March Madness: Timeless Business Lessons from the Greatest Coach of All Time

The Final Four tips off tomorrow to determine who will play in the NCAA Men’s National Championship Game.

Every March, 65 basketball teams are given an admission ticket for a chance to play their way into a dream – competing for a National Championship. It’s my favorite time of year. It’s a time where most dreams are never realized, and some dreams are shattered when attainment is just inches from their grasp.

Not unlike the social landscape, the NCAA Tournament (aka March Madness) is a great equalizer. It’s a place where the small guys get to face the giants and see how good they really are. It’s a place where undiscovered stars emerge under a giant spotlight to take center stage and sometimes, just sometimes, this is where magic happens. Schools like Texas Western defeat legends like Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky. Little schools like Northern Iowa conquer untouchable top ranked giants like the University of Kansas.

Fans and observers across the USA simply love the excitement and adrenaline rush of buzzer beaters, agonizing near misses, and the thrill of the “win or go home” environment. Well, at least most fans do…

This March was a little different for me. Number one, I regrettably didn’t get to watch many games. (On a positive note though, as referenced above, I did fare better in my pool than Brent.) Secondly, I suddenly found myself witnessing a different kind of “March Madness” unfold. Use of the word “Social CRM” has absolutely exploded. A relatively small conversation between a few of us a year ago is currently experiencing “hockey stick” interest and discussion.

Social CRM Search Volume

Now this growth and interest is a good thing. I firmly believe that Social CRM has the potential to reshape modern day commerce. If you’re just getting up to speed, check out a great compilation of valuable discussions curated by Prem Kumar.

But, boy have I seen the term misused, misinterpreted, and all of a sudden there is a rush of new definitions, new models, and anything related to social media is now being called Social CRM. Some are arguing that the term shouldn’t even be used, and trying to rename it to align it with their own agenda. Many posts and discussions have become misleading, misguided, and in many cases, myopically focused on the latest social tools with absolutely no real context, strategy, purpose, or value behind them.

STOP THE MADNESS!

Over the course of NCAA basketball history, there is one coach who stands far above the rest.

His all time coaching record was 885-203.
In more than 40 years as a player and a coach, he NEVER WAS ON A LOSING TEAM.
He won 10 National Championships.
He won an unbelievable 38 STRAIGHT NCAA tournament games, leading to 7 STRAIGHT NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS.

His name is John Wooden.

While he applied his principles to coaching young men to play a game, he could have applied them anywhere and had a similar track record. He was (and still is) simply a remarkable leader.

For a stretch of 12 years in a row, Coach Wooden navigated the UCLA Bruins successfully through March Madness, defeating countless adversaries on their way to appearing in a championship game. During the course of his tenor, opposing coaches and players devised new schemes, new defenses, innovative offensive plays, fancy tricks, and spiced the game up with a little “razzle dazzle” for the entertainment the crowd. Wooden never lost his focus.

Ironically, he never focused on winning. He identified 12 key principles, and he pushed his players to give everything they had to try be the best they could be. He believed the results would take care of themselves.

To Wooden, winning was the result of focusing on just three things: Fundamentals, Conditioning, and Teamwork. He was and is, at the vivacious age of 99, a man of profound simplicity. To tie the 3 things to the business world, conditioning equates to simply striving to increase your competence everyday. An oft used term right now for Teamwork is “Collaboration”.

In this fast changing landscape of new toys, schemes, tools, and ideas, we can probably heed some things from Coach Wooden. I urge business leaders and those who are advising them to capitalize and leverage new opportunities brought about by emerging technologies and strategies to not lose sight of the core business fundamentals critical to their success.

For each organization, these core fundamentals will likely be slightly different. But there are many that can and should apply across the board.

What are the core business fundamentals YOU believe organizations should be focusing on today?

Please share them in the comments section. I’ve taken the initial stab with a short list below. I look forward to your additions.

  • Align your entire value delivery chain around customer needs
  • Constantly measure and improve your customer experience
  • Draw talent, customers, and partners to your organization by constantly doing something that others can’t, or won’t
  • Build loyalty (with customers, partners, suppliers, and employees) by exceeding expectations and offering an unbelievable value proposition
  • Execute: Do what you say you are going to do

And, before we go, in this rapidly emerging world where “reputation management” is becoming more and more relevant, here are some valuable parting words from Coach Wooden:

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.” – John Wooden

Thanks Coach for getting us back on track.

Three New Required Roles for your company (#1): CIA Operative

You might be thinking you landed on the wrong blog or be asking yourself “What does this have to do with CRM? Now this Brian guy is telling me that I need to hire a CIA Operative? I’m moving on. I’ve got real business to tend to. “

Wait! Yes, you do…have real business to tend to, and this will help. And Yes, you do…need to incorporate not one, but three new roles into your business as soon as possible that you probably haven’t thought of before now. The first one is the CIA Operative role.

Ok. This might be a slight stretch. But hear me out on this.

If I could reduce CRM down into three words (other than customer relationship management), it would be to “Know your customer”, or “Serve your customer”. (Feel free to add your own 3 letter descriptions of CRM in the comments section at the end of this post).

