Kickstarting your Social CRM Initiative: 5 Fundamentals and 5 Immediate Opportunities

Let’s “do” this Social CRM thing. Ready…. Go!!!!!

You’re right. It’s not that easy. It’s not a panacea, and like all of it’s predecessors (Contact Management, SFA, CRM, etc.), there will be absolutely no benefit unless you understand what you are doing, why, and how you’ll measure success.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse. But, for the purpose of this conversation, please allow me to briefly frame the rest of this post.

Social CRM is about aligning the organization’s value chain around the helping the customer perform their jobs. It’s a response to the emergent Social Customer. It’s a response to a fundamental shift in communication norms in society, and therefore the business landscape as well.

If you want more depth, explanation, debate, guides, case studies, and other references, please take a look at The Ultimate Social CRM Resource Guide

The purpose of this post is not to add 3 more weeks of commentary, case studies, and research onto your already full plate. It’s to help provide a succinct set of helpful guidelines to assist you as you move to actually implement change in your organization. You’ve got what you need (and if you don’t, I can help you get up to speed quickly). It’s time to get started.

We’re now a couple of years into the conversation and the term Social CRM in now firmly embedded into the mind and vocabulary of the Marketing, PR, and Customer Service illuminati.

But, how to actually start “implementing Social CRM” (if there is such a thing) still appears elusive. And it should be.

Done right, Social CRM forces organizations to align traditionally alien groups: Marketing and Sales, PR and Customer Service, Customers and C-Suite Execs. Messaging and branding have to be more closely aligned with reality, or the marketplace congregation can shout B.S. in the “Global Town Square”. It forces companies to play by new rules where the balance of informational leverage has shifted to the customer.

Most debates, discussions, and rants have most people falling into one of two camps regarding Social CRM:

(1) The fundamentals of business and CRM haven’t changed – OR –
(2) The emergence of Social CRM offer fantastic new opportunities for profitable arbitrage

My contention is that both are right. Success lies at the intersection of the two, appropriately weighted according to the landscape of your organizational culture and goals.

The purpose of any business is and will continue to be to maximize value creation and dissemination for its stakeholders. Social technologies have enabled the age old requirements of listening, analyzing, and responding to customer signals and communications to be more fluid and dynamic. The fundamental principals of value creation aren’t new – however several of the methods are.

As you begin your journey towards embracing and responding to the social customer, you’ll be well served by keeping the following fundamentals in mind:

Social CRM: The 5 Fundamentals

(1) Understand who your customers are, what they value, who they interact with. Segmentation plays a key role here.
(2) Find and engage with them in the context of their preferred communication channel(s)
(3) Communicate with them in a way that is relevant and helpful in assisting them to achieve their goals
(4) Present and/or create / co-create products or services that help them accomplish (or do better) the jobs they are trying to do
(5) And finally, deepen the relationship over time by doing the same thing over and over again

These are the fundamentals of business and the core of a customer focused strategy. Nothing with the term Social in front of it changes any of this.

However, here are 5 ways your organization can leverage social technologies to accomplish the 5 fundamentals:

Social CRM: 5 Opportunities to capitalize on now

(1) Use Social Analytics and Social Network Analysis to better understand your customers and prospects (aggregate Demographic, Psychographic, and Socialgraphic data)
(2) Use Listening and Monitoring Tools to extend reach beyond where and how you’ve been able to listen and engage before (Add social as an additional interaction channel)
(3) Capitalize on first mover advantage by communicating in new and/or more relevant ways with your customers (align your business with emergent social technology and culture, and beat your competitors to the party)
(4) Utilize Internal Collaboration (Enterprise 2.0) and/or Community Platforms to streamline communications and/or product and service development functions
(5) Increase engagement with existing customers on new channels in a way for the world to watch and observe (Be everywhere your customers are – and enable them to share what they love (or don’t love) about you to their network(s)

Now, let’s “do” this Social CRM thing. Ready…. Go!!!!!

11 Responses to Kickstarting your Social CRM Initiative: 5 Fundamentals and 5 Immediate Opportunities

  1. Mike Boysen says:


    It’s about time you wrote another post, and it’s a good one.

    This “intersection” issue is still a place where I have a bone of contention. I know, I know. Mike? Bone of contention?

