This article comes from Cathy Jordan’s talk, ‘Celebrating your customers: The keys to successful awards programs’, at our 2023 Las Vegas Customer Marketing Summit, check out the full unedited version here.

Celebrating customers shouldn’t be an afterthought. It should be the pinnacle that everything else builds towards. 

When I took over our Innovation Awards program years back, it was just a small pre-conference event few knew about. But I had a vision for an awards celebration that would wow our customers and executives alike. 

Flash forward to today. Our revamped Innovation Awards program has become a focal point of our global conference, drawing praise from our CEO as his “favorite part.”

So, how did we get there? Well, it took six years of patience, persistence, and plenty of roadblocks we had to overcome! 

In this article today, I’m excited to share my personal blueprint for creating customer celebrations that truly shine. You’ll discover how we gained executive buy-in, fostered cross-team collaboration, and created advocates for life. 

Join me for an inside look at transforming an under-the-radar program into the high point of your company’s year. Use these lessons to make your own customer celebrations must-attend events!

Let’s get started …

The origins of Informatica’s Innovation Awards

First, some background, I’m Cathy Jordan, Director of Global Customer Advocacy at Informatica and the Informatica Innovation Awards is an annual program that’s been around for over 20 years. 

Each year, we recognize a select group of customers who have achieved extraordinary outcomes with our data solutions. 

The program has always been run by our Customer Advocacy team as part of our Informatica World conference. We celebrate one winner and two honorees in each category, with the categories changing year-to-year based on that year’s messaging.

When I first joined Informatica’s Product Marketing team years back, I’ll admit – I had no idea the Innovation Awards even existed. While walking into our conference venue one year, a colleague invited me to an awards luncheon happening that day. 

I was surprised to learn it was for our Innovation Awards! This small pre-conference event made me realize the program wasn’t getting the visibility it deserved. 

Fast forward to late 2017 when I moved over to lead Customer Advocacy. With our annual conference around the corner, I decided it was time to level up the awards. I wanted it to be part of our main conference, not just a side event. 

The only problem? The packed conference schedule left no room for an awards program. But I remained determined! With some persistence, I got approval for a 45-minute executive networking reception on the first day. It was a start.

Gaining momentum

In 2018 and 2019, my team and I worked hard to gain momentum for the Innovation Awards program. With a full Customer Advocacy team in place, we:

  • Created internal marketing to drive awareness across the company
  • Offered incentives for customer-facing teams to nominate deserving customers
  • Held executive meetings to get nominations from our product leaders  
  • Remained “always on” promoting the awards at sales kickoffs and company all-hands
  • Secured promo videos from our CEO to encourage nominations
  • Developed a social media presence and campaign leading up to the event