Target Advocate Program Increases with Gap Analysis - Tips From Referential's Lillian Kann

It’s the end of August, vacations are winding down and the kids are prepping for back to school. The calendar says it’s time to focus on the rest of the year! With the craziness of planning meals around sports and sizing up kids’ clothes and everything else they need, comes the opportunity to also review advocacy requirements and plan for success. Advocate recruitment tends to be a delicate synergy between identifying strategic customers for validation and predicting the references sales and marketing will be looking for to support sales opportunities and upcoming marketing requests. What can advocacy managers do to find the right balance?

Gap analysis of your reference database can be a key step in understanding reference coverage across your products, industries and geographic sectors.  It is also a helpful way to proactively plan for future request fulfillment. With an understanding of approved references and how this information compares to both your customer universe and request activity, you can proactively plan for recruitment and avoid the reactive chaos of high demand periods. A first step is  to create a snapshot of advocates:

  1. What references do you have today: Look at your universe of customers by product and compare this to customers successfully recruited for advocacy within that product area. This can offer visibility to necessary recruitment.
  2. How many requests do you expect: Using sales revenue goals by product and projected average deal size, calculate the number of deals required to meet goal. Adjust this number by the average number of references requested by each opportunity to better understand how many references you will need during the given period.
  3. Marketing requests: Check marketing calendars for visibility to upcoming events, speaker requests, analyst research needs and more.
  4. Where there are gaps: Comparing your anticipated deal numbers, the required references volume and your current approved references, you can identify gaps and proactively solicit customer nominations throughout your company to fill these gaps.

Once you understand the gap areas and request forecast, Sales and Customer Success may be your go-to teams for nominations and recruitment. Don’t forget about product management and product marketing teams. They can offer insight to customer lists and new product releases as well as early adopter customer lists Implementation and service delivery teams can help provide latest status on customer deployments. Sales leaders can offer insight to recent strategic wins All of these sources will help create a healthy pipeline of potential new customer advocates.

Gap analysis can offer an interesting view into overall advocacy success. If gap analysis is done effectively, this information can also offer critical insight, with metrics, into overall product success while offering insight to potential areas of concern.

Meet the Referential Team: Kristy Ward

Another in our series of blog posts about the Referential Team Kristy glass blowing

Kristy Ward, one of Referential’s earliest employees, holds the responsibility of playing several crucial roles within the organization. As a COO, she carries out many duties ranging from handling the payroll, to analyzing legal documents, to writing checks for the garbage service! She is essentially the backbone of Referential, and although the COO position is only one of the many roles she undertakes in her daily life – others being a mother of three, delivering consulting to Referential clients, and a dedicated film and novel enthusiast – Kristy manages to execute each task presented to her with utmost precision.

Kristy possesses a wide range of skills and recognizes her past experiences as being one of the primary factors in her success. She’s spent a number of years working in the high-tech industry and is very familiar with many of Referential’s clients. She’s grateful that she has a better understanding of them, and how to be more innovative with them, due to her extensive knowledge. Kristy’s favorite aspect of working with customers is receiving their approval and appreciation – knowing that she’s made them feel good – for representing their brand well.

As a matter of fact, her former work has enabled her to introduce a couple of her current co-workers to Referential. This ties into the reason of why Kristy has such a strong perspective of the company being truly family-oriented in both a literal and figurative sense.

Some of her favorite memories as a member of the team are shared with her peers. She recalled stories of video ‘bloopers’ -- the time a colleague walked straight into a closed door, and when a yoga ball (some employees opt to use as an office chair) broke with its passenger making an elegant fall! That’s not to mention the birthday parties complete with cakes, the annual holiday volunteer work, and the success celebrations the entire group takes part in. It’s the little things like these that add to an environment unique to Referential’s culture.

Kristy noted the great emphasis on community and helping one another at Referential. She explained that if there’s a particular aspect a member is interested in, the business dynamic enables the flexibility to explore it. Employees are given opportunities to try different things and to customize a role that brings out their strengths with elements to match their interests.

