When an Outside Perspective Makes All The Difference

The Reference Management Elite - Zoe Meyer

Zoe Meyer began her marketing career in field marketing event and channel marketing roles. By chance and accident, Zoe found customer reference management. In 2010, Zoe moved on to a reference management team at CA Technologies governing the North American region. The team’s goal was to resurrect the customer reference management program in this specific geographical region. With this foundation and zero prior experience, Zoe brought her desire and ability to build relationships to the team. What she then lacked in public relations and creating customer success stories, she would amass over the next seven years – beaconing her as one of the pioneering women in customer reference management.

I recently spent some time picking Customer Reference Elite member Zoe Meyer’s brain on where she sees the blossoming field of customer reference management heading, why we got into this business and how we are so passionate about creating customer conversations.

How to Revive a Reference Program: Zoe’s Tips

When Zoe first strategized how to relaunch the CA customer reference program, she initially went with a top-down approach. After the initial launch, she realized she needed to drive participation from the bottom up. She then pivoted to a one-on-one reachout approach by driving interest and education at the user level to get more proof points to take back to the executive level. This one-on-one approach was executed with the use of two RO Innovation business analysts who communicated to users how to get into and leverage the program and the database. These business analysts were getting proposals and sales requests that, in turn, enabled them to follow-up with the sales team. Since the analysts already had a relationship with Sales and were able to facilitate the reference requests from the Sales side, it freed up the reference managers to create a larger library of customer marketing assets, something the program also needed.

An Advocate for Advocacy: Reference Management’s Seat at the Table

When asked what the future of customer reference management looks like, Zoe illustrates us a brilliant picture. “Imagine you are overlooking a conference room. Each seat filled represents a different department. Right now, reference managers may not have a seat at the table, they come and go as needed.” In the future, Zoe is confident that reference managers hold a seat at the table with their fellow departments. Holding a seat at the table represents that reference managers are also a strategic driver of business.

Changing Terminology: ‘Reference’ vs ‘Advocacy’

When looking at other changes for the future of reference management, Zoe sees a shift in what a current customer reference management team looks like. Zoe believes that the term ‘reference’ sometimes has as a negative connotation because when people hear that word they think, ‘oh they want a reference, they need something.’ It is a reactive approach. Zoe is seeing a trend of people leaning more towards the term ‘advocacy’ rather than ‘reference’. “The term ‘advocacy’ implies a more proactive approach,” says Zoe.

Changing Structures: POC vs Integration

“The more that engagement with the customers matters, the more relevant customer reference programs become to everyone within the organization.” Zoe believes there is a trending shift in the way reference teams are organized and positioned within an organization. “Top companies are integrating their customer advocates into every stage of the buying cycle, which means the way the ‘owners’ of the voice of the customer must also shift,” says Zoe. “The reference manager will still be the default point of contact when references and customer content are needed, but I predict the team as a whole will not necessarily be seen or called a reference management team. The organizational skeleton of the team will still be governing the reference database and associated technology tools, however, there will be multiple people or departments who will contribute to and benefit from the reference database.”

Proactive vs. Reactive: A Tale of Grabbing the Attention of Sales

Zoe attributes much of her success of serving the Sales and Marketing stakeholders at CA by being proactive:

“You cannot be a people pleaser and be a reference manager and be successful. You need to be agile, you need to be collaborative, and you need to know how to build relationships.” Zoe gave us a detailed account of what it took for her to be successful at integrating the sales team with her reference management team at CA:

“A reference manager can fulfill a sales request and create marketing assets with customers, but those are two completely different skill sets. If you want reference managers in high quota territories to be successful, don’t have them do sales requests. Set up a help desk team for sales requests and have the reference managers drive focus with customer marketing. Leverage ‘new hire training’ to ensure new Sales and Marketing people coming into an organization are proactively introduced to the program. That way they know that it has a name, there’s actually resources assigned to it, it has a database, and it’s integrated with the CRM tool: they stand up and take notice. Now you have a touch point. Now you’ve just made yourself (and the program) relevant.”

Refuse to Accept Reference Requests Via Email

In Zoe’s professional opinion, part of being successful with Sales is training their behavior and setting boundaries. For example, do not accept sales requests via email. Instead, lead them to the reference database. “Do not enable people to take your time that you could be spending building customer relationships instead. Reference managers need to rid themselves of the one-off requests. Trust me, no salesperson ever lost sleep from entering their request in the system,” Zoe explains.  “If you have a reference management tool that is integrated within the CRM, it is a simple click for the sales person to submit a request versus leave the opportunity record to set up and send an email.”

New Hire Training

Zoe also advises to wait 30 days after new-hire training to engage new salespeople. New-hire training is so inclusive, you should not burden them with training they won’t use right away. After 30 days, new salespeople are making their first contacts with new customers; it is the most relevant time to train them on your program and database.

The Reference Database: The Popular Kid in School

Zoe credits the advancement in technology for the reason it is a thrilling time to be in customer advocacy.

“The technological advancement is creating new and exciting ways for customers to tell their story and how we are promoting and accessing these stories. Today’s society is all about instant gratification – all about the ‘speeds and feeds!’ How you choose to engage with your customers is the differentiator.”

Another aspect of evolving technology is the capabilities that the databases within our programs have. Zoe stresses the importance of these databases as they enable the reference team, at every stage of the game, to not just know where they’re at with customers but also disposition all requests and track which customers have already participated in an activity to protect those relationships. “Now we’re tracking participation. Now we’re flagging when a customer goes above and beyond. Now we’re tracking appreciation and rewards for that customer.”

Every company intently follows one specific metric: revenue. Databases track how customer engagement is a direct impact to revenue and sales for a company. Zoe highly recommends RO Innovation as a tool that is able to track participation, revenue, nominations, net new customers who have joined your program, new customer marketing assets being created and internal program user adoption. “All of these metrics can be included in yearly reviews to prove the value and improvement in your reference program. You can find a measurable goal in your database for each department and you can create it to be interactive so everyone can see how often and how much it impacts each team. A database creates so much tangible value, internally and externally.”

Fun Facts About Zoe

  • If she could only have one record with her on a deserted island, she’d choose one of the Michael Bublé albums because he is “energetic, soothing, and always engaging”
  • Zoe has a passion for sharing stories over a glass of wine. So much in fact, she has achieved her foundations, WSET level 2 certifications and is now a certified Napa Valley wine expert.
  • She will be sitting for the WSET level 3 international wine certification in Dallas early next year.Uco Valley
  • Her love of vineyards has taken her on worldwide adventures.


Zoe Meyer

Connect with Zoe Meyer today!

Click here to add Zoe Meyer to your professional network of The Reference Management Elite on LinkedIn.

Zoe now founder her own consulting business.  

customer-360 is a unique sales enablement partner with a primary mission to help organizations create or revitalize, expand and optimize customer reference and customer advocacy programs.   Here is the link to my website:  www.customer-360.com 

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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.