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The Social Business Engine (part 2 of n) – Value

January 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I should have known better than to specify exactly what I would cover in part 2 (Here is Part 1) – but in my own defense, I did mention something about this being a journey. I do promise to circle back to the role of sales really soon – to be very direct, the exact role of the sales person, in a model where we are working to create buyers, not sell (see, I told you) is going to take some more thought.

You never know exactly when you will hear something important

Interspersed between client visits, business dinners and a visit with my Mom, good friends seemed to have found some very interesting articles which really helped to solidify my thoughts in a few areas.  Of course, thrown into the mix is Michael Krigsman’s interview with Paul Greenberg (an excellent, must read/listen). Finally, a great dinner conversation with Josh Weinberger in NYC in which topics on CRM from 1999 through 2010 all seemed fair game.

Other than filling you in a bit on my comings and goings, what exactly is my point? Your peers, social networks and your CUSTOMERS are always talking. Information, valuable tidbits will appear at any time. While it is nearly impossible to listen to everything, all the time, you should be prepared to act on information when it becomes available. So, as I continue down this path, remember that one of the most difficult tasks is figuring out exactly what your customers want – listen as much as possible. The objective is not only listen to what they say they want, but what they determine to be valuable. This is a subtle difference.

It is about value, it always has been

All Businesses must be in touch with their market, their customers and it is still about product after all. If the value (not yours, the value perceived by the customer) is not there game over. You can have the most finely tuned Social Business in the world, but it will not make up for bad product.  While the world has changed a lot – somethings have not – customers do want value.

This is easier said than done. In a recent Harvard Business Review Blog, Mark Johnson answers the following question “Why would someone want to buy something from you?”  (He answers a few other questions as well). The answer given is:

To answer the … question, you need to construct a customer value proposition (CVP) — not by trying to convince customers of the value of your products but the other way around, by identifying an important job a customer needs to get done and then proposing an offering that fulfills that job better than any alternative the customer can turn to.

I wanted to dig a little deeper, so I went to the 2008 article referenced by Johnson.

The most important attribute of a customer value proposition is its precision: how perfectly it nails the customer job to be done—and nothing else. But such precision is often the most difficult thing to achieve. Companies trying to create the new often neglect to focus on one job; they dilute their efforts by attempting to do lots of things. In doing lots of things, they do nothing really well.

Now comes the hard part

There are two very important points made here, and if you are listening (not to me to your customers) then you will be able to meet the challenge – understand what your customers really want, so you can provide it. For one, stop selling and focus your efforts to create buyers. Do not try to put everything into one product and satisfy everyone at the same time. It is not the company value proposition, nor the product value proposition, it is the customer value proposition.

Michael listed a few “Practical Steps” you can use in working to engage your customers (blog reference above).

Listen to your customers’ voice directly from their actual larynx, rather than to the opinions rolling around in your head. For example, build a customer advisory committee and ask exactly what they want and think.

Participate in their communities to find out who they are, what they want, and learn how they can also provide value to you. A company can engage this way with only one or two smart people. It’s not heavy lifting.

So, there is something new. While it might have been said before, or talked about, somehow it seems new. We have heard that we need to Listen. Then we were told we needed to Engage, one way broadcasting became two way communications. Participation – that is interesting. Is there a difference between Engaging and Participating? Something to think about.

Is B2B the new B2C

January 7, 2010 6 comments

A friend asked an innocent question on Twitter a while back. “Who has a good B2B iPhone app? Anyone?”. In typical fashion, I Tweeted, then thought (the reverse order is usually recommended). My response “The actual phone part, where I dial and talk, best B2B part of the iPhone! ” This is probably not what she had in mind, hope I did not offend; though it did get me thinking. B2B, or B2C, that is the question. What is the difference?

I put my thoughts away for a while, thinking that I was just not getting to where I wanted it to be. Then this post appeared this morning. The context is that some brands express concerns about using Social Media. There was one section which caught my eye, related to the topic at hand:

There is no difference between B2B and B2C – This one drives me crazy.  What is the difference between B2B efforts and B2C efforts?  Nothing other than the target and the message.  We are all consumers at some point in the day unless you are that famous young cult hero thief, Colton Harris, living in the woods.   The person you are trying to influence to buy is a person and a consumer.  The only thing that needs to change in your efforts is your message not the platform.  Again, quality messages lead to quality fans/followers/friends/connections, all of whom can help you to build you(r) Influence Stream.

I commented and suggested that there are few nuances, and that Social Media is a platform, with many channels. Funny, they have the same conversations as we do in CRM – but I digress. Getting past that, there are some great points here, worth exploring. Has the Social Individual, whether it is for business, or personal become the Social Customer – period!

