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Conferences need to evolve towards physical social venues
People were still arriving and Mitch Lieberman, said: “Let’s move the chairs into a circle. I am not a speaker, I am a facilitator”. He went on to get to know members of the audience. People were able to speak without having a microphone or podium separating them from vendors and experts. I was thinking: “This is how every conference conversation should work, not only the early sunrise sessions.”
This post contains my personal notes from attending CRM Evolve 2010 in New York City earlier this week. I hope it is useful beyond documenting my views, to people who were not able to attend in person.
My perspective and bias is of someone who is with a Social Business Software vendor, with a long history in “Social” but relatively new to the CRM industry (I was previously developing and selling enterprise IT software and hardware). I was almost all the time in the conference room dedicated to the Social CRM track and monitoring the Twitter #SCRME10 hashtag.
CRM Evolve – The Event
This was a very valuable event for me and the quality of speakers and session content was very high. There three tracks: CRM Strategies, Social CRM, Deployment.
The sessions in the Social CRM track were well attended (maybe 50 people in average, with about half of them being vendors and consultants, and half being CRM users). The users I met tended to be from relatively large organizations and their goal was to understand how “social” was going to affect their deployments.
From the CRM vendor community, the “big 4” presences were SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and RightNow (with the noted absence of SalesForce.com). There were a significant number of small startups navigating the conference and at the show floor.
The separation between “CRM” and “Social CRM” was very clear. The incumbent vendors are dancing around and very cautious about talking social (though they are moving in that direction), while the “social” track is dominated by analysts supported by (or supporting) small startups. I believe that needs to change (more on that below).
I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet many people I had only seen through 140-character posts. It was great fun trying to match the thumbnail photos (and their online persona) to real people (and the way they articulate their ideas in person).
I bet you would find that person-to-person interaction was the greatest value of attending the conference for all attendees. Conferences nowadays is about meeting peers, experts and customers face-to-face, not about accessing content that can be delivered through other media.
I did retweet the announcement that the attendance of CRME10 was larger than last’ year’s, but it is clear to me that conferences have to evolve their format and business model to adapt to new realities (which, I know, is easier to say than to do), including this one. While just a detail, the fact that the conference bags full of brochures were stuffing the hotel garbage containers before the keynote presentations were finished was a telling symptom.
CRM Evolve was a great and successful event, but one can always give suggestions for next year… Medium: less paper and podiums, more interaction. Perspective: More voice of customer, less voice of vendors and analysts. Content: more case studies (like drugstore.com, a big hit), less competing terminology and frameworks. Attitude: more openess, better integration with online.
Social CRM – It is time to move beyond the echo chamber
The level of resonance was very high and there is clearly convergence of thinking among vendors, analysts and consultants focused on Social CRM. I believe it is now time to invite, include, and listen to the user community, traditional CRM vendors, international perspectives, competing groups (social business, enterprise 2.0, etc).
If we truly believe the world is shifting towards less control of the conversation by the experts, we as a community need to put that to practice by including and accepting diverse perspectives.
Have we over-hyped the Social in “Social CRM”? Yes, we have. I think that is a natural market dynamic to create a critical mass of awareness and a basic framework of ideas and terminology. For more thoughts on that, see The Future is not Tomorrow.
takeaways from discussions
Some of my favorites, notes, ideas and quotes from 3 days of meetings.
“Customer Service is the new Public Relations”. This came up a few times in several sessions (including but not limited to Emily Yellin keynote, Dr. Natalie’s session, Drugstore.com). Companies need to realize that shouting to customers before the sale and talking to them after the sale is no longer an appropriate segmentation. Creating a satisfying customer experience and increasing business will depend on both integrating the PR and CS efforts and engaging with customers from the beginning of the relationship.
“Down with Organization Silos”. Was also a recurring theme. Marketing and Sales need to work together. Customer Service is the new Public Relations is the new Technical Support is the new Marketing.
“The digital medium is global”. Esteban talked about how market interaction has to go from “multi-channel” (i.e. engagement through a diverse mix of media) to “cross-channel” (i.e. being able, for example, to start a conversation on Twitter and seamless move to the phone and going back to e-mail without losing context). Jesus Hoyos highlighted local factors to consider when deploying CRM solutions. In the digital medium, companies cannot segment their channels based on their geographical organizations.
My favorite quotes (includes my own thoughts along the event):
Conference bags with paper brochures in it – let’s stop the waste @Marcio_Saito
As said before. This is a small but telling detail of how the business model for conferences has also to adapt to a more digital world.
Customer Service is PR, PR is Customer Service @drnatalie
There is not point in having a shouting department and a listening department. It should be called “Customer Engagement department”.
If you are not standing on the edge, you are taking too much room! @drnatalie
The mission of Airlines is NOT flying planes. It is moving customers from point A to B, make them happy and keep them happy. @mfauscette.
Not necessarily new, but it was a great response in the context of the presentation and the question asked by an attendee (who was arguing for the efficiency of segmentation and specialization and dismissing the holistic aspect of business).
Before being social with the world, we need to be social inside. Let’s pull back on excessive functional segmentation.@Marcio_Saito
I think that applies to ourselves as a community as well as the people we are trying to influence or sell to.
Most tools already have enough analytics. The issue is not analytics, but making info available to who needs it. It is about openness, not technology. @marcio_saito
This was one of the few topics where my personal opinion is opposite to what seemed to be the general consensus. I was surprised by the focus on analytics by vendors, analysts and the apparent agreement from users.
Is Social CRM under- or over-hyped? @mjayliebs.
I responded to that question with “over-hyped”, to which Mitch said: to execute social crm, we need to get people excited about the value it provides #scrm excitement. | agree, but I think we are done with that. Great to meet Mitch Lieberman in person.
“Trust and relationship: if you want it too hard, it doesn’t happen” @jon_ferrara
A quote by the creator of legendary GoldMine CRM, it was a pleasure to meet him.
Promote your customers, partners and community not yourself! @BrentLeary
A community is like kindergarten: be kind, tell the truth, play well with other @KevinSRyan
I think the pendulum is moving towards business-as-it-used-to-be. In the past decades we went too far into segmentation (shouting versus listening departments, these people help customers those people take the most they can from customers). The good thing is that the shift towards “social” is easy. What drives you is not your MBO, it is just doing good and being honest.
Multi channel is easy. Cross channel is where the money is
Insightful observation by Esteban Kolsky
Total lifetime value of a customer is not only direct revenues, but also influence over other purchases. @oraclecrm
The presenter from Oracle started his presentation by saying “I am sorry, but I have a plane to catch and I will need to end this session in 10 minutes”. I was waiting him to add “but, you presence here is very important to us”. To be fair, he stayed for about 20 minutes and delivered a few good ideas.
Social CRM is more visible than callcenters; more authentic than focus groups; more immediate than research @JanetJoz
That sums up several recurrent ideas in the conference.
Thank you #crme10. See you around.@Marcio_Saito
I had a good time in NYC and I think this was a great event.
–This article was originally written for and posted at http://www.theclickcompany.com