Archive

Posts Tagged ‘SCRM’

Relationships need to have Meaning

Last week, I wrote a post where I was not very nice to an author who focused on data, and not trust as the ‘tie that binds’ regarding relationships. You can agree, or disagree, but the current thinking is that engagement builds trust, trust is the basis for a relationship and a relationship is the basis for…hmmm, for what? Why do I need a relationship? For one, a relationship is valuable if we want to have a drink, play golf, maybe even do some business together. That said, if one side, or the other is not gaining anything of value out of the relationship, then what is it worth? Value itself is an interesting word, as it is a totally perceived concept, meaning, what something is worth is based on the value I assign to it, no more, no less. Back to the relationship, it needs to be mutual, not one sided. OK, what is my point, where am I going and who cares!

Social Relationship Management is PR 2.0

I have read, and reread a series posts that bring up the topic of Social Relationship Management (SRM). The latest was written by Brian Solis, a brilliant strategist and professional, for whom I have a lot of respect:

“At a minimum, SRM focuses beyond the social customer and escalates the promise and potential of sCRM across an entire organization, not just customer service. Equally, SRM zooms in to evaluate the various stages of decision making and the channels and people that influence outcomes.”

I do not see eye-to-eye with Brian, I commented respectfully and he responded (I will get into details in a moment). I want to take a quick moment and highlight the importance of engaging. A willingness to respond and engage is critical to building your own trust. Thanks, Brian, I appreciate it. There were a few other posts which touched on the topic, and I find it frustrating that on such a topic the companies would not engage. There was one written by John Bell a strategist for Ogilvy. They call it Social IRM (Influencer Relationship Management). To write in a blog format about the importance of the way YOU believe relationships should be managed, yet do not respond, is well, NOT very social is it. Sounds rather like advertising, not being social; ‘I will broadcast my message, and it is what it is, no engagement’. How then could someone trust you to engage with their customers and/or influencers?

Back to the concepts of SRM, which at a conceptual level I do not disagree with, but it feels like the direction which Public Relations needs to go, not CRM (remember, Social CRM is an extension of CRM). What I do believe is that if you spend the time to cultivate a relationship, it should be easy to quickly understand how each side gains value from the relationship. Some are customers, some are prospect, influencers, partners, suppliers, etc.,…The focus should remain on understanding what the relationships brings, not simply the relationship itself. Do we need another TLA to define these activities? If an agency needs to help their clients to manage these people differently, then maybe. For the company, I do not think so, for the agency, maybe.

Understanding Jobs to be done is the Critical Element

If you are not focused on what the customers needs to do with your product, or the service you are offering, what is the value of the relationship? In his article, John Bell makes the following statement:

“But until we connect all that great data to the actual sales data for said customers, I don’t think its wise to label it ‘Social CRM.'”

I am not going down the path of the ROI debate, which is an important conversation to have. But it sounds like Ogilvy does not believe in tying the numbers to Sales data, so what exactly should it be tied to? Again, the label game is not the critical point here, the critical point is who are the customers and what are they trying to achieve? You can and should have relationships with recommenders, influencers and the like, but how are they helping you to understand the job the customer is trying to get done. Whether you call it Social CRM, SRM, Sales or Marketing is not the question, the relationship is not the answer either – the value exchange enabled by the relationship is the answer.

The following from Brian’s post is important, but I believe it needs to be extended:

“I believe at the heart of sCRM methodologies, the recognition that customers are only part of the new equation, sets the stage for long-term and advantageous change.”

The heart of Social CRM is the simple recognition that companies are going to focus on the needs of the customer, not their own rules. Customers are not only central to the theme, they are the heart and focus. If companies spend too much time and effort focusing on influencers they will take their ‘eye off the ball’ and lose focus. There are certain parts of the organization which need to focus on the influencers and decision makers, and it would of course be advantageous to have a developed understanding of these people, whether I would call that a relationship is open for interpretation.

Can the Value of Social CRM be realized in the absence of a Collaborative Organization?

In short, no, it cannot – that simple. Disagree?

The essence of Social CRM is about inviting your customers into your organization, like you invite an old friend in for dinner. But, in order to invite them in, you must be prepared. The preparation will require change, both cultural and technological. From a technological perspective, tools (yes, tools) that support social networks are going to be key. The support, or the backbone, will need to enable, and even foster collaboration between and within companies and increasingly, with customers. This doesn’t mean a technology-first approach. But it does mean selecting the right technologies (and only the right ones) to enable a natural collaborative ecosystem. “Natural” is a fun concept, here, it means, hang out with your customers where they are, not where you want them to be. If they invite you to dinner, that will work as well, just mind your manners.

