It’s a 2.0 World – Part One: A recap of the Sales 2.0 conference

It’s a 2.0 world. Everywhere I look, there’s either a 2.0 on the end of a word, or social at the start of it. Hype and hyperbole bombard us with new shiny toys, and snake oil to cure what ails us.

However, beyond the rah-rah and kumbaya, there IS INDEED a shift going on around us. The shift is happening in the way that humans communicate, in the way that business is done, and in the way that technology opens up new opportunities for arbitrage.

Last week, a drive up the beautiful California coast from my home in Orange County, with temporary stops in Redondo Beach, and idyllic San Luis Obispo, ultimately landed me at the first of two immersive destinations, the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown San Francisco for the Sales 2.0 conference.

Given the Four Season’s iconic reputation for customer experience, it made perfect sense for approximately 500 sales and marketing leaders to converge and discuss some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing customer executives today.

Key Takeaways

Illumination is starting to take place
Anneke Seley pointed out during her breakout session how 2 or 3 years ago, the concept of purposely telling your sales people to spend time on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn was heresy to many in the sales world. It was unheard of, and an utter waste of time. Today, there is a growing interest, and more and more stories are emerging like that of Dan Harding, who says that he achieved 25% of his quota from leveraging social tools, or as one person from the crowd shared that they make all their sales people check LinkedIn profiles prior to making outbound phone calls.

Sales is lagging other business functions in social media adoption.
Early adopters were blogging in the middle of the web 1.0 era. Hundreds of thousands have rushed to Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn over the last half decade. From my vantage point, the majority of sales people still don’t see value in bringing this into their daily routine.

This doesn’t necessarily tell me that sales people are ignorant, technophobic, or just don’t get it. It tells me that the technology isn’t quite valuable enough yet to make a meaningful difference in the day to day lives of sales people. As with the previous adoption curve of core CRM functionality, if any tool, idea, framework will not “help me sell more”, I won’t adopt it. More so than any other role, the “time is money” adage is never more applicable to any other group than the hardworking professional sales person. They are a true litmus test of value as they don’t have the luxury to “play” or “experiment” with new tools. As illustrated above, however, the tide is slowly changing.

Social Media is forcing alignment between sales and marketing (or making it more uncomfortable for those who aren’t aligned)

  • 50% of materials marketers are creating aren’t being used by sales
  • 70% – 90% of leads generated by marketing are never followed up with by sales – Marketing Sherpa

Mark Wilson, VP of Marketing for Sybase, provided dozens of valuable insights during his keynote on Sales and Marketing alignment. The metaphor that sticks out most in my mind is the transition in mindset from the traditional concept of marketing passing a baton to sales to the mental image of a crew rowing together.

Sales and Marketing Alignment

The role of sales will continue to evolve

For those who have been around sales, and especially in a complex, consultative type sales environment, the necessity of establishing the “trusted advisor” role will be nothing new. However, the emergence of the social customer has introduced a dramatic change to something right before our very eyes. According to a study from Sirius decisions, 70% of the buying journey is completed prior to speaking with a sales person. That’s pretty staggering, considering that sales used to be responsible for most of the education. I shared some additional thoughts with Adam Metz, in “The 5 Things most sales people don’t know about the Social Customer”.

According to Forrester Research, only 38% of sales people understand prospects’ needs and how their products/services can address those issues. According to IDC, only half of all sales people reached their quota in 2009. There is a slow and steady shift underway for the role that sales plays in customer acquisition strategy.

Customers no longer need sales people to provide them with product and company information. However, buyers are still looking for people they like and trust to help guide them through the evaluation process. As a guy who’s spent a significant amount of time as a sales person and as a consultant, it’s fascinating to watch the roles blur.

The shift of power to the customer
Gerhard Gschwandtner briefly touched on the growing importance for sales organizations to raise their head from the persistent focus on internal efficiencies and redirect their attention to the customer. I was pleasantly surprised to hear him even mention co-creation as a theme growing in importance.

