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How can it, specifically, improve business performance?
Social Business Series (II)
The articles in this Social Business Series are being written for real-life Sales and Marketing professionals in small and mid-sized companies, who are busy running their business and have not had the time to read everything in the emerging Social-anything space or spend a lot of time in consumer social websites.
The first article in this series was “Social Business Software”, where we explained the definition, scope and promise of Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 tools.
Let’s look at the specific things Social CRM can do for you.
The market reference today for an approach to evaluate a Social CRM tool is Altimeter Group’s report “The 18 use cases of Social CRM”. That is a great report for vendors and enterprise users, but in this article we will try to stay closer to the reality of the mid-sized company.
I have picked a few of the use cases I consider most immediate and relevant to companies that are still maturing their CRM strategies and driven it down to specific examples of tangible everyday use cases you can directly relate to.
1) Gathering Sales and Marketing Insights
Social CRM tools should allow you to listen to customers and the market at large so that you obtain sales and marketing insight. Corporations have been using anecdotal face-to-face interactions and tools such as surveys, focus groups, customer advisory boards. Social channels offer the opportunity to that more effectively.
Example: Brian and Tomas are recruiters placing Engineering contractors and they both have worked with me for several years helping me to find people to hire for projects. About 6 months ago, I changed jobs and joined Coffee Bean Technology. Tomas, who works for a small company, called me two days later (he had seen the update in my LinkedIn page). Brian, who works for a large national firm called my old company 4 months later (when his system reminded him of the 6-month “follow-up” call) to find I was no longer there.
Who do you think wins opportunities related to my job change? Social CRM tools can not only detect changes, but alert you when an important event in the outside world happens (a company acquisition, a contact changing jobs or being promoted, a press-release from a customer or competitor, etc).
Social CRM tools actively connect to Internet resources (be it LinkedIn, Google Maps, Twitter, Customer’s websites, news sources) to bring you sales and marketing insights when you need it and in context of your CRM activity.
2) Social Media Monitoring and Social Lead Generation
Traditional methods of lead generation rely on mass-mailing a large list (usually compiled by and rented from media companies) and hoping that a very small fraction reacts to the broadcast and can be nurtured into real opportunities. That statistical reliance on serendipity (catching the “suspect” at the exact time she is sensitive to the message) is not enough and cannot sustain a medium-sized business in a competitive space. The new “funnel” is not in static lists, but in online communities, where you can monitor for prospects and detect the exact right time (both for the seller and the buyer) to establish sales contact. Social CRM tools should be able to do that.
Example: Pick the name of the company that leads the market space you are in. Whether or not you have experimented with Twitter before, go to the website and type the name of that competitor in the search box. Spend a couple of minutes studying the results. If you are lucky, you will see posts from users that look like this “Hi, I am considering buying the X solution from <competitor>, but looking for alternatives. Any suggestions?”.
Don’t you think that looks like a lead?
Social CRM tools can actively monitor your website and other venues (Tweeter, LinkedIn, other online communities) and detect and connect you with prospects at the exact time when they want to connect with you. Once you engage with those communities (which Social CRM should also help you to do), you nurture them by interacting on a personal basis, not spamming all and hoping to be lucky.
3) Customer Advocacy and Social Customer Service
Any sales person know that one of the most powerful tools to convince prospects are credible case studies. Marketers have studied it. Psychologists have studied it. They all agree. Why is it that companies are always struggling to get happy referenceable customers to influence their peers?
Example: I have been involved in projects of creating case studies many times in my career. I know for a fact that happy customers love to talk about good vendors, but we invariably make it very difficult for them to talk. We bring lawyers and marketers into the conversation and demand for a quote from the CEO and the perpetual and irrevocable right to use the logo. Then we want to invade the customer’s business so that we can take fake photos of smily people for the glossy brochure. Of course, we do not allow a customer to talk directly with others outside our control. “We are offering 3% discount, we should get something back”.
Does that sound familiar?
Social CRM tools help you to connect happy customers so that they can influence, help, and nurture each other. They also connect you with unhappy customers, so that you can react fast and provide a good experience. They let knowledge flow both in an out through features such as discussion forums, social connectors, support for micro-websites. Leveraging those tools will require changes in the culture of companies, with increased openness and transparency. But the benefits are rewarding.
4) Internal Collaboration
Companies have increasingly segmented work to achieve efficiency. We have been taught that the best way to run a business is to break big tasks into “independent” smaller ones until they can be assigned to functional areas and people and tied to an MBO scheme. Then, all you need to do is to keep one person from distracting the other. Well, that clearly contradicts common-sense. Why is it that we got into this hole? That is because it is very expensive to collaborate if our tools are static documents and power point presentations. So segmentation is the less worst option.
Segmentation can work relatively well in some environments, and has worked particularly well in sales, but we have seen many deals lost for lack of it. Social tools lower the cost of collaboration and enable people to collaborate without losing efficiency, but gaining in effectiveness.
Example: Product Managers and Customer Service representatives know things that can make or break a deal. Look at your organization. Does information flow well between functional areas? When I prepare to call a contact, I would like to have new marketing information from product management, upcoming software updates from engineering, status of customer service calls all on my screen so that I can provide the best possible service to my customer.
Does that happen in a typical organization, even small ones? Nope.
Social CRM tools promise to bridge the gaps between functional areas. This is not about deploying SharePoint and hoping people will browse static file repositories. It is about bringing the right up-to-date information to the right person when it is needed and in context. That is usually done using a collaborative platform that leverages the use of intelligent information Streams.
If you find this article useful, keep an eye out for the other articles in this series. You can subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog and leave comments suggesting other topics of your interest.
Also in the Social Business Series:
- Social Business Software: Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0. Do I need one of those?
- Social CRM Use Cases: How can it, specifically, improve business performance?
- Consumer Social Media: What business should do about Twitter and Facebook
- CRM to Social CRM: Is that a gradual transition or a revolutionary change?
- Where Leads come from: The New Marketing Funnel is not where you think
- Open Leadership: How you need to adapt to lead a new generation