Be a Customer Expert; Be Magnified
Thursday, May 19, 2005
A brief and powerful article in Marketing Magnified, the newsletter of the CMO Council, echoes what we learned through this year's Customer Reference Program Benchmarking Study: that reference program leaders and their teams have golden opportunities right now to fuel customer intelligence practices that enable the "new CMO" to do his or her job better. The article, "A CMO's Dream Team" is written by a former Sony executive who shares how chief marketers need to and are assembling 'dream teams' of experts and marketing players. If you want to empower your CMO, check it out at http://www.cmocouncil.org/Marketing_Magnified/ 2005/MM_newsletter_5.html#team. Here's a brief excerpt to whet your appetite: ...the marketing landscape has changed dramatically and the skill sets and experiences needed on a CMO's marketing bench have changed just as dramatically. New media, market fragmentation, and brand proliferation have given birth to new ways to go to market and new challenges in doing so. Today CMOs need to rethink the types of marketing expertise they need on the team. Here are 6 types of players that can help produce winning results in today's marketing environment.... http://www.cmocouncil.org/Marketing_Magnified/ 2005/MM_newsletter_5.html#team Promise Phelon, Partner firstname.lastname@example.org
Removing the Blind Spots: Two Mirrors Required
Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Removing the blind spots requires that a reference manager add a few more mirrors that reflect where reference customers are - and where the prospect is - so better call matches might be made. This is not an attempt to be dishonest or to somehow hide the truth. But if a reference manager knows a prospect has real concerns late in the deal about implementation costs, it's better to create a match with a reference customer who can speak to this issue. How to do this? Add blind spots as criteria on the list of both interview questions and reference qualifiers. Add Mirror One to the Customer Interview When refreshing reference customers or developing a success story think about blind-spot types of questions and how to integrate them into the current interview process. And more importantly, stay on top of customers and keep this intelligence up to date. Interview questions that reveal blind spots look like this:
- Was the project delivered on-time and did it map to your original expectations?
- What is your perception of our professional services and customer support organization? To what degree did they contribute to your team's/project's success?
- If you were sitting in a room with our senior management team, what would you tell them about our services, our solutions and the interactions you've had with the company?
- What has the prospect already seen in the way of presentations and demos?
- Has the customer already visited the customer support center?
- Have they already been given a detailed proposal and pricing?
- What issues (blind spots) keep cropping up during discussions?
- Do they constantly ask about service?
- Do they keep asking about the product's ability to support some version of their proprietary technology?
- Is their overriding concern about our experience and expertise?
- Or is it cost containment or TCO?
Finding and Fixing Blind Spots in Customer Reference Calls
Monday, May 16, 2005
They say three times is a charm. They (whoever "they" are) also say bad things happen in threes. Well I've seen something happen three times over the past four months so I thought it deserved the attention of reference professionals. What I've seen is this: reference people lost in the blind spots. Here's an example. Back in December, senior marketing at a company we work with asked me to sit in for a sales reference call brokered by the reference organization. A little background: this invitation was extended after an audit with sales during which we understood why the program wasn't getting support - because buried beneath laments of "we need more financial services references" and "more ROI case studies" were comments from some reps who'd been actively involved with reference customers. They said, in essence, that after a few reference calls they found their prospects actually wanted them to do more "selling" on services and on the quality of delivery. Why? Because the calls were raising doubts with prospects, or because the references served up by marketing were not appropriate for the prospects' stages in the opportunities. Back to the example... the reference customer participating in the call I sat in on had been well-qualified against the prospect - the callers matched in industry, business challenge and organizational role. Sounds great, right? The call moved smoothly along for the first two-three questions - the obligatory basics about the product and implementation were asked and answered - until the prospect started to drill the customer on the company's commitment to service level agreements. The customer had experienced some issues in that area and had to honestly tell the prospect about it. Good thing for the company that they had worked those issues out. But that doesn't always happen - I've seen deals red-line during reference calls because of such blind spots. Identifying the Blind Spots in Your Reference Calls What exactly are blind spots? Blind spots are the areas a prospect asks about in the late stages of a deal. After all, the most substantial costs associated with technology sometimes isn't the products; it's the services that spiral out of control or the technical support that doesn't happen fast enough or with enough vigor. These are the questions a late-stage prospect often wants answered. When a prospect is late-stage, the basics have already been asked and answered. Now the prospect wants to know about the service. About fair billing. About delivery. About how responsive and engaged the company is. The prospect wants to know what interacting with the vendor will be like. And questions of this nature aren't typically on a reference manager's map. They're blind spots. A prospect speaks with customers to figure out if hidden blind spots exist. And blind spots can cause real trouble because they're not uncovered by questions typically asked during success study or case study interviews. The prospect is searching for them; the reference manager usually doesn't know about them. In my next posting I'll address how reference managers can remove blind spots. Promise Phelon, Partner email@example.com