In February of 2014, more than 100 customer engagement professionals attended the Summit on Customer Engagement in Silicon Valley to discuss how to tap into the potential of the "other 90 percent" of their prospective customer references and advocates. The consensus? The path to engaging customers is getting easier, which has generated a few new rules for customer engagement:

Forget the quotas and focus on ROI.
Traditionally customer reference teams have focused on quotas: creating a set number of case studies, garnering a set number of references, and fulfilling a set number of reference requests. Today, it’s more important than ever to create quality content and measure results. Focus on measuring reference influence, how references impact the velocity of the sales cycle, and the success of campaigns using customer stories.

Remember it’s not about you.
Tell the customer’s story, not yours. Position your customer as the leading act and your products and solutions as the supporting role. Your buyers want to connect with customers that have experienced the same challenge and come out the other side better and more successful. They don’t want to feel like they’re being sold to.

Know your audience and the path they’re on.
How well do you know your audience? What do they want to know? What are their pain points? How can your customer’s stories help them? The buyer’s journey has become more complex, which makes customer advocacy more critical than ever.

Continually optimize your program.
Customer engagement and reference program management is hard work. Luckily, with better technology options available, there is plenty of room for efficiency gains. You now have the ability to prove that what you're doing makes a difference. Not only can you use data points to maximize customer interaction, saving your time and theirs, but you can also make your customer program more effective.

Use customer advocacy to your advantage.
Happy customers = happy advocates. If you have legions of delighted customers, you will have a considerable lead over competitors. Keep your customers happy and encourage them to build your brand. According to keynote speaker Megan Heuer from Sirius Decisions, advocacy must play a leading role in marketing's transformation to a strategic partner.

Last but not least, while much has changed in the world of customer engagement, one thing never goes out of style—the desire to find and retain happy customers.

Want to learn how you can be part of a more customer-centric B2B organization? Download the B2B Change Agent Handbook.