For as long as your company has been in existence, individuals have been talking about your products and services. They’ve been talking at the grocery store, at church, at the water cooler. Word of mouth spread, but you have been unaware of 99% of the conversations that were out there. The CIA has not been so unaware. Now they’re likely not so interested in conversations about your latest volumizing shampoo, meat products, blade servers, or whatever your company happens to produce, but they’ve been listening to other kinds of conversations for quite some time.

Imagine if you could listen to all of those conversations about your products and services. If you are a company of any size, there are conversations happening right now about you. Some of them are happening right here on the internet. Those conversations are being enabled by the social web.

Wouldn’t you like to know what your customers saying about you, your company, your products, your services, your marketing campaigns, your receptionist, your customer service…?

The CIA knows a lot about what people are saying about the USA. In fact, they probably now know about this post. Hi guys – thanks for stopping by! :)

What if your organization had its own CIA operative? What if someone is blogging, or tweeting, or making a song or video that mentions your company or brand right now? How would you know?

Check these free tools out to see what people are saying, and then come back for the rest of the post:

Now there are a number of enterprise level tools that exist out there as well. Some primary examples include companies like Radian 6, Scout Labs, and Visible Technologies, which, oh by the way, received an investment from an organization called In-Q-Tel, which, oh by the way is funded by the CIA.

How’s that for tying the loop?

Forward thinking companies are listening, but that’s just the first step. Want a case study? Here’s an interesting one about Avaya, who turned listening not only into more data about what people are say about their brand, but actually closed a $250,000 sale because of their CIA Operative tacticts.

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 3)

This is the third and final of a three part post.

We’ve been talking about the AIPEE Pyramid over the past couple of weeks. I haven’t embedded the full image of the AIPEE Pyramid on this post, but if you’d like to take another look, you can click here to have it open in a new window, or review Post 1 and Post 2 in their entirety by clicking on the links.

In Post 1 we introduced you to the AIPEE Pyramid, and pointed your gaze toward the enchanting Blue Circled R – the icon representative of desired destination our prospect’s journey: the R Value Exchange.

The Mysterious and enchanting Blue Circled R

In Post 2, we took a detailed look at the 5 stages of the journey up the pyramid:

AIPEE Pyramid Simple

In today’s third and final post, we are going to focus on the following:

  • The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid
  • The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

(1) The customer’s response to their journey up the pyramid

Humans have always been social. We’ve always told our friends, family, acquaintances and business associates about our day, our experiences, our hopes and dreams, who we like and don’t like, etc. Mitch Lieberman expands on this thought in a very worthwhile post titled Social Just Is…

Word of mouth has been around since, well, before words were written. Once upon a time, all communication was word of mouth.

What has changed is how many people we can tell things to in such a short amount of time. Social Technologies are an amplifier. The spreading of ideas, good and bad, and the repercussions of the spread of that information are now exponential.

Good experiences get amplified – an exponential boost to your brand.

Bad experiences, well, can spread like wildfire, and can do significant damage to your brand and reputation in a short amount of time. Here are some of the top negative PR events of 2009.

But really, this isn’t new either. Bad PR stories have been picked up and spread via the press for decades.

What is new is that EVERYBODY is the media. There is no longer a filter. ABC, CBS, and NBC no longer have the control over what is worth hearing about. Our peers do. You do. I do. Ashton Kutcher certainly he believes that he does.

Information and Stories that are worth spreading will be spread.

You: “Great Brian. But, what does all of this have to do with the pyramid?”
Me: “Good point. Let’s try and tie these pieces back together.”

Up to this point in the series, we’ve talked about how each prospect, one by one, makes their journey up the pyramid. There is a specialized craft in designing our sales and marketing efforts so that we can add the most value possible at each stage in the initial journey with our prospect.

But what if there was such value in what we shared that our prospects began to amplify and spread our content across their networks, at each and every stage of their journey with us?

Seth Godin expands upon this point in his blog post titled The Big Drop Off:

We try so hard to build the first circle.

This is the circle of followers, friends, subscribers, customers, media outlets and others willing to hear our pitch. This is the group we tell about our new product, our new record, our upcoming big sale. We want more of their attention and more people on the list.

Which takes our attention away from the circle that matters, which is the second circle.

The second circle are the people who hear about us from the first circle.

If the first circle is excited about what we do and it’s remarkable enough to talk about, they’ll tell two or six or ten friends each. And if we’re really good, the second circle, the people we don’t even know–they’ll tell the third circle. And it’s the third circle that makes you a hit, gets you elected and tips your idea.

The big drop off is the natural state of affairs. The big drop off is the huge decline that occurs between our enthusiasm (HEY! BUY THIS!) and the tepid actions of the first circle (yawn). Great marketers don’t spend their time making the first circle bigger. They spend all their time crafting services, products and stories that don’t drop off.

GOAL #1: Create and provide maximum value in your content and interactions
GOAL #2: Keep the amplifier in mind. Try and create so much value that people are compelled, almost mandated to share it with their network of friends and associates. Think of it this way: What could you provide to you prospects that would enable them to add value to their network by sharing it?

