Grand Opening of Our New Meeting and Video Space!

Our new training, video, and meeting space had its grand opening September 14.  We hosted a meeting of a Bay Area advocacy group in the morning and a team meeting in the afternoon. We have a video corner, large conference table, smaller table for break outs, projector, TV, white boards, conference phone....  We will host group and client meetings and have plans for many other events in the near future. Below see the view from the front entrance. Cozy chairs provide a second break out area and a great spot for anyone who arrives early. The second photo is from the far wall and shows our video nook. Much of our video work has been at client and customer sites, in fact the team heads to Dubai later this week!  The sound proofing we did makes filming in this space a great option. Finally, you can see Alex and Dave were first to arrive for a later meeting, at our larger table which easily accommodates 12.  Stop by and visit or inquire about hosting your meeting here!

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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

Signature of Approval!

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 (We just returned from the Cyber Defense Summit 2017 in Las Vegas.  Leading up to the Summit we worked with customers to create videos and quotes that were used throughout the event.  Our trip to Australia to film customers resulted in such great content we expedited processes and went from filming in one country to showing our videos on the main stage of the event 12 days later! 

Love this photo, Freud Alexandre, the Enterprise Architect and Security Manager for the City of New Orleans (and one of our favorite people!), was so happy to be featured he autographed his banner.  That is the signature of approval! What we like to see with all our customer deliverables.

Longer attention span: your target audience or a goldfish?

Longer attention span: your target audience or a goldfish? Hard to believe but the average person’s attention span is now shorter than that of a goldfish! An article in Time Health quotes a Microsoft study which shows a human will pay attention for 8 seconds and a goldfish for 9! Our digital lifestyle may make us better multitaskers but we’re also easily distracted. There is a lot of content out there, coupled with short attention spans, it’s not easy to stand out from the crowd.

This  post from RO Innovation makes the case that video can be the way to go instead of the case study format. Our brains actually process video faster than text.

Think about how video might work for you as you share stories of your customers and your brand. Our clients have a clear need for written content but we’re seeing an increase in the desire for video. Often times our interviews will become both short and compelling video pieces and a complimentary case study with greater detail. We’re about to send a team to Australia for a second time this year to create video and written case studies for our clients. There are a lot of interesting customer stories among Australian businesses! Whether your customer is in Australia or right next door, think about the format which will tell their story best.

Localization - most marketers aren't happy with results

Do you localize content?  Some of our clients do.  We’re involved as we have on staff native speakers of several languages and are able to localize, not just translate. A recent study from the CMO Council surveyed marketers for information about the state of localization in their company and is summarized in this article on MarTech Today by Amy Gesenhues.  A full 75% of CMOs invest less than 10% of their budgets for localization and, regardless of spend, a large majority are unhappy with the results. Of the total surveyed only about one third felt they were doing well or were very advanced in this area.  

The report address the broad issues of localization, it’s certainly not language alone. For international content one must address everything from number, currency and date formats to colors and visual images plus so much more.  Even strictly within US borders localization efforts are also applied to content due to large differences across the population. it is important to change your content to best meet the needs of various locales. Localization is a complicated area!  

Get the full report here  for insights on marketers views about localization efforts and see how your company compares. 

Belgium - be there soon!

provinciaal-hof-1508333_1920Two of the team are headed to Belgium.  After a grueling day of travel, which includes a quick stop in Iceland and a multi hour drive, they will arrive in Belgium.  One of our clients has customers there and wants interviews and video which we’ll turn into video testimonials, quotes, case studies and more.  The team is taking what looks like thousands of pounds of camera and lighting equipment, plus all their personal items, carefully packed into many rolling, hard sided suitcases and two backpacks.    Their time in Belgium is completely booked, and short, as they return to the US late Friday.  While they likely will have no time for sightseeing we have been lobbying that they return with Belgian chocolates for the office!

Dramatic - and Fast - Increase in Customer Engagement

We recently worked with a client to launch an Influitive AdvocateHub as a new front-end to their existing advocacy program. The decision to do this was made swiftly with the requirement that it went live 3 business days ahead of their inaugural user conference. Being able to unveil a hub at a major customer event is the perfect opportunity to accelerate engagement and build excitement for an advocacy program, however in this case it gave us only 14 business days to design, configure and populate it with activities/challenges! We are not ones to be overcome by what seemed impossible odds. What most hubs take 6 to 8 weeks to deploy, we accomplished in 2.5!

For those of you not familiar, an Influitive AdvocateHub enables the construction of a wider advocate community by inviting customers, partners, prospects and employees into it to complete "challenges" that span fun activities, educational opportunities and taking action such as making referrals, taking reference calls, writing product reviews and more. As advocates complete challenges, they earn points, badges and progress through levels that can be used for a variety of perks and privileges.

For our client, the hub out-stripped all expectations and success metrics that were defined in the planning stage: Nearly 60% of all attendees at the event joined and immediately started engaging in challenges. It exceeded the initial expectations for the number of participants 8 fold! Hub members completed over 1000 challenges in less than a week; nearly half became new social media followers of our client, and tweeting and forwarding of blog posts reached the highest levels our client had seen. Participants gave glowing reviews and volunteered for a variety of advocacy activities from case studies to presenting in webinars and at future events.

