What’s in a name?
Monday, February 28, 2005
These days we’re doing lots of program turnaround to help leadership create new positions.... Since most programs – and probably yours – will at some time undergo transformation, whether a changing of the charter or adding new skills and capabilities or delivering more strategic metrics and impact, you might want to consider that changing your program’s name as well so it matches what your team does and how you would like your program to be perceived. If your program leverages customers, it needs a name worthy of an IPO, a name that speaks of its value. Something catchy, yes, but even more so something clear and descriptive, and related to your best value proposition. Here are a few examples of before and after name transformations that we’ve seen and helped to formulate: From: The Success Story Program To: Customer Success Initiatives From: Testimonial Database Team To: Reference Access Program Get the idea? Just something to think about... The one caution is that this change should coincide with a logical shift in the program. Alone it will just seem like... well, an exercise in repackaging. Promise Phelon, Partner email@example.com
Ken is sorry to have missed you...
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Thank you to everyone who tuned in to the Marketing Matters LIVE broadcast yesterday. Ken Darby of HP was scheduled to participate with me but he had a family emergency. Not to worry – you’ll hear from Ken very soon about the inner workings of the HP Customer Reference Program and how The Phelon Group has helped to further their vision. We plan to interview him for you and post the results of that interview in Q&A format right here on The Reference StewardSM blog. If you missed the LIVE broadcast event, you can hear an archived version here. Stay tuned... good stuff from Ken Darby (and more good stuff from TPG) coming soon! Promise Phelon, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org
Tune–in to the Reference Frequency!
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Ever wonder what life is like inside a gold-standard reference program? Want to get a glimpse into the leading edge? We invite you to tune-in to a complimentary, live radio Webcast to hear The Phelon Group’s (TPG’s) Promise Phelon and Ken Darby, Director of the Customer Reference Program at HP, chat about the importance and power of customer references to an entire organization. Find out how the HP Customer Reference Program is leveraging its reference customers way beyond customer success stories – and innovatively extending its solid program foundation. Also learn more about TPG’s perspective and methodology as Promise Phelon shares lessons learned from the firm’s work helping enterprise companies leverage their successful customers to build high–impact customer reference and customer marketing programs. The Details Who: Promise Phelon from TPG and Ken Darby from Hewlett Packard What: Promise Phelon and HP’s Ken Darby hit the radio waves to talk about closing the reference divide. When: Wednesday, February 23rd - 9a PST/11a CST/12p EST Where: Tune in at www.wsradio.com/marketingmatterslive/ If you can’t make the live broadcast, you can access the archive after the show at the link above. Promise Phelon, Partner email@example.com
Want to Get Things Done in Your Organization? Follow the Maverick.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Confession: I have a special place in my heart for mavericks. They seem to thrive on change in their personal and professional lives. Even more than that, mavericks seem driven to pursue change when it relates to things they’re passionate about; things they believe in with all of their might. And in doing so, mavericks also seem to get things done. Some mavericks are born but many are made – just by following other mavericks. In the customer reference and customer leverage arena, mavericks are few and far in between; perhaps because the field is still new and growing. But they’re out there. And their common characteristics, motivations and modi operandi are yours to emulate at will. After all, there’s no copyright on passion. There’s no copyright on pursuing what you believe in. A Snapshot: Attributes of the Customer–Focused Maverick What’s a customer-focused maverick look like? Which characteristics, motivations and methods might you, yourself, follow to get things done in your reference organization? By emulating the following maverick attributes, you will, like a few mavericks I know, start to see things happen in your organization. You’ll start to get things done. 1. Passion. The customer-centered maverick intensely believes that what she wants to see happen is truly in the best interests of her company’s customers. No budget? No headcount? No time? Doesn’t matter. Nothing changes the fact that what she wants to do – that what she knows ultimately must happen – will be best for her company and its customers. Even despite yet another denied request, even while churning out success story after success story, the customer maverick’s passion never falters; her dream of better things does not die. 2. Ownership: The customer maverick also takes ownership of everything