If you put this in the context of one of those selling seminars we have all taken at one time or another, some interesting things pop out. As a buyer, people are more likely to trust someone who they feel is an ‘expert’ – oh and someone they know. In the eyes of the buyer, the seller must display professionalism, an understanding of the need, empathy. Finally, the seller needs to understand what is in it for them, the buyer, personally. OK, am I talking about a personal consumer, or a business consumer? Does it matter?

Even (Especially?) in a Business to Business environment, there is a significant emotional component to the sale. Do not take my word for it, there are many others smarter than me saying so. So, if you combine that with my post – Social Just Is – what do you end up with? People buying from people – people who are like them, have similar values and people they trust. The emotions might be different, but so what?

OK – so that is a bit of sales, not really touching on CRM. One of the best posts recently on the topic of Social ‘this and that’ (CRM, Business, Media) is by Esteban Kolsky. I am not sure if Esteban intended this or not, but a wonderful part of the post is what is not there; is it meant for a Business to Business audience or a Business to Consumer audience? He does not specify – because he does not need to specify. The lines are blurred.

So, such is life in the age of things move really really fast. As I was preparing to simply post this, a mostly stream of consciousness set of connected thoughts, Graham Hill, a person I have the utmost respect for posted a comment on my Posterous Blog Feel free to take a look (last comment), but my take is that the relationship side of B2B versus B2C is most definitely not the same. Will have to explore that one later.

Back to a quick conclusion: Sure, your strategy needs to consider what you actually sell. Assess what channel makes the most sense, I know that. But the end-game is the same in the decision on strategy.  What are your thoughts? Where else has the consumer market had a significant impact on business purchases and how is Social ‘this and that’ a part of it?

Do the pundits practice what they preach?

December 16, 2009 Leave a comment

I am not a Social Media Guru nor an expert in Social Engagement. That said, I do spend a fair amount of time working through the issues related to these topics, as they relate to Customer Relationship Management. In a sense, I am a customer of the many folks who are more knowledgeable in Social Media, and Engagement. Learning, so I can bridge the gap. I guess you could say I am an unsatisfied customer. So, I figured I would put the shoe on the other foot, and blog about it!

I find it curious that the very people who are constantly talking to us, telling us to engage are not practicing what they preach. This is of course not true of everyone, and I would be remiss in not pointing out those who have day jobs, many many followers yet somehow manage to engage. The ones I am not happy with, seem rather full of themselves, using Twitter as a bullhorn, not a conversation tool (“look at me, read my blog”). I am not talking about the spammers, nor the ‘follow me and make $10M’ folks. I am talking about the ones who talk about engagement, yet forget to practice it.

It Can Be Done!

My favorite answer to the fabled “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Is: “To prove to squirrels and skunks it can be done” So, with that in mind,  I would prefer to share those that are truly impressive and engaging, first, to prove to the others that – It can be done!

Anne Handley – @MarketingProfs – I met Anne once (face-to-face, the old fashioned way), at a Tweetup in little ole Burlington, Vermont – Very gracious, smart and a offers a whole lot of value, in her own writing and those that she suggests. Every once in a while I will reply to Anne, ask a quick question – Anne responds, engages, asks me what I think. Wow, impressive – really! with 50k people following I am honestly impressed.

Jeremiah Owyang – @jowyang – I have never had the pleasure of meeting Jeremiah. But he puts out some really great content. Oh, and he responds, willing to admit when he is not 100% correct (he is usually close though!). He engages and practices what he preaches, open and transparent – again impressive.  He responds to comments on his blog posts as well, all this takes time, but Jeremiah engages – again, over 50k.

There are certainly others, lots for sure. Please feel free to point out the ones who you think do it right – please, they deserve it! I have debated whether or not to call people out by name who are not as engaging, actually, not even close to engaging.

In the end, it is far more important to recognize those whom I believe do it right, than to call out those that do not. Those that do not, you are starting to act a little like spammers. Before you say “it is hard I have 25k follows I cannot respond”, take a look at the two examples above. You might recognize yourself here, then I have done some good, Until then, you have lost serious Whuffie in my book…

Funny thing is this was started by a Tweet, which I responded to and never heard back on, oh well. Am I wrong? Let me know your thoughts.

Categories: Social CRM, Social Media Tags: , ,

Social Just is…

November 16, 2009 5 comments

Simply put, it is in our DNA to be social. We like sharing, engaging and having fun, cocktail parties, backyard Bar-B-ques, name your favorite. When something good happens, we want to tell the world, when something bad, we need a shoulder to lean on. We want to be heard, on our terms, in our voice. However, Social does not equate to group, it is more than that.

The Social Individual

We have been doing this for a very long time. Up until very recently, we only did this face to face, one on one and in small groups. We then we scattered; moved away from friends, moved away from family and it was/is a bit traumatic. We worked to fill the void, we needed the social part. We wrote letters, then we used the phone; good not great. Then the Internet happened,  email, chat, AOL, we were stuck behind our computers, 9600 baud and still struggling, getting closer… Then Web 2.0 happened, along with increased bandwidth, FaceBook, YouTube, Twitter and everything became clear, or did it?

