Held annually, the Summit on Customer Engagement is ‘the’ global event for the who’s who of the reference world. Here customer reference professionals from around the globe congregate to discuss, showcase and deliberate.
As always, the event started with an evening drinks reception which is a great chance to catch up with old friends, meet new ones and put those names at the end of an email to a face.
Day one starts with a networking breakfast (try eating a croissant elegantly) followed by an opening speech from event organiser, Bill Lee. The main focus of the event was customer references (of course) and new marketing and this year started with a bang with Bill declaring that “marketing IS customer advocacy”.
Both days then follow the same pattern of keynote speeches, deep-dive sessions and workshops, with plenty of opportunities to eat, drink and of course network.
Here are our highlights and key things we learnt from the many great sessions that we attended over the two day event:

The Power of Customer Engagement and Advocacy up to the C-suite – Chuck Ball, AmerisourceBergen & Sean Geehan, Author of The B2B Executive Playbook

There is undeniable ROI in reference programmes so be sure to measure your programme in order to demonstrate its success to the powers that be. Programmes with CABs enjoy significantly greater internal executive support so be sure to create relationships and maximise them through CABs.

Winning the Marketing Revolution – Lisa Arthur, Aprimo – a Teradata company

Marketing is in a state of revolution! Customers control our brands and we need to embrace it. End-users will pay more for an experience and creating that experience is paramount, so listen to your customers and let them tell you how you can improve their experience.

Getting Marquee Brand Customers to Advocate –Citrix, Responsys, Oracle and Intel

It’s commonplace across all reference programmes that salespeople want to use the big brands as references, even if they aren’t always the best fit. Although many of the big names are not permitted to be official references, it is important to create personal relationships with the appropriate contacts. They may be willing to help out. Also, the advice from the panel was don’t put too much emphasis on asking customers to “sign up” to an official programme – this can scare them off!

Creating Apple-like Customer Advocates, Rob Meinhardt, Dell | KACE

Differentiate yourself from your competitors – your customers want you to! Do the unexpected and always remember to be personal. Lead your customers; tell them what you want them to say about you. Advocacy does not happen by accident. Advocacy is a strategy, you need to plan it. There are hundreds of techniques and tools at your disposal – find your sweet spot.

From Chasing References to Harvesting Advocates – Katharyn White, IBM Global Services

Marketers must understand their customers as individuals and create an experience that in turn creates advocates.  Engaging customers as individuals helps to improve response rates, every touch needs to maximise value. Design your brand and culture so they are one.


In summary this was another great event from SCE with lots of interesting content and great networking opportunities. Our key takeaways help to remind us that we are all facing the same challenges and sharing our best practices and insights can only be a positive thing for all involved:

  • Educate the sales force about the programme to manage their expectations and raise awareness
  • Stand out from your competitors!
  • Create relationships with your customers, they are individuals
  • Measure and track the success of the programme

A good event, with reduced numbers not a huge surprise in this economy, plus the larger west-coast 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 reminder 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, to learn and share. (It’s also not too bad to visit the beautiful San Francisco every now and then!)