customer, without stepping on toes. She proactively looks for gaps to fill, for opportunities to grasp, for chances to make the voice of the customer heard. She knows each customer interaction should be leading to more than another success story; it should be leading to a sound customer relationship that both the customer and company can leverage later. She continually brings customer gems to the company, whether it chooses to use them or not. For she knows that, in time, if she is humbly yet persistently vocal, her voice – the voice of the customer – will be heard. Soon, she will be recognized as a thought leader. She will find that others in the company turn to her for her treasury of customer gems. 3. Experimentation: The customer maverick says, "Act now; apologize later." She doesn’t rely on management to see the value in her customer–centric ideas. Instead, she experiments. She observes, hypothesizes, predicts, tests and draws conclusions. And when those conclusions support the success of her company and customers, she pilots her theory, proves its value – and then asks for budget. 4. Risk: The customer maverick does not shy from risk. She doesn’t wait to be given a seat at the strategy table – she takes it. She realizes that bringing her ideas, her passions, to life is hard work, but work well-worth it. She doesn’t expect good things to happen for her, and for her customers, just because she’s nice. She acts on what she believes. She fears inaction. She fears maintaining the status quo. Her motto, like the motto of my favorite maverick, is something along the lines of "If you do it, then it is." If you have a passion for customers, if you take ownership of all things customer, if you experiment and prove value, if you take the risk – you’ll do what my favorite maverick did: he moved his reference organization from the basement to the strategy table in just a few years. This may sound conceptual to you. Theoretical. Motivational. To the latter, I would agree. But from my experience working with many enterprise companies, I tell you our most successful clients, those with the most successful reference and marketing programs, are those led by individuals who don’t wait to be given a charter. They create one. They don’t wait for management to find out how important customers are. They illustrate that fact to them consistently. Those programs that succeed – those that enjoy the benefits of customer leverage – are those powered by individuals who recognize what needs to happen, and who take action to make it so. Promise Phelon, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org
Must-Reads for Busy Customer Marketing and Reference Professionals
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
If you’re like me, you could while away an entire week mining and absorbing all the latest research, thoughts and insights into the mind of customers. If you’re like me, you also probably don’t have that much time. Every now and again, I’ll share with you exceptional books and articles that I believe will help you serve your company and its customers well. This recent article should be required reading for all customer marketing and reference pros. Bookmark it for later reading, or print it out and read on the train or on your next flight. You’ll be glad you did. What’s a CIO Thinking About These Days? CIO Today interviewed Barbara D. Carlini, CIO of Diageo North America. Read this piece to learn: - What drives today’s CIO? Is it cost reduction? Technology upgrades? Strengthening the back office? You may be surprised. - What’s the decision-making process look like for a large-scale technology initiative? - Where does the CIO turn for information on new technologies? Get inside the CIO’s mind. Access the CIO Today piece here. Promise Phelon, Partner email@example.com
The Secret Shopper
Monday, February 14, 2005
I had a few interesting experiences recently that just go to show how important it is to step into a reference customer’s shoes once in a while. Since referencing is my business, I volunteered to act as a reference customer for two vendors that do business with The Phelon Group; and yet another vendor recruited our firm into their program. I learned a few very interesting lessons. One of the companies in particular, that shall remain nameless, started the process off by sending me on a hunt for the right people to speak with. That’s right. I had to e-mail people all over the company until I found someone interested in my testimonial. We set a tentative time to speak, but after three weeks and several trips coast-to-coast, he never e-mailed me back to confirm the day and time. So imagine my surprise when the phone rang a few weeks later; I had forgotten all about the appointment. Since it was never confirmed, it fell off my calendar. After a few apologies, he launched right in to ask which products we used, and why did we choose their company? Whoa!, I thought, Slow down! I didn’t have a list of questions before the call so I didn’t do any research. Besides that, I was in shock because he kicked off the first five minutes asking about things I felt he should have known. He never tried to make me comfortable about the process up front, either. He never