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Has the line between traditional and social CRM disappeared?

13th Sep 2009
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Social media should not be seen as just a closing tools for sales - it should be a vehicle for sales and marketing to initiate the customer conversation, according to Martin Schneider.

Dell recently experienced some well-publicised success leveraging Twitter and CRM. The company was able to promote new laptops through Twitter and saw a major spike in sales, which according to some people, proves that Twitter is a closing tool.

I disagree.

Dell was able to generate interest via Twitter. It was Dell’s website that actually enabled a pleasing enough experience that incited customers to buy. In this case, Twitter was the medium, not the closing tool that sealed the deal.

Dell’s experience represents a larger trend playing out within the CRM market today. Social media applications, like Twitter, are becoming a vehicle or launching pad by which companies are improving sales and marketing in a lot of ways. Prior to the CRM/social media revolution that we now find ourselves in, CRM was mono-directional 'pitching'. Twitter and sales – or what some are calling sales 2.0 – is about engaging in a dialogue to lead prospects to the right sales decision. In short, for most businesses, social media can accelerate sales in a lot of ways, but typically will not be the closing mechanism that snags more revenue on its own.

The line is blurring

Regardless of how we try to define the changes around CRM – and try to differentiate social CRM from traditional SFA processes and technologies – one thing is clear: the difference between traditional and social CRM is blurring more and more everyday. Social CRM is not necessarily a separate platform for doing anything 'new', it’s simply a way of doing more (reaching more customers, providing different touch points) while managing the unstoppable evolution of the customer and their voice.

The axiom of social CRM is “the customer is in charge of the conversation.” This isn’t a new concept, it’s simply a new phrasing of “the customer is always right” – simply stated in the universe that has developed Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc. One of the keys is understanding Twitter’s role and value within your company’s CRM initiative. Despite the popularity of social media tools, companies continue to struggle to locate enough social-media-generated revenue to justify the time and resources expended on them.

The problem plaguing sales departments is that sales lacks structure, and is often looking for the next 'quick fix' or 'silver-bullet shortcut'. The hype around social media and CRM – which constitute many unstructured mediums such as Twitter – can often times prove a distraction. Salespeople often make the mistake of misguidedly assuming that social media empowerment means they no longer have to focus on Sales 101, which is a mistaken view, not unlike perceptions of CRM in its early days.

Providing a vehicle to accelerate processes

What social media should not be doing is taking the place of investments in core sales methodologies, such as people, infrastructure, tools, processes, education and training. What it should be doing is providing a vehicle by which to accelerate those processes by allowing sales reps to make the initial connection on a more personal level, and then allowing the aforementioned investments and resources kicking in to follow through the conversation.

Where social media is most applicable in business right now is in sales and marketing, both departments who need to be getting the brand out into the market. Marketing should be responsible for the corporate blog and connecting with customers and has the responsibility of monitoring the brand perception and finding out the trends in the industry, information that can easily come through social media. Sales is whereby the vehicle by which to follow-up and close deals.

And there are proven metrics that are emerging to allow companies to track the effectiveness of their Twitter and other social media-driven initiatives. Creating those metrics and algorithms can be a daunting task, but are important endeavors because they allow B2C CRM to effectively merge into traditional CRM processes. Examples can include opportunities originated via a social media source or number and frequency of brand or product names that pop up in keyword searches across social media sites such as Twitter.

Moving forward

Moving forward, Twitter and social media in general, will spell the beginning of social interactions and commerce, where the lines between sales, marketing and support start to truly merge. Sales and support will begin to blend as community-driven content drives both of these practices together. In terms of service, this will result in the monitoring of communities and feedback in near real-time to drive future product development and subsequent sales initiatives, with social networking data playing an increased role in lead scoring and qualification.

Finally, marketing and branding will see more viral-induced initiatives, with user-generated content and word-of-mouth marketing beginning to do the heavy-lifting. In short, marketing becomes bi-directional, as opposed to the one-way model that’s dominated until recently.

Ultimately, understanding these concepts are important, because understanding what role Twitter and other social media tools play in the customer lifecycle will allow companies to put the right metrics in place to more effectively measure their social media selling success.

Martin Schneider is director of product marketing at SugarCRM.


Replies (1)

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By shaungisbourne
27th Sep 2009 14:35

There will be an increased blurring of the lines between what is sales, support and other supposed functions as increasingly, people fit less and less into boxes.

The traditional CRM notion dictates that first you must define an account (first box, usually company name) before you can even begin to populate said account with contacts. It seems we're thinking less in terms of accounts and more in terms of people and the actions (by action-type as defined by us) that support our successful conduct with those people.

Structure and order are important, however in the same way that some people use a sales script and sound unnatural, the same problems plague many CRM programs: They often force us to work in a style / language that neither we nor our prospects are necessarily fluent in. It has to be customisable to our own personal structure and order as needed. Using several CRM offerings in the past 10 years, the best thus far for me has been Highrise. Today for the first time, I've been introduced to Landslide.

CRM would be great if we could pick functionality off a shelf, just as in a supermarket, ans be charged a small nominal monthly fee for its use. More confident providers may even offer money-back guarantees if your 30 trial experience of a particular functionality was poor.

Anyhow, mine is but one voice in a sea of noise on the subject. What happened to the law of stepping forward on this post? :-)


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