The CRP Buzz:
3 hot-hot-hot topics from the recent AMA CRP Fundamentals seminar
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
A couple weeks ago, I was pleased to deliver a two-day seminar on customer reference program fundamentals through a Phelon Group partnership with the American Marketing Association. I had a great time meeting everyone in NYC and Las Vegas. Some attendees hailed from companies with no formal or informal reference program and just wanted to know where to start; others came from companies with existing programs-these folks posed more advanced questions. A few of the topics, however, came up repeatedly, like those surrounding stakeholders and charters, strategic plans and measurement. It's those topics I'll address in this three-part series on the CRP Buzz.
Hot Topic 1: CRP Stakeholders and the CRP Charter
(Who they are and key charter elements)
Part 1 of 3
Every CRP needs a charter, and with it a strategic plan. Sounds simple, but I was surprised at how many programs out there are just a jumble of thrown together pieces that don't consider the BIG program picture. After all, a formal program foundation is the basis for aligning your intentions with those of your program's key stakeholders. Do you know who your key stakeholders are? Why they are your key stakeholders? What they need to effectively judge the success of your program? And, perhaps most importantly, what they need to continue supporting your program? (Hint: greater program support = greater program adoption = great program respect + greater program budget!) Those of you just starting out on the CRP journey can learn from the mistakes of your peers-always think strategic; think charter; think stakeholders!
So just who are your stakeholders? Your manager and manager's manager are stakeholders, but so are your reference customers. Consider how you would report to them exactly how your program has helped make them more successful. Sales is your program's number-one stakeholder-it's the group your program supports most. Another group of stakeholders is engineering and new product development. These groups need to know, perhaps more than anyone else, what the customer thinks of your company's products or services. And you can learn that by virtue of what reference customers tell prospective customers. What all this means is: seek out a wide and diverse group of stakeholders. Break down silos. Learn what stakeholders want. Communicate your program's successes and feed customer information to those who need to know.
You will solidify and consolidate your intentions toward and your learning about program stakeholders through your program charter. We at The Phelon Group have walked many clients through the charter process, so we know first-hand what works and what doesn't. The best charters, i.e. the most successful charters, include language that outlines a program's intent to:
- Accelerate the sales process
- Support sales in the selling process
- Deepen relationships with key reference customers
It's also best-practice to include secondary, functional issues in the program charter, such as a program's intent to:
- Control and or reduce reference customer burnout
- Locate and fill gaps in the reference customer inventory
- Elevate reference customers as industry thought leaders
And don't forget managerial issues; include in the charter a program's intent to:
- Be strategic and forward-looking
- Recruit and nurture reference customers that align with long-term company goals and objectives
- Capture and regularly communicate the program's value to all stakeholders
Notice: I never mention the number of success stories the program will (or does) produce…or the total number of customers in the program…as part of the charter. You can produce a thousand success stories or recruit a thousand customers into the program, but if they do not accelerate sales or enable sales reps to capture more revenue per sale, your program will have, at best, limited value.
Stay tuned for the next two posts in this three-part series on the CRP Buzz; I'll cover two other topics-strategic plans and measurement-that were hot topics among the reference and marketing professionals who attended the recent AMA/Phelon Group CRP Fundamentals seminar.Ed Buckingham, Research Director email@example.com