It’s more than just case studies you know!!

This week we have a guest blog from Claire Grove, EMEA Customer Reference Manager from Juniper Networks.

Claire will be dipping in and out of our blog with some handy tips, in the lead up to our event on April 13th – look out for an invite or email me.

Engagement ring

Welcome to the big time!

Look at the jobs on LinkedIn and a host of other jobsites; listen to the voicemails from recruiters. Yep, Customer Reference Programmes (CRP) finally seem to have made it to the big time, and are coming into their own as a recognised marketing and communications discipline. To be fair, it’s certainly been a part of many organisations’ marketing departments for a while, but dig a little deeper and you’ll often discover poor budgets and a junior-level person running the program (and for this I am truly grateful; it’s the way I fell into customer referencing), without much real support from elsewhere in the business. All of this is sometimes accompanied by scratching of heads by Execs, and a lofty wave of the hand with a murmuring of “we need case studies”.

Of course I’m being flippant, but certainly when I got into customer referencing this was more the rule than the exception. However since then, it’s been great riding the crest of a wave with other CRP managers, feeling our way from ‘just’ case studies to where the best CRPs are today:

  • Providing a mutually beneficial platform for company and customer alike (without resorting to bribes, err I mean incentives)
  • Adding value to an organisation, by first understanding what that value actually looks like and then delivering against it
  • A philosophy of ‘Think Customer First’; you are the gatekeeper, funnel (for multiple requests from across your business), and salesperson all rolled into one when you are a CRP manager

In this guest blog series for Ice Blue Sky, I’m going to give you some (hopefully) handy tips and insight – garnered through 15 years of customer reference experience in one guise or another – to help demonstrate how CRPs can move from being a ‘nice-to-have’ to a commercially imperative programme.

So, how do you gear for success from day 1?

1)      Find out what your company’s business goals, objectives, strategy and tactics are (GOST model)

2)      Do a Gap analysis. Speak to stakeholders, find out what’s working, what’s lacking and where you need to be within the next year and beyond

3)      Set expectations. Show what you intend to deliver; have a 90-120 day plan in place in addition to your yearly objectives. Short-term wins are important in establishing a trusted programme

4)      Design your programme to scale and flex to changing business needs. Your goal isn’t to have a CRP that works well for the next 1-3 years, but is eventually rendered obsolete by changing priorities

5)      Measure results. Not just the number of assets created, but what that has meant to the business in terms of impact to the sales achievement/PR coverage/reputation with industry analysts/social media impact/marketing programmes support, or whatever goals you have selected

6)      Communicate those results to all interested parties. Get support for your program. If you have achieved XXX results with the budget and staff you have, imagine what can be achieved with more investment and focus from the business.

It’s worth noting that we rarely work within ideal scenarios 100% of the time. Budgets are cut, people are busy, customers say no; but if you are clear about your overall strategy and direction, these issues are rarely insurmountable.

What do you see as your challenge here?

I look forward to your comments, and look out for the next blog in the series – coming to you soon.

About the Author

Charlotte Graham-Cumming

Director, Ice Blue Sky Ltd

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