Hey, I know that most of you are smart savvy innovators – sales, marketing and demand generation geniuses. So let’s fast forward a bit, and assume we’ve done that. We’ve knocked it out of the park. What happens after we get to the R Exchange, and exchange value with our prospect for the first time?

(2) The Value Exchange Retention Cycles

Hopefully the relationship we’ve worked so hard to nurture doesn’t stop there. I’ve highlighted 3 areas where and how further exchange might take place. Let’s briefly touch on each of them.

A. Repeat Transactions

Depending on our business and our previous exchange, we may regularly exchange value in a similar fashion. We may keep getting referrals. We may keep selling the same consumable over and over. The monthly subscription might just keep auto-renewing. It might just take a series of brief, regular “touches” to keep the Value Exchange wheel turning . But remember, in order to keep our customers with us, we need to continue to add value. It’s a post for another day, but access to competitive alternatives has never been broader or easier.

B. Upsell Opportunities (Deeper Commitment)

We’ve had an initial exchange. But, there’s more there. We know it. They know it. There is more dialogue to be had. There are more problems to be solved. You’ll see that the retention circle extends back down into the engagement stage. Deeper dialogue covering Value Discovery, Co-Creation, Deepening of trust are now back in play, and layers of the onion are peeled back as new needs are discovered and new solutions are presented.

C. CrossSell Opportunities (Different Product and Service Offerings)

You’ll notice that this retention circle ventures all the way back down to the permission stage. Perhaps we’ve solved a set of problems for our customer. We’ve added value in a specific area. But perhaps, there are new opportunities for value exchange in areas we haven’t even touched on yet. Areas of our customer’s business that may have different rules, needs, players, politics, budgets, goals, etc. While we’ve exchanged value for one business purpose, we may need to display competency in another area in order to earn permission to engage in dialogue for that need as well.

And that, my friends, brings us to our close.

We’ve taken a look at how to get our prospect’s attention, and facilitate a journey towards a mutual value exchange. We’ve looked at how social technologies amplify everything good and bad, and we’ve taken a brief look at how our relationship with our customers (partners, influencers, etc.) can be retained and nurtured for continuous value exchange.

Now it’s your turn. I’m anxious to hear your feedback:

1. Am I on the mark? How can we adjust this image to more accurately represent how businesses today and in the future can leverage social technologies for exponential revenue growth?

2. What did I forget?

3. Where am I flat wrong?

4. How does this compare with your personal Customer Acquisition efforts today, and your plans for the future?

5. Does the image accurately reflect the concepts and ideas presented in the text?

6. And most of all, I am interested in hearing your unique, unfiltered personal insights, questions, and observations.

Thanks again for your feedback.

- Brian @CRMStrategies

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part 2)

This is the second of a three part post.

In post 1, I introduced the AIPEE pyramid, talked briefly about what it was and what it wasn’t, and pointed our attention to R Value Exchange (the circled blue R under Interaction Medium) – which represents our target destination when participating socially for the purposes of Customer Acquisition. If you missed that post – you may want to briefly revisit it here

In this post, let’s take a closer look at each stage and the progressive journey up the pyramid, starting at the bottom, where most new individuals will start their journey with us. (Click on the image to look at a larger view)

ATTENTION

For marketers, here is where we are casting our net far and wide. The key difference versus what we’ve traditionally done is that companies can no longer rely on “shouting” a message. Ads are less effective than they’ve ever been and trust in companies is about as low as it has ever been. The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The most successful viral campaign in recent history is one from Blendtec. Google this to see what they did. There are dozens of other examples as well.

The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key influencers within your demographic.

Side Note: While I haven’t created a visual yet, also visualize the LIPEE pyramid (where Listening is substituted for Attention). Instead of the company creating compelling content to attract attention, it “listens” to and monitors the socialsphere for mentions of their brand, their core competency, or other key words which might be a signal to engage in “interaction” through Social Channels.

INTERACTION
You’ve now garnered some attention, and have established a little bit of relational capital. Now is the time where some 1:1 interaction might take place. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, some “Unconnected” community participation, etc.

Dialogue at this stage will vary – but the offline equivalent might be saying “Hi – how are you doing?” to someone while waiting for a drink at the bar on in the line at the bathroom at a networking event. There is a shared common interest, and we’ve just been presented with an opportunity for some dialogue in passing. Unless there is something compelling or interesting during that exchange, the conversation will likely be forgotten within 15 minutes by both parties. If there is something of value during the exchange, the natural response is something like “Hey, let’s talk more about that next week”, and contact information is exchanged. We’ve just gained permission to continue the conversation.

PERMISSION
Simply put, the dialogue during our brief interaction was compelling enough. We have offered something of interest and value that the individual have implicitly or explicitly asked to know more about us. Instead of handing them a business card in the offline world, with a few mouse clicks and a URL, we can point them to exactly what they are looking for in the form of pre-existing content. In exchange, they’ve give you permission to follow up to talk more.

Some examples of ways that this can manifest itself are:

  • Subscribing to our blog
  • Inviting us to connect on a Social Network
  • Giving us their contact information in exchange for a white paper, webinar, newsletter, free product sample or trial

We’ve been able to offer something of value and they’ve given us permission to engage with them in more conversation.