Underscoring my previous thread of sales people morphing into true trusted advisors and consultants, imagine today’s typical sales person actively participating in a co-creation environment that might involve significant engineering and/or business design influence. There is a definable gap between where we are today and where things are heading.

This transition to the customer is illustrated by the rapid shift and evolution in strategy and tactics from CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to Social CRM, which is rapidly gaining traction across organizations of all sizes. For more on Social CRM, feel free to visit The Ultimate Social CRM Resource Guide, Part 1.

Other highlights

Jim Dickie of CSO Insights shared an amazing array of deep insights and anecdotes about increasing revenues through well researched and systematic insights and subsequent operational adjustments and improvements.

During a fireside chat with SAP executives, one customer shared her companies’ challenge and painful journey with implementing SAP’s ERP solution. In a somewhat awkward exchange (which by the way, Jonathan Becher, EVP Marketing and Chris Ball, RVP Enterprise West, did a nice job of handling), it provided a fitting metaphor for the current societal transition underway. The customer has a voice. The crowd is listening, and the company is on the hot seat and is forced to present a transparent and unified message.

The Vendors
While I was familiar with most vendors at the event (see a full list here), a new name for me was iMeet, created by PGI, one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of (according to them powering more than 75% of the worlds conference calls).

iMeet provides a platform that takes web conferencing, social networking, and video technology, merges them all as one, and in my opinion provides the intermediary step between today’s web conferencing technology and ambient presence technologies of tomorrow.

Peter Stewart of PGi showed a number of witty spots and video segments that highlighted the challenges of today’s remote meeting environments.

Some interesting trends shaping the future of remote meetings are:

  • Ave. phone meeting is 4.5 people for 45 minutes, Add a visual and ave. is 5.5 people and 55 minutes
  • Over 1/3 of virtual attendees join from their mobile phones
  • Web conferencing has been around for 15 years. Only 10% of meetings include more than voice.
  • Having access to profile data in the midst of a meeting actually may provide advantages over meeting face to face by providing a deeper context of the person you are meeting with outside of the nature of your transaction.

It was a great time of seeing some familiar faces, and meeting several new ones. Kudos to Gerhard Gschwandtner, Selling Power magazine, and the entire Sales 2.0 conference team.

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!!!!!

In pursuit of True Relationship Value

Value Exchange

Relationships. How do we measure the value of a relationship?

It’s not an easy question to answer.

Customer Relationships. How do we measure the value of customer relationships?

We have an answer. But I think it’s the wrong one, or at the very least an incomplete one.

If we were all in a room together, many of you likely would have shouted out words like “profitability!”, or “revenue!”. Maybe some of the more advanced thinkers would throw out “CLV!” (Customer Lifetime Value).

The problem with this lies within the root of my first question: “How do we measure the value of a relationship?”

THE MEASUREMENT OF CURRENCIES AND CAPITAL

As companies measure the value of customers, we typically only look at Dollars, or Euros, or Yen, or whatever the local currency is. We limit our evaluation and ranking of our customers to how much capital they have contributed to our organization in the denomination of monetary currency. But aren’t there other forms of capital?

You’ve heard the terms: Relational capital, Social capital, Human capital, etc.

Identifying relational value should include all the components of the value created by that relationship, but today’s CRM systems typically only include monetary measures in identifying how much a customer is worth to the company.

What about those companies or individuals who have created value for the firm by:

(1) Talking positively about them
(2) Referring potential customers
(3) Referring potential employees
(4) Providing recommendations and/or being references
(5) Introducing them to new networks
(6) Adding value in other “hard to measure” ways

There is a whole set of value being generated and given to us by not just our customers, but many members in our relationship ecosystem. The problem is that we are not measuring it. Since we are not measuring it, we don’t know what to do with it, and are likely missing opportunities to create more opportunities of value exchange.

