Does reference program structure affect program strategy?
Friday, April 08, 2005
In the past few years, reference programs have shifted across the company - from sales operations to marketing, from marketing to public relations and now, in several cases, from marketing and public relations back to sales and sales operations. Through our 2005 Customer Reference Program Benchmarking Study, we learned that nearly 60 percent of customer reference programs are housed in corporate marketing, communications or branding operations - down from 87 percent in 2004. Also in 2004, zero percent of reference programs (that’s right - none) were housed within sales; this year, seven percent are. A few weeks ago, I spoke with a VP of Marketing at a large, branded enterprise-technology company. We talked for several minutes about the sales reference program she inherited earlier last year, one that had been a success for several years within the sales organization. When the program moved from sales into her larger marketing organization, its team was a lot less successful than it had been; we spent several minutes discussing the "whys." In a nutshell, it was because structure does affect strategy. It also affects success. If your program, or one you inherit, moves out of sales into marketing or vice versa, expect things to change. For instance, we worked with a program - one with great processes and a powerful reference model and rules of engagement - that had been moved from corporate marketing to sales operations. The team found that sales reps were MUCH more reactive and valued having "reference agents" ready 24x7 to fulfill their requests. Suddenly where they spent most of their time before - managing stakeholders, planning and calendaring, nurturing customer relationships and gathering customer intelligence - was less valuable. The program evolved into a reference hotline and a place from which to get RFP support. It was, however, actually perceived as more successful because the newly-located program helped to harpoon some of the quarter’s largest deals, which sales saw as extremely value-add. This is but one scenario; there are as many possible outcomes as there are companies. If your program does move to a different group or division, step back to reevaluate its guiding principles and ensure that the same exist in the new organization. If not, find out how to be successful in your new environment - and then realign. Promise Phelon, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org