Referential: Influitive's First Certified Partner!

Influitive certification logoWe just got the official word that we are Influitive‘s first Certified Partner!  Just in case you haven't heard of them, the Influitive platform provides companies with the ability to create communities of advocates and really leverage all the goodwill that their advocates have generated. Getting certified required the successful completion, by more than one of the Referential team, of a series of online and classroom training sessions, field training, and passing a final oral exam to demonstrate that we have the necessary skills and knowledge to represent Influitive to customers.

Influitive was created by the founder of Eloqua (since bought by Oracle for almost $1 billion) and is attracting a lot of attention in the marketplace. We've watched the platform evolve and mature over the last three years and definitely feel that the time is right to participate in what we think will be a game changer in our industry. One of the great things for us is that the AdvocateHub, as it's known, is a logical extension of everything we've been doing over the last 20+ years in the reference/advocacy space - it just makes things so much easier!

Influitive has offices around the globe and we’re really proud to be the first Certified Partner in the world!

Check what you already have first!

We’re helping a new client get a more formalized customer advocacy program off and running.  We’re contacting customers that have given high NPS scores recently, that have been part of early adopter or beta testing programs, or that were ‘known’ to product marketing.  But there are other treasure troves of advocates out there!  Stories on our client's web site and quotes in press releases are just two examples of advocacy in action. In the zeal to get new advocates you need to be careful to not overlook the ones you already have!  Make sure they are welcomed into any new program.  It’s a great opportunity to reconnect and understand the activities they are now interested in.  They have been there for you in the past, make sure they are a central part of your program moving forward.

Languages, Languages

English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese.  We just finished program documentation for one of our clients in all of those languages.  Language expertise has been a priority for our recent hires and they’re busy translating program documentation, speaking with our clients’ sales reps in local language, and working directly with their end customers.  We prioritized languages after discussions with our clients and analysis of their customer base.  Our hires are a mix of native speakers and folks who learned primarily in school, but who coupled that book learning with significant time abroad.  We have found that even native speakers don’t necessarily know the complete suite of business terms we need but that’s been fairly easy to address.  We have our next priority languages set and are actively recruiting now.  Our languages list will be longer shortly!

Events - details, details, details

We’re helping one of our clients plan a select customer appreciation event to be held at their annual user group conference.  As with many large conferences the event is in Las Vegas.  Couldn’t be easier to work with the people from the hotel, as we change details they’re very flexible and send new quotes almost immediately.   It’s a late afternoon/early evening reception with appetizers, should we have 3 or 4?  Hard to believe all the decisions that went into the final table and chair layout!  And our RSVP list keeps growing, nearly every single person invited is attending. Even for a 90 minute event project management comes in handy.  We’ve been tracking all the issues associated with customer and internal employee invitations and RSVPs; ordering and shipment of awards that will be presented; not to mention all the decisions necessary for food, drink, and entertainment.  Everything’s in one spreadsheet stored at a shared location  This has been a real necessity as the key decision makers are scattered in multiple states.  Putting some structure around this has made it easier for all involved.  At any time we can all check the current status of issues and action items.

For even a smallish project, when key players are all remote from each other, what works best for you?

The end of LinkedIn Products & Services Pages

We received notification that LinkedIn is removing the Products & Services tab from company pages.  Oddly the notification was mailed on April Fool’s Day.  As of April 14 the feature will be removed.  LinkedIn offered to send recommendations from the page, which we requested.  The customer support team responded very quickly.  The recommendations are really valuable so we’re glad to still have that information. The notification when on to explain options for the future – updates or Showcase Pages.   While we were users of the Products & Services tab we’re likely to redesign our home page and use updates rather than embarking on Showcase Pages.

What is your company’s response to this change?  Think this will make things easier for LinkedIn in members as they profess?  Easier for you?

Project 'Find the Customer Reference!'

We were recently asked to do a special project for a new client.  They had a high priority need for customer references for a specific product.  A rather new product at that. And, of course, a very short deadline.  Major events were on the schedule where they needed speakers and new collateral because who better to tell your story than a happy customer? Sometimes you need to call in reinforcements, which they did.  They didn’t have the bandwidth to take on this special project so called us.  We have the processes in place already, and the people.  We were able to supplement their staff and contact every single sales rep that had sold this product, discussed their customers, and then went on to talk with each customer who was a potential reference.  We were able to help frame the stories to highlight business benefits, not just the ‘speeds and feeds’.  Putting extra resources on this, in a very short window, was really successful.  We’ve uncovered several new references already and we're not yet done.

While typically we run major programs for our clients sometimes we’re asked to do special projects such as this.  It can be a huge help to have extra bandwidth when you need it – big or small we can help with your customer reference challenges!

