Living your Program Brand... Can a reference program be proprietary and bring competitive advantage?
Thursday, April 13, 2006
It was a pleasure speaking with all the attendees at the Customer Reference Forum in San Francisco a few weeks ago. We were very excited to share the 2006 customer reference program benchmarking study results, as well as the success and lessons learned by one of our key clients, Network Appliance. We were thrilled and flattered that so many people were interested in how the program was architected - and that many others just loved the name...Evidence2Win. I ran across a few folks who even planned to use the same name. Yes, Evidence2Win is trademarked by NetApp. And that brings me to my point. Proprietary Program - what does it mean? How can your program's brand take it from being "just another cup of Joe", and instead reflect its impact and grab the attention of executives? A proprietary customer reference program isn't built on borrowed best practices. It's yours. How it runs, the name, and the value proposition are all crafted and unique to your customers, your executives, your competitive position, your program. Why? As reference programs become ubiquitous, some teams will get commoditized. We've seen great examples of this process. Look at coffee 15 years ago. The average price of a cup of coffee was somewhere between $.80 and one dollar. Today, a grande latte is almost $3.00. So what is the niche and special value of your program? How can your program's name reflect its impact and grab the attention of executives? Over the past five years, we researched hundreds of successful program, initiative and company brands. We took that learning and built into our methodology a program branding aspect. It looks at the specific needs of your customers, the realities of how your sales teams are selling, and the way your program adds unique value Adopting the name of another program may provide a quick hit of adrenaline, but building a branded and proprietary program that is yours alone will make it sustainable. As Holley Garmany who leads the NetApp program discussed, the Evidence2Win brand took several weeks of consideration and vetting, and is directly tied to the value proposition of her program. One person at the conference told me that her company's program was always referred to as The Success Story Program, and she was looking at calling it something else to change the perception. After a 20-minute discussion about the DNA of her program, we quickly realized that it was, in fact, The Success Story Program-chartered with developing stories tied to her company and customer successes. However, her vision for the program was much greater. After discussing the issue over pot stickers, it was clear that the program's position needed to dramatically shift before the name did. Look around. These programs are becoming more strategic, and as they contribute more to faster sales and brand equity, they will be less and less like "traditional reference programs". Now that you're home and thinking about the vision of your program, there are three questions to ask yourself: What is the unique value your program delivers to the company? Who are the people on your team, and how are they unique at adding value? If your program is external, who are your "targets" and what message or value proposition will resonate with them? Why ask? Because branding a program takes time. It's more than a name. And if your program is all brand and no brawn-if it does not reflect the unique value and character of your organization-the brand loses its power and substance. The brand must be how you talk about your team and how that "talk" or mantra gets absorbed within your organization. ...just one more question. Based on those three questions, can your current program charter support a new brand? Promise Phelon, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org