Despite already having a strong career with many accomplishments, Kristy is always eager to learn more about new clients and their industry and solutions, and to help Referential grow. Outside of work, she plans on finishing renovating her house soon, and  traveling to see more of the world.

Kristy wants both potential and current clients to know that she has an extensive background in many areas and is always excited to help them. We hope this gives you a good idea of who she is and the important work she does here at Referential!

See you at Advocamp Field Day!

Advocamp-2018Influitive’s Advocamp Field Day is October 3. We’ve sponsored past events and are excited to participate at this new venue. Referential's Jennifer Doyon will be at the event.  If you are attending in person take a minute to stop by our space and speak with her. It’s always nice to make face to face connections!  Online or onsite you will find it a valuable experience and well worth you time.  Even a better value if you register by August 15 and receive a 20% discount! All the details are here. Spending time with others focused on customer advocacy is sure to give you many ideas for your program. Enjoy the camp theme, network with attendees, learn from Influitive - you'll enjoy it and come away with many new ideas to apply right away.

See you at the field day!

 

Meet the Referential Team: Ryan Barron

RyanIntern-turned-employee Ryan Barron has worked with Referential for 18-months and currently serves as an Advocacy Consultant. Although he recently graduated from college, Ryan has plenty of experience gained from both working at Referential full-time during the summer of 2017, and delivering half-time throughout the school year. Originally, Ryan was unaware of the world of advocacy. However, today he loves that it’s much bigger than he anticipated and is a nice change of pace. He enjoys helping to expand customers’ product markets and grow profit margins by enabling their best customers to share their positive experiences.

Ryan credits his impressive success to being a people-person and having the ability to talk to almost anybody. That, in addition to his dedication, skill with Microsoft office tools, and multi-tasking abilities makes for a bright future.

He’s thankful to Referential’s intimate setting with bonds that are closer than those of an average workplace. Ryan finds comfort in everyone knowing each other well and says it helps the group to communicate with ease. He appreciates coming in to work, seeing familiar faces and having a good laugh. He says he hasn’t had a bad day yet – which means a lot because the work can be quite stressful – and he appreciates having some light moments that reduce the tension.

One of his favorite things about working with multiple clients is the exposure he receives to how different corporations go about business: Understanding how a company is run, how offices function and interact, and learning from co-workers. His day-to-day routine is to soak up everything like a sponge!

In his free time, Ryan plays basketball and takes part in the occasional video gaming session. He also watches a lot of Netflix, which he says should be a hobby! He looks forward to having a sustainable lifestyle.

Ryan works well with people and believes understanding where a client is coming from, and adapting to their style, is vital for success in a relationship. He aims to grow alongside his clients and looks forward to a bright future ahead.

The 3Rs of Supplying References to Analysts: From Referential’s Jennifer Doyon

Why does it seem that analyst requests are getting more and more demanding?  It used to be that they would ask for five references with a name/email address/phone number for a report not coming out until early next year.  Lately, we have seen the requirement for references has increased significantly; not only do the analysts now want a phone interview, but they’re asking each customer to also complete an extensive survey.  Your customers are busy and so are you, right? Let’s think about these three Rs to help you determine your response:  What is Realistic?  What is Reasonable?  What is the Return?

What is realistic?

Is your product really ready to be included in this report?  Can your company compete with the major players?  Are you asking customers to comment on products they haven’t truly tested?  If it’s a stretch, perhaps you can opt out and revisit the option next year.

What is reasonable?

Have they asked for 20 references and they need them by Friday?  Don’t hesitate to ask for an extended deadline if the ask is going to cause major disruption to your team.  More importantly, don’t ever jeopardize your relationship with a customer because of some external pressure.  Hopefully, you already know which customers are willing and able to connect with analysts.  If not, ensure you have the time needed to identify and properly vet your references.

What is the return?

What percentage of your audience is going to make their buying decision based on this report?  Will it affect the company’s bottom line?  Identify the most influential analyst evaluations where you expect a solid return, and focus your attention on those.  If it is a lesser known analyst report among your prospective buyers, determine if it is truly worth the time and effort of your customer advocates.

