How Do You Measure the Value of Your Reference Program?
Friday, July 28, 2006
All too often, I see companies measuring the success of their customer reference programs by the number of success stories produced. A better measure is how the program actually impacts sales. While this is a much more difficult to measure, you can begin by determining how reference content is used in the sales cycle. And when I say "content" I'm not necessarily referring to a success story.
Let's say you're a high-tech company selling IT hardware or software, for example. In that case, you'll typically need to satisfy three key decision makers:
- C-level - CIO, COO, or CFO
- Mid-level - LOB (line of business) manager, director, or VP
- Technical/User - manager, director, or IT expert
C-level audiences look for executive summaries and overviews. They want to hear from their peers, so you'll need quotes from C-level references. They also look to industry analysts and read business press, so you'll want to make sure that your customers are out there, speaking on your behalf.
Mid-level audiences are comfortable with a moderate level of detail. As far as messaging goes, they're looking for full solutions that can be rapidly adopted. They also look to industry analysts, and they read trade press in their line of business. They want quotes from mid-level individuals who share their issues and, whenever possible, their industry.
Technical folks want the details. They seek out detailed case studies demonstrating how their peers successfully implemented the solution. They talk to colleagues, so you might encourage your references to take part in user groups, conferences, and other interactive communications.
To measure your success, ask yourself a few key questions:
- Do you understand the needs of the audiences your sales team must satisfy for each sale?
- Are you supplying sales with fresh reference content to satisfy these audiences?
- To what extent are actual sales dependent on the content you provide?
If you can tie your reference content to actual sales, you'll know the true value of your program. And that's something you can take to the bank (or at least upstairs!).
Lucy Sanna, Consultant firstname.lastname@example.org