*** VALUE ***
This isn’t a stage by itself, but it is the most critical factor to all of them, respectively. If there is something that isn’t graphically represented enough in the diagram, it is the Value that is provided on behalf of our company. You will notice that as the prospect moves up the pyramid, the company must be providing more value in order to enable them to do so. If there is a strong undercurrent that is unseen by the casual observer… the invisible hand of the AIPEE Pyramid, it is the absolute necessity to PROVIDE VALUE at each and every stage of the process. Without it, the climb up the pyramid is simply too hard. It is the value provided by the company that compels the prospect to continue their journey.

ENGAGEMENT
This is where we get the chance to really “talk turkey”, and is likely representative of the transition from what is traditionally known as marketing into the realm of sales. At this same point, interaction that has previously been facilitated by social technologies and platforms now probably transitions to a more “traditional” or “more deeply engaging” channel. There might be a natural escalation in communication channels from social –> email –> phone –> web conference –> face to face. Typically, as we get closer to the most natural form of human communication (face to face), we are likely moving closer to a mutually beneficial value exchange with our prospect. (Conjecture on my part – anyone have any research to back this up?)

This stage could be (and likely will be), another post or two unto itself. But that is for another day. We all have work to get back to.

For the sake of brevity, here is the summary:

The two parties are fully engaged, figuratively “sitting on the same side of the table” and seriously exploring how they can help each other out. Trust has never been deeper up until this point in the relationship. The company’s main goal is to understand in detail what their prospect is trying to accomplish, and either offer an existing solution from their offerings portfolio, or co-create with them a product or solution that helps them accomplish their goals.

EXCHANGE
We’ve made it. It’s nice to be at the top.

We’ve consistently added value over a series of interactions. We’ve established trust. We’ve worked hard on behalf of our prospect to help them achieve their goals. We’ve now earned the right to ask for something. It might be a sale (Revenue). It might be a Referral. It might be a Recommendation. In some cases, it might be all three. We’ve successfully executed an R Value Exchange. But it doesn’t stop there… (It never does).

In the final post, we’ll dig a little more into the Value Exchange Retention Cycles, the potential response(s) of the customer at all stages in their journey up the pyramid, provide some examples of how and when the customer might “skip” stages and get to the top more quickly, and how and when you might consider automating some of your efforts.

The 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business (Part I)

This is the first of a Three Part Post.

“The purpose of a business is to create and keep customers.” – Theodore Levitt

So then, the next logical question is how do we create customers? And once we get them, how can we keep them? While keeping them engaged and developing them into advocates is vitally important and we’ll touch on that subject slightly in this post, the focus here is: How do we bring new sheep into the flock? This will likely appeal most to the Sales, Business Development, and Marketing types.

But isn’t this an old conversation? Has any of this really changed with the rapid rise of Social Technologies? I believe it has, and will illustrate the point below.

Don’t get me wrong. The fundamentals of business haven’t changed – but the tools and technology available to us, and how we can (and will be forced to) accomplish fundamental business goals like “New Customer Acquisition” have.

I’ve attempted to illustrate my thoughts in the image below – called the AIPEE Pyramid. Click on the link to view the diagram in a higher resolution. Special thanks to Mitch Lieberman and Graham Hill for reviewing my first draft and sharing their valuable feedback which have been incorporated into the current draft.

Before we get too far, here are some parameters to keep in mind as you study the Pyramid:

WHAT THIS ISN’T:

(1) A Comprehensive Social Business diagram – there is far more going on in the Social Enterprise than what is illustrated here. The focus is relatively narrow, specifically on Customer Acquisition. Quite simply, how do you have more conversations with more prospects, and provide enough value so that they participate with you in an R Value Exchange? (What happened to creating Customers you ask? More on that below.)

(2) A “One size fits all” solution: Most companies and business models can find value from this illustration. However, it was primarily built with a solution/consultative sale in mind. For Transactional Sales, the model might look slightly different. I am interested in your thoughts on this.

(3) A perfect image: You’ll notice that the image shows Beta Version 0.5. There will be changes and tweaks – hopefully because of your helpful feedback and critiques. Once the pyramid becomes more defined, the image quality will be better as well. :) Consider this a rough “back of the napkin” sketch.

WHAT THIS IS:

A baseline road map of how to successfully find, attract, and engage prospects leveraging Social Technologies so that you may provide something of use to them, and therefore participate in an exchange of value.

What’s our Target Destination?

Before we start breaking down each stage, let’s focus our eyes on the first box under the heading Interaction Medium towards the top right of the image – this is where we’d like to ultimately go.

You’ll notice a blue R with a circle around it. No, this isn’t a tribute to the boy wonder. This is my uber creative symbol for the R Value Exchange. This is our target destination. If possible, we’d like to have as many of our interactions with new folks ultimately end up here.

This doesn’t necessarily always mean that we get money in exchange for the value that we’ve provided. We may receive money (ie. Revenue). We might also receive something of less quantifiable or transferable value – a Referral to someone who might find more value in what we are offering than the prospect we are currently engaged with, or a Recommendation, something that we may use as social proof that we are indeed a provider of value in the marketplace. In the ideal scenario, we’ll receive all 3 – over and over and over.

