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 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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Are you speaking for your company or yourself?

  Working with customer advocates daily we’re often posed with a dilemma. Is the advocate speaking on behalf of their company or as themselves?  Speaking as themselves might allow them to bring a richer set of experiences, all they have learned in past jobs and through education. Yet the opportunity is being brought to them due to their employer. So which is it?

As you might expect the best answer here is ‘it depends’!  What are they being asked to do?  What knowledge allows them to be the best contributor possible? What does their employer allow?

We find that many of the advocates we work with have company policies for advocacy activities and social media involvement. Participation in an advocacy program can be the trigger to learn those policies! We have seen a wide range of policies and can work with any limitations they might set but we also see the flexibility for a wide range of involvement.

Does your company have advocacy policies? Policies for social media involvement? You might this article about corporate vs personal branding interesting. It’s from The Content Marketing Institute, written by Ann Gynn. It’s a good discussion about how advancing one’s personal brand and your corporation’s brand can go hand in hand. Worth a read.

 

Succeeding as a Remote Employee: Hints from Referential’s Hanita Epstein

Being productive every day is a challenge. The challenge is nearly tripled if you work remotely, because home and work never seem like separate entities. The freedom of working from home is tough for some employees to adjust to. And as remote work is becoming more and more popular, I thought I would put together some tips to maximize your productivity as a remote employee.

Create a routine 

Setting up some structure for your day is very helpful. I work off my bullet journal, designed to track my goals and accomplishments. Every night before I head to bed, I make a list of tasks I need to accomplish the next day. Throughout the day, I track how much time each task takes, shuffling my priorities as needed. At the end of the work day, I reflect on which tasks I completed, and identify what I did well and what needs work.

Find a workspace 

Have a designated space to do your work. You’ve probably heard of aspirational stories of people who move country to country, living the life as a digital nomad. The truth is, being on the move is a productivity killer. Dealing with accommodations, WIFI connections, and low energy levels can decrease work efficiency.

Upon moving to Seattle, I found that working remotely allowed me to feel more local. As I worked at various coffee shops, libraries, and cafes, I was able to explore the city in a way that boosted my creativity and productivity. 

Have designated work clothes

The mindset “look good feel good” really comes into play as a remote worker. While you may not technically need to get out of your pajamas, I recommend getting dressed in “work clothes” each day, to get into the right frame of mind.

Wearing work clothes around the house will also limit your temptations to complete midday chores, like cooking and cleaning. Those types of mental boundaries help avoid distractions and keep you productive for longer stretches of time.

Keep in touch 

You’ve heard of the old phrase “out of sight, out of mind,” right? Unfortunately, remote workers can suffer from this, unless they make an effort to stay in touch with their boss and co-workers. With email, instant message, and shared spreadsheets, there are a myriad of opportunities to stay connected. The challenge is making a point to stay connected, to reassure employees you are there for them, and working as expected.

Let us know

Few employers train remote employees on how to be effective throughout the day, let alone explaining how to boost their creativity. Try out some of Hanita's tips and see what works for you! Leave a comment with additional tips and tricks.

Time to refresh your program?

This blog post from Influitive has hints for spring cleaning your AdvocateHub.  All great hints and ones we do more frequently than only with a spring refresh.  If you are an active member of our hub you have probably noticed that we update regularly.  Each quarter we change the theme of our Hub. We brainstorm potential new ‘locations’ and have a Hub challenge where participants can vote for our next destination.  And then the refresh begins. Our Hub manager, a position which rotates so we all have expertise with AdvocateHubs, chooses a specific day for the change.

Over a pizza lunch we make quick work of a full refresh.  All challenges are reviewed to ensure they are still relevant and we check for broken links. Photos that accompany each challenge are reviewed and the majority are changed to align with our new theme.  Our latest change was In January when we moved from Germany to the Olympics and Korea.  The changes to challenges and the visual theme are the most visible though behind the scenes we’re also looking at advocate groups, rewards, and our metrics.

While the Inflitive article is specific to AdvocateHub refreshes, it really applies to all types of advocate programs.  How do you keep your program fresh and relevant?

Tips for Salesforce Reports - Filter Logic (By Referential's Ankit SIngh)

Do you use Salesforce.com (SFDC) to run reports at your office? Here at Referential we use SFDC every day –  often multiple times a day across all our different clients. As a result, we’ve picked up a few tips and tricks along the way that have made our lives a bit easier. One such tip is using the filter logic feature to quickly find exactly what you are looking for. In the screen shot below, we are looking for accounts meeting multiple criteria. They need to have made a purchase of products, be reference accounts and within in a certain industry.

In this real example we need government/aerospace customers OR customers specifically related to security, defense, surveillance and analytics. Just to give you an idea of the search results, if we only search for customers within the industries we get about 62,000 results. If we only search for customers with those keywords in their name, we get 4,000 results.

To get the results we desire in one report we need to use the filter logic feature. Filter logic says “1 AND 2 AND (3 OR 4)”. This ensures SFDC applies the first two filters along with the third OR the fourth.

