How this true ‘people person’ has proved flexibility, a vision and a passion for building relationships are the foundation of longevity in customer reference management

The Reference Management Elite - Mary Ketter

Meet Mary Ketter

Mary Ketter is a seasoned pro that many up-and-coming customer marketers look to for mentorship and advice, which is what makes her this month’s featured Reference Management Elite member. After doing customer marketing, and specifically customer reference management, for the past 25 years, she certainly knows a thing or two about the best practices that foster a successful career in this field.

In her role of managing the global customer reference program for JDA Software, she oversees the development, growth and management of customer references and their related assets to support sales and marketing strategies at her company. Her team also oversees the development of strategic customer relationships as well. “I consider myself a driver of change,” says Ketter. “Everything is constantly changing in business. The beauty of this role is the flexibility it allows in being able to change with and adhere to new demands, especially as our internal customers (sales and marketing) transform and evolve.”

The flexibility to adjust to change has served her well in her career at JDA Software. Shortly after being hired, JDA Software merged with RedPrairie, followed a year later by the hiring of CMO Kevin Iaquinto. Through Iaquinto’s vision he made a few operational changes for the reference program, including moving it out of the Sales department and giving the program a new home in the Marketing department. In doing so, he gave the program more responsibility and more visibility. “Kevin has been a tremendous advocate for our  team, helping to raise our profile within the company. We couldn’t do it without him,” Ketter notes. “He took our team to a different level. It wasn’t just about references anymore. It was about engaging with customers at the executive level, and getting a true customer advocacy program started.”

Change is the Driving Force

Iaquinto tasked Ketter with determining, how to best merge the reference programs, technology and data from the point systems at each company into one fluid entity. “It was not an easy task. We had huge amounts of data to integrate, two systems to evaluate and merge onto one platform, and processes galore to get alignment on.” Needless to say, Mary Ketter took the project by the horns and now, almost three years later, has established the trust needed amongst the users of the program at JDA to withstand any “change” curveballs thrown their way. “I admit it hasn’t been the easiest adoption. We’re still working at it. But because of the credibility we’ve established, and with Iaquinto’s solid backing, I know when we embark on [RO Innovation] in 2017, it’s going to be even better with what we can offer.”

Among the skill of having the flexibility to respond to change management, Mary Ketter also says the following are necessary for building and maintaining a successful career in this field:

  1. Reporting on successes of the reference program with accurate data has helped her team build credibility, a good reputation and executive support. For example, this quarter she will be presenting a report to the Chief Revenue Officer, the CMO, the SVP of Customer Success and the EVP of Professional Services.
  2. The ability to respond quickly and appropriately to requests from the sales, marketing and executive teams
  3. Be a visionary. “Things always change, so you have to be able to visualize the end result. Whether it’s the customer for a reference request, or the result of a video interview. Or how you are going to report to management. You have to be creative,” says Ketter.

The ability to build relationships with anyone. Mary says, “A successful reference manager can build a deep relationship with the trash man!” You can’t do this job without that skill. You must be able to get that internal win via that relationship before anything else can happen.


“Mary Ketter is a true people person – she always has energy to truly get to know others as individuals.  I believe that this extra attention to personal detail makes Mary a great example among Customer Reference professionals.  In addition to that, it makes her a wonderful manager who is invested in the success of her team members and who advocates on their behalf to assist them in their careers, both within the current reference team today as well as with an eye to the future.”

Johanna Larson

Customer Marketing Specialist, JDA Software

Customer Stories at Their Best

What’s fun about picking the brain of some of the veteran reference managers in this industry, is the number of stories they can share from their career. Mary is no exception. She shared one story about a time where things just “fell into place and worked out”, even though it didn’t seem like it then:

This one time we were sitting in a room with a prospect from Latin America. This customer had invested in sending five people to visit our customer locations to better understand how our solutions work.  During the three days they were here, they visited three customer sites and were wrapping up the visit at our headquarters.  During the recap meeting, they requested to speak to yet another customer (that same day, if possible!) about one point that didn’t seem to get answered during the visits.  As I left the room, my mind was reeling.  Did we have someone?  Could they speak to them in a matter of hours?

Well, it couldn’t have worked out any better.  Not only were we able to make a phone call happen and get the appropriate customer on the phone that day, but this customer agreed to also participate in a WebEx which gave them insight into their automated program. And as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words!

I learned having that relationship with the customer (and the account executive) to make a call like this was priceless.  People not only buy from people, but they want to help when they can.

Fun Facts About Mary Ketter

  1. She loves to sing. Mary is a member of the Asheville Choral Society in North Carolina.
  2. She loves to cook. Chicken Enchiladas are her specialty…yum!
  3. She loves to dig in the dirt. She has a beautiful flower garden. “When I go to Lowes, the flowers all tell me, ‘Mary, take me home!’ I can’t help myself sometimes.”

Technology is a Game Changer

When you stick at anything long enough, you’re bound to see major changes affect the industry. Twenty-five years ago, when Mary Ketter first started doing reference management, customer advocacy was not part of the reference mix. Nor was social media. “Everything was done via spreadsheets,” says Ketter. “The additions of technology have been game changers to the success of how reference management is done now.” Yet it is the change that happens daily in this industry that continues to keep Mary Ketter excited about what she does and keep coming back for more: “My job is never ever boring.! Every day is different and it challenges me all the time. It’s different people every time. No matter what the situation is, it’s never the same…so how could it NOT keep my interest!?!”

So, what does Mary Ketter’s vision have next on the horizon? Strengthening the customer bond using the Voice of the Customer. “It’s becoming such a big part of every company,” says Ketter. “The core for this happening at JDA will be changing the way we communicate internally with each other about the stories and comments we receive from our customers. Customers are talking about stuff all the time, and they do it on practically every social channel available. Our job will be to turn all that chatter into productive dialogue. It’s not only about understanding what’s working with our customers, but also what’s NOT working so we can have a conversation with them and improve that to build a happier, stronger relationship with them. I heard a report from Aberdeen that companies with VOC programs outperform all others in revenue. So, I’m doubling down on the VOC!”

We at RO Innovation couldn’t agree with you more, Mary! We look forward to watching your vision and leadership continue to pave the way for reference managers for years to come!

Mary Ketter

Connect with Mary Ketter today!

Click here to add Mary Ketter to your professional network of The Reference Management Elite on LinkedIn.

Nominate a Reference Management Elite Professional Today!

Know someone like Mary Ketter that should be highlighted as one of The Reference Management Elite?

Nominate Now

Nichole Auston
Customer Marketing Director at RO Innovation
Nichole Auston is the Customer Marketing Director 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.