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Chris Bucholtz Keys To Developing a Winning Social CRM Strategy

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 By Chris Bucholtz

Social CRM Isn't a Product To Be Purchased; It Must Be Creatively Visioned

I attended the Social CRM for Business Seminar (which has become known as the Social CRM Summit) in Washington D.C. The weather was a bit extreme and thanks to the record level snowfall, many of us were kept longer than we expected to be there – which turned out to be a good thing. The one thing the 67 attendees at this event are great at is the creative thinking that goes with social media, but the one thing they don't get enough of is face time – that elusive, basic-level relationship building resource that so few of us have enough of.

While there, I held one on one talks with five very influential members of that community – CRM Essentials' Brent Leary, Forrester Research's Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, SugarCRM's Mitch Lieberman, Latin American CRM giant Jesus Hoyos and the man himself, Paul Greenberg. Those conversations, and the entire event, drove home one point: if you have a hard time putting your finger on what Social CRM means for your business, you belong to a very large club.

Unlike the all too common thinking that goes with Customer Relationship Management, you can't go to a vendor and simply buy Social CRM; instead it pushes organizations to think about themselves and to think about their customers with a degree of stringency and thoughtfulness that has never before been required. It then requires a solid CRM foundation and the creation of strategies (and, only after all this is complete, the application of technologies) built around how customers seek to do business with you.

This is challenging for many IT and business executives. It requires honesty about yourself, transparency for your customers, and creative imagination about how the two of you will do business. But it seems to push CRM practitioners in the directions they should have been moving in all along. Building customer facing business processes around flawed business assumptions will kill your business. An aloofness to your customers will drive them toward more open competitors. And a lack of imagination creates a stagnancy that will suffocate customer relationships. Social CRM's rise waves a big warning flag: get these underlying things right and then start to engage customers in new ways, or go backwards as your competitors race forward.

The use of imagination is an essential mandate of Social CRM. It's one of those things that you wish more companies would exercise more often. Clearly, it takes imagination to visualize how emerging channels of customer communication can be harnessed in cost-effective and revenue-generating ways that mate well to your customers and your company's growth strategy. However, in far too many companies, imaginative ideas are seen as mere expenses, and as things that can be put off to a future date (a date that in most cases will coincide with financially-motivated panic or the replacement of the existing executives standing in the way of such ideas). But it requires no imagination to see that the age of the social customer is here. Feel free to plod along managing your customers in the same way you always have - but do so at your own peril - as customer relationship management gives way to customer driven vendor relationship management. End

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Guest Winston Gray
  Your point of not being able to buy a social CRM product is what we discovered. However, we also asked ourselves the types of questions you suggest. Our efforts in pursuing a dual CRM/social CRM strategy has endured a four-fold evolution. First, we needed a CRM system to help capture relevant customer information at every customer interaction - including social interactions. Second, we needed to implement processes which use that customer information to provide more personalized customer experiences. This meant having access to each customers marketing campaign responses, current proposals, product purchase history, product configuration, service history and survey information - basically the central 360 degree customer view. Third, we wanted real-time shared visibility of prospect and sales information so sales managers could provide timely sales coaching. Lastly, we needed to use reporting and analytics to get better information to decision makers more quickly, and to deliver customer behavior insight based on the customer data. For example, we discovered that customers who purchase our high flow metric-based valve pumps are much more likely to also purchase our high margin, carbon seal gaskets. This is one of those many correlations that are not evident without mining and analytics. Now that we know we have a cross-sell campaign which takes advantage of this insight.


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Social CRM's rise waves a big warning flag: get your underlying customer facing business processes right and then start to engage customers in new ways, or go backwards as your competitors race forward.


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