Our core business is focused on finding content germane to the qualified technology buyers whose job is acquiring tech solutions for their business. Then we work to get them the most helpful material we can find on the tech or software to be acquired. We find technology buyers everything from phone systems to enterprise ERP solutions, to aeronautical engineering software and now social networking tools. These days, we get lots of questions about how we use the social networking tools available and how would we use those tools to help aggregate their customers. For starters, it’s not easy, and it will require more than just software to realize any benefit. Especially, if you are hoping to find a one-sized solution for a unique business. Like most paradigm shifts, you will need that ‘special sauce’ – that unique management recipe for early adoption and change. Management needs to get invested, in what they plan to do, to tap into their bottom-up content in a way that will complement their brand. That may be the biggest challenge of all, especially, if management actually wants to make it work.
In last week’s #scrm post by another guest expert, Mark Tamis, living out my dream in Paris, he lays out the options to consider as a great blueprint to understand where to begin. Mark walks you through the absolute necessities to assess the dynamics of using the networks drawn from the social web communities, and, rightfully, concludes with, “Social CRM, a customer-centric strategy, is ultimately the ‘raison d’être’ for the whole Enterprise 2.0 movement.” He may just be defining the future of enterprise and the user. We are hoping Mark and his #scrm cohort will make this a favorite venue on their tour of the future of sales and marketing. And from India, Prem Kumar Aparanji, another member of “The accidental community around twitter hashtag #scrm has been pretty busy these days.” Prem takes you down the list of characters, and through this recent narrative on how to make sense from all of this. The most interesting thing to us is that everyone agrees on one thing, and that is we are at the beginning but things are moving fast. Rapid morphology shifts in these once simple applications occur routinely. Procrastination is not a good idea, but you will want to do some research to determine how your pipeline is using the social environment before you plan out your strategy.
If Latin America is your interest, check out Jesús Hoyos. The global coverage of #scrm, from its seed to where it is today has been remarkable and will provide a competitive edge if you can execute. Be mindful that the overwhelming consensus of this platform is communications with your customers, giving them a channel to your business. To make this point even more emphatic, check out Tamar Weinberg’s take on the recent move by Apple to dip their pinkie toe in the whirling waters of social networking.
Everyone, of course, we talk to has had CRM applications, in lots of forms for years, though many today are in flux and controversy is brewing over issues like security, cost, whether or not it belongs in the cloud, and who will manage the data. The data challenges, which Drazen Drazic covers in his post on Data Classification policy, make this a good place to start before you try to manage expectations. However, when you learn the amount of data of value to you for your customer base communications and your marketing communications, you will want to get in front of the policy before you start. Is the “social” addition really necessary and why the big deal?
There are the new breed of customer nurturing applications coming on the scene like Lithium, Jive, Drupal etc. which do a lot of the searching and aggregating of information across the social sphere of applications. There is a lot of confusion around what to do, and expect, and it is neither getting easier, nor will it go away. We hope to gather as much usable information on how the different applications satisfy your demands and provide your marketers with the easiest transition to using site search and aggregation tools.
Where do you even start with Social CRM for your business? Your-own-blog.com, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Friendfeed, Flickr, Plaxo and all the rest? Just what will you do with all the raging Social Networking tools and widgets at your disposal and how will you choose the right strategy for your business? For that matter, who will head up the initiative and do the work on a regular basis? Sales? Not on your life. Marketing? I don’t think so. IT? Yeah right. You could always ask your PR agency about it, I’m sure they will be happy to look into it and assign an intern to post something just to make you feel good about it; but a strategic plan, I’m afraid no. This is about closing deals, not branding or intangible marketing.
We hope to introduce our you all in our community to the some of that #scrm team, like CTO John Moore’s busy blog where we get asked, “who owns #scrm,” which is the term du jour now for this topic, and the key to the process.