    Building deeper relationships through social media is problematic in a number of ways that area easily solved by “seeing for yourself” as @GrahamHill would say. First, consistent and ubiquitous social media adoption is not a reality. Second, I would never call survey results something that could deepen a relationship and don’t see SM as being anything more than a long tail survey.

    Deep relationships don’t happen across segments. They happen one a 1:1 basis. In fact, understanding the jobs your customers are doing is always going to require that you get up off your butt, drag it down to your customers shop and watch. Then ask questions. Then watch some more. There are many frameworks out there that get into the specifics. I would be interested to hear what someone who has “consulted in this arena for 20 years or more” would say about sitting in front of a social media tool instead.

    We are always looking for the get rich quick plan to life and social media brings that front and center with such innovations as Facebook Fan Pages and Tweet assignments. The CRM industry brings just a little more depth to the table in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, there are many in the industry who don’t even know what we are talking about. But let’s not keep pointing to those people when the discussion is over he’ya.

    The answer is not social media. And the answer isn’t CRM either. It’s also not Social CRM, whatever that is.
    This is the point where I would refer to my post about forklifts

    because for the life of me, I can’t paint a picture in my mind how the problem I identified would be surfaced with Social Media. And if it were, the solution coming from such an analysis of Forklift driver tweets would probably be faster forklifts with racing tires.

    Have a GREAT weekend dude!

  2. Mike,

    Your bones of contention give us all plenty to gnaw on, so thanks for throwing one this way. It’s genuinely appreciated.

    Social Media Adoption
    Simply put – it will be, and it’s already close. There are plenty of studies out there to validate this. I believe that we’ll see social media evolve into a much more closely aligned representation of who we are in the future. Right now it’s detached, but consolidate our history, preferences, location, personal network (and all sorts of other scary information that I don’t want to talk about) into a real time representation of a person and apply that representation to any number of real time physical or virtual contexts, and you’ll see what I envision. It’s coming – the only question is how soon.

    Deepening Relationships
    In a pyramid of communication channels, social media is likely towards the bottom. It is a conduit of relationships and communication. It contributes as much as….it contributes.

    Take your comment on this post, for example. Would your communication have been more effective via email or phone, or handwritten letter, or in person? Did the channel change the effect on our relationship? It’s a method of communication, just like those I’ve mentioned along with text, fax, and the fast growing virtual telepresence types of technology. All have their purpose and value given the goal of the interaction, which brings me to my next comment.

    Mutual Exclusivity

    The tone of your comments hints at an either/or scenario where companies are replacing human interaction with social media. Social media in most scenarios (especially in a B2B environment) is (or should be viewed as) an on ramp to continued dialogue See more of my thoughts on this progression here. Going back to my previous point, social media does not fundamentally change the landscape of human interaction – it simply extends it.

    In your scenario that you describe, the picture might look like listening, understanding, evaluating, and potentially interacting via social media, and then move that conversation to a more fluid channel (think phone), and if many markers lined up, then “…get up off your butt, drag it down to your customers shop and watch. Then ask questions. Then watch some more.”

    1:1 is the ultimate segment, but is relatively inefficient, and is a hurdle to the scale of any business. In most organizations, the purpose is not to deepen relationships. It’s to create and distribute value through mutually beneficial exchange (which as you point out is done in some cases through 1:1 interaction). But, what about iTunes? What about bubble gum? What about a magazine? There are thousands of scenarios where 1:1 can’t work.

    In short, I absolutely agree with you, and I am a big believer in 1:1 meaningful relationships, but the key question to answer is how narrow you need to get to have a meaningful and value creating interaction with the RIGHT customers and prospects, based on their buying behavior and preferences, and also where they are in the evaluation cycle. In other words, traditional 1:1 interactions with those who don’t have a high potential for mutual value exchange are an inefficiency.

  3. Mike Boysen says:


    The either/or thing isn’t the way I think, it’s the way it has been hyped by quite a few naive and over excited “professionals”out there. I know that as communication channel, it has some value. But, if innovation comes from understanding jobs, that’s a litlle higher up the pyramid. In my mind, it’s a validation channel of your strategy, at best. Innovation medium? Doubtful, at least no in a reproducible way.