With that in mind, let’s breakdown each stage, starting at the bottom, since this is where things (generally) start. While I’ll lay this out in a perfect linear approach, it’s important to remember that in real life;

a. There are multiple entry points on the pyramid.
b. Most will abandon their journey before they get to the Circled R for a myriad of reasons.
c. Many could move up and down the pyramid in a non-linear sequence before they reach the Circled R.

This is a baseline. A framework from which to build a basic strategy, and a template from which to facilitate dialogue. In my mind, I have at least a dozen iterations of the the pyramid – but in all of them, this is at the core.

So without further adieu, let’s examine the first stage of the pyramid:

ATTENTION
For marketers, here is where we are casting our net far and wide. The key difference versus what we’ve traditionally done is that companies can no longer rely on “shouting” a message. Ads are less effective than they’ve ever been and trust in companies is about as low as it has ever been. The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The most successful viral campaign in recent history is one from Blendtec. Google this to see what they did. There are dozens of other examples as well.

The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key influencers within your demographic.

Side Note: While I haven’t created a visual yet, also visualize the LIPEE pyramid (where Listening is substituted for Attention). Instead of the company creating compelling content to attract attention, it “listens” to and monitors the socialsphere for mentions of their brand, their core competency, or other key words which might be a signal to engage in “interaction” through Social Channels.

Tomorrow, we’ll look a little closer at the additional stages, and on Friday, we’ll wrap things up with a summary. I look forward to your thoughts, comments, questions, and critiques along the way.

The New (Social) Customer Advocate

Over the past few months, the #scrm Accidental Community has had several conversations about who should “own” social media and Social CRM within an organization. Though we’ve had a lot of productive conversation, I believe we’ve collectively come to the conclusion that there is no definitive answer other than “it depends”. You can find some links to some of these conversations at the end of this blog post.

But don’t fear, dear readers. The dialogue has not been in vain. There have been a number of insightful takeaways, and the journey of those conversations has arguably been more valuable than the originally mapped destination.

In the end, some corporate Social Media initiatives will be unmistakeably intertwined with corporate DNA, being touted and driven throughout the organization from the top. Zappos is the first company to come to mind.

In other organizations, a groundswell will rise from within, starting slowly with one or two internal advocates who see real opportunity, and then spreading as small “wins” are accomplished and shared. The most likely areas from which this groundswell will emerge today are marketing and/or customer service.

At Comcast, just a few people have ultimately changed the corporate culture of a company 100,000+ strong. Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, one of Social Media for Business’s poster children recalls Comcast’s journey with Twitter. From Frank Reed’s Story over on Marketing Pilgrim:

“It has changed the culture of our company,” Roberts said.

Comcast has for a while now been using Twitter to scan for complaints and engage with customers. The idea was not his, but rather rose organically when someone in the company realized that a lot of public complaints were being sent over Twitter.

Well, since we are talking about Twitter, let me share a little slice of my life from yesterday. Mitch Lieberman, John Moore, Josh Weinberger, Kathy Herrmann, Mike Muhney, Valeria Montoni , Russ Hatfield, Glenn Ross and I had the privilege of participating in another “accidental” conversation that was a slightly different iteration of this “Who should now own Social Media?” question. Wim Rampen showed up a little late, so he’ll just have to weigh in below (along with all the others where they’re not limited by 140 characters.) :)

The topic being discussed by was essentially “Who should carry the front line conversation?” At first blush, this seems like a very similar question. However, I view it as significantly different. It’s different because it changes the conversation from “Who decides what the organization will do with Social Media?” to “Who actually does it?”. The conversation is moving from ideation to implementation, and that, my dear friends, is exciting.

(Speaking of implementation, after you are done reading this post, head over to Esteban Kolsky’s blog to read an excellent ongoing blogpost series titled “The Roadmap to SCRM”)

Valeria Montoni wrote a great article titled Twitter, Customer Service, and good Brand Management which speaks to the value of monitoring Twitter to hear what people are saying about your brand. Valeria shares both explicitly and implicitly that the traditional worlds of customer service, brand management, and marketing as a whole must be intertwined in the context of the Social dialogue.

If Social CRM is “…designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted & transparent business environment…the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.”, then I submit that it makes perfect sense that the team or individual responsible for interacting with customers and prospects be FULLY EQUIPPED AND EMPOWERED to engage with the customer in whichever direction they’d like to take the conversation.

*** Let me restate that ***

The team or individual responsible for interacting with customers and prospects must be FULLY EQUIPPED AND EMPOWERED to engage with the customer in whichever direction they’d like to take the conversation.

Take a step back and consider the implications of that statement for a moment.

- How many different reasons are there for your organization have a conversation with your prospects and customers today? and subsequently…

- How many people within your organization can effectively lead or participate in each of those conversations in a manner which aligns with your organizational goals, vision, and strategy?

