Vibrant Customer Communities: The Next Level Of Customer Reference Programs

Since assuming ownership of Ektron’s customer reference program in 2011, Fred Bals has changed the way the company taps into the power of its champions.

One reason for a new strategy and approach to harnessing the enthusiasm of Ektron’s happy, loyal customers was the realization that today’s socially connected online world has changed the way prospects interact with companies.

Remaining part of the conversation

FredBals_SquareEktron hears from its customers all the time that prospects are contacting them out of the blue to get the scoop on the company. Recognizing that Ektron is not necessarily able to guide prospective buyers to speak with its customer references, Fred has become a big believer in customer advocacy.

As Fred explains, “The need for references won’t disappear altogether, but I think they’re evolving into pre-references, for lack of a better term. People tend to start researching companies before they engage with sales. Some even look for references before they talk to the company at all.”

By empowering the company’s champions to speak about their experience with Ektron, he is proactively keeping Ektron top of mind for potential customers.

Building vibrant customer communities

To that end, Fred created the Ektron “Inner Circle” program to recognize and reward customers for their advocacy. The Inner Circle enables Ektron to identify its champions, organize them into a community, and mobile them into action.

According to Fred, while buyers are researching their options, they see Ektron advocates talking the company up on Twitter or LinkedIn, or being featured in a case study.

“Increasingly, the responsibility of people like me will be to create vibrant communities around our best advocates,” he says. “That way, we can acknowledge their efforts and give them the resources they need to continue spreading the word about our companies, whether there is a formal request for a reference or not.”

Connecting customers as peers

“Our existing customers often contact other Ektron customers without going through their Ektron account manager when they’re thinking of upgrading, or adding new features or functions to their website,” Fred explains.

The Next Level of Customer Reference Programs: Vibrant Customer CommunitiesFor example one of Ektron’s customers, Jazz Aviation, recently did a video testimonial about their Ektron intranet. (A testimonial Fred gathered, by the way, through Ektron’s Inner Circle program.)

After he published the video in a blog post, another Ektron customer asked to speak to Jazz…

“…after watching the highlights video on the Ektron website, I realize that many of the challenges you were able to address with your solution are the exact same ones we are facing as we embark on our own intranet/extranet solution for our franchisees. We similarly have a widely distributed base of users with various devices and personal requirements. We also need to communicate with franchisees and track whether or not they’ve consumed our content. Both of these were mentioned in the video, and I would love to discuss these with you…”

“The Jazz video, in fact, gathered in two more leads from existing Ektron customers and three altogether-new leads in its first week of publication. That’s how powerful customer advocacy is,” Fred notes.

Keep up the great work, Fred, and congratulations on your recent Commitment to Excellence award win!

3 Responses to Vibrant Customer Communities: The Next Level Of Customer Reference Programs

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  2. […] advocates to attract and engage members through interesting discussions and content, communities turn into virtual ghost towns. Conversely, if advocates don’t feel a sense of community […]

  3. […] started an advocate marketing program, CeridianXOXO, that connected other HCM professionals in community discussions and asked users to participate in advocacy activities that rewarded them with badges, status and […]

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