Marketing's Top Priority in 2013: Get Customers Marketing and Selling for You 2013 Summit on Customer Engagement Announces Updates to Conference Schedule

REDWOOD CITY, Calif., Jan. 8, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- "Marketing is in the midst of a major shift from developing loyal customers to developing advocates," says Bill Lee, who wrote a legendary article on this in Harvard Business Review's Blog Network and is producing a major conference on the subject. "You've got to get your customers marketing and selling for you."

Attendees at Lee's 2013 Summit on Customer Engagement, March 5-6 in Redwood City, will learn how in great detail, from presentations, breakouts, workshops and research by firms like AmerisourceBergen, IBM Global Business Services, Jive Software, Infor, Aprimo and other leading-edge firms.

Lee announced speakers and sessions that identify six key traits of companies that successfully unleash customer advocates in ways that spur rapid, organic growth.

Think Bigger About Customer Value

Most firms are locked into seeing customers as mere purchasers of their products or services. "But purchasing is just one way that customers can create value for a firm," says Lee. For example, Deena Zenyk, Marketing Manager, Customer Advocacy Programs at SMART Technologies, will show how the firm has built relationships with over 900 brand advocates who, on average, represent a remarkable $130,000 per year beyond their purchases.

Create Apple-like Customer Advocates

Rob Meinhardt, Founder and CEO of KACE (acquired by Dell), will show how a firm that makes relatively mundane products—such as, enterprise software—can develop advocates as passionate as Apple's. In fact, Meinhardt will show how companies that don't think they can compete with the excitement of an Apple are missing the point. "It's about making an important difference in customers' lives," says Meinhardt. "More companies can do that than think they can."

It Takes a CEO

"Marketing departments often can't make the leap to customer advocacy," says Lee. "They're too tied to traditional approaches." In such situations, it takes a CEO.

Chuck Ball, who runs AmerisourceBergen's Health Systems business, led a strategic customer engagement and advocacy initiative that improved strategic direction, won new business, and gained internal alignment that impacted the entire (nearly) $80 Billion organization. Ball, along with author Sean Geehan, will keynote the 2013 Summit.

Build—and Innovate—Customer Communities

Would you rather promote and sell to an amorphous market of mostly strangers, or to vibrant communities that include your customer advocates? "Buyers want to engage with their peers much more than a company," says Lee. "Communities are the way to reach them. There's a lot of innovation here."

For example, Senior Director Sydney Sloan will show how Jive Software creates exceptional synergies between customer support communities and customer reference programs: "Marketing to your customer base," says Sloan, "can create a revenue-generating engine that supports referrals, renewals and license expansion far more effectively than traditional approaches."

Prepare for Growth

Today's rapid-growth business must be able to scale its reference and advocacy programs, or risk losing its edge as competitors start catching up. Charlotte Lilley, who runs customer programs for Box (formerly, uses exceptional ingenuity in making the most of limited time and resources, a superb ability to reduce the labor intensity of her job, and a good nose for the best vendor and technology resources out there. She'll show how she's honed these skills to help Box grow from a 40-employee company to a 600-employee company in just three years.

In addition, Marketo's Heather Watkins will demonstrate how technology can automate many of the labor-intensive tasks that bog reference and advocacy programs down. The irony is that most existing systems have such tools, but as with our laptops and smartphones, advocacy managers only use about 10 percent of the available capacity. She will show how to unlock the other 90 percent.

About the Summit on Customer Engagement

In its fifth year, the Summit on Customer Engagement is the world's most respected conference on customer references and advocacy, drawing major corporations worldwide.

"We also have a select group of innovative sponsors at the Summit," says Lee, "including Big Sky Communications, Boulder Logic, inEvidence, Influitive, Mainstay Salire, Metia, MRM Reference Consulting, Point of Reference, TechValidate and first-time sponsor Zuberance. They share their broad experience working with reference and advocacy programs in a no-sales environment."

About Bill Lee

Lee is the world's foremost authority on customer advocacy and engagement. Forbes Online columnist Dorie Clark called his book, The Hidden Wealth of Customers (Harvard Business Review Press, 2012), "one of the most insightful business books I've read this year." His firms, Customer Reference Forum and Lee Consulting Group, provide educational, research and consulting services on customer strategy, advocacy and community building.

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