I am assuming your mind didn’t jump to a picture of your latest intern, or an entry level customer service rep. Most likely, your mind jumped to Director level and above type personnel. Every company has a couple of them – someone who just “gets it”. Someone who carries “juice” across departments, teams, org structure, and one of the few that is the living lifeblood of the organization.

Meet your new “Social Customer Advocate”; a big picture thinker, enthusiastic about the company’s vision and mission, in tune with marketing/branding strategy, with a genuinely caring and transparent attitude, a leader and manager, who is, oh by the way, savvy enough to look for opportunities to sell your company’s new product and service offerings.

They are customer service, marketing, and sales. They are the face of the organization, and their face and their written word are going to be well known across the interactive landscape of your customer and prospect base(s).

Here’s the Understatement of the Day: This type of thinking is a MAJOR SHIFT for many organizations.

For smaller companies, this actually may not be that difficult to imagine. Entrepreneurs across the country have lived in this multi-faceted role for decades. But for the Fortune 1000, is this possible? Can this scale?

I know what your thinking…

Companies have just spent the last couple of decades trying to minimize customer service costs. IVRs, offshoring, outsourcing, and entry level workers have become the first line of defense for corporations across the globe, and important/critical issues get escalated up the chain to the high paid knowledge workers only when necessary.

Yes. However, unfortunately for companies for who have spent gazillions building a corporate culture and infrastructure around minimizing the cost of each customer interaction, the customer now can not only yell about how unhappy they are with their poor experience to the gals at the salon, or the fellas at the local watering hole, but their disdain can be spread and amplified across the globe in days, if not hours.

I submit that as culture and society becomes more technologically social, organizations will need to change the way they interact.

Enter the Social Customer Advocate.
They will act as the funnel for corporate interactions through social channels. They will choose to engage directly, or distribute the customer or prospect requests to an appropriate resource within the organization. They are the brand’s representative to the world for anything that a prospect or customer may desire to dialogue about.

Today, they may be Directors, VPs, or even C-Level Execs. Ultimately, they will lead and quarterback the team to success, and the makeup of these folks will be darn hard to find, and even harder to duplicate.

Someday down the road, this role may be automated and replaced by technology like so many other key roles from yesteryear. But we are just journeying into this new frontier, and we are a long way from being able to successfully automate genuine conversations with customers..

So then, my questions for you:

1. Is it feasible for mid sized or large organizations to find and leverage the Social Customer Advocate?
2. What are the keys to finding, duplicating, and leveraging Social Customer Advocates?
3. What primary cultural challenges await this shift in customer engagement?
4. Who do you know that have already used a Social Customer Advocate or Advocate(s) in their organization?
5. What are your top arguments against using a Social Customer Advocate?

More Social CRM Reading:

Who Owns Social Media? by Brian Solis
Q: Who Should Own Social CRM – A: Not who you think by Graham Hill
Unleashing the Value of Social CRM: Where to find the biggest return
Social CRM: Overhyped Fad or Transformational Solution

Social CRM: Overhyped Fad or Transformational Solution

Last month, I wrote  “Unleashing the Value of Social CRM: Where to Find the Biggest Return”.

Towards the end of the article, I posed this question: “Which functional area do you think will be able to leverage Social Media and Social CRM the most, and provide the greatest impact to the profitability of an organization?”

The comments section and some referring posts provide some great discussion from some of the greatest minds in the world of CRM including Graham Hill, Natalie Petouhoff, Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky, and a host of other minds much smarter than mine.

In the end, I walked away with the following conclusion: We collectively don’t know yet. Social Media and Social CRM are still in their relative infancy in delivering solid, proven value. However, there seems to be the strongest argument (and early data from companies like Helpstream, and Lithium) from those in customer service and support functions, and I can’t really argue with them.

In my closing blog comment, the last question I ended with was: “How do you justify the investment – time and money- in Social Media? Where do we have the greatest chance of success (profitability) starting out?”

Yesterday, Bill Band of Forrester Research asked a similar (and very important) question on Twitter: “CRM Evolution Conf. all about social phenom. But, my data shows less than 10% of companies have customer communities now. Too much hype?”

This, undoubtedly sprung from his recent research shared in his recent blog post: “The Extended CRM Application Ecosystem: Value, Risk and the Future of Social CRM”.

Band draws the following conclusions in his article:

“While “Social CRM” solutions have captured the imagination of decision-makers at many organizations, it is the tried-and-true technologies that offer the most certain return on investment.”

“The business value of social solutions is yet to be proven. Interest in “Social CRM” solutions is growing rapidly. But, mainstream companies are watching for evidence of success by the early adopters. Although enterprise feedback solutions, customer community platforms, and customer forums are viewed positively by the respondents in our survey, none of these three are considered “critical” to success. Therefore at this time, business value discounted for uncertainty is low.”

Many, at this point, recognize the potential for using Social Media to transform customer relationships, but the uncertainty factor still weighs heavily.

A study by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law titled “Embracing the Opportunities: Averting the Risks” found that Social media  can be critical to company growth and sustainability.

  • 81% believe social media can enhance relationships with customers/clients
  • 81% agree it can build brand reputation
  • 69% feel such networking can be valuable in recruitment
  • 64% see it as a customer service tool
  • 46% think it can be used to enhance employee morale

However, 51% percent of these executives fear social media could be detrimental to employee productivity, while 49% assert that using social media could damage company reputation.

