From CRM Software to Social Media To Social CRM
Integration of CRM Software with Social CRM Delivers Synergistic Results
Ask 100 business executives how they integrate and compliment their traditional Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and methods with social media marketing, now generally referred to as 'Social CRM' (SCRM) and you'll likely get 100 different replies. I know, because I've asked many.
For example, when Carl Mazzanti, vice president of network strategies for eMazzanti Technologies in Hoboken, N.J., was asked, he responded that he communicates his products and solutions to customers through calls, IT seminars and other traditional marketing methods, but that a key way to get his name out and bring in more business is through social media communications he posts on Facebook and Twitter. "It's a customer touch," he commented. "From the marketing perspective, the more you can touch a customer, the more mindshare." That makes business sense, but it's not for everyone.
When the question was posed to Amy Abrams, the GM of Database Solutions Inc., a system integrator in King of Prussia, PA., Adams responded she has nothing to do with social media marketing because in her eyes, it may do more harm than good. Abrams indicated she tried using LinkedIn, a social networking site designed for business professionals, but didn't think it was worth her scarce time. Instead, she said, what she noticed was that by adding her customers to her "linked" contact list she was essentially giving the names and contact information of her customers to her competitors. True, but only if she also added her competitors to her contact list. Abrams stopped using LinkedIn and also doesn't use Facebook, Twitter or any other social network.
In a blog post on CustomerThink.com, by Dick Lee, an expert on customer-centric business approaches, titled "Are We Gulping Social Media Kool-Aid? he questioned whether too many business people and quick response companies are buying into social media without adequate analysis, or a plan.
"Business people are ignoring business fundamentals while guzzling the social media 'Kool-aid,'" blogged Lee, a principal of St. Paul, Minn.-based CRM consultancy High-Yield Methods. "And worse, the fundamentals are rapidly changing, but rather than worrying about how marketing, sales, service and many customer-affecting back-office functions are going to adapt, it's like, 'Take two long social media sips and you won't feel a thing.' For a while perhaps, but sooner or later, the buzz wears off and a reality hangover begins."
It's a well stated point. However, at the other extreme, business executives that fail to leverage the social networks and channels that their customer use, are missing an opportunity to engage with those customers. An opportunity that may not be lost by competitors more adept and forward thinking that social media stalwarts.
Lee and Abrams are correct, not all of your customers are using or will use social networks such as LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter. But who said that you have to communicate with all your customers using all these tools? You're only going to be able to communicate with some customers this way, like you already only communicate with some customers through e-mail campaigns, search engine marketing programs, direct mail campaigns, or the Yellow Pages. You can't reach every customer in the same way.
I can understand Abrams' fears of the unknown, such as competitors stealing her customer list, however there are tools on LinkedIn that will permit the concealment of this information from prying eyes. She can choose not to link to competitors, or even if she does link, she can choose not to let contacts see other contacts. She's forgoing a useful, business-building communication tool based on unfounded fear - and she's not alone. Many business people prematurely opt out of social networks before understanding their business potential or their available safeguards.
Dick Lee explains in his blog post that business executives should not "justify abandoning rationality for dreamy visions of social media leaping over tall buildings, taking us to Mars, and yes, helping companies catapult over competitors to the wonderment of business fans everywhere." Instead, he recommends that businesses use their time and resources to serve customers better by:
- Improving customer-facing business processes;
- Conducting in-depth customer satisfaction research;
- Removing internal organizational obstacles that hinder customer satisfaction; and
- Improving communications so customers never see your growing pains.
"If the business people claiming responsibility for things related to the customer would spend their time addressing the issues customers want addressed, they wouldn't waste so much time doodling with social media," Lee wrote. Hmmm, doodling with social media? Is that an advocation?
You think IBM is "doodling with social media?" Is Google "doodling"? Ford Motor Company and all the rest? Doodling? No, these forward thinking companies are reaching out to their existing and new customers in whatever ways their customers want to connect with them. That's not doodling. That's customer engagement and its smart business.
That's also what Mazzanti is doing. He's growing his business by meeting his customers with his messages wherever the customers want to hear them. That's customer-centric business practice in action.
Social media is just one more method that you can use to communicate with your customers. It doesn't need to be your business life's work. You don't invest every business minute into it. No need to go overboard or drown in the Kool-aid.
Using social media to aid in your customer communications doesn't mean dropping your existing customer communication methods and replacing them with social CRM tools. Yes, this does mean that you may now have more to do, but such is the norm for successful and growing businesses.
Its a no-brainer that if you choose not to use every tool available in your social CRM and customer-facing arsenals, the competitors that do use those same tools to engage and serve those customers will leave you behind.
So take some calculated risks. Start small, measure success and grow. Invest a little time and energy in social CRM and social networks and see what works for you. Get outside your comfort zone. You may have done something similar when you brought in CRM software to help manage and improve your customer relationships.
Every customer is different and we maximize the opportunity to engage them when we meet each of them in their chosen social channels. And that's where you and your business want to be, wherever your customers are. It's not about you and what you think about social media marketing. It's about your customers and if and how you choose to engage them on their terms.