In an era of crisis & revolution, is your company the next target?

We are living in interesting times indeed. Geo-political revolutions, financial crises, economic uncertainty. Try as we might to ignore them, the fact is that the very fabric of capitalism is being re-evaluated, and perhaps even rewoven.

What we have assumed and known for at least 150 years is at the very least being questioned. Institutions that have spanned generations are now vulnerable.

Banks are still closing down weekly. The situation in Europe is increasingly fragile as previous whispers of dramatic austerity and potential collapse of the Euro become potentially viable outcomes.

In the United States, President Obama’s approval rating is at an all time low. Congress approval rating is at 14% – FOURTEEN PERCENT! – also an all time low.

Civil unrest has spread from oppressive dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and Africa to the developed world (see London riots).

Corporate America is obviously feeling the effects of many of these issues as they affect all of us, directly or indirectly.

You are likely familiar with the recent collapse of these famed organizations:

  • Lehman Brothers
  • Merrill Lynch
  • Blockbuster Video
  • Borders Bookstores

Power to the People

Friends, we are living in a unique era. While world leaders collectively wrestle with the greatest economic challenges in the last 70 years, many corporations find themselves doing the same. Customers are voicing their opinions about companies they do business with, as constituents voice their displeasure about the poor job their leaders are doing on their behalf.

The following incidents caught executives by surprise as specific cries against corporate actions rallied the hearts, minds, and activity of thousands in revolt against insensitive corporate interests.

  • Dell Hell
  • United Breaks Guitars
  • Kevin Smith’s Southwest Airlines Incident
  • Greenpeace and Nestle

Jeremiah Owyang chronicles a more complete list of corporate social media crisis here

What’s perhaps most interesting is that these recent revolutions and crises, whether political or corporate, are being fueled and enabled by the reach and connectedness of internet based social networks.

While Jeremiah and the team at The Altimeter Group once again published a quality open research report titled “Social Readiness: How Advanced Companies Prepare” , it is possible to miss some of the larger, more important underlying issues.

The Seeds of Revolution

Surely, rapid uprisings and revolutions don’t just happen because someone tweets about it, or posts a YouTube video. It’s not the medium that really matters. It’s the ability for the message to spread, and for people to self-organize quickly – to out-think, out-flank, and out-number their oppressors or aggressors.

Revolution happens because a latent frustration finds an outlet. It happens because enough people unite and take action around an idea of change. Connected by a common interest or frustration, the network effect takes place as people unite in a flash mob around a common goal. It happens because the thought of things staying the same becomes more fearful and oppressive than the uncertainty and risk associated with standing up and going a different direction.

According to BJ Fogg’s behavioral model (Hat tip to Dr. Graham Hill and Dr. Michael Wu for pointing me his way), there are three primary factors that lead to behaviors:

  • Motivation
  • Ability
  • Trigger

You see, I believe that there are tons of latent motivations out there that never turn into anything because the other two factors don’t exist. Social Networks and ubiquitous connectivity are providing the ability to actually do something once a trigger occurs. With latent motivations and now the ability to do something now in place, a trigger event becomes a spark that can quickly flame into a roaring fire.

In a world that is increasingly connected, increasingly digital, and access to anything and anyone is available in real time, corporate leaders should be considering the following questions.

The fabric of global society is transforming from a collection of lots of small, geographically connected groups to groups that are connected in a new geography that transcends previous space and time limitations.

Much of the new global infrastructure has been laid and it will continue to become more pervasive and more powerful.

People can now aggregate across boundaries, and organize beyond the constraints and management comforting silos. Al Quaeda and WikiLeaks quickly come to mind. In the same way, business units are self-organizing around the constraints of their IT departments.

Guess what? Our prospects and customers now have the ability to do the same.

The question every executive should be asking right now

So then the next question is, will your organization lead the next revolution in your marketplace, empowering and giving voice to the latent motivations of your customers, or will it become a victim of a more agile, more united group of customers who will self organize around their collective needs and jobs, leaving your outdated organization in their wake?

Let’s continue the discussion

If you are in Southern California or Arizona, please join me on September 21 and 22 as I lead discussions centered around this topic in a series of Executive Breakfasts sponsored by NICE.

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Empowering Human Movements: 7 Observations about the State of Social Business

This week, I’ve had the privilege to participate in the Sales 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 conferences in Boston, MA.

It’s been good to see old friends, meet new ones, and/or insert a handshake or hug into a previously only virtual relationship. The conference(s) also provided a great chance to check on the pulse of the industry, hear new stories, and generally get a broader and better sense for what’s going on the in the marketplace. 

Like a room full of toddlers, the industry is learning to walk. There have been starts, stops, over compensations, disparity amongst players in general understanding and development, and in some cases, the harsh realization that we’re just not quite ready to do what we want to do.

1. Society, and therefore, the workplace is (still) evolving
This statement could have been (and was) written 5 years ago, but we’re early enough in the evolution that it’s still worth noting. The growth of a new wave of human communication, empowerment, and progress continues to move on. The pervasiveness of mobile and social technologies continues to expand geographically, and also more deeply penetrate individuals work lives in a continually blurred kaleidoscope of contexts.

