Taking a Strategic Approach to Customer Advocacy Engagement

The Reference Management Elite - Jolene Hall

Coming from a background in communications with emphasis in news and television, we can understand how Jolene’s role in Customer Advocacy Management with IBM came to fruition. Holding various roles within IBM, it was an internal re-organization that introduced her to the client reference team. She will admit, she did not know much about client references when she started. However, she says she had a particular “ah-ha” moment when working with a colleague that helped her realize how the important work reference managers do correlates with the success and revenue impact for the company.

“I was working with a salesperson in India who was trying to close a very large sale with a bank. I spent a lot of time searching for the right data warehousing business intelligence references, and those references ended up being critical to help seal the deal. I learned how important references are, and how vital it is to have referenceable customers across every category, every solution area, every product area so that when sellers need multiple references for deals, large or small, we have the assets they need.”

Jolene is on the corporate team at IBM, which works on reference stories to share client’s experiences with IBM solutions. It is her team’s job to provide the tools, processes, and templates for all of the brand and business unit reference managers to publish case studies, videos and references, as well as find references, submit references and more. Jolene is always looking at the key things her team needs to do to deliver a value-adding, successful reference program to the IBM stakeholders that depend on it.

Through Jolene’s Eyes: The Future of Customer Advocacy

One of the reasons we consider Jolene Hall a Reference Elite is her vision and thought leadership. “We are no longer in the business of references, we are in the business of advocacy,” says Jolene. As she looks ahead to 2018, IBM’s advocacy team is looking at ways they can be better about utilizing all of IBM’s customer advocates to their full potential. “Reference programs, in general, have a tendency to overuse some customers and put other customers in the database and let them remain there with little activity. IBM’s big challenge is to ensure that we keep all of these advocates active.”

There is already an initiative at IBM to grow customer advocacy to support the new buying reality in the marketplace. “In today’s social world, word-of-mouth sharing or peer-to-peer marketing is most valuable. That kind of communication is GOLD. Sure, we all love working on flashy ads and expensive marketing videos – that is a lot of fun. But at the end of the day it is about making sure that the message is authentic and meaningful,” says Jolene. “People want to be able to hear from and relate to an actual person; that’s why man-on-the-street videos and blog posts and social media are the new tools of advocacy.”

What Matters Gets Measured

One way Jolene showcases the ROI of their customer advocacy program is via reference influence on revenue. “ROI on anything customer reference related is usually quite impressive, so the arguments tend not to be all that difficult in terms of finding budget, but certainly we need to prove that out at the end of the day.”

Jolene and her team are also making adjustments through integration of their reference tool, advocacy engagement tool and CRM platform to increase the number of metrics they can provide the organization. This will help their team track how many advocates they have in the program, what kinds of activities they are participating in and what the overall value is. “Our data showed us more than 30% of the customers we recruited at events to join our advocacy platform were not yet references. This is a huge opportunity for our team.” Jolene says the integration improvements will also increase efficiencies for the IBM sales team, “We will be able to push relevant references for opportunities in our CRM system so sellers don’t have to waste valuable time looking for references; we’re literally spoon feeding it to them.”

Why Customer Advocacy?  Jolene’s Pitch to Marketing

On occasion, Jolene and the team experience pushback from other marketing teams because the newer types of reference deliverables don’t tick off all of the marketing requirements. Jolene understands it can be difficult for marketing teams to “let go” and allow the customer to speak in their own words, rather than controlled messages about a product or solution delivered by the company.

“Customer advocacy is allowing real people to speak authentically about their unique and personal experiences with your solutions. It is about direct messages, using videos, blog posts and social platforms.”

Last year, the company launched IBM Client Success Field Notes, a project Jolene is very excited about. It is a blog featuring posts written by customers and business partners. “We all know 1:1 reference meetings between clients and prospects are the most effective at helping close business. We are just introducing an authentic voice earlier in the sales cycle with our personalized reference deliverables.”

Fun Facts About Jolene

  • Jolene is a scuba diver. Diving and snorkeling in the Caribbean is her favorite vacation.
  • When landlocked, Jolene enjoys to flower garden and watch sports.
  • Jolene enjoys the creative writing process. She is currently working on a screenplay for an animated film.
  • If she weren’t in the marketing field, you could find Jolene behind the scenes, hanging out with Jimmy Fallon, writing comedy for a late night talk show.

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Nichole Auston
Director, Content Marketing at RO Innovation
Nichole Auston is the Director of Content Marketing at RO Innovation. With a background in digital marketing and nearly a decade of experience managing marketing programs for a variety of SaaS companies, she’s passionate about sharing insights, best practices and stories about sales enablement and customer reference management, and the people and technology that power it.
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