An overview from the Customer Engagement Summit, Boston, October 2009

Event format

Though the Boston event was clearly designed to appeal to reference professionals unable to attend the Berkeley forum held in spring (many companies were, and still are, hit with travel restrictions) the meeting had an extended scope, being positioned as a customer engagement summit, including customer references and advocacy but also thinking more about multiple touch points, including C-level engagement and Customer Advisory Boards (CABs).

As usual, there was a pre-event cocktail reception; essential tips include making sure you have your badge clearly visible and the right way round (saves much embarrassment) and making sure you eat something early on as those wine glasses were huge!

The first day of the actual event kicked off at 7.30 am (yes, 7.30 but the breakfast was good) with one full day of sessions and a sponsor reception early in the evening. Day 2 started just as early and ran for nearly another full day,.

The sessions were combined or split into different streams which allowed us to deep-dive into areas of particular interest. There was also a smaller C-level invitation-only stream.

Just a few highlights (as we remember them, in no particular order):

Sean Geehan – Geehan Group
The fate of B2B organisations sits in the hands of few customers; make your investments with this in mind. Flip the investment away from users to retaining influencers via C-level programmes.

Tim Thorsteinson – Harris Broadcasting Communications
Executive Advisory Boards can be profitable through accelerated product development and increased orders. Not doing EABs can = building the wrong products and risk of distance from these decision makers.

Laura Ramos – Forrester
Engage with customers, they want to! The 4 I’s, Involvement, Interaction, Intimacy, Influence. Also consider total economic impact of Engagement/Advocacy and remember to align metrics to business objectives.

Rhett Livengood – Intel
Integrate CABs, CRPs and Social Media and you can do so (and get decent metrics) on a small budget. Don’t bother too much with podcasts, use You Tube, keep videos cheap and cut to around 90 seconds.

Catherine Gibson-Green – AT&T
Ground-breaking work taking CABs virtual. Scheduling and running virtual CABs in 10 locations, 6 time zones and 3 regions does not make this a travel-ban-beating option for the faint-hearted.

Connie Dean – Microsoft
CABs can be very successful indeed. Use a structure, assign owners to tasks and tick these off when complete. Keep on recruiting and find a way to move long-term members to an alumni group.

Wally Thiessen – SAS
Using customer champions to assist with mass customer engagement can enable many more Face2Face events to be run and directly impact customer retention (and therefore the bottom line).

Chris  Fleck – Citrix
Champion the user  community and get involved with the conversations that are happening online.  Give key advocates exclusive access to your company and empower your employees  to get involved.

Chris  Lucas – EMC
Create an  exclusive reference community that rewards users for greater involvement in the  reference programme. Successful Studio E format engages customers both online  and face to face.

Abby Atkinson – Infor
Show clear ROI in  your reference programme to enable future investment and make results visible to  all areas of the organisation.

A good event, with reduced numbers not a huge surprise in this economy, plus the larger west-cost event held just a few months earlier. That said there was lots of value here; apart from the networking opportunities these events are a good reminders that:

  • Some problems are universal. Just understanding this makes them easier to deal with somehow
  • This event transcends day-to-day business rivalries; the most hardened adversaries will sit down together and share
  • Maybe you are doing better than you think you are!
  • If you are a reference pro you need to be there, maybe not every time but certainly every few events

If you would like any more detail of our experiences at this event please just ask.

(Full disclosure)
inEvidence has attended Reference Forums for some years and are one of six or so sponsors that have supported the last few. We do so as we reckon thought leadership comes from meeting people and really understanding the intricacies of their issues, not by sitting in an office and ‘drinking your own Kool-Aid’.
Other than supporting these events we have no other connection  with the Customer Reference Forum