It is about the best use of technology, leveraging what is present, or expanding what you have as needed. It is not about the platform, but about the people who are the platform.  If tools and technology can be used to leverage the knowledge within and across your organization, then make sure people understand the tools. If you are a small agile organization and this is not about technology, but experience, then make sure your team gain experience at every possible opportunity.  If your teams are able to adapt and communicate efficiently, then  meeting the needs of the customer will be that much easier; then, and only then can SocialCRM can be realized. Wait, is the objective to realize Social CRM or the value, independent of the name? And does technology need to be involved at all? No, asking the the right questions, at the right time, in a caring and sincere tone is Social (we have been living with that for the past 1000 years).

Friend and sparring partner Esteban Kolsky wrote a post “What comes after Social Business” recently where he shares a concern with trying to match internal transactional data with collaboration data. (no he is not really a sparing partner, I actually learn a lot from Esteban)

“The idea behind social business of bringing internal collaboration together with external interactions has one major flaw – it attempts to integrate an action (collaboration) with information (data) as if they were equal.”

I think Esteban gives more credit to businesses than is deserved, no one is there yet – thus we are not ready to figure out what comes next.  We need to think about what the customer wants to do, and enable it. You know the royal “We” this is going to take some work to figure out. These are important aspects of your business, no one, nor a tool can direct you to nirvana. It might take some long hours, and lots of thinking (and data analysis) to get there – think about your customers, put yourself in their shoes. Even better ask other parts of the organization to do it, it is worth the time!

If a customer wants to collaborate, cool, let’s work together. If we are focusing on transactions and information, then that is good too, just another type of good. If I am a small company, with a unique clientele, then there is the possibility that we can achieve both at the same time. In other words, let’s do business together and work towards increasing the value of the business for each of us. I cannot do it alone though, other members of you team, organization or enterprise need to be involved.

In short, I stick by my first statement, if you cannot help, allow or enable your organization  – large or small – to be collaborative, work together, then the value of trying to be Social within the context of CRM will be lost. How are you going to get this done?

Does Control of the Conversation Equal Control of the Relationship?

April 19, 2010 3 comments

Starting with the basics; If Social CRM is about the company’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation, I suppose we should first ask: Does it matter that the customer is controlling the conversation?  Of course it matters! However, your response to the conversation matters more.

Keep the ordinary, ordinary

As Paul Greenberg reminded us last week during his keynote at SugarCon. “Keep the ordinary, ordinary”. When conversations happen, there is a time to jump in and time to leave it alone. Listening in for while is important, to gauge trends and build up experience. If someone (Prospect, Customer, Partner) asks a question or makes a request in  a public channel, answer appropriately. My point is simply that controlling the conversation is not the same as controlling the relationship and that sometimes letting the conversations happen without you is ok, really (please do not interpret this as ignore).

Are customers like your kids?

Before I get lambasted for suggesting such a thing, work with me for a minute. This is more about communications than anything else, I have a ton of respect for my customers (as well as my kids). I have 3 awesome kids, really! – I am a lucky man. Are they perfect? No. Do they complain about me and/or their mother (my equally awesome wife) to their friends or to each other? Yes. Why, because we are not perfect parents either (or, we are being parents and saying “no”). Now, when they are talking among themselves or their friends, should I jump in and try to make sure things are ok? Sometimes, I suppose, more often than not, ‘no’, actually, but it depends. Sometimes an immediate reaction is necessary, sometimes it is not.

(Yes, I am a bit of a geek, but no, I do not have neither a KRM  or a Social KRM system – you can figure it out)

Taking a bit of leap, this begs the question ‘do you need tools to practice Social CRM’? My answer is the following: No, they are not required, but they will certainly help. The consultative answer is ‘it depends’. I would suggest that sometimes the tools are not new tools though. I can share with you the need to engage on the channels where you customers are talking. This is a lesson learned from my kids as well – My 15yo son shares a whole lot more with me (especially when I am traveling) via text messaging than voice (btw – email, NO WAY). Talk to your customers where they are comfortable!

Social does not demand a public conversation.

At SugarCRM, where I hang my hat, if someone writes something on our forums (4+ years of Forums BTW), answering there, or changing channels is fine. In other words, our forums are still quite active (we are thinking of making some changes though). If your customers are not on the new fancy channels, Twitter Facebook, yeah I am talking about you – then you may not need to be there either. This is a slight word of caution to companies – if the marketing group decides to jump onto a new channel, then you will need to listen appropriately on that channel as well.