    And to finish up on segmentation. Sure, scallabality is what everyone is talking about. In delivery of service that is a big deal. In innovation through the understanding of jobs, social media simply does not have a finger on the pulse of what a job is, what goes on around it, etc. When someone shows me a result that is as good as “seeing for yourself”, I will be amazed and concede. Understanding jobs people are doing in a segment, doesn’t require a ton of scale. You can sample this group and go 1 on 1 with them.

    Of course, we could call every form of communication “social media”and thereby destroy my entire argument and be done with it.

  4. Ray Brown says:

    @Brian @Mike I’m not sure I understand all the intricacies of this discussion and I come from an SME background and not corporate so I could be missing something. To me the world is changing and the customer is significantly different to the customer of say 10 years ago. Better informed, he/she can find out about me, my company, my reputation. More vocal, a minority are willing and able to speak out and they can be influential (see Malcolm Gladwell’s Tipping Point and the impact of the few). Better connected, to other customers, in more communities and on more platforms that did not exist till recently. The purpose of business has not changed, in your words Brian, “to maximize value creation and dissemination for its stakeholders,” however the environment has most certainly changed.
    And now to the contentious part. I believe we have focussed for too long on the spurious notion of “relationship.” We have had the B2B and B2C channels which were based on “relationship” but their context was at the core, revenue for the business. In this sense “relationship” (and B2B & B2C) will continue but it may be diminishing as a useful concept in business. I have come up with a new concept called the B2Me channel where businesses will have to sharpen their skills of listening not to sell but to understand and gain insight. The B2Me channel will be equally important for employees as well as customers, they need to be listened to in a way that was not required in the bad old days of “command & control”. B2Me will be about transparency, trust and genuine two way communication with ME as an individual not simply as a source of revenue. Now you could say that these skills exist in business today but my experience tells me that most firms just don’t get it and that those that do get it first in every vertical will obtain a massive competitive advantage.

    • Mike Boysen says:


      Don’t penalize the word “relationship” because software vendors have abused it’s meaning. We discuss this, and related topics, to promote the idea of outside-in business strategy – which is not what CRM (the platform) has been about, because that’s not been convenient for software companies.

      To suggest that “Social” does anything to change that is naive. Companies that are outside in have already adapted to the customer landscape they are faced with. And not all of them face the same customers. “Listening” has nothing to do with social media. If you’re company has not been out listening to customers since the beginning of time, your company isn’t going to listen with social media. Customers have always wanted to be heard – and I’m not talking about bitching. I’m talking about “please figure out the problem I can’t articulate.”

      The desire to understand customer needs and building a business around increasing customer value is nothing new. The broad suggestion across the SM community has been – at least until now – that social media will make you customer-centric. It will not. It cannot penetrate deeply enough all by itself. It needs to be part of a bigger culture of listening. Understanding the “job” that is being done to innovate is what it’s all about.

      This is the argument. Companies have always had to listen. Listening for sentiment is not going to get the job done in the real world. And I have yet to see the social media framework that lets me understand my customer as deeply as I need to.

      I work in the middle market, not Enterprise level (typically).

  5. Ideal CRM says:

    @BRIANVELLMURE youwrote “My contention is that both are right. Success lies at the intersection of the two, appropriately weighted according to the landscape of your organizational culture and goals.” it would be very helpful if you can elaborate that further.

    • Thanks “Ideal” for stopping by.

      Some factors that organizations will need to consider:

      – Are my customers participating / conversing on the social web? If so, how and with who?
      – Is our internal culture already “social” and/or collaborative?
      – Which of the following most closely align with our growth strategy? (Customer Communities, Social Marketing, Customer Service and Support on Social Channels, etc.)
      – What are our social media guidelines?
      – How will be integrate conversations on the social web with conversations that take place on more traditional channels?

      This is not a complete list but are a few of the questions that need to be answered along the way to defining and executing your customer (and Social CRM) strategy.

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  7. Great post, Brian. I appreciate your analysis of having to pair alien groups to make your CRM work for your organization. We have a community for IM professionals ( that discusses related topics and we have bookmarked this post for our users. Looking forward to reading more of your work and sharing with our community.

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