Creating Winning Advocacy Programs for More Than a Decade
Dawn Miears, Global Customer Reference Manager for Rimini Street Inc., a global leader in third-party software support services, has that unique blend of complex project management skills, customer relationship management and a background that clearly explain the accolades and recognition that both she and Rimini Street’s reference program received not only from their sales and marketing team members but from their customer advocates.
Dawn’s reference management career began close to thirteen years ago with her role as the Senior Director of Operations and Customer Reference Manager for Visual Media Design Network (VMDnet) a preferred vendor for HP. Dawn worked with customers to capture video and case study material across several divisions within HP. Dawn found that interacting directly with the clients was the most rewarding part of her role and that some of the relationships she developed have been maintained to this day. Dawn assisted with advisory boards and began educating herself about the growing systems and programs that supported this growing industry.
Refueling Her Passion and Enthusiasm for Voice of the Customer
Dawn maintains her enthusiasm about her work primarily because Rimini Street has experienced 47 consecutive quarters of revenue growth over the past twelve years. Rimini Street’s worldwide offices and customer base afford her the opportunity to be on the front line with the account managers, executives and sales staff as they interact with a wide variety of clients and contacts. Dawn really can feel, see and measure her accomplishments and contribution to Rimini Street’s bottom line. The positive feedback that she receives from her internal stakeholders and from her participating reference customers keeps her excited. The only thing that keeps her awake at night is that how she can continually introduce efficiencies to the workflow and infrastructure so that her sales teams benefit when using a programmatic approach to reference requests and the utilization of the program never fades.
Dawn’s Advice When Evaluating Customer Reference Tech Solutions
- A formal reference program HAS to be put into place. “Without one, you risk being unable to pull people away from ‘back pocket’ references. Even with the best solution/technology in place, tools are only as effective as the culture and processes that support it.”
- You must have a tool that supports a programmatic approach. “A solution also has to have the ability to automate workflows and have a sales enablement component.” In Dawn’s opinion, especially with a global customer base, you cannot scale with Excel spreadsheets. You need a centralized reference process with workflows for requests, customer recruitment processes and a reporting. A rich reporting functionality not only measures the activities supported by your program but the impact your efforts have on revenue.
- The tool must be easy to use. “Build it and they will come”, not necessarily true with your sales team. It doesn’t matter how good your program or platform is, it has to be a quick easy tool for sales. The solutions that Dawn has implemented from RO Innovation give her the flexibility and configurability to design workflows that support the way her global sales and marketing teams work.
- Executive sponsorship. Having a champion to message to your entire company the importance of using the advocacy program/solution as THE method that sales and marketing utilize to request customers to participate in activities is key. It also ensures the program stays on the executive radar. Dawn and team uses RO’s report functionality to deliver key metrics tailored to each organizational manager’s specific needs and business objectives, which in turn gets her team the recognition that they deserve and credit for their contribution to the bottom line.
Fun Facts About Dawn
I like to have Fun! Laughing and sharing a glass of wine with my friends is the best of times!
Loves to cook, secretly aspire to be a gourmet chef!
Can almost keep up with my daughter in core power yoga!
One album I would take on a deserted Island – U2 Joshua Tree
Why Peer-to-Peer Selling Is So Important to Rimini Street and the B2B Industry
Dawn agrees with the analyst findings that there is a clear relationship between reference program activity and relationships that have been built with advocates. The relationships that she and the team have developed with her reference customers mean that she has several examples of participants who have been willing to take MORE than the agreed upon number of calls; talk to prospects at nine pm at night; basically go the extra mile or two for Rimini Street because they feel so valued by the company and the customer reference program and feel as if “they are invested in our (Rimini Street’s) success.”
“One retail customer in particular couldn’t take any references, as it was the holiday season, but she came back to me on her own after the holiday season was wrapped to let me know that she was available to take reference calls.” Dawn also believes that personal exposure and the opportunity to highlight their own company contributes to their willingness to participate, so creating program activities that showcase her customer advocates’ success is an important message to secure participation.
Dawn’s Top Tips for Reference Managers:
- Develop a relationship with your C-Level team and secure an executive sponsor.
- Partner with your sales reps, account managers, and any other part of your company that is on the “front-line” with your customers so you not only understand the sellers’ pain points, but you establish a trust relationship with your potential reference pool from the very beginning.
- Use RO Innovation’s reporting features to establish a baseline in your program; establish goals and priorities for your workload and to demonstrate the success of your sales support, reference fulfillment, recruitment and contribution to bottom line revenue.
- Be creative with the reference activities you offer to align with your customers’ personas and preferences.
- Stay connected with your reference manager peers and continue to educate yourself about the industry to stay on top of innovation.
What is on the Horizon for 2018?
“By using the amazing metrics that RO can help us report on ROI and the true value of our program,” says Dawn. “We are moving our global reference program within internal cross functional teams, providing higher visibility, increased program growth and success, earning a seat at future customer strategy sessions.”
Another focus for 2018 will be securing customer participation at a global level and making sure that RO’s configurable solutions will serve the international sales teams’ selling approach differences. Rimini Street has recognized that both prospects and customers differ in their interest in reference requests and participation across different geos. Dawn appreciates that Reference Enablement reports give her the ability to truly drill down into these variances; identify the gaps that she needs to fill and demonstrate her attention and plans to address the same.