A good practice would be for the whole company to agree on the social channel strategy. According to Denis Pombriant (someone who I have great respect for), the proper balance of talking to listening is around 25/75; plus/minus. As he states “The ratio of outbound to inbound need not be 50/50, in fact, most of us don’t want to provide input to our vendors most of the time, and vendors don’t want all of that input. ” Kira Wampler, of Intuit, shared the example that the most important Social Channel for Intuit is Amazon – where customer reviews happen. That channel has been around for a long time, it is where their customers are, makes sense to me.

In further reading Denis’s post; The Relationship Entity he also makes a great reference to the old CRM 1.0 world, and offers some sage advice: “When CRM was a new idea companies — large, respectable companies — ran out and bought Siebel for no other reason than it was what other large, respectable companies were doing.  I know because I asked them.” Skipping ahead, I love this line from the post, so I needed to include it “I just reading the labels looking for nutrition” – As a vendor, the message to me is ‘I better be part of a balanced diet’

I do believe there is a difference though, this time around the customer is driving the change. Companies are put in a position of needing to change, exactly how is not 100% defined yet. The change is both cultural, internal processes as well as technology. Does this change mean Social CRM for everyone? No, probably not. Friends have said to me “If you are a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail” – point taken. From a Social CRM perspective, there is buzz and hype – I am on record as stating we need to get past that, but companies are already doing ‘it’. Sometimes the effort is organized, sometimes, not so much. The key question is, who is doing the organizing?

By the way, I most certainly did not answer the question – but control is a very strong word. I suppose you could say it was a bit of trick question, as I do not think there is a right answer because independent of the first clause, no one really controls the relationship, because ultimate control is ending a relationship, and either side can do that.

Is Social CRM a house of cards?

April 7, 2010 9 comments

I am not simply going for shock value, I am asking a tough question where one of the possible answers is ‘yes’, and that scares me a bit. If we choose to ignore 20 years of knowledge, experience and best implementation practices, then we are setting ourselves to repeat the same mistakes that gave CRM a bad name. This pushes the answer towards ‘yes’, how can we push it towards ‘no’? Is this post an about face for me personally? No, I do not think so, call it a prequel – something I knew, felt and should have said a long time ago.

There are some great ideas, even some really awesome technology components that can make up the pieces of a solid Social CRM strategy. However, at the core, there needs to be a well architected, flexible CRM application that will serve as the foundation for the Social CRM strategy. There are certain things ‘the basic blocking and tackling’ if you will of CRM which cannot be ignored.

You cannot jump to Social CRM if you do not understand CRM

Without a proper foundation, adding more layers and more cards simply adds to the instability. Recent posts (and some not so recent) are well suited to help me describe my concerns. (They are listed at the bottom, to avoid hyperlink hypnosis). If we first look at Paul’s definition of CRM and then Social CRM it should be clear that Social CRM is an extension – by process, culture and/or technology– of CRM. The change was and is required due to the changing needs of the customer.

Since the customer changed, the companies also need to change. But, If you change the focus (who and how), it is very easy to forget the battle scars of CRM 1.0 implementations. As Esteban points out in his recent post, the ownership of the concepts of CRM have moved from one part of the organization to another. Because of this change, the institutional knowledge regarding what it means to build a holistic customer strategy may not be all there. Some is lost, or worse, some is being ignored.

Social CRM is not simply a set of CRM bolt-on modules

Getting past definitions and focusing on what it is, Michael Fauscette says it quite well: “CRM is a customer strategy and many companies have chosen to use SW [software] and technology as a part of that strategy. SCRM [Social CRM] just extends that customer strategy in a few ways.”

Again, I am not talking about definitions, I am talking about practice. Is technology a part of the extension? Yes, it probably is, but it will not work if you do not make people and process changes first (think attitude!). If you use technology as a part of your CRM strategy, then you will likely need technology to extend it to a Social CRM strategy. If you do not have a well organized technology strategy for CRM (meaning it is not simply email and spreadsheets) then adding new technology for Social CRM will NOT be effective.

The Process of Social CRM is dynamic

It is dynamic because where and how the conversations happen will change. Brian and others speak a bit about ‘changes in centricity’ – I am summarizing, but the sentiment should not be lost. Customer centric versus management centric; Conversation centric versus Process Centric – Centricity, Focus whatever the best name for it is, needs to evolve and meet your business need – what do your customers want. Regardless of what you call it, both sets of data are still important. Can anyone tell me that what I purchased, when I purchased it and my buying patterns have stopped being important? I know Brian was not going there, I am illustrating a point. Please read his post, it is important.