Excel screen shot
Excel screen shot

You can see our first filter is for customers that are fully deployed or at least have gone through with the purchase of products, our second ensures they are reference accounts, and then we get the account name and industry designation – all in one report!  So much faster than running separate reports, combining them, and removing duplicates. When you run as many reports as we do, any time or effort you can save is certainly worth it.

Tell us how you have used the filter logic field or how you will in the future!

Research shows - sports can be distracting at work

soccer.jpeg

Robert Half did some research  and the data shows sports does impact productivity at work. On the day after big sporting events large percentages of people call in sick or are late to work. The over 1,000 workers surveyed admitted to spending about 27 minutes a day on sports-related activities before a major sporting event. Olympics, March Madness, World Cup Soccer, and NBA playoffs are just a few major sporting events that are particularly popular and just on the horizon.

But it’s not all bad news: Sports can also contribute to teamwork. We focus on sport as a way to get everyone involved in a common activity, to come together and celebrate. We have an office fantasy football league. We’ve been known to play some World Cup games on our big screen too. Lunch time and afternoon tea break (yes, come visit, we have tea in the afternoons) can coincide with sporting events or be the time to manage that fantasy team.

You don’t have to loose the productivity, instead look for ways to foster teamwork and impact morale!

Millennials Want Your Brand to be Authentic

This article, originally published at HuffPost isn’t brand new but the points are ones heard from many arenas. Matthew Tyson’s article is titled “Millennials Want Brands To Be More Authentic. Here’s Why That Matters.” He talks about how millennials are not influenced by traditional advertising and they will soon be the group with the largest market impact. That matters.

Firms will need to evolve and work with this changing reality. Tyson says millennials want to be engaged and they want brands to be authentic. Tyson goes on to give his view of what companies can  do to be more authentic. His recommendations are for companies to communicate more, be transparent, be relevant, and to care. It’s a quick read but within each category he raises some interesting points.

How is your firm addressing the evolving marketing place?  Share with us how your firm is changing to stay relevant for millennials, we’re interested to learn from your experiences.

Nothing like a little competition!

smiley-stickers.jpg

Sometimes a little friendly competition helps bring some new energy to a task you may have done before. Who says sticker charts are just for kids!For many of our clients we have a focus on recruiting new advocates into their program. Ensuring a robust program membership is the key to finding the right customer for upcoming opportunities. We’ve decided to inject a little competition into the recruiting process for one of our clients.

Sparkly smiley face stickers are climbing up a chart.  Three of our team members are in a bit of a race to see who will recruit more advocates this month. It’s fun and it makes the progress visible to everyone. And the person who recruits the most wins bragging rights though when we have other competitions sometimes they have prizes!

How do you put a little fun into your work?

Great article, full of interviewing tips

We are interviewing our clients and their customers all the time.  Each discussion about how our role with the client might expand is really an interview.  Each call with a potential advocacy program member is an interview.  Lots of them, every day. This article from the Content Marketing Institute, written by Clare McDermott, “Perfecting The Art of the One-on-One Interview”, is full of useful ideas and links to even more ideas. McDermott divides the article into sections: how to prepare for the interview, how to begin the interview, and how to hit your stride.  Each section has great information. Depending on your level of interview experience this may serve as a refresher or be full of new information. We’re sure that even the expert interviewers among you will learn something new.  Reading this article is well worth your time. 

Let us know what you learned or how the article reinforced something you’ve always thought important. Leave a comment, below.

Holiday Volunteering

HealthTrust 2017
HealthTrust 2017

Volunteering as a team during the holidays is a Referential tradition. As we did last year, we sorted food with the FOODBasket Food Sorting team of The Health Trust.  We sorted and helped with storage and display of fresh produce which is offered to their AIDS Services and Family Resource Center clients.  The photo shows just part of the food we helped process. We are in the heart of Silicon Valley, a place of great wealth, but also of great need, as this paragraph from The Health Trust website makes crystal clear:Silicon Valley is a place of innovation, opportunity and affluence. On average, it is one of the healthiest, wealthiest places in the world. But not all residents of Silicon Valley share in that wealth – or that health. More than 13 percent of children in Santa Clara County are living in poverty. More than half of the adults are overweight or obese. Nearly half of the county’s older adults are considered impoverished. More than 19,000 adults and youth are homeless.

Contributing our time as a team is one way we can make a modest contribute to their vision of a healthier Silicon Valley for everyone.

A week together!

Next week nearly all of Referential is gathering at our main office in San Jose.  Team members from 2 countries and 5 states will be here. We will be missing our team member from India, though we have creative ways to keep him involved and updated.  Subsets of us will be off to meet with local clients. There will be more security training. We're ensuring the whole team is conversant in our newest service offerings. New product training is also on the agenda.  One evening we're playing bocce ball.  Good food, and a chance to have some fun together is important. Our newest hire will have her first day Monday, talk about great timing!  Not only will she get a shiny new PC, many of the rest of us will too.  Everyone is here, great time for a technology refresh.  In the photo you can see part of the assembly line that is getting the PCs ready with the newest software and security tools. Large monitors are here too so we still have the benefit of a large display with new, smaller PCs which will be great for travel.Unpacking new PCs

A week together is quite a treat. Nice to see each other in person, not just via video or phone. We're all looking forward to it!