Much of senior management’s direct experience with social media appears to be reactive versus proactive, concludes the report. 72% of executives say that they, personally, visit social media sites at least weekly:

  • 52% to read what customers may be saying about their company
  • 47% to routinely monitor a competitors’ use of social networking
  • 36% to see what their employees are sharing
  • 25% check the background of a prospective employee

There clearly needs to be much more education. That’s where those of us who regularly interact on Twitter following the #scrm hashtag come in.

Society is making a giant transitional shift because of Social Media. This “change” transcends the conversation of Social CRM and even business as a whole. The world is changing, and rapidly. For some staggering statistics that will make your brain spin, watch the video below:

For the enterprise and business community, things  are still really just beginning. Early adopters will (and some already have) capture the first mover advantage. However, they will also face the obvious risks of venturing into this new frontier first. InfusionSoft has literally saved millions by adopting a Social CRM strategy.

David Alston, Radian6′s VP of marketing and community said in a recent PR week interview:

“We are just scratching the surface in terms of how social media will transform the (PR) agency and the enterprise. The nature of social media – its accessibility, transparency, and its ability to build relationships – is challenging the processes and structures within companies, many that have become too rigid and siloed to react to the new Web 2.0-empowered consumer. I believe we are where CRM was 10 years ago.”

Change is upon us. The question is not whether Social Media and Social CRM will become an important strategy/tool/channel for your organization, but rather, when?

So what should you do now?

1. Learn as much as possible related to Social Media and Social CRM

2. Talk with your best customers, and most importantly, LISTEN

  • What are they doing with Social Media?
  • What do they wish you did better as an organization?
  • What can you do to improve your value offering to them?

3. Begin to experiment with  Social Media for your business

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Twitter
  • Community Platforms and Forums
  • Social Networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Social Media Monitoring

Perhaps best-selling author and Founder of the The Altimeter Group Charlene Li said it best:

“Mistakes in social media are inevitable – after all, you’re building relationships and what relationship is perfect?”

CRM Magazine Announces 2009 CRM Market Awards (Social CRM gaining ground)

This morning, CRM Magazine released their 2009 CRM Market Awards to be announced at the CRM Evolution Conference.

Somewhat surprising recipients appear in the area of Rising Stars include Google, Facebook, Lithium Technologies, and Visible Technologies – internet and social media platforms. In addition to traditional CRM leaders Marc Benioff and Anthony Lye, more social and traditional media stars showed up in the Influentials category including Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki, Tony Hsieh, Tim O’Reilly, Jeremiah Owyang, and Ross Mayfield.

One key takeaway for me is this high profile validation of the rapidly merging worlds of Social Media and CRM – recently officially named Social CRM.  Please join the conversation on Twitter by using the #scrm hashtag.

CRM Magazine Announces Winners of 2009 CRM Market Awards

Companies, Customers, and Industry Visionaries Honored for Successes in the CRM Marketplace over the Previous 12 Months

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–CRM magazine, the industry’s leading publication, announced the winners of its 2009 CRM Market Awards here today, in conjunction with the magazine’s CRM Evolution 2009 conference.

With its eighth annual CRM Market Awards, CRM magazine honors the vendors, consultants, and end-user companies that focus on customer relationships and the customer experience through the sophisticated integration of people, processes, and technologies. In each of 10 categories, the magazine named one Market Winner, denoting the highest score compared to its peers. Each category also produced four Market Leader awards and “One to Watch.”

“To stay competitive in a challenging economy, companies must come up with innovative ways to improve their customer relationship efforts. This is exactly what the recipients of the 2009 CRM Market Awards have done,” said David Myron, CRM magazine’s editorial director. “Congratulations to this year’s award recipients for their achievements over the last year. May their CRM efforts continue to succeed.”

Recipients were determined through an extensive three-month process and a proprietary rating formula that involves industry analysts, financial and corporate information, product and functionality assessments, and scores reflecting customer satisfaction.

* Enterprise Suite CRM — Winner: Salesforce.com
Leaders: Microsoft, Oracle, RightNow Technologies, SAP
One to Watch: NetSuite
* Midmarket Suite CRM — Winner: Salesforce.com
Leaders: Microsoft, Oracle, RightNow Technologies, Sage
One to Watch: NetSuite
* Small-Business Suite CRM — Winner: Salesforce.com
Leaders: Maximizer Software, NetSuite, Sage, Zoho
One to Watch: SugarCRM
* Sales Force Automation — Winner: Salesforce.com
Leaders: Microsoft, Oracle, RightNow Technologies, SAP
One to Watch: NetSuite