We are substituting technology for proximity. However, there is simply nothing like being there, sorry, it just is. A handshake, eye contact, body language and tone cannot be replaced, no matter how hard we try. It all begs the question, how close can technology get us?  Answer: It is a asymptotic relationship, we will progress, but there is a ceiling and we will never get there (Not until you can say, “beam me up Scotty”). To some, the direction we are headed is not quite correct.

Enter the Social Customer

Individually-empowered customers are the ultimate greenfield for business and culture. Starting with the social keeps us from working on empowering individuals natively. That most of the social action is in silos and pipes of hot and/or giant companies slows things down even more. They may look impressive now, but they are a drag on the future.  Doc Searls

Somehow in the Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 transition we moved from one on one interactions to a focus on many to many. Parts of the switch are good, but some need to work themselves out. Friend and colleague, Graham Hill, makes the following statement (In his Manifesto for Social Business).

No.1 From Individual Customers…to Networks of Customers

The emphasis for business today is still on managing customers as individuals. But we have evolved as social animals with highly developed and highly influential social networks. For example, research by Christakis & Fowler suggests that we are highly influenced by three degrees of influence – friends, friends’ friends and friends’ friends’ friends. It’s not about ‘influencers’ per se, but the social networks in which influence happens. If we are to be successful in Social Business we must recognise the power of customers’ social networks to shape customers’ behaviour.

At first, these statements, made by very smart individuals, seem to contradict each other. But, read deeper, there is something more valuable here, from my perspective. While we struggle to manage the individual customer (we may or may not succeed), we must recognize the customer as an individual and empower them in everything we do, from strategy to design and then finally in execution – fostering the individual within the crowd, that sounds hard.

How can you empower the Social Customer?

The first step is to assemble your team – first empower yourself!. I am a big fan of Friendsourcing; Crowdsourcing focused on people you know and trust. I highly recommend this approach. In other words, this is complicated stuff, and no one person has all the answers, sorry, it just is… Friendsourcing can be accomplished either by leveraging your own personal network (friends) or by reputation (friends of friends). We are in fast moving, fast changing times, and sometimes it is just too easy to believe the hype about that shiny new object. My peers should certainly expect this to appear here, ‘there is no one size fits all answer to these questions’. You can only answer the crucial questions: ‘How’, ‘What’, ‘Where’ and ‘When’, with a combination of a deep understanding of your business, your value proposition, dedication to your customers and a better knowledge of your industry than anyone else. Fill-in the gaps appropriately, with people you trust.

I am leveraging people I trust, all the time. For example Esteban Kolsky is busy writing a 5 part series on the Roadmap to SCRM (Social CRM), which I highly recommend. Like Graham, Esteban is a friend and a trusted advisor. The following is taken from part 4 of his series.

Remember when you read those “social media experts” and “social gurus” telling you to just try it? that if you start listening you will be ahead of the game?  I know you know this already, but they are way wrong.  Way wrong.  Just listening without a purpose can hurt more than it can help.  Biggest problem is that once you are committed to a channel (listening) it is very easy to get in, but extremely hard to get out.  You can lose reputation, trust, customers, and business if you pull out of a channel because you never took the time to figure out if it was the right one for you.

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.

Your customers are building their trust networks, I have my trusted advisors, who are yours? No need to make the journey solo, after all, we are all Social, we just are….

SocialCRM and The Cluetrain Manifesto

September 15, 2009 1 comment

OK, this was not on my radar, I was thinking something completely different this week. Thanks Brian, thanks a lot. Ok, I cannot  blame Mr. Vellmure at all! (Brian has some really great insights, I learn from him every blog). I was doing some research and had the URL open in a tab on my second PC. But, I was not looking that intently until Brian suggested that we all take a look again – it was time well spent.

The give people a common baseline (from Wikipedia):

The Cluetrain Manifesto is a set of 95 theses organized and put forward as a manifesto, or call to action, for all businesses operating within what is suggested to be a newly-connected marketplace. The ideas put forward within the manifesto aim to examine the impact of the Internet on both markets (consumers) and organizations.

Now, my challenge to the the Accidental Community, and the community at large, is to choose one or two of the 95 theses and suggest whether the current use, thoughts and/or applications available, regarding SocialCRM, support your choice. You can find the complete list at Cluetrain.com.

Let me kick things off

I will start this off with two sequential statements that I seem to keep coming back to, number 36 and 37, which are: “Companies must ask themselves where their corporate cultures end.” and “If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no market.”, respectively.