In the end, remember that analysts are people too, and they have many priorities, just like you.  They are helping our prospective clients make informed buying decisions.  Analysts have a responsibility to dig in to find the real story and connect with real users.  Sure, their demands seem a bit unrealistic at times, but if you’re prepared and selective, you’ll make the analyst “work” for you.

Podcast Fan? 15 Business Podcasts to Explore

Like podcasts?  Here's a list of 15 top business podcasts from Lean Labs. Listen while you run, while you drive, while at the grocery store, or even on your commute.  The audio format gives tremendous flexibility. If you listen to podcasts today, these 15 probably include old favorites and no doubt new ones to add to your list. If you aren’t part of the 40 million that listen to podcasts weekly maybe it’s time to give it a try! 

This isn’t the only list of great business podcasts. A quick google search will show you lists from other organizations or more focused sets of choices. Interested in product marketing or business development or entrepreneurship?  There are podcasts for just about any other topic you can think of. If you aren’t already a fan try this easy way to fit learning, and even entertainment, into your day.

The Referential Team: Meet Ankit Singh

We will be posting profiles of the team over the next several months and are pleased to start with introducing you to Ankit Singh.  You may have seen Ankit's blog post, here, full of tips for Salesforce reporting.  Here's Ankit, with his absolutely darling niece.Ankit Ankit has worked in the advocacy world at Referential for some while now. During this time, he credits three key practices with enabling his success: He’s had the opportunity to work closely alongside very seasoned experts, take on multiple roles as an Advocacy Consultant, and gain an abundance of experience with a variety of clients.

Being a highly-focused consultancy, Referential has a tightknit team that knows each other very well in a both professional and personal aspect. His peers and his position at Referential have taught him how to interact with others within marketing, advocacy programs, and C-Suite – which is crucial for success in business. Ankit appreciates his job for exposing him to the behind-the-scenes operations of business.

When asked what he brings to Referential as an individual, Ankit explained his ability to speak well and keep a conversation flowing whether it be face-to-face with clients or during customer calls. He can be exceptionally engaging, convincing, well-spoken, and very patient when training people. It’s a valuable skill to have, especially when a large part of the advocacy job entails communicating with others. He emphasized how he loves to meet and get to know clients, which he said allows him to connect with them better over the lifespan of the consulting engagement.

With a passion for cars and motorcycles, Ankit is considering buying a bike of his own eventually. He also enjoys cooking, eating, and trying new restaurants. In his free time, he likes to play video games, listen to music, and watch films. He plans to travel more when time and money allow it.

Ankit shared that he’s still learning new things with every passing day, and appreciates that advocacy is a space that’s constantly evolving. He has many goals: He joked that his first and foremost goal is to make ridiculous sums of money but on a more serious note he simply wants to be happy and healthy in the future. Referential is thankful to have him, we hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the person that Ankit is inside and outside of work.

Ensure the voice of your customer is strong throughout the buying cycle

With buyers looking for input from their peers more and more often, be it in consumer or B2B situations, it’s increasingly important to ensure that you have the voice of your customers prominent in all stages of the buying cycle. Hubspot research shows that sales and marketing people are not viewed as particularly trustworthy.  In fact only 3% of survey respondents trust salespeople. To put that in context politicians are at 1% and lawyers at 12%. Though 49% of us trust doctors.

With low trust for sales and marketing, buyers are turning to people they know and trust, their peers and your customers. It’s increasingly important to have the voice of your customer prominent at each stage of the buying cycle. Where to start?  This infographic  from ROInnovation is one example of how you can map customer content to the stages of the buying cycle. While it may not be the perfect fit for your company it’s a good place to start.  What customer content do you have?  Is it easy to find and being used appropriately? What are you missing? Anything you would add to the infographic? Give us your thoughts below. 

We're already half way through 2018!

Hard to believe but we are half way through the year. Time for mid year check points not only with employees but also with clients. We just completed a round of client reviews.  Simple format – one slide with goals for the client and progress in the first half, plus a second slide with action plans should there be any issues and comments about what is expected in the second half. These reviews complement the monthly metrics and client checkpoints that we also do. In addition to a checkpoint of first half results, we also looked at statistics which allow us to compare client performance to industry norms.  We looked at everything from what percent of customers contacted agree to participate in advocacy programs to how long does it take to fulfill an average request for advocate participation.

