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Two things to monitor in social media: CRM perspective

How CRM can absorb messages from social media
A quick follow up on my last post; not least because I want to bring the focus back on CRM and also touch upon what is the current rage; what is sometimes very loosely defined as linking social media with CRM.

At a very philosophical level; I do not see a contradiction between the two ways of connecting with customers. CRM helps in profiling your customer base so that you can tune your message and value propositions as close to the actual needs of the customer as possible. It recognizes, through its alter-ego, Closed Loop Marketing (CLM) that:
1. Customers at different stages in the buying process/ awareness of your products and solutions have different information needs.
2. An “installed base” customer needs and wants to be treated differently than someone with no “history”.
3. A successful sale (or a botched one!) is not an end but the beginning of another sales cycle.

The social media landscape conjures up visions of many customers, individually or as part of a group, talking and sharing experiences with direct and indirect bearing on your product, market or technology. It is as possible to have a one on one conversation or participate in a large group. Here is a very interesting post that shares some of the exciting possibilities in that space. I have talked about some of the challenges before,  here and here (CRM 2.0: Limited to campaigns?).

When you say integration, which way is important for you?
Simple question: do you see value in capturing the conversations to enrich the customer profiles in the CRM system or would you rather use social media to engage the contacts in the CRM system who need more long-term hand-holding, information sharing and so on?
If your answer is the latter, it is relatively easily done.
If your answer is the former, I have further questions:
Are you capturing incidents (meaning someone mentioning you or your product in a blog or a tweet) or are you interested in knowing what they said and using that information to influence your customer profiling?
Both are useful; the latter more so.
Making changes to the CRM application:
– creating fields to capture incidents: easy; automating the capture: not easy, but not impossible.
– creating fields to capture actual snippets of the conversation: easy; automating the capture: not at all easy, but not impossible either.
What to make of the information thus captured? Well, the “customer profile” is a lot richer now and you now get to see, what your key contact is concerned about in addition to the limited interactions with your company or product. You can mine this data within your CRM application and turn up leads, potential issues or just rich engagement opportunities.


CRM 2.0: Why the challenge is actually in adoption

Truth be told, CRM softwares have different uses for different people.

Marketing folks want to run their campaigns, generate leads and create reports which profile segments and activities. Sales managers like the management features especially being able to pull out reports on the state of the “funnel”. Most sales managers I have known, do not go much beyond this; they certainly do not use it as an acitivity monitoring tool. Some “advanced” sales managers do sometimes pull out reports on the health of the database or even the account-wise or segmentwise analysis on technology or product adoption. But, those are truly advanced managers!

It is not technology, it is not feature set. It is not even “ease-of-use”, except partially. CRM implementations run aground mostly owing to a fundamental issue with ownership. Ownership of the customer and ownership of the tasks.

In most B2B companies, sales “owns” the customer. But, sales does not want any part of the grunt work related to ownership. Like inputting, updating all of the profile data related to their customers. Sales does not really care for the use marketing puts these profile data to. Sales does not see why they should log interaction histories with their contacts. Sales does not get paid for transactions done; they get paid by “results”; read won deals. Sales also has no appetite for reporting opportunities lost; but, that’s another discussion!

Marketing, on the other hand, selects a software that is heavy on campaign management and analytics. Now, campaign management extracts a price in terms of profile data needed for targeting. Who inputs this data?
After many years of CRM 1.0, I would say the acceptance level within a typical B2B organization varies. It is fair to say that the closer you are to the customer, the least enthusiastic you will be. Higher management is the most committed; marketing is enthusiastic and sales is anything but.

Now, as we move into designing  CRM 2.0 systems, we need to worry as we will  deal with data which is many orders of magnitude greater and much less structured to boot.

Implications for SMEs
SMEs are placed in a tough situation. They, more than big businesses benefit from aggressive use of social media. But, I doubt, in today’s state of the art of the CRM softwares, they can afford integrated CRM 2.0 software implementations. One, such softwares are likely to be expensive and two, the demand they place on the size of the organizations implementing them, will be large too. Monitoring so many social media outlets, deciding appropriate responses, integrating tracking and monitoring of results are all manpower intensive. This manpower needs to be empowered and high quality manpower as well.
I would not advise using social media as a unilateral and unidirectional broadcast medium. As an example, you might set up a Twitter account and send out half-hourly twits on your products, service or other company news. But, if you did not monitor the response or handle feedback, the negative fallout can be very bad.

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