Customer reference organizations are turning heads. Marketing can't help but to take a second, third and even fourth look at these emerging, appealing groups that sit on a goldmine of strategic customer touchpoints.

That they're turning heads is not surprising. Reference programs, traditionally chartered with creating success content, are maturing--from Parcheesi to chess, from content to company-wide impact, and therefore from the basement to the boardroom.

As a reference professional, how do you, too, get marketing and other critical program success enablers to gaze at your program with wonder? How do you start to turn heads in your organization--to move from content to impact, from the basement to the boardroom, from Parcheesi to chess?

The first step is to improve your chess skills, to convince yourself that your role is more than that of a tactician--it's that of a customer strategist.

In late 2004, we looked across the reference industry to see which characteristics and actions helped customer reference professionals turn heads and acquire greater influence within their organizations. Early this year, we spent time speaking with and directly observing these people, many of whom are our clients. Here's what we heard and saw--six actionable, head-turning techniques of successful customer strategists:

1. Build operational expertise

Pick 10 customer accounts or companies with whom you are intimate, those on whom you consider yourself "the expert." Gather "why us" insight about these accounts from sales. Learn "how we did it" from the consulting organization. Find out "how the customer perceives us" from the technical support team. And as often as possible, speak to individuals within those accounts to keep up to date on the issues they're facing.

Yes, we know you're busy. Yes, this takes work. But aren't your company's customers worth it? Invite people from sales, consulting and technical support to lunch for one-to-one chats about customers. Etch out 15-minutes each day to build your storehouse of knowledge about customers and about how they interact with other groups within your company.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Promise Phelon is president and CEO of UpMo and founder of the Phelon Group.

Twitter: @PromisePhelon

LinkedIn: Promise Phelon