He asks, who should own it, and gets an interesting variety of answers from different points-of-view. Hopefully we’ll be able to gain his views on how to work out our own initiatives early. I’m not convinced #scrm is going to follow a stereotypical deployment across many industries, but there is a whole lot of human nature, ego and shortage of data for the jury to ponder.
While on the other hand, Esteban Kolsky admits, “Culture changes and Change Management are essential for this to work — I just assume everyone knows that.” Esteban has a wry sense of humor and has covered this subject broadly. Our experience show us that there is no rabid race to take ownership or change management afoot in Fortune 1000 companies. Sure, there are lots of little cadres of evengelists, some are hit men and some are genuinely looking to squeeze any marketing value they can out of this. But I’ve yet to hear anyone say they are starting at the board room and re-structuring management so everyone will embrace collaboration from now on. Right.
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Couple all of this to the search components of the different social networking platforms and learn from folks like Martin Schneider, Director, Product Marketing at SugarCRM, that you will be able to use their open source application for checking your prospects against LinkedIn and Twitter and even checking with Hoover’s contact file to get salient data appended right to your profile of each prospect. I’d love to get some costs on this as Hoover’s data or D&B’s data is expensive. Now I will be able to click on a contact and see how his day’s going and probably learn more than I ever wanted to know. This gives a marketer an extremely competitive edge. LinkedIn for the B2B marketer has proven to be a unique application for building solid business relationships and add twitter activity to that and you can gather yourself a lot of information quickly.
At this time I had still not heard back from Mr. Beniof’s folks about where Salesforce is regarding the search functions and aggregation capabilities of their offerings. I was again referred to their appexchange which they seem to feel is going to be able to compete in the market, even though the costs, as far as I’ve seen, are ten times the costs of open source or open cloud apps. Two years ago, here is how developer Adam Ostrow from #Faceconnect which used to be called Faceforce explains it: “With Facebook usage increasing amongst professionals, the application could prove popular. It’s also another thorn in the side of LinkedIn, as there is now yet another feature that makes Facebook more attractive to professionals.” The oddest thing of all is that when I searched Facebook for Faceconnect, there was almost nothing there. No fans, no experience, nada.
The most recent quote on the SF.com integration claims their most recent upgrade, “Service Cloud 2 offers what Salesforce.com claims to be the first Knowledge as a Service offering, a hosted database of crowd sourced hints, tips and best practice information.” and a Beniof quote, “The upgrade is evidence that the traditional call centre approach to customer service is being replaced by Web 2.0 technologies” Yet it’s like Oakland: there’s no there there. What about integration and search and matching up and what about costs? We would love to get some customer usage studies if anyone has any on business networking and Facebook. Shouldn’t Faceconnect have a presence and some users on Facebook?
For B2B technology business, I can’t imagine using Facebook profiles for much longer. Facebook is for the grandkids, if they can stand you. Why SF.com is sticking thorns in LinkedIn is implausible, unless they can’t develop for it for some reason? Plus, I want to be able to aggregate large numbers of individual activity to my system and I don’t see that anywhere on their agenda. I’d love to hear from Mark Beniof or anyone from Salesforce and other manufacturers of CRM type products to explain the costs and extras for these
Perhaps a question to ask is, regardless of who owns #scrm, who will convince sales that they need to own this too, or they may find themselves obsolete. I suspect many who have been out in the world closing deals the last forty or fifty years, don’t think they can learn something new from a Tweet or a Friendfeed list or group collaboration. I suspect a lot of young folks probably don’t think this will last, or that it’s not important and won’t bother embracing it. Our plan is to document the trial and error period, and when the handful of pioneers learn how to harness the amazing intelligence of the Internet diaspora across the social scene, we will all see probably the most dramatic paradigm shift of all time in commerce. We will see bottom up content being assessed for its value to facilitate business and it may give top down content a run for the money.
We will be installing the newest application of the SugarCRM platform and reporting to you on our experiences. We invite developers, consultants and manufacturers to show us your application and how it will collaborate with the social scene. We expect we are just getting started so let us know what you have.