inEvidence makes its pilgrimage to the Customer Reference Forum in California every year and 2010 was no exception with a two day stint at the Regency Hyatt,Santa Clara.  Despite constant rain, a visit by the Santa Clara fire department, and a bout of the flu, the trip was as successful as ever.

This year our theme was customer love (hence the three foot Love-O-Meter) so we introduced America to England’s famous Swizzles Love Hearts sweets and debuted the inEvidence CRP Top Tips cards which were snatched up by the 80 customer reference pros attending (email us now for your own set of cards).

The event was packed with presentations, workshops and panel discussions, covering everything from social media to measurement techniques.

Here are some of our take aways:

CRF survey results –Bill Lee
Vendors are named by reference programme managers, as the best source of new ideas.

Realising the full potential of your customer advocates – Laura Brookes, Satmetrix
Create an ‘inner circle’ of key customer references who have input to company strategy and product development in return for reference activities.

How Oracle invites executive customers into its CRPs – Julie Tung, Oracle
The ‘Coke Test’ approach to creating the perfect case study – if the company name can be replaced by a competitors and the case study still makes sense, then it goes straight in the bin.

The ‘how to’s’ of making customer references into a community marketing effort
Intel, Forrester, Salesforce

Salesforce sent flip cameras to key customers inviting them to film their own short reference video and post it on the Salesforce website – a cost effective way to say thank you to reference customers and increase the number of reference videos.

Transforming the Customer Reference Experience: Customer Reference Online Community – Cynthia Hester, HP
Take the best of of traditional networking such as Customer Advisory Boards and use social networking tools to enhance it with online community.

Just getting started – Tami Andrews, Dell
Educate! Educate! Educate! – evangelizing about the programme is not a one-off event, it needs to constantly be revisited.

Maximizing Global Impact – Jeanne Talbot, Lexmark
Make friends with Excel gurus (or hire them)!

Peer Exchange – hosted by Bill Lee, CRF
Microsoft ‘Reference Idol’ competition to increase the number of wins and references collected.  Salesforce awarded points in return for details of wins with a cash prize for the winner.