Reference Rehab

RR4

Customer Reference Academy 4 was held in a single day day split into two, with formal sessions taking place in the afternoon, followed by a more informal ‘lights down low’ meal in the evening, where attendees were able to share stories and experiences with their peers (with the support of some fine wine).

The opening session was hosted by Peter Hindle of HP and provided a candid insight into his first year in a customer reference role. Peter described the road that led him to becoming a reference professional, the structure of HP’s global programme – a spider’s web of sales, marketing, BU’s, products, solutions and services (phew!); as well as some of the key challenges he’s faced along the way, such as maintaining and growing a healthy pipeline of reference customers, using the right types of references in-line with the sales cycle, and working with Sales (often a challenge in itself!). Peter’s presentation sparked a healthy conversation on some of the cultural differences reference pros have come across when faced with running a global programme.

After light refreshments (much needed after sampling the hottest gobstoppers in history), inEvidence compère, Robin Hamilton, led session two – a room-wide discussion on next generation case studies; should we stick to the written word? Do we need to make our case studies more interactive?

The discussion sparked lots of opinions and ideas, with most people agreeing that different levels or job functions like different reference formats (supporting the argument for creating ‘suites’ of reference materials from one central contact with the customer, enabling references to be tailored to various audiences). It was also agreed that the case study should be seen as an event rather than a static material pushed out to an audience; that we should provide the audience with the ability to comment/tweet/share their opinions on the collaterals we create. Despite plenty of uncomfortable chair shuffling at the thought of companies opening themselves up to uncontrollable commentary, the general consensus was that the world is changing and we need to take a deep breath and relax about how our content is viewed, distributed and shared.

Session three was hosted by the lovely Gemma Brown, who gave an honest overview of her role as EMEA reference manager for CommVault. New to the world of customer reference programmes, Gemma confessed that despite knowing little of what would be involved, she set about making the role her own, facing a plethora of ‘challenges’ along the way (that prompted nods and murmurs of agreement across the group). Gemma talked through some of the difficulties she faced with geographical pressures (of so many technology companies), as well as the politics experienced when sat between sales, marketers and the end customer. The ever present subject of ‘difficulties in engaging the sales teams’ also reared its ugly head again. One of the most compelling themes taken from this session was the importance and weight the ‘personal touch’ carries with both sales and the end customer – having adopted a hands on approach with customers, Gemma has seen a 600% growth in her referencable customer database – go Gemma!

To wrap up the formal sessions, the group got down and dirty to discuss what is and isn’t working in the world of reference. From sales incentive programmes, executive sponsorship, and increased budgets – to win summaries, reference recruitment and clever budgeting; the conversations ran through the evening (interrupted only by a strong debate into the health benefits versus taste of stewed rhubarb).

We’d like to thank everybody who attended Customer Reference Acadmeny 4 and made it the success it was. To see the photos from the event, click here. As always, we take all feedback on board and package it up with a bow for the next session (which incidentally is scheduled to take place on 14th February ’12). Look forward to seeing you then.

Melissa Talbot