Jacob posted the Social CRM process, is it right I am not sure, actually it is probably wrong – hold on, I am not coming down on anyone! I applaud Jacob because anyone should be able to take his diagram and use it as a baseline model (not a best practice) and move the arrows, fill-in the boxes and make it work for your business. People, Process and all that… Jacob is spot on for highlighting process – look at what you have, and where ‘Social’ should fit into the company. Do not force Social in, just because it is cool.

Ok, maybe a little bit of shock value

If at least made you stop and think, I feel a bit better. I really like Social CRM. I enjoy thinking about, writing about, talking about and even well debating a bit. Here is my mea culpa, I have a CRM application, I use it everyday. To me, thinking of Social CRM as an evolutionary step, not revolutionary as assumed. My apologies. If this seems like a change of course, well the Blog does not have a title for a reason…

This list is not just a WordPress – blogs you might also like to read! These specific people, posts and comments on the posts influenced my own thoughts – what are yours?

Paul Greenberg’s – Traditional CRM v Social CRM: Is There a Difference
Esteban Kolsky’s – Why We Cannot Get CRM (and SCRM) Quite Right
Brian Vellmure’s – Traditional CRM vs Social CRM: Expanded
Michael Fauscette – What makes “CRM” Social
Bob Thompson – Can you do “Social CRM” w/out Social Media/Networks
Jacob Morgan – The Social CRM Process

6 Degrees of Social Interactions

March 26, 2010 5 comments

I penned a post yesterday, on the CRMOutsiders, blog titled Are all Interactions Social Interaction? The post was a little more sarcastic than my usual rants and I think it caught a few folks who do not know me a bit off guard. I start the post with the following:

“SugarCRM is holding its annual customer, developer and partner conference, April 12-14, in San Francisco. The venue is the cool Palace Hotel. It is going to be a great event, with some really great presenters, panelists, as well as an awesome evening event at the California Academy of Sciences.”

I went on further to suggest that I did a little bit of a ‘bait and switch’. I even posed a question to myself: “is what I did appropriate?” My idea was to draw people in with a topic intended to create some conversation, but was it really a marketing message in disguise? – not a very Social thing to do. The post was prompted by a question posed by Bob Thompson, the CEO of CustomerThink. The question is: “Can you do Social CRM without Social Media/Networks?” In order to answer that question, first the question of what determines if an interaction is a Social interaction needs to be answered.

Is every Interaction a Social Interaction?

The conclusion I reached, possibly prematurely, is “No” not every interaction is a Social Interaction.  The post did have some back and forth with people willing to share their thoughts. I may need to retract my conclusion, or at least alter it. It it not really binary, it is a continuum, and there are degrees of social. Phil Soffer, Vice President of Product Marketing at Lithium Technologies wrote a great post which I think gets to the heart of the matter. Phil suggests the following:

“a more rigorous definition of the forms that Social CRM interaction takes. I’m not talking about channels here: Facebook versus Twitter, or whatever. I’m talking more about norms and expectations that govern the interaction.”

Phil went on the discuss the Typology of Social CRM Sociability. I agree with the concept, and even some of the specifics. I would like add a bit to this and state the following, the intent of an interaction speaks much more to the Sociability than the channel used. I can broadcast a commercial on YouTube, do nothing but send spam links on Twitter just as easily as I can pick up the phone or send an email to a group of people – which is Social which is not?

The 6 Degrees of Social Interactions

Here are examples of the 6 Degrees of Social Interactions from the Customer perspective. Since this is a continuum, as you progress from 1-6, the characteristics suggest that the customer is becoming a Social Customer.

  1. I said what I am said, really not hoping for a response, just action – monologue
  2. I am talking, hoping for acknowledgment, not necessarily a response, but might be nice – venting
  3. We are talking, but the conversation is a bit one sided – skewed
  4. I am actively asking for information, will not be happy until I get it – social pressure
  5. We are engaged in a conversation and others may join in to push things forward – objective
  6. A community of conversations Many to Many – icing on the cake

Here are examples of the 6 Degrees of Social Interaction from the Business’s Perspective. Since this is a continuum, as you progress from 1-6, the characteristics suggest that the Business is becoming a Social Business.

  1. Here is my press release, look at me – broadcast
  2. Register and Download my whitepaper – broadcast with bait
  3. We are listening, but I am really waiting to talk – pretending
  4. We are blogging and hoping the message makes it out untarnished – comment, nicely please
  5. The Facebook Fanpage is set up, I hope everyone is nice – <fingers crossed>
  6. A community of conversations Many to Many – objective

Is 6 Degrees enough? Probably not, the title sounded cool though. This is analog, not digital. How does this play into Social CRM and answering Bob’s question? Share your thoughts, mine are still gelling and I will share my thoughts in my next post. The short answer is yes, Social CRM can be done without Social Media/Networks, because Social CRM is as much about culture and other soft – but important – change management ideas.