It’s good to take a step back and assess.  Each team has done very well in the first half and is looking forward to an even more impactful end to the year.  The reviews are always a valuable experience. There is a chance for learnings that we can bring to all clients, valuable insight to share with our lead contacts, and there were many pats on the backs for jobs well done!  The first half has been full of amazing accomplishments and huge financial impact for our clients.  Looking forward to even greater success in the second half of 2018!

Recruiting new advocates? Learn from the best - our Andreas Silva

  "I'm going to give him an offer he can't refuse." You can channel your inner Don Corleone during recruitment calls! Now, we don’t mean THAT sort of offer, but there is a way to position advocacy activities during a recruitment call with a customer where they really can’t refuse you.

Traditionally in the advocacy world you have a laundry list of activities that you want/need customers to participate in like taking reference phone calls, participating in analyst surveys, speaking at conferences, writing case studies. The problem with that is the customer only hears what you, the vendor, is getting out of the relationship. They’ve most likely been burned so many different times by other vendors that the laundry list begins to sound as monotonous as Luca Brasi rehearsing his pledge to Don Corleone at his daughter’s wedding.

It’s easy to forget in the middle of all the craziness of trying to insert a customer voice in every situation possible that Customer Advocacy is a two-way street. The customer will gladly sing your praises from the hilltops of Sicily because you made them feel special and that they had an impact, so give them an opportunity to make that impact and to do the things they really want to do.

Andreas Silva is our recruiting expert. Instead of asking advocates “Would you be willing to take a reference call?” he asks “How would you like to connect with your peers?”

Instead of asking “Would you take an interview with an analyst?” we ask “Would you like to make an impact on your industry by giving product feedback to an analyst?”

And finally, instead of asking “Would you speak at a user conference?” try “Would you like to be seen as a thought leader amongst your peers?” or “Have you ever considered elevating your personal brand by speaking at ____ Conference?”  You can almost hear those gears turning in their heads.

See the difference? Hard to say no, isn’t it?

The key to all of this is really listening to the customer and understanding what makes them tick. These are people and at the end of the day and we all have things that get us fired up. Position the various advocacy activities in a manner such that they really see the value of being engaged and participating in all the activities you have to offer. Soon enough they’ll be jumping out of their seats when you, “The Don”, come calling.

The Piece is Done - Now What?

You have worked with your advocate and created a fantastic video or case study.  It’s on your web site, but now what!  How do you get additional visibility for this great piece that sings the praises of your products as well as showcases your customer as innovative and a thought leader? Social media is one approach. These stats from April show that Facebook has 2B, yes billion, active users each month. Instagram, number 6 on the list,  has over 800 million active users. .

Here is an article from Influitive, with ideas on how to best use a range of channels to get higher visibility for your content. You need to give thought to language, time of day for posts, audience and much more. For example, with LinkedIn Influitive encourages you to consider targeted updates on your company page, rather than aiming at your entire audience.

In addition to social media consider email. An article from eMarketer shows that email ROI is more than 4X that of other marketing formats! What about your company blog? Many of our clients do blog posts about new customer content.

Do post pieces on your website but don't stop there.  Get your company, and your advocate, additional visibility.  What approach has been most successful for you? Share your tips!

Team Members From UK and India Meet!

Lynn and Sara One nice thing about having a global team is you may be able to meet up with a friend from work while on vacation!  This week our teammate from India, Saravanan, is in the UK with his family on vacation.  He met with UK based Lynn for a fun afternoon.  Saravanan thanks for sharing this great photo!

We have another full team meeting in the US in early December, we'll share a photo of the full team then.

Not everyone seeks out coworkers while on vacation but we really are a close knit team that enjoys working, as well as fun, together.  Have you had a chance to visit remote coworkers while traveling?  Share your story.

