Self-described “Research Junkie”
The Reference Manager to Know
Liz Pedro is something of a celebrity in reference management circles. (Twitter: @mslizpedro) She’s built successful programs at five different companies and has been actively blogging and speaking about the discipline for years. Now, she’s in charge of the customer advocacy program at Five9, a leading provider of cloud contact centers.
When Liz arrived at Five9 in the fall of 2016, the organization already had a reference program—of a sort. As she explains, “The program was run by marketing, but there was no formality to it. No rules of engagement. No defined processes. They had acquired ReferenceViewTM from RO Innovation in 2013 to manage the program and although the tool was rolled out I felt like there were opportunities to repair, build and grow the program.”
Taking a Strategic Approach
Liz’s manager, the VP of Corporate Marketing, gave her a tight timeline when she joined the company in November. By mid-December, she was to have researched the existing program, identified its weaknesses, and present her recommendation for how to move forward to the sales and marketing leadership teams.
Being a strategic thinker and self-described “research junkie,” Liz jumped in with both feet. Her first step was to meet with all of the stakeholders: the key sales VPs and directors, VP of customer experience, senior director of customer support and other key stakeholders who supported the sales team. She had one-on-one meetings with everyone who could provide insights on how to make the program more effective for the Five9 sales team and everyone would would be impacted by the program.The purpose of these meetings was to gather their perspectives, but also set the stage for their buy-in of the proposal.
Only someone with Liz’s experience building reference programs could have accomplished what she did in just one month. Being a true domain expert, she understood what could be accomplished with a formal program as opposed to simply just reacting to sales’ reference requests. She was able to answer everyone’s questions and provide a vision of how the new program could help the sales team win more deals.
This strategic approach is something that Liz has carried forth. As she says,
“Reference managers need to see a bigger vision than just the task list in front of them. They need to be strategic as well as tactical. If you’re just tactical, you’ll get mired down in requests, and people start to walk all over you. It can be overwhelming, and I believe it’s one of the reasons so many reference managers burn out so quickly.”
Every Friday, Liz takes out her planner and organizes what she’s going to accomplish in each of the strategic programs she’s managing at the moment. A big believer in Management by Objective, she usually has five or so projects in the works. Today’s advocacy program directors own many programs. Liz not only owns the customer reference program but also manages customer welcome kits, online customer reviews, customer newsletters, writes blog posts, manages case studies and video testimonials, and more. Liz is always looking at her long-term goals and assesses the gaps in the program that will need to be addressed if she is to reach them.
Liz Pedro’s Best Practices
As you might imagine, Liz has developed a number of customer reference management best practices over the years. In our discussion with her, four bubbled up to the top:
- Build a pipeline: Liz suggests treating reference recruitment like a sales pipeline. Once a customer has responded positively to a Net Promoter Survey, the next step is to ask them to complete an online review. Not all of them will take the time, but a certain percentage will. In Liz’s experience, the customers most likely to agree to more formal requests, such as reference calls and speaking engagements, come from this smaller sub-segment of satisfied customers. Once customers complete an online review, then they are asked to join the customer reference program and self-identify what other reference activities they want to participate in.
- Align reference types to the customer journey: Liz is a big believer in leveraging customer advocacy throughout the customer’s journey, and she recommends having an ample supply of specific types of references for each stage. For example, net promoter scores and online reviews can be very helpful in the awareness stage of an opportunity. Case studies, speaking opportunities, and other more detailed assets are great for the middle stages of the buying cycle. Reference calls and site visits are most appropriate for the buying stage when customers are looking to make a final decision.
- Track the metrics: One of the reasons Liz has been able to affect the company culture at Five9 is because she tracks her results. Originally, she focused on sales influences, but now, she also reports on pipeline influenced because she finds the broader picture opens everyone’s eyes to the potential impact.
The VP of Marketing reports on the metrics at the monthly VP Meeting, which is also attended by the CEO. “One of my favorite times at Five9 was when my VP called me right after a VP meeting to let me know how interested the CEO was with the dollar number the reference program was impacting. Everyone should be doing this, and the metrics are so easy to add to the dashboard in ReferenceView.”
Go with positive attitude over knowledge: As knowledgeable as Liz is about reference management, she still believes attitude is more important. “Some companies will stick whatever junior marketing person they have available in this role and hope it works out. But, being a reference manager isn’t for everyone,” says Liz.
“If I were to hire a reference manager, I would look for someone who has a very positive attitude and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. You also need someone who can work well with sales and understands how important it is to respond quickly to their requests.”
Liz has accomplished quite a bit in her short eight months at Five9, but she’s just getting started. Next, she plans to investigate how she can more fully leverage other technologies. For example, Five9 implemented the integration of ReferenceView to Salesforce, the company’s system of record. She wants to investigate if there are other ways she can leverage ReferenceView to help accomplish her objectives.
Make no mistake, Liz believes in her ability to impact company performance.
“Since I started my career, customer advocacy has become more of a differentiator for many organizations. When I started my career, people would say ‘my company or my product is best because of X, Y or Z.’ But, it seems a lot of products aren’t so differentiated anymore. The one clear differentiator that remains is the customer experience, and customer advocacy is now what allows you to turn that difference into an advantage.”
Fun Facts About Liz
- Liz is the founder of The Apache Tears Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to enrich the lives of youth on the San Carlos Apache Reservation
- When she’s not working, Liz loves working for the foundation, spending time with her family, and watching movies.
- If stranded on a desert island and could only have one album listen to, she would choose Pat Benatar’s Greatest Hits.