If people are only interested in money, we call them “golddiggers”. Shouldn’t our systems enable and empower richer professional relationships than this?

Circles: The Real Driver behind Social Business

We were all born into a circle. At one time in human history, our circle never extended beyond our family. The circles then extended to our tribe, and then our village. Circles then extended outward. They were drawn around common languages, common religious beliefs, and then nation states. Advances in technology have helped enable the extension of these circles. Our circles now have the capability to nearly encompass the whole earth.

It’s too much.

So, we begin to draw narrower circles that are more manageable. We apply filters that help us to find those people and things that are most interesting to us, those that will help us accomplish our need. We have the ability to include other people in the circles we have created or joined.

This process is innate. We did it in school growing up. We do it in our neighborhoods. We do it professionally.

We join or create a circle called an organization. Within that circle are many other circles. The one around your physical location. The one around your department. The one around those that you call work friends.

Advances in technology enable us to draw more circles, more often. Circles that transcend traditional boundaries. The ability to draw more creative circles has evolved with the mass adoption of phone, email, and the internet.

Social technologies have allowed us unmatched freedom to create these circles. The biggest circle now encompasses the whole planet. We know increasingly more about existing circles (communities, groups, customers, organizations, and the individuals within those circles).

It is becoming easier to build a circle around a single purpose.

There has been increasing debate and discussion about Social Business, Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 and the definitions of each.

The truth is that the change happening around us is simply about rapidly creating circles around a need.

There is someone out there right now that is trying to do something. They need your help. Social technologies have afforded us the ability to find, listen, and engage with them. You have the ability to quickly create a circle of folks who can work together to help them solve their problem. If that person with a need is “outside of your organization”, and your circle can provide something of value in exchange for currency, we call them a customer.

If you are able to do this over and over, circles containing multiple customers are created. They can, in turn, create their own circle or circles. They can tell stories about your circle to other circles they belong to. Some might label this process Social CRM.

If the same scenario happens behind the veil of corporate walls, we label this collaboration. We call it Enterprise 2.0. The ultimate value exchange might look a little different as currency might not be exchanged. But we’ve done the same thing. We’ve created a circle of collaboration to solve a problem – a purpose. The only difference is that the focus of goal was to solve a need within our existing circle.

The dynamics of these circles aren’t new. Humans have organized in this fashion for eons.

Here’s what is new, and is rapidly changing the fabric of society and business:

  • We can now create circles with unlimited amounts of people in them
  • We know increasingly more about these circles because of the data we are collecting, and the analytical capabilities we have
  • Any conversation within one circle can be shared with an unlimited number of circles
  • Circles are increasingly dynamic – they can be drawn, erased, and/or reconfigured almost instantaneously

Could all the complexity of this world really be wrapped up in… Circles?

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: (#2) Social Anthropologist

In the first post of this series, we talked about listening for what people are saying about you, your brand, your market, your products and services, or market needs that your organization has an answer for. I intentionally didn’t dig into all the things you can do with that data – some are passive and some are active. The important part was listening. Turning that data into actionable insight is where the real magic can happen, but that’s a post for a different day. 😉

A couple of weeks ago, well known social superwoman blogger Amber Naslund sent this surprised tweet out:

Amber Naslund Tweet

It is very interesting indeed. But I think I have a good idea of where that hiring company is going.

Today, I’m going to turn our attention to the second required role for your company: The Social Anthropologist.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear that phrase, it immediately brings to mind sleepy images of some British guy talking slowly and methodically on a Sunday afternoon about some displaced nomads in the bush of Botswana.

African Tribe

But that’s not what I am talking about here. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again. Know your customer.

Today, most companies are doing a good job of profiling their customers based on transactional data.

(1) Who spent the most money with us this year?
(2) Who is forecasted to spend more money with us next year?
(3) What net new opportunities do we have?

