Productivity tips from Referential's Barbara Leavy

I know we are all guilty of wishing there were more hours in the day.  Unfortunately, we need to face the reality, there is… and always will be… 24 hours in a day.  The one exception is that one day of the year when the clocks turn back, but hopefully we are getting an extra hour to sleep and not an extra hour to work! In this fast paced world we live in, the ability to multi-task and prioritize is essential to our success, our productivity and especially our sanity.  If we all keep a few tips in mind it can help to effectively juggle what is on our plates.

Make a plan:

  • The first step to effective multitasking is having a plan or setting goals. You can’t “just wing it” and hope that your projects will be completed to the best of your abilities.
  • By thinking ahead, it will help ensure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Make sure to set reminders: 

  • If you have a data base where you can create tasks to manage your work, make sure to do so. Check your to- do list early in the day and prioritize, keeping in mind there will more than likely be a fire drill that comes up during the day.  Tackle what is most important first.
  • Use your outlook calendar to your advantage, it can be an easy way to track deadlines.
  • Flag emails that you need to address but cannot respond to immediately or you need to investigate prior to responding. Take some time at the end of your day to review your flagged emails and respond or create a task or reminder where appropriate.

Break down and combine tasks when possible:

  • We often look at our workload like an insurmountable mountain which can be intimidating. Break down those tasks into smaller manageable chunks.  This will enable you to work on multiple tasks at once, and if they are smaller they will feel more manageable.
  • If possible, try to concentrate on similar tasks at the same time. In order to effectively multitask, it helps if the projects you are working on are somewhat similar. This way your mind is not jumping from one thing to another, allowing you to “get in the zone”.

Step Away:

  • You may find that by stepping away for a brief time will give you a chance to clear your head and may also give you some inspiration.
  • With so much on our plates it is easy to feel guilty if we take some down time. So, take a short walk, grab a cup of coffee (away from your computer) or get some fresh air. I am pretty sure your brain will thank you!

Remember, not all tasks are equal.  It is up to you to evaluate your tasks prior to beginning to determine true priorities.  Keep in mind that some tasks may require your full attention, at that point you need to put your multitasking hat on the shelf for a while!

See us at the 2018 Elevate Customer Summit

ElevateDo you use the RO Innovation platform for your customer advocacy data? If so you should consider attending the 2018 Elevate Customer Summit being held November 14-15 in San Jose, CA. All the details are here.   The summit is a great chance for networking, learning best practices, product training, and insight into advocacy trends. There are some great speakers on the agenda including our very own Helen Feber.

Helen is doing a joint session with Richard Clooke of Symantec at 1:30 the first day. Their topic is "Mastering Internal Engagement for Greater Buy-In". They will talk about a key to advocacy program success, which is ensuring it is embedded throughout your organization.  You want to see customer evidence as part of processes throughout Marketing, Product, and Sales organizations. In the session you will get tips on working with various groups to embed customer evidence in their processes, campaigns, product launches, and all aspects of go to market and sales plans.

Join Helen and Richard at Elevate 2018!

Decisions, Decisions - So Many Each Day!

You may have heard that the average adult makes about 35,000 decisions a day!  Of course tracking that to a credible source is difficult, if not impossible, but I think we can all agree we make many, many decisions on a daily basis. Each one is an opportunity for distraction and can impact your productivity. Benjamin Hardy, author of Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success, says you need more than willpower to stay on track. His suggestions are summarized in   this post  by Trello.

  • Commit and then work your environment to facilitate that commitment
  • Minimize the number of decisions you need to make each day
  • Know your distractions and plan for them
  • Enlist support.

The article is a quick read and has valuable examples and suggestions. If you’re prone to distractions take the time to read it and see what steps you can take today to improve your productivity.

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.

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.

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. 

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!

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?

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.

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.

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!

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.

Personas - mistakes to avoid

Do you use personas to help shape your content and programs?  This article by Jessica Vionas on the Business2Community site points out some traps to avoid as you are developing buyer personas. Mistake number one is making assumptions.  Many of us have been guilty of that, especially if you do not have funds for research.  Ideally you would be able to interview a subset of your customers rather than rely solely on market research.  Just don't skip research! Use that knowledge to create fact based, not assumption based, personas. Once you begin to develop your personas the article suggests not slicing and dicing too finely.  How many personas do you really need?  What differentiates one persona from another?  Roles are often used but is it really the role the person is in or is it the challenges they face which are the key differentiators of your various personas?

We hope the last mistake covered in the article is not true for you – creating personas and then not using them!  As the articles says, that is “just silly”.  I suspect some might have even stronger language for that situation!

Do you have fact based personas that you use as you develop content and programs?  Share your experiences in how they have helped you be successful. 

Meet Much?

  Interesting Business2Community article, here, about how to handle time wasting people at work.  There are just a few of key points:

·         Know how to delegate

·         Set times for handling questions and issues

·         Rethink your meetings

The last one applies to all of us.  How many meetings happen out of habit week after week or are much longer than they need to be?  Do many of your meetings share information that could have just as easily been sent as an email?  Do they have way more attendees than are really needed?   

As we look ahead to 2018 maybe we should all reevaluate our meetings. Make sure the attendees are appropriate and determine if they all need to be there the whole time. See if there are more efficient ways to share information. Try going without – what happens if you skip a few!  Give us your ideas for minimizing the time devoted to meetings, would love to hear your tips.