told me what to expect next. He never asked me about *me* and about my company. In essence, he neglected to take time to get me warmed up, so he missed an opportunity to capture the little tidbits that make success stories interesting. Another experience I had was great! A senior writer with one of our vendors invited our firm to act as a reference. I obliged; not only do I believe in the power of references, but I’m also always open to interesting experiments. This one turned out well. The writer perused our Web site and read a few of my articles before the call, and, get this, e-mailed me a reminder a few days before. The e-mail included seven questions and a short overview of the company’s customer marketing program. The interview process pretty much went smoothly as well. First Step: The Warm-Up. When she started the call by asking me questions about how our firm started, I beamed! Think about it. The average senior executive works 65 hours a week. Get them talking about what they do in their jobs, their industries, their companies. This writer did it right; the first 10 minutes were all about The Phelon Group and our clients. After that, I was ready to talk. Create the free flow! Second Step: The Map. After she talked about us for a while, she laid out the rest of the call. She shared how these calls typically go and how long I could expect to spend. She also told me that if I had constructive comments or feedback about their company, communications or products, she would block out the last 10 minutes to discuss them. Third Step: The Questions. She walked me through about 15 smart, open-ended questions. Fourth Step: The Close. Her close wasn’t great, but since so much else went well, I forgave her. Here’s what she could have done better: 1. Define the next steps i.e. In two weeks, you’ll receive a draft. 2. Close with something exciting such as, Did you know our Web site just received a Webby award? or I see you haven’t signed up for our next Webcast; please do! It will be very informative! 3. Create a reason to follow-up. Because there is often much heavy lifting required to get content developed and internally approved, create a reason to come back to stay top of mind and to remind me the story’s in progress. Content managers, share this simple rule with your writers: the first 10 minutes of any interview cannot be about your company. You can’t be on every call with your writer, but pop in once in a while to find out how smoothly it goes. If it’s not smooth, come up with a new plan and/or get your writer interview training so that he feels more confident in such unpredictable situations. Remember, the best writer is not always the best interviewer. Try it yourself. Be a secret shopper in your own company or with one of your vendors. Offer to be a reference for a company you do business with. You’ll gain a much better perspective of what it’s like to walk in your reference customers’ shoes. Promise Phelon, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org
It's About Time We Had a Blog of Our Own
Friday, February 11, 2005
Welcome to The Reference StewardSM — the blog for customer reference professionals. I’m Promise Phelon, and my partner Steven Nicks and I founded The Phelon Group to help companies build and innovate their reference programs, and fully leverage their best customers. Today marks an important milestone in the CRP community because for the first time we have a common place to share, learn and grow this exciting field. In addition to this blog, you can connect and network with your peers at the Reference 360 Discussion ForumTM. Right now you can probably find someone in the CRP community who is facing similar challenges or has faced them in the past and is willing to share lessons learned. There is a great collection of knowledge among reference professionals. And there are growing challenges that affect us all. Traditional reference tools are losing their credibility as buyers go around formal references to seek candid opinions. Executives are cutting budgets for programs that can’t demonstrate solid metrics. Competition for references is growing as we recruit from a smaller pool. Budgets remain stagnant among growing responsibilities. Yet at the same time, we at The Phelon Group see an amazing opportunity for reference professionals. As companies shift toward customer-centricity, executives are evaluating customer—facing functions to see which are poised to manage the customer relationship on behalf of the entire company. And they are starting to see that reference programs have been doing it all along. The time has come to elevate those programs from tactics to strategy. One more exciting contributor to this community is the Customer Reference Council. We’ve brought together some of the most innovative and forward-thinking CRP professionals. We are working with these leaders to further the stature, credibility, influence, and understanding of the strategic role reference customers and reference programs play in corporate strategy. It’s a very exciting time to be part of the customer reference community, and my colleagues and I greatly look forward to sharing and learning with you. Promise Phelon, Partner email@example.com