We may be breaking this data down by region, SIC Code, etc. We may have history of our marketing campaigns, response rates, phone calls, web form submissions, email interactions, sales person’s notes. We’ve got it all; Mounds and mounds of data about our customers.

With all this data, we may think we know our customers. But we don’t. In fact, we know very little about them.

A more complete customer profile

Harvey Mackay set out decades ago with his Mackay 66 to learn more about his customers. It was a differentiator. This was the next step towards actually knowing our customers. Do something like this, and you’ll be heads and shoulders above most of your competition.

But what if we were to take it even one step further?

What if we were to not just know about our customers, but also about the groups of people that they were part of, who they interact with, how they interact, and why?

Wikipedia defines Social Anthropology the following way:

Social anthropology is the branch of anthropology that studies how contemporary living human beings behave in social groups.

Practitioners of social anthropology investigate… the social organization of a particular people: customs, economic and political organization, law and conflict resolution, patterns of consumption and exchange, kinship and family structure, gender relations, childrearing and socialization, religion, and so on.

Most of our customers don’t live on an island (unless they live in Hawaii, or Australia, or… Suwarrow). No, I’m not talking about that kind of island anyway.

Strive to learn about your customers (and prospects) in the context of their lives.

They (We) all have circles of friendships, professional relationships, patterns, etc. that we live by. We have patterns of decision making, and we all make decisions based on influence of those we know and trust.

Below is an example of the #scrm Accidental Community on Twiangulate compliments of Josh Weinberger

By understanding more about those who influence our customer’s decisions; who they interact with, how they interact, and why they interact, we may discover valuable insights that may help us to meet our customer’s needs better, and if your organization is prepared enough, even co-create solutions with them.

Conversely, we may also begin to understand who our customers influence, and why a successful sale might not only allow us to recognize revenue from that single purchase, but also a chain of purchases based on the influence and recommendation of our customer’s purchase decision.

These insights are not only valuable for each individual prospect or customer, but also in aggregate. By profiling groups or segments of our customer base (or our target market in general), we can potentially gain key insights into who is likely deriving the most value from our products and service offerings.

The internet is compiling a huge amount of data

Feed.ly knows that 65% of my facebook friends are male, their most popular music group is U2, and their most popular movie is Gladiator.

While this may not present immediate opportunity in your mind, the point is illustrated. By knowing who I talk to, what their interests are, when and how we communicate, there are numerous opportunities to know more about me, what my preferences are, and what opportunities exist to help me in my daily life.

IBM recently did a social network analysis project called SNAzzy , to accurately chart and predict lifetime customer value and churn rates in the telecommunications industry.

James Koblieus points out on his blog the huge impact social network analysis will have on data warehouse growth and there are plenty of other challenges that await us as we begin to analyze and make sense of this data, and integrate with our existing systems and processes.

This is a new area for me and something I’ll definitely be spending more time on. If you know of any additional resources, please send them over.

Your customers and prospects are sharing, talking, conversing, and transacting. Get to know them. Partner with them, and find more people like them.

The State of Social CRM: 6 Takeaways from #SCRMSummit

One of the worst snowstorms in the history of our Nation’s capital, the most flight cancellations since 9/11 (almost 6,000), and the closure and inaccessibility of a pre-booked venue were the circumstances surrounding BPT Partner’s Social CRM Certification Training, better known to the Twittersphere as #scrmsummit.

Despite the obstacles, a little publicized event at a brand new Westin Hotel in Herndon, VA brought together a mix of customers, vendors, and a large majority of the world’s thought leaders on the subject of Social CRM. In all, participants not only descended on the blustery white winterland from all regions of the United States, but also from Canada, Mexico, Columbia, France, The Netherlands, and India. It truly was a global event.