Social Business through Social CRM – Video

March 21, 2010 1 comment

Here is the Prezi, presented as a Video, my voice overlay. I apologize about the quality, but hey, I was giving it a shot. My approach is to put forth a convincing argument by using the characteristics and attributes that make up the Social Customer, Social CRM and a Social Business; not trying to redefine them. My own struggle has been to place these concepts in the proper context, individually. To try to talk about any of these topics, without bringing up the other two is just hard and many times it just does not make sense. My operating theory is, ‘if I am having trouble a whole lot of other people are as well’. If you are an IT purist, it is like trying to talk about just Cost, just Schedule or or just Scope (not to mention Quality) without talking about the others  – they are related, strongly – interdependent.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Social Business through Social CRM“, posted with vodpod

The Path to Success in Social Business is through Social CRM

March 18, 2010 6 comments

At first I was going to state the title in the form of a question, but this is not Jeopardy, and I wanted to make a point. The point is simple really, the path to success in Social Business is through Social CRM, said with conviction, not hesitation. This is not going to be a blog about definitions, though some may show up later or in the embedded presentation. While I have decided to move past the definitions, others may not be ready – fair enough, catch-up when you can. My approach is to put forth a convincing argument by using the characteristics and attributes that make up the Social Customer, Social CRM and a Social Business; not trying to redefine them.

My own struggle has been to place these concepts in the proper context, individually. To try to talk about any of these topics, without bringing up the other two is just hard and many times it just does not make sense. My operating theory is, ‘if I am having trouble a whole lot of other people are as well’. If you are an IT purist, it is like trying to talk about just Cost, just Schedule or or just Scope (not to mention Quality) without talking about the others  – they are related, strongly – interdependent.

While technology certainly plays a role here, maybe it is even to blame, this is not about technology, rather what has started because of it. While the conversation would not be happening if it where not for the rapid change in behaviors caused by technology, it is about the change in culture and the change in behaviors of the customer (iPhone, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare, YouTube, Blogs). Because they are ALL talking to eachother! By the way, whether you are Business to Business or Business to Consumer, it does not really matter. Yes, there are some differences, but there are more similarities than differences. We are all humans, and emotions play a big part in business too, sorry, it just is!

What is the point?

I have stated on many occasions that I use blogging to formulate my own thoughts on a particular topic. In this case, it was the creation of a presentation – or the template for a set of presentations which I need to deliver, beginning next week. I wanted to share the presentation, so that I am able to get feedback and begin a conversation on how I can refine the delivery. What would a presentation be in this space, if it is not actually Social and Interactive. The presentation will not remain static, nor should it. It is also anyone’s to use, if you think it can help. The presentation is not an attempt to be a strategy either, that is yours to create.

My thought process was to break it down into small pieces, then attempt to put it all back together. The baseline of understanding is not a definition of a system, but the characteristics of the system. The end of the presentation is not yet complete, but I wanted to put this out there so people were able to review. Please let me know your thoughts – Selecting the “Wide Screen” option on the lower right worked best for me. If the embed feature did not work, there is a link below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
I was able to integrate the Prezi on wordpress using vodpod, if the embedding did not work right, just do it the old fashioned way Social Business through Social CRM on Prezi.

Connecting the dots, first step Creating Buyers!

A purist could say I am avoiding the word ‘Sales’, not really, just choosing a phrase I deem more appropriate for a Social Business. I strongly believe that the future of business will be more about the creation of buyers than what we think of today as the selling of product. That said, with all of the talk about ROI, KPI and value, we still struggle to convince our own bosses that this is will happen, because in the end, the measurement is about money changing hands – but that to will also change in subtle ways, as we move forward. My final personal objective is to highlight and expand the Altimeter Group Use Cases. Why, because they represent a great way to get past the ‘Buzz and Hype’. Also, an important aspect, business executives, marketers, PR folks and CRMers can understand them. No, the Use Cases are not perfect, they are not meant to be, I see them as a foundation.

At the end of the Prezi I make the case that in order to actually put the Use Cases into practice, it is required to combine a few of them together to support a full process. If used in isolation, a Social Business will end up creating silos, not what we need – not very Social. Since I am also charged with presenting in between Dharmesh Shah (Hubspot) and Umberto Milletti (InsideView), I took the approach of putting specific Use Cases together to build the process:

The Business Process/Objective: Increasing the size of the ecosystem by creating buyers

Attributes of the Business Process: Listening, Engaging, Information, Transparency, Trust, Value

Use Cases Used: Social Customer Insights (F1), Social Sales Insights (S1) and Rapid Social Sales Response (S2)

Is this perfect? – not even close. Are there other Use Cases which should be enabled here, probably. Should there be a series of conditions, dependencies and ‘what-ifs’. That depends – No blog, book or article will be able to define a strategy, your strategy. You know your business. You know your customer or do you?