2014 More Growth Ahead!

We’ve had many 2014 planning discussions with our clients recently.  It's exciting to see our clients expanding and there's lots of growth ahead for us too. The discussions remind me that 2013 has been quite a year for Referential, Inc.  We moved into new offices early in the year.  Being right across the street from Ebay not only makes us easy to find but some pretty good food trucks are nearby daily!  We hired several new people, more on the horizon.  Yes, training takes time but it’s been great seeing our company culture evolve.

In 2013 we also added important skills, such as support for more languages and expertise in additional industries.  Our business and technical knowledge means we can see the value our clients bring to their customers and we  highlight that value in all deliverables.

Finally we also added new services.  We’re often called upon to automate tasks, technical skills to the rescue!  This year we’ve also advised many clients on data issues  Spreadsheet or database and if the latter which one!  A conversation we’ve had often.

Whether our clients outsource the entirety of their customer reference program to us, having us do everything from initial program design through to fulfillment, or we do a smaller project such as a case study, all clients get nothing but the best from us.  Give us a call, let's see how we can help you get even more impact from your customer references.

Case studies - your customers tell your story best!

The success of your existing customers is a powerful way to tell your story to potential customers. Case studies leverage your past successes and validate the effectiveness of your products and services through an objective voice, in a way your other marketing pieces cannot.  Even B2B executives looking at the most complex solutions are influenced by the opinion of their trusted peers.  Case studies give a voice to your customers to enable this positive influencing to occur naturally. Here at Referential, Inc. we’ve seen a recent surge in demand for case studies from our clients.  We are able to leverage both engineering and business expertise to fully understand the business value our clients’ products and services deliver.  We know the right questions to ask to uncover quantifiable benefits and create compelling stories to help accelerate purchase decisions by your prospects.

Need a case study?  Give us a call!

Case Studies - A Record!

Case studies, success stories, or whatever your favorite term, are common components of customer reference programs.  We write a lot of them.  Some of our clients have unique style guides, otherwise our writing follows AP rules.  Believe it or not we had a discussion about comma placement at lunch.  Do you put a comma before ‘but’ in a sentence?   We were divided on that one.  This week is a record for us.  The largest number of case studies approved for publication ever.   And we’re only at Thursday!  They’re not easy to write.  You need to tell an engaging story where the customer gets to shine, while at the same time our client’s key value add is the focus.  Review cycles are always interesting too as they include not only our client but their customer too.  From the beginning of the process to case study publication can be as short as 2 weeks, though some take much longer.

Our depth of understanding of our client’s offerings is key.  We know the business value they bring so we’re able to ask their customers the right questions to get powerful quotes and strong supporting proof points.  And we have great writers!

It will be interesting to see how long this record stands!

Many brains are better than one!

It’s happened to all of us.  We have an ‘opportunity’ at work and we need some ideas, our mind is a blank or what we’ve tried in the past just isn’t bringing the results we need today.   That’s something we’ve seen with a few of our clients.  Maybe the challenge is finding new sources of customer references, maybe it’s how to get the most out of your user conference.   The list can go on.  Our clients have found many brains are better than one! We’ve done focused brainstorming  sessions, including key members of our team as we all bring different experiences and expertise.   The client brings the reference program lead and any important stakeholders.   One client even brought their brand new summer intern, what a way to give them a quick education about customer reference programs!  The sessions have been very successful, whether in person or over the phone.  At the end of each our clients have an actionable list of new ideas.   If you’re interested in a brainstorming session for your reference program contact us.  We've found this always results in a steady stream of new ideas. What other approaches have you used?

Referential at Boulder Logic Customer Day

Earlier this week we participated in the Boulder Logic Customer Day 2013.  It was a great opportunity to meet with others in the industry.  We were asked to present so Helen led a session on reporting and ROI measurement representing one of our clients, Infor. Metrics is one of our key areas of expertise, we've done extensive work in that area and have targeted service offerings.  Many topics were covered over the course of the day and it was great to discuss and learn from each other; Jack from Kronos was bursting with ideas!  Thanks to Boulder Logic for organizing it and to Marketo for hosting the event.

Winning Visit

Referential, Inc. was a sponsor of the recent 2013 Summit on Customer Engagement.  At the event we had a drawing for a customer reference program metrics review and one of our winners came to our offices last week. It's always nice to get to meet face to face.  Tom and Jen from Acutate, who you see here, visited.  We got to know each other a bit better over bagels and coffee and since they're metrics pros we held a strategic planning sessionActuate_Tom and Jen receiving their award.  Here they are with their winner's certificate.  Congratulations Acutate!

Nearing End of a Big Project

We've been working on a series of case studies for one of our major clients.   Lots of interviews with both sales reps and customers.   It's great to hear all the wonderful things the customers have to say.  The stories are really quite compelling, after all who can tell a convincing story better than your most satisfied customers!   We've been making sure to drive the discussions to uncover not only the business drivers for choosing our client's product but also the full range of impact, financial and otherwise.  As we know the products quite well it's easy to ask the right questions.  Our discussions have uncovered some great ideas for product enhancements too, anxious to talk to the product teams.