* Incentive Management
— Winner: Xactly
Leaders: Callidus Software, Merced Systems, Synygy, Varicent Software
One to Watch: Makana Solutions
* Marketing Solutions — Winner: SAS Institute
Leaders: Alterian, Eloqua, Silverpop, Unica
One to Watch: Marketo
* Business Intelligence — Winner: IBM’s Cognos Software
Leaders: Information Builders, Oracle, SAP BusinessObjects, SAS Institute
One to Watch: Microsoft
* Data Quality — Winner: SAS Institute’s DataFlux
Leaders: IBM Information Integration Solutions, Informatica, SAP, Trillium Software (Harte-Hanks)
One to Watch: Pitney Bowes Business Insight
* Open-Source CRM — Winner: SugarCRM
Leaders: Compiere, Concursive, SplendidCRM, xTuple
One to Watch: vTiger
* Consultancies — Winner: Deloitte
Leaders: Accenture, Capgemini, Hitachi Consulting, IBM Global Business Services
Ones to Watch: Appirio and Bluewolf

Eight members of the CRM community were named by the magazine as 2009 Influential Leaders: Marc Benioff, cofounder, chairman, and chief executive officer at Salesforce.com; Chris Brogan, president of New Media Labs and social media thought leader; Tony Hsieh, chief executive officer at online-retailing trailblazer Zappos.com; Guy Kawasaki, author and cofounder of aggregation site Alltop; Anthony Lye, senior vice president for CRM at Oracle; Ross Mayfield, chairman, president, and cofounder at collaboration specialist Socialtext; Tim O’Reilly, founder and chief executive officer at publisher and event producer O’Reilly Media; and Jeremiah Owyang, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

The magazine also named six Rising Stars for the year, including nontraditional CRM players such as social networking behemoth Facebook and search-engine giant Google; information-from-the-cloud upstarts InsideView and Jigsaw; Lithium Technologies, a community-platform provider; and Visible Technologies, which offers brand monitoring and social media analysis.

Lastly, the magazine named four customer implementations as winners of its CRM Elite Award: ISS Belgium, for a large-scale Microsoft Dynamics CRM rollout; NBC Universal, for a sales and marketing effort using Salesforce.com; ShipServ, for its holistic use of Marketo, Salesforce.com, and social media; and Wrigleyville Sports, for its NetSuite e-commerce success.

The 2009 CRM Market Awards are being presented at the CRM Evolution 2009 conference at the Marriott Marquis in New York (http://www.destinationCRM.com/evolution). An expanded version of the results have been published in the September 2009 issue of CRM magazine—available in print and, as of September 1, 2009, in digital NXTBook format (http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/crmmedia/crm0909/index.php) and online at http://www.destinationCRM.com.

About CRM magazine

CRM magazine is the leading publication of the customer relationship management industry, covering sales, marketing, customer service, and strategy. The magazine also administers and hosts the annual CRM Evolution conference. Each of these properties is designed to serve customer-centric business initiatives, and leaders who recognize CRM as a key strategy for creating enhanced customer value in any industry. For more information about the magazine, its editorial calendar, or CRM in general, please visit us on the Web at http://www.destinationCRM.com, or on Twitter at @CRM (http://twitter.com/CRM) and @destinationCRM (http://twitter.com/destinationCRM). The destinationCRM Web site (which is updated daily) and the monthly magazine are properties of CRM Media, a division of Information Today, Inc.

Paul Greenberg, Brent Leary, and Bill Band discuss Social CRM with 1to1 Media

If you have the time, the videos below provide a great chance to listen to 3 industry experts discuss Social CRM.

Unleashing the value of Social CRM: Where to find the biggest return

Social CRM is gaining traction quickly. I would argue it continues to gain ground at a dizzying pace. If you are new to the term, or are still getting up to speed, please check out the articles here to provide yourself with a little background.

The Social CRM community has identified 4 primary key areas where Social Media and Traditional CRM are intersecting:

1. Sales
2. Marketing
3. Service and Support
4. Public Relations

CRM magazine did a great job of building the Social Media Maturity Model which lays out where things are and where things are going in each of these functional areas. It is a work in progress to be sure, but a fantastic template that helps to visualize how to harness the power of social media across the enterprise for companies large and small.

ROI stories are beginning to emerge from some of the Service and Support vendors like Helpstream and Parature. Lithium just released their Social CRM platform which promises “untapped value through amplified word-of-mouth marketing, improved customer service, and accelerated innovation”.

Sales and marketing folks are clamoring at the possibilities of marketing to and engaging with thousands of twitter followers, and facebook fans. Coca Cola has added more than 3 million fans on facebook in less than a year, and continues to do so at the clip of a few thousand per day

Traditional Press Releases are being transformed into interactive engagement platforms by companies like Pitch Engine and PR firms and departments are beginning to invent new ways to stir up 3rd party endorsements in the Social Sphere.

Customers are beginning to harness the power of Social Media by sharing their experiences good or bad. United Airlines took a huge hit when an upset passenger created the video below. As of the time of this article, it had been viewed more than 3 million times in just over a week.

So then, the Groundswell is moving and growing. Bottom lines are being affected significantly, positively and negatively.


Here is the question I pose to you:


Where should a company start? Which department should embrace Social CRM first? More specifically, when the dust clears, which functional area do you think will be able to leverage Social Media and Social CRM the most, and provide the greatest impact to the profitability of an organization?

I have my own thoughts, but want to hear yours as well. Fire away – this is your platform! I look forward to the debate.

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