People. Process. Results

March 17, 2010 2 comments

I had the pleasure of speaking with Chip Meyers, Sales Operations Manager at Insource Performance Solutions. Insource, in addition to being both a SugarCRM customer and an InsideView customer, they have a really cool tag line! My own mantra has been “People, Processs and Technology – In that order” for many years. But, looking at the Insource tag line, I had to take pause, and think – ‘hmm, that one is a bit more powerful’. Insource is about helping companies ‘get it done’; “refine, manage and execute labor-intensive processes within our customers’ manufacturing and distribution facilities.” But to take it even further;  “Insource is accountable for increasing throughput, improving quality, and reducing cost.”

My conversation with Chip was not as much about what Insource does, but the early stages of customer engagement, the sales process. However, I became a little nervous when I began doing a little bit of research, as the bar seems quite high, based on what Insource itself, does for its clients. I am not sure I am ready to change my own personal tag line just yet, but if I do, I know where to look! What I began to realize is that Insource is implementing parts of Social CRM as well as parts of Enterprise 2.0.

Expectations

In speaking with Chip, I started off simple and light and asked; with respect to the implementation of the system (SugarCRM and Salesview), what are the expectations?:

“Our corporate culture is all about performance; that is what we sell.  So with anything we do; be it a new customer engagement or implementation of a new resource, there is an expectation of success.”

That pretty much says it. In order to dig in a bit, I further asked how success should be (and is) measured throughout the organization. Chip’s answer here surprised me a little, but then discussing it further it was more clear. To save you the same confusion, I will give a little bit of background. Insource does not consider itself a “transactional sales company” rather, Insource is more focused on “long term engagements with customers, and to become part of their organizations”. So, back to the measurement of success:

“Although we are a metrics driven company I’m going to focus on the subjective way we are judging CRM success.    I am not that interested in activity metrics of a typical SFA (although Sugar can do that) I am interested in results.”

During the course of the conversation, Chip relayed to me that the cycles are typically three to six months, sometimes longer. This falls squarely in the Business to Business realm. During the sales cycle, there is an accumulation of a tremendous of amount of customer information. This information needs to be captured, shared and the users need to adopt the application if they are going to find value. The sales cycle is not simply long without cause, the products and services provided need to match the needs of the clients. Customers will speak with many different parts of the Insource organization, including Sales, Engineering and Operations:

“The data capture starts with Sales, and transfers through to Engineering and ultimately to the Operations team who manage the ongoing relationships.  Sugar has enabled that flow of information to be much more efficient and that ultimately improves our ability to serve our customers.   As everyone has seen this happening, adoption has improved.  I call that success. “

How smart are the customers – Very!

I wanted to bring my conversation back around a bit, to some topics we will be talking about with Chip at the event in Boston. This is also very high up when the topic of Social CRM or Inbound Marketing are discussed. I asked Chip his perspective on whether “prospects are more educated than they used to be, just a few years ago?” Chip has a great answer, worth reading in full. The interesting part is the transition over time:

“Without a doubt!  We are one of the original innovators in our field.  So, years ago, our challenge was just explaining to people what the business model was and why it made sense.  Now there are a number of companies trying to do what we do, and therefore more general awareness in the marketplace.  We are now at point where we are seeking to cut through the clutter and get our message heard above the din. In our business, like many, it is all about serving the customer and making ourselves invaluable to them. An effective CRM strategy and aggregating market intelligence so our business development team can be better informed than our competition is critical.”

I cannot add much to that, so I will leave well enough alone. I am quite impressed with how Insource is approaching the process. As Chip relayed to me a couple times, it is about culture. With a strong focus on customer success, any technology decisions simply need to fit in, enable and scale what people are already doing. I am hoping that you will join us at the event next week, where Chip will be demonstrating the applications in action!

This post was the 3rd in the series, the first an interview with Dharmesh Shah, Co-Author of Inbound Marketing and Founder of Hubspot, The second an interview with Umberto Milletti, CEO and co-founder of InsideView, (about Intelligent Aggregation) – all leading up to what is shaping up to be an awesome event in Boston on March 23: Bridging the gap between Social Media hype and business value, sponsered by BrainSell.

