So how big is this Social CRM thing going to be?

2009 has seen the rise of Social CRM.
Social CRM Search Traffic 12 months ending 09-09

People are actually proactively searching for the term on Google. Recent CRM industry gatherings; the CRM Evolution conference and Gartner’s CRM Summit, have given way to an avalanche of coverage and discussion of Social CRM. CRM Magazine’s recent awards featured a number of first time award recipients from the world of Social Media and Social CRM. The mainstream press has even gotten in on the act .

The merging of Social Media with CRM has captured the attention and imagination of executives, analysts, vendors, pragmatists, and naysayers. This exponential growth of interest, participation and discussion has blossomed into a steady flow of valuable insights, opinions, stats, debates, and links.

The train has left the station, and I don’t believe it’s coming back.

So how big is this Social CRM thing going to be?

Bob Warfield, CEO of Helpstream says that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift…

Mike Boysen says much of the Social CRM discussion is marketing and hype for nothing more than a channel management system.

There are also a TON of other meaningful discussions and posts happening. Esteban Kolsky links to some of them in his most recent post “I Am Not A SCRM Market Expert, I Just Play One On Twitter”

There are now solid case studies around the tangible, measurable financial benefits of Social CRM. (Reference some of my other recent posts for those) and the downfalls of jumping in carelessly.

Does this collection of new strategies, approaches, and associated technologies really change the very nature of CRM, and business as we know it?

Bill Band provides a nice overview of the Extended CRM Application Ecosystem. It includes:

1. Customer Targeting

2. Customer Acquisition

3. Customer Retention

4. Customer Understanding

5. Customer Collaboration

While Bill’s focus is on the applications and technologies that enable  each category, my takeaway is that each of these functional categories aren’t new, bleeding edge concepts. They are fundamental to the success of organizations, and have been around since medieval bazaars. The technology mix is new, but the strategic focus areas (or categories) remain.

Has Social CRM changed any of this?

No. The overall tenets of effective CRM strategies haven’t changed. The method(s) by which we can accomplish those strategies have. We have new capabilities. The emergence and evolution of the social web has simply enabled us to do the things we wanted to do before, but do them better (if properly executed). For some, it has opened up new possibilities that weren’t even imagined just a few years, or even months ago.

Going back to Mr. Band’s model, does Social CRM deserve it’s own separate category? I think not. Social tools provide new ways to achieve success in all of the categories. In this model, there might be a Social CRM layer in between Customer Understanding, and the other four categories (Customer Collaboration, Customer Targeting, Customer Acquisition, and Customer Retention).

Social CRM is a natural extension of CRM as we have known it up until now, which itself has evolved over the past two decades, and will continue to evolve as technological advances take place.

Does Social CRM include a collection of new channels, tools, and technologies? Absolutely.

Does Social CRM include a shift in mentality and approach to customers? Absolutely – if done right.

Is this collection of new strategies and technologies a paradigm shift?
I don’t think so. At least not yet…

The widespread adoption of the internet was a paradigm shift. The world as we knew it literally changed, dramatically. We are still evolving under that shift. Social Media, and subsequently Social CRM, is simply the next step within that major transformational paradigm shift.

I do think it is possible that we could potentially get to a place where strategies and standard business practice are so dramatically changed that surviving under an old model would be impossible. I’ll be sharing more on this in a future post. But, if that does ever come to pass, we’re still a long way away.

In the end, I agree with Bob that this portion of the conversation is just a matter of semantics.

Why should we consider and embrace a Social CRM initiative?

This is the number one question that visionary organizations are wanting an answer to. The promise of Social CRM is bright. There is already emerging proof. We should collectively focus our attention on tangibly creating measurable value with this collection of new tools and strategies. The argument “because your competitors are doing it” is simply not compelling enough.

So then, as we collectively quibble over Social CRM, and how big it will ultimately be, what it is, who owns it, and the like, I’d like to bring us back to the one thing that really matters:

Can organizations increase their value (the only real measure of success in business) by serving their customers better with the rapidly evolving strategies and technologies that are now known as Social CRM?

I believe the answer is yes. How much? We still don’t know. Results will differ by market, industry, and company size and segment. Like any other enterprise initiative, success will depend on a well defined strategy, and supporting people, processes, and enabling technology to execute upon that strategy.

I’m looking for more stories about how organizations have incorporated Social CRM initiatives into their strategies and the tangible benefits those initiatives have provided.

I’m especially looking to hear from the customers who have benefited from a better experience with their vendor because of Social CRM.

I know you are out there. Come share your story. We are anxious to hear.

And, oh yes, I am absolutely open to hear your candid feedback on my opinions. Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter. Productive dialogue only furthers the conversation.