2. Visions are still being cast, and re-cast

From my vantage point, the key tenets of social business benefits have been flushed out. While collectively most of us understand that a more efficient, more collaborative, more distributed way of living is coming, organizations and vendors alike continue to wrestle with what exactly that vision looks like in a tangible way. Tactical plans, and even organizational vision seems to be in a stage of frequent recalibration as more information emerges from the marketplace.

This, in and of itself, is one of the benefits of the realized benefits of a more collaborative culture. The shorter the feedback loop, the more opportunity for recalibration and alignment with stakeholder needs.

A major challenge facing operators on both the vendor and practitioner sides, respectively, is what feedback to take into consideration, and how to weight it appropriately. A similar dilemma faces stock traders; what is a meaningful movement versus what are short term fluctuations and what meanings and importance should be applied to myriad of elements flowing through the industry and customer firehose.

3. What’s the value?

Like any change initiative, WIIFMs are required. This is not different than any other technology powered advancement. While the broad based benefits of sentiment analysis, knowledge sharing, real time collaboration, and big data analytics are understood, the tangible benefit of social technologies will vary significanly for each organization, and quite frankly, each individual that interacts within its ecosystem.

Identifying the organizational goals, and coupling that with the perceived benefits of a wide audience of stakeholders is key to setting strategy, and establishing the corresponding tactical approach.

Questions like:

What’s the problem?
Who’s the customer (can be internal or external)?
What are they trying to accomplish, collectively and individually?
How do they do it now?
How can we make it better?
…and a host of other questions associated with the value creation process

…all still carry the same weight. I see the same high risk potential with the implementation and/or deployment of social technologies that we’ve seen with the introduction of ERP, CRM, Knowledge Management, E-Commerce, etc.

Business cases and value propositions are still necessary. ROI analysis may or may not be.

4. The customer is rising in importance and focus

One key thing that is encouraging is that conversations about the customer are gaining more prominence. Enterprise 2.0 had an entire track dedicated to sales and marketing that had good attendance. Kudos to Sameer Patel for putting the track together.

5. Enough thought leadership. It’s time to get to work.

Very few new ideas have emerged. New spins, new takes, new anecdotes are being spun, but very few epiphany inspiring ideas are being spread. As noted earlier, the key tenets of the next half decade have already been flushed out.Pioneers in the space are now beginning to have lessons learned stories to tell. Case studies warn of pitfalls and show how and where success has been realized.

In general, there is a growing sentiment of “there’s nothing left to say”.

6. Sales as a litmus test.

Sales has been the laggard in the adoption of social tools. In the front office, the two other musketeers, marketing and customer service, have more often capitalized on the use of social media, social networking, social crm, and social blah, blah, blah.  While some may point to the sales guys and being technically less competent than some of the other workers in the organization, I point to another possible reason why the uptake has been slower to catch on.

No one else in the organization is as tightly tied to “pay for performance” than the sales team. Their butt is on the line daily. No one will be more resistant to employ useless strategies, tactics, and technologies than the ones whose compensation is as tightly aligned to their quarterly performance. If something is not helping them sell more, they are not using it. Their time is too valuable to work on non value-added toys. The end of the month is always just a few days away.

That said, more and more stories are emerging about global sales teams collaborating through Enterprise 2.0 tools, and/or individuals and teams from companies of all sizes using products like InsideView or OneSource to quickly access sales intelligence, partially leveraging data from the social web for this.

7. Empowering Human Movements
Whether we’re talking about political revolution, crowds self-aggregating for discounts, community members helping each other solve problems, or crowd sourced innovation, the common thread is that social technologies help to empower human movements. Social provides a platform where information and people can be searched for, identified, and harnessed for a specific purpose faster than any other time in history.

I expressed my views of social in “Circles”, and a more simplified version in “Social Business: May I try and simplify this?”

Social technologies help to empower human movements to achieve jobs of varying degrees; as small as responding to a question asked on LinkedIn, or as large as creating a hyper growth startup or overthrowing a government.  

Summary
The mesh of Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 philosophies, process and technology innovations continue to gain momentum, and are becoming more tightly entwined as the journey towards the pervasive emergence of the “social business”.  At varying points of the journey, however, organizations with a strong established trajectory are realizing that success is elusive for those that do not have the fundamentals in place (collaborative culture, functional systems of record, solid change management practices). 

Social Media, Collaboration, and Customer Insights with an elite group of experts: April 4-6, 2011

When SugarCRM asked me to assemble the social track for SugarCon, the first thing that impressed me was the “spirit” of the track, and conference for that matter. It had little to do with touting Sugar; the company, or the products they make. Rather, it was all about creating a gathering of thought leaders, practitioners, and vendors to mutually work together in the effort of taking the next leap in improving customer relationships.

The great thing about working in collaboration with an open source company is that they “get” stuff like “open”, “collaboration” and “community”. It seems to be just naturally in their DNA and has been since their inception.

SugarCon 2011

I am excited about the lineup. The quality of speakers is amazing, and contains a diversity of perspectives that is hard to emulate, especially at a vendor conference. If you are free April 4-6, 2011, please mark your calendars and plan to attend SugarCon.

Considering that the price for the entire event is far less than what these folks normally charge for an hour of their time, plus the invaluable benefit of networking with other executives, marketers, sales folks, and technologists, it makes it a no-brainer if you can attend. Add to that the additional keynotes, 5 additional tracks, and it’s truly an