This post was supposed to be done Monday, however, I was a bit waterlogged! For those not located on the east coast of the US, Boston picked up between 5 and 7 inches of rain, and if that was not enough, I traveled to  New Jersey to enjoy the rain….again. I did make home, where it is nice and dry – Mitch

Social CRM is a Journey, not a Destination – Revisited

March 8, 2010 1 comment

I wrote the following in September 2009 – 6 months ago.  But, I could have easily written it yesterday, and it would not be too different:

“There has been a tremendous amount great conversation during the past couple weeks, regarding Social CRM. What it is as well as what it is not. I am not sure we have reached any conclusions yet, but we have all become smarter for the insights of a great many individuals. Interestingly, I am usually a bit opinionated, but I sat on the sidelines, just observing – for the most part.

As my title suggests, I do believe that we are all (customers, businesses, implementers and vendors) on a journey.  As a group, we are working (struggling) to compartmentalize, as that seems to be human nature. We are treating the landscape as binary, you either have it, or you don’t.  You will get there, or you will not. The economy is evolving, business is evolving, customers’ needs are evolving. So as all the components go through this evolution, yet, we are suggesting this needs to be a revolution, why? Very few of us subscribe to waterfall development methodology, therefore, we should be able to iterate through this as well, no?

The difference, among my peers, who are having the conversation, do not seem to be as much about where we are going (ok, first chance for a comment), rather how we get there. We all want very similar things. As Graham reminded us all today, in quoting Peter Drucker on his post (which is a must read). The end game is already defined for us.”

I tend to get a little philosophical at times – why, I am not sure, but it happens quite often, I am afraid. Mostly, because my purpose in writing is to solidify my own thoughts. In my previous post, I went on to say:

“If Social CRM is the destination, then what is the vehicle to get us there? Is it strategy, or technology? Answer: It is both. It is the proper introduction and combination of technology, in support of the evolving processes, created by the empowered customer. Like the business trips we all take – trains, planes and automobiles – each client requires a slightly different itinerary. Exactly, each client requires a slightly different approach.”

I have a lot of great comments from the previous post, by some great folks who have pushed my thinking further than I could have ever hoped. To start, friend Mike Boysen made the following observation (Last September) “Why are there Social CRM software solutions on the market if we do not know what it is” That is a very important question to be answered, and I am not sure how much further along we are, frankly.

As many have noted, we run the risk of Social CRM being dominated by the vendors (full disclosure, I am one). We also run the risk of having the same failures we did with CRM, but I think the chances of that are smaller. Kathy Hermann pointed out (last September) “I don’t think we’ll ever reach a final SCRM destination nor should we expect to…because of the diversity of the social media field of opportunities.”  This is also an important point, by putting Social on the front of CRM, the static nature of reporting transactions has changed to understanding where customers are talking, what they are saying, and where they are saying it – this last one (where) is dynamic and will keep us all on our toes!

Through the journey (personal and professional), there have been a tremendous number of great posts, papers, and exploratory ideas. Without a doubt it is a journey, spattered with some self reflection as well.  So, with all the posts, conversations and thoughts, are we any closer to the destination? Or as Kathy points out above, do we need to worry about the destination at all, and we should be focused on helping customers get their jobs done?

I wrote in November, “Social Just is…” This was right after friend Graham Hill released his Manifesto for Social Business.  At the time, I was thinking along the lines of the Social Customer – I summarized with the following:

“The key message here is to be cautious, all too often the “gurus” and “experts” pretend to be King, as did the the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Challenge the gurus with the Social Media strategies, not just to challenge, but to ask them how they did it. How many times have they done it, if they have done it. These experts need to have a solid grounding in Marketing, and Media (not necessarily ‘Social’) first.

The current hype cycle that is Social (Media and by extension Networking) is very much about creating that feeling of closeness (emotions) and changing behaviors, between your organization and your customers. Make no mistake, while there is some hype, there is a new bar, and expectations have been set and reset.“

My point in revisiting this is because there is a wave of Buzz surrounding Social CRM at the moment, and the journey has just become quite interesting.  The smart folks over at Altimeter  have just released  the 18 Social CRM Use Cases report, which is an important read. This is great work, but also keep in mind the other really great posts and ‘road maps’ if you will. For Example Esteban Kolsky’s SCRM roadmap post and Brian Vellmure’s 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition. These (among other works) are a tremendous value add to the thinking within the space. It is up to us to turn these ideas and concepts into customer focused actions.

But, it is important to remind everyone that the Customers jobs come first, and the focus needs to remain on the relationships with the Customer – as defined by the customer, not us. As Wim Rampen states in his great post from earlier this year:

“Because a Customer does not value a relationship with the company, but mostly values the outcome generated from the experience of using your product or service, it should not be difficult to understand that Customers value knowledge or information on how to improve that outcome, over relationships (with the company).”

