Cisco Blogs

Customers as Influencers

November 5, 2007 - 1 Comment

Who owns the customer?Ask that question at a company meeting and nearly every hand at the gathering will shoot up in the air. Sales. Field marketing. The channel folks. Product managers. Product marketing. And at some level, all those factions do have some piece of the customer relationship. (That sarcastic chuckle you just heard came from the account manager.) Well, I’m happy to say that I now proudly raise my own hand when I hear that question. We made a small -but telling -change to my organization recently, and I believe it will significantly extend and enhance our influence strategy because my team is now responsible for driving our strategic customer engagements in addition to our relationships with the analysts.Hmm, Skip. Sounds like a bunch of meaningless buzz words. Spell it out for us.Essentially, we took a couple of existing customer outreach programs within Corporate Communications and folded them into our Analyst Relations group, thereby creating a revised team that can be more effective in working with two of our most important groups of industry influencers: the analysts and our customers.Giving an Analyst Relations team some responsibility for customer engagement may seem strange on its face, but when we started to explore what alternative influencers we wanted to add to the program, it struck us that we were overlooking the most obvious choice: the customer.Customers are certainly the center of attention in every company, but people are typically trying to sell them something; fix something for them; or get them to shill for them. In our program, we treat them like industry influencers and position them as thought leaders. So this year, you’ll see a number of customers at C-Scape. Some will be on stage and in the breakout sessions, but there will also be several in the audience sitting next to you. They don’t have speaking roles, and the account managers won’t be trying to sell them something. They’ll be there for the same reason you are: to hear about what’s happening in the industry; discuss the latest trends; and learn about more about where Cisco is heading and why.

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  1. Great move Chip.Customers are indeed influencers, some have the same tools as press, media, or analysts.When I was at Hitachi, I was close to the customer reference program. A group within most large marketing organizations that is responsible for 'harvesting' positive customer testimonials and redistributing them to many different teams --including prospects.I noticed a major impact as social media came around, what happens when prospects and customers can talk directly to each other? In some cases, this reduction of friction can apply to the analyst world as communication boundaries continue to drop.I've explored this topic in detail (including some illustrative graphs) solution? Exactly as your group has done: be part of the conversation, and be a participant."