The #scrm Accidental Community
was almost completely represented with one largely apparent omission, Esteban Kolsky, who was grounded before he could leave his hometown due to flight cancellations. Esteban made his presence felt during the event and after by assembling the tweets which you can download here to get a sense of the flow of the event. Here are the links from Day 1 and Day 2

Influentials from major enterprise stalwarts like SAP, Oracle, and Sage mixed among the ranks of social darlings Radian6, Lithium, and Jive. Marketing automation leader Eloqua was represented. Open Source leader SugarCRM, Aplicor, RightNow and NetSuite, and the largest CRM company you may have never heard of: Sword Ciboodle were also amongst the participants. I’ve probably forgotten someone, so please let me know and I’ll be sure and add it to this post.

Forrester and IDC sent some of their best in Dr. Natalie Petouhoff and Mike Fauscette, respectively. Of course, you had #scrm creator Brent Leary.

CRM magazine, THE information source for the CRM industry, sent their very own editorial director, David Myron, to participate, and Michael Krigsman was there to remind everyone that the fundamental core dangers of enterprise IT failure still were in play. In addition, there were a ton of additional leaders and intellectuals in the room – too many to mention, but you get the idea.

As official and impressive as all that sounds, the simple truth was that it was a room full of incredibly seasoned, creative, talented, and intelligent people united by a passion and desire to understand and shape the future of business, and refine both their individual and collective brain trust of the rapidly growing segment called Social CRM.

Without another word, let it be said that there is only one person in the world that could have assembled a crowd like that in a period of just a few weeks – Paul Greenberg. Let it also be said that Paul clearly is so far ahead of most everyone in his knowledge, vision, and understanding of the societal transformation happening around us, AND it’s implication on the world of CRM and business in general. Finally, and most importantly, let it be said that I have rarely met a gentleman so genuine and authentic in his desire to help others, coupled with his capability to do so.

Two scheduled days turned into three, due to flight delays for most everyone, and even four or five days for others who are, even as I write this, still holing up in the fortuitous Westin Dulles Airport hotel.

There were several individual highlights that happened over the past few days which I am sure others will expand on, but below are 6 key takeaways from my experience:

1. Social CRM influentials are living what they preach. The culture of this new and evolving community rapidly lends itself to learning, sharing, improving, and constructively challenging each other. In short, the community is thriving, and is providing a real time experiment, that someday may ultimately serve as a model for the next generation enterprise. It’s a privelege for me to be a part of it.

2. Companies MUST align their entire existence around helping their customers accomplish what they are trying to do. The debates about E20, Social CRM, Social Business, and corresponding terms and definitions are largely irrelevant. In short, organizations must know their customers (based upon more than simple transactional data), partner with their customers, and align their ENTIRE value delivery chain around helping their customers meet their needs as quickly and effectively as possible. This is my charge to the C-Suite.

3. Customer Experience trumps everything: Map your customer experience. Focus your attention on accentuating your strengths while improving your troubled spots. Your customers will pay more, evangelize more, and stay longer if you are able to execute.

4. There is a great battle for business platforms brewing. Those that own the platform and the data will be well positioned. Previously unrelated vendors will suddenly find themselves in fierce competition. A silent race is under way. Look around for the potential platform owners, and position your business to be able to leverage the platform(s) and data regardless of who ultimately wins that battle.

5. The Social Web is on a collision course with the enterprise. Those companies that understand the coming changes and are positioned to harness the data and translate real time information into effective action will be those that experience the largest success over the coming decade.

6. Social CRM is still in its infancy. We understand just a smidge of where this will ultimately end up. Paul’s book (which the training was based on) is an amazing comprehensive “Bible” on Social CRM with numerous case studies of organizations who are doing things right, contrasted with some that aren’t. Buy it now. Read the nearly 700 pages, and then download the other online chapters. Then sign up for the second training event in May in Atlanta. Once you have done that, you’ll likely be with me. There are hundreds of questions yet to be answered, and thousands of problems yet to be solved.

I would love to hear your feedback, questions, and thoughts. The adventure continues.