I have said it quite often within my talks, blogs and participatory comments of all kinds – There is no one size fits all here.  I do not believe that there are best practices to carried from organization to another – except, keep you customer in mind in everything you do. There are best approaches, and ways to think, but social may just be the new differentiator – thus it is different from place to place. Not a differentiator in technology, but in your approach to your ecosystem.

Best of luck on your Journey, god speed!

Rapid Social Sales Response by Intelligent Aggregation

March 7, 2010 4 comments

This is a follow-up post from last weeks interview with Dharmesh Shah, Co-Author of Inbound Marketing and Founder of Hubspot, The series itself leads up to an even in Boston on March 23: Bridging the gap between Social Media hype and business value, sponsered by BrainSell. In addition to Dharmesh, we have an equally compelling presentation by Umberto Milletti, CEO and co-founder of InsideView, who I caught up with via email last week.

Before I get to the interview;  I wanted to mention the great report put out by The Altimeter Group, this past week. The content of the report includes 18 well described Use Cases for Social CRM. If you are in this space (CRM, Social CRM) this is an important read. In full disclosure, part of the title of this post is Use Case S2 – Rapid Social Sales Response. Listed as a “Vendor to Watch” (one of only 4) InsideView is very well positioned in this space. The timing is great for me, as I needed a title, and I was in process of interviewing the CEO!

Monitoring key channels and integrating this into your processes

I started out with a simple question (along with my usual long winded set-up): On the one side of the coin there is the need to “be found” and “get noticed”. On the other, there is the need to search, find, alert and insert that into a process. Do you see these as discrete processes? How can teams work together to make sure there are no silos and we are all seeking to achieve the same end goal – happy, new and engaged customers?

Engaging customers in a productive conversation and driving them [to an] outcome requires multiple touch points. For those in sales and marketing, the key is being relevant in all points of this conversation.  Relevance requires knowledge” I agree wholeheartedly – a very important statement we all need to keep in mind. Umberto went on further to highlight a point made by Dharmesh as well: “Since prospect and customers are more educated than ever about your products, services, strengths and weaknesses, they will only value the conversation if you can bring something useful and relevant to the table.” As Altimeter points out their report, “participating in in the right conversation at the right time a sale can be intercepted from a competitor’s hand”. I would like to think that ‘right place, right time can also prevent it from even going there, but that is just me. Silos will get in the way as well, the message needs to be consistent.

I wanted to dig a little deeper, so I followed up with a question or two to get some details. Even with the sophisticated filtering, aggregation and analysis, do some organizations feel that there is just too much data? In speaking with your customers, what kind of cultural changes needed to be made within the organization in order to effectively take advantage of the “Social” era we have entered into?

With respect to the first part, Umberto had this to say “Information overload is a real issue. It is crucial to filter information to its most relevant bits and ensure usability by delivering it in existing workflows, easily accessible in the business productivity applications we spend most of our time in.” To this end, very often SalesView (the InsideView product) integrates the aggregated information into an existing CRM or SFA application. If knowledge workers, specifically sales types try to go after the information directly, there may not be enough hours in the day! ” Attempting to access social information from the increasing number of sources – and trying to determine what’s relevant to further business goals – is too time consuming and adversely impacts productivity.”

The name of the game is “Intelligent Aggregation”

Umberto stated the following, and I see no reason to alter his words: “What we need is “intelligent aggregation” of both very dynamic social data as well as the more static but still important basic business data (revenues, industry, phone, email addresses…) . “Aggregation” addresses the “too many sources” issue by delivering a single go-to place…”Intelligence” ensures accuracy and relevance at the individual user level through innovative use of technology and filters.”

I have been doing a bit of thinking on the cultural changes required to make this all work. I posted about it last week. In response to my question about culture, Umberto’s comments were very much inline with my own thinking (phew). “The main cultural change required of sales and marketing organization is a shift from the traditional selling processes (cold calling, feature-selling, low-yield marketing campaigns) to a selling process based on relevance and value-add. The education on [ or provided by] social media is happening every day for all of us in our consumer lives, and since sales organization tend towards younger demographics they are very open to using social tools.”

While the conversation is done for the sake of this interview, the journey has just begun. As Umberto states, “Fortunately, the social web provides ample information on people and companies.” There is the understatement of the day!  The real challenge for the practitioners is “to make this information available to all customer-facing employees in a productive fashion.” that is the intelligence part!

I want to thank Umberto for taking the time. Please join us if you are in the Boston area, the discussion is going to be very informative and quite fun! In case anyone is wondering, yes we are going to see all of this in action.