with previous years, video is the most engaging type of Facebook post. 59% more engagement than other types of posts, with 3-4 minutes being the sweet spot in terms of length.

There is information about best time of day, best day of the week, optimal length of text posts, and so much more. Some of the information may not hold true for your specific audience but will give you helpful information nonetheless.

Also of interest is the data about the Facebook pages with the most engagement for 2018. They may give you ideas to improve your page’s engagement, even if you don’t feature vides of babies, animals, or food! The author does a good job of highlighting what each page does well and how it might apply to others.

Read the post to the end for helpful tips on how you can improve your reach.  Look at your own data, analyze your most successful posts and see what you can apply elsewhere.  Adjust, analyze, and repeat.

While some of the information in this post is specific to BuzzSumo the majority will be helpful to anyone who uses Facebook as part of their marketing.

Meet the Referential Team: Lillian Kann

Portsmouth-2018 (2)Meet Lillian Kann, in the photo with her husband.  Lillian had just two words to say when giving a brief description of her position at Referential – “fabulous job”. She’s extremely passionate about what she does, and anybody could tell that from the way she speaks about it. Lillian explained how she loves being able to work with customers and being able to share their success stories, which she says are tremendously powerful. She feels this incredible satisfaction in being able to enable her customers to feel proud of their success and help showcase their achievements. Lillian’s previous years of work prior Referential included building a number of advocacy programs from scratch. What attracted her to Referential is the strong, collaborative, and unique team. She feels she’s continuously learning and growing as an individual: Having the opportunity to try things she’s never done before, and is delighted at how much she’s enjoying it all.

Having never previously worked as a consultant, Referential has enabled her to constantly be introduced to new clients, tasks, and environments. It has exposed her to an entirely new perspective on business and she loves the thrill of always having new aspects in her work life.

Lillian looks forward to furthering her career at Referential and continuing to help clients share their customers’ stories. She’s a strong believer in there always being room to improve and would love to keep learning. Most importantly, she hopes to keep on enjoying what she does and to do an outstanding job at it.

Lillian stressed that she wants clients to know she will work hard for them and will work to build an effective partnership. She will do her upmost to invest her energy in helping them achieve their goals and missions.

Her love for cooking, gardening, sailing, and traveling keeps her occupied in her free time. Lillian’s enthusiasm is infectious and we hope you get to meet her and enjoy spending time with her like we do!