I will very simply state that by working to define your own SocialCRM  philosophy and strategy, you will quickly find out if you have a gap or not. SocialCRM cannot fill this gap, the problem is bigger than SocialCRM. So, how does this answer my own challenge? The mere thought process of defining a SocialCRM strategy would expose the gap and help the company to make appropriate changes (though that gap can be tough to close). SocialCRM has added value!

You should keep these two Theses close as you design your strategy. If you really want to dive in deep, please read Wim Rampen’s latest post and then think about my statement – if the company culture does not overlap with its community from a philosophical perspective, the SocialCRM strategy cannot be realized.

Ok, folks, what do you say?

Categories: Social CRM Tags: , ,

Enabling Social CRM is a convergence of Enterprise 2.0 and CRM

September 9, 2009 15 comments

Before my peers from the Accidental Community slap me silly because of the technology focus of this post, I completely get that any Enterprise initiative, especially CRM, is People, Process, then technology. The focal point here is that the people and process do need a supporting infrastructure in order to truly provide Social CRM. For the purposes herein, Social CRM will use the Paul Greenberg definition:

CRM is a philosophy & a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes & social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.

A friend and collaborator Prem Kumar Aparanji (@prem_k) has put together a initial take (with good explanation), from an architectural footing, and my objective is to take that one step further. Even as I write, Esteban Kolsky, someone whom I have the utmost respect, has written the history of the world (CRM world), which is an important read. What is important to note, is that as time passes, we are all diving in a little deeper. It is too easy to “wax poetic” at the 50,000 foot level, but we need to help figure out exactly how to do the things we are talking about. Prem even did a little crystal gazing and wrote the prequel to this post Enterprise 2.0 v SocialCRM – Fight or Tango (thanks Prem) – the answer is… down a few paragraphs….

The core of my suggestion:

There is no reason to reinvent the wheel and as technology advances we (business leaders in the CRM arena) should absolutely take advantage of it. There is also no reason, therefore, to ignore the great work being done in the Enterprise 2.0 arena. I am a huge fan of Dion Hinchcliffe – not just one of his posts, a great many of them (cool graphics too). Especially interesting to me are a few recent posts: the August 18, 2009 (Using social software to reinvent the customer relationship)

The elimination of decades of inadequate communication channels will suddenly unleash a tide of many opportunities, as well as challenges, for most organizations.

and September 2, 2009 (Enterprise 2.0 Finding success on the frontiers of social business).

….there is something fundamentally unique and powerful about social computing. Though not all uses of social tools result in rapid adoption or instant results, those that establish an early network effect can and do push existing IT systems

Finally, Dion also spoke of a crucial component of making it all work, citing him one last time (today) the Data obviously a crucial element;  August 5, 2009 (The future of enterprise data in a radically open and Web-based world)

Exposing data — whether it is internally within an organization or outside to partners, or even the whole world — is a way of thinking about the very nature of the business, more than it is about achieving a one-off end goal. This is because open data seems to create immediate, close, and powerful relationships between the publisher and the consumer of the data, and leads to a series of unexpected outcomes.

(I thought about posting his great artwork here, but that would not be proper and would not do the articles justice, so take a look when you have a few minutes.)

Here is my line of thinking – Enterprise 2.0, by definition is “the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.Andrew McAfee,  May 2006 and given the definition of Social CRM above, should it be such a leap to suggest that in order to truly engage the customer, we should invite them into our Enterprise? What better tool set to do this than Enterprise 2.0 tools?

There are lots of very smart people who can solve the technical challenges which will certainly arise – security, access control – just two of I am sure a dozen more. The larger challenges will certainly be on the people and process side – you know, that 80% of the real effort. If we are truly going to be ‘Transparent‘, and foster ‘Trust‘, in addition to one of my friend Graham’s favorite topics  Co-Create then we need to treat the customers and partners like family, and invite them into our home.

Graham’s article is certainly worth reading in its entirety, here is one of the key points:

Use just enough collaborative social technologies – Technologies, particularly those that support ‘social networks’, provide the backbone for collaboration between a 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 effortless collaboration. (0ne of 11 bulleted points which are part of the article, seemed fitting for inclusion here)

In order to accomplish these goals, we really need to think of the customer as an extension of the Enterprise

As we invite the customers into the Enterprise, into our home, it is no longer an ‘us’ and ‘them’ – Customers are no longer managed, rather data is managed, analyzed to and for the benefit of the customer, the company and greater good – Customers are embraced.

It is not about technology, but about the best use of technology. It is not about the platform, but about the people who are the platform (how web 2.0 of me). It is not about one vendor either (I work for a vendor, full disclosure), it is about a solution that can provide the ROI and validation that Enterprise 2.0 is looking for – let’s call it Social CRM.

I do like how Esteban ends his blogs – “OK, I am done now.  Let’s open the floodgates of criticism and praise.”

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