In my last blog, I mentioned the importance of increasing transparency into the reference pipeline, and providing ease of access across your business for new and existing references. Please believe me when I say that this advice is borne from painful experience of what happens when you get it wrong!
After many years of juggling reference requests and working from long convoluted spreadsheets, trying to keep track of the references we had, let alone the ones we were creating (and often not doing a great job!), Iâ€™d had enough. After living in spreadsheet hell, I was desperate enough to learn basic HTML (long-since forgotten) and call in many favours to develop a simple, searchable database of customer references. It wasn’t pretty, it was far from perfect, but it did make it easier to share information across the business. And when you are a reference team of one â€“ as was the case then â€“ it made life just that little less hectic.
Nowadays, there are many more reference solutions available on the market, and Iâ€™m currently working with a system called Reference View (others include Boulder Logic and Point of Reference to name but a few). The beauty of these systems is that not only do they share existing customer references across the business and enable in-depth reporting, they also allow you track and monitor the health of your reference pipeline. Companies like Ice Blue Sky can also help with managing your customer reference program from start-to-finish, or handle specific parts of your program such as asset creation, and act as an extended part of your team. This is particularly helpful when you are working on your own, as part of a small team, or just need some clarity and wisdom around strategy and execution!
Whatever your approach, having a clear and easy-to-understand overview is invaluable in making sure that your strategic vision around the types of references you want to create, is tracking according to need. It has the added advantage that you can share this with people across the business so they can see exactly what you are working on, and you can highlight gaps where you need support. After all, as a reference program manager, you canâ€™t be solely responsible in developing the pipeline and this is a useful way of reminding other areas of the business their responsibilities in helping bring references to fruition. It also helps keep reference stories to the forefront of peoplesâ€™ minds; ensuring that the materials you develop are being used and brought before the right audience.
How do you manage your references now, and what are the challenges you face?