Marketing blogs - reviews of the best

This blog post is one of about 2.5 million that will be published today. A number that is growing.  So how do you find quality content?  Specific to content marketing blogs this article  from SnapApp offers a good starting point. They scoured the web, reviewing blogs based on quality, frequency, and reader engagement and came up with a list of 109.

Now 109 is still a lot but they have divided them into 14 categories – social media, account based marketing, and marketing technology , to name just a few. In addition, there is a short description of each and a link to a recommended post.  With this list you are bound to find helpful sources of information. 

How many will you start to follow? Which are already on your favorites list?

Working While Moving - Tips From Our Expert, Regina Dawkins

We are lucky to have access to more than one desk treadmill in our workplace. It has become second nature for several of us to walk while working. While It may even seem counter intuitive or strange, anyone can do it by following a few basic tips. In addition, walking at least 20 minutes a day comes with a variety of health benefits. Building up your eye, hand coordination and finding your ideal walking pace at a desk treadmill is imperative. Here are a few basic tips from our expert and super walker Regina Dawkins which will get you started:

-          Start off walking casually at a 1.5 to 2.0 speed, or a select a pace that feels comfortable for you. Keep your strides short and relaxed.

-          Try typing on your keyboard and moving your mouse around. If your hands are little shaky or wobbly, adjust by reducing your speed. Over time as your hands become steady, increase your walking speed.

-          Ensure the desk treadmill is adjusted to your height by checking to see if your bent elbows are perpendicular to the countertop while easily resting on the countertop. Your shoulders should be relaxed.

-          For stability and support while typing, rest your forearms on the countertop.

-          Have a straight body with good posture. Make sure your hips and shoulders are square and facing the countertop at all times. See Regina's great posture, below!

-          Wear comfortable, flat shoes, preferably athletic shoes, that have good traction.

There are great health benefits to walking. It is one of the greatest low-impact cardio exercises, enhancing the level of HDL (good) cholesterol, curbing the production of LDL (bad) cholesterol and it can even lower the risk of cardiovascular problems. If you sit at a desk for hours at a stretch, walk breaks keep your blood circulating and help promote a less sedentary work day. If you wear a fitness tracker, it helps to meet your daily step goals. You may also feel a sense of accomplishment by getting multiple things checked off your list of to dos for the day. It has become a daily routine for many of us and can be for you too!

Regina

Nominating customers for awards - everyone wins especially when Referential writes the nomination!

One of the most gratifying activities we get involved with is creating a successful award nomination – nothing beats seeing the look on a client’s face when they learn that they just won a major award!

We collaborate with our clients to target specific industry awards for the coming year and then work with account teams to identify noteworthy candidates; either individuals, teams, or whole companies. We typically then do a short interview with the lead nominee and put together a submission for the individual award. Then it’s out of our hands!

We have a stellar track-record for nominations that get picked as winners and category finalists. We are very proud to have Deutsche Bank win a very prestigious award for an IT Risk Management project at a ceremony just held in Munich – the recipient notified us from the banquet hall floor! See their photo below. We also were delighted to hear that Johnson & Johnson received one of the top prizes at the latest Dell annual conference. However, not all our submissions are for large corporations: We championed a regional consumer services provider and were equally excited to be notified that they will be presented with the “Best in Class Contact Center” honor at a major industry event to be held in June in the US. All three happened in the last month and all were nominations written by our mangeing partner, David Feber.

Irrespective of the ultimate outcome, we repeatedly see major returns from even just submitting a client for an award – all too often people don’t get positive feedback, so being nominated is understandably viewed as being a huge deal! We’ve found that for a modest amount of work, the payback is dramatic and the sense of goodwill lasts for a long time – we highly recommend it!

Olaf receiving KC Award 2018
Olaf receiving KC Award 2018

Enjoyed our Hunt!

Most of our remote employees have been here this week.  It's been busy with lots of onsite client meetings, we've taken the opportunity for strategy meetings for Referential, and we made time for some fun. We did a scavenger hunt with Big City Hunt, learning a lot about our home town of San Jose, California along the way.  It was a beautiful afternoon and a nice walk through a variety of city sites, some even the locals had never seen.  It was a great introduction to the area for the remote team members.

And we're good at what we do!  Answering questions, doing challenges, we beat 100% of Big City Hunt Teams with 10 players!  And we have a few pictures to share.  One of the group, in height order but our 6'9" team member took the picture so you don't get to see our tallest.  And Andreas hugging a tree, one of our challenges. We really enjoyed the hunt!

The Power of B2B Referrals

Nearly all B2B decision makers start their journey with a referral.  By nearly all, the Edelman Trust Barometer says 84%.  That is significant.  This, and other important stats, are shared in an infographic on the Influitive blog titled, "17 B2B Referral Statistics You Should Know (But Probably Don’t)".

Influitive teamed with Heinz marketing to survey North America B2B professionals from sales pros to executives. The results tell us a lot about the impact of B2B referrals on both sales pipeline and revenue growth.

It’s clear that referrals have a higher conversion rate and close faster than deals from other sources. You can see the stats in the infographic plus access the complete report. Even though referral sales are so very valuable it’s surprising a larger percentage of companies don’t have a formal referral program. This study notes only 30% have such a program.

Does your company have a referral program? Do you leverage your advocacy program through to referrals? Share your insights below.

Worldwide Business Etiquette Insight from Referential's Lynn Watts

At Referential we work with clients from all over the world and we have staff in the US, the UK, and India. There are many similarities between the way business is conducted throughout the world, but there are also differences that need to be considered. There are differences in greeting style if meeting face to face, how to address others in correspondence, communications may require an interpreter, and varied meeting structures to name a few. Some business cultures are quite relaxed in style, while others are serious or regimented. As Advocacy Consultants we spend a lot of time corresponding with people globally, so to avoid confusion it’s important not to use slang expressions or local idioms that could be misinterpreted. We need to be mindful that in some countries people expect to be addressed formally. For example, in Germany and The Netherlands it is standard to address people using their academic title. Someone with a PhD should be addressed as Doctor and titles should be used until you are given permission to use their first name. When in doubt, erring on the side of formality is safest.

In order not to offend the people you are interacting with, it is important to consider and adapt to how business professionals operate in different parts of the world. There is no global standard of business etiquette. What might be commonplace in one culture could be unusual or even offensive in another. Where possible, do your research in advance of professional interactions with international clients. When in doubt, ask. People are very helpful and like to advise about what is and isn’t acceptable in their culture.

Derin Cag at Richtopia provides a very enlightening article and infographic to further illustrate this topic.  Share your insights into business differences around the world!

 

Secrets to more online customer reviews from Trish Bormann of Fortinet

Our client, Trish Bormann of Fortinet, was recently interviewed by Nichole Auston of ROInnovation.  Nichole was interested in learning more from Trish about how she has been successful at increasing the number of online reviews for Fortinet at Gartner Peer Insights.  You can see the video here.  Full disclosure, we did work with Trish on this project. The video interview is short and well worth your time to view. We all know that while vendors are good sources of information they aren’t seen by customers as the most trust worthy source.  For trusted insights customers are increasingly looking to their peers, friends, even family. With 90% of consumers reading online reviews you need to be there.  Your product needs customer reviews.

In addition to the great interview with Trish, the same link has an article from ROInnovation with tips for determining your needs, creating an action plan, implementing your plan, and then evaluation of your results.

Have you been successful at increasing the number of reviews at Gartner Peer Insights or any other site that is key to your customer base?  Share your tips below.

Document your communication processes - the many benefits

The Forbes Communication Council recently shared their ideas  for documenting communication processes. Those processes are often fundamental to business success and once in place will allow you to act quickly and even scale smoothly.  They share an eye-opening stat that communication breakdowns can cost businesses as much as $37 billion a year!  The 14 council members each share a tip. Whether it’s ‘Start with the Basics’, ‘Create a Handbook’, or ‘Know Who to Ask and When’ the ideas are sound and with information on how it’s helped council members or how they implemented the idea internally.  Council members span universities to high tech companies like Cisco and Microsoft. Obviously successful organizations we can all learn from!  It’s a quick article that is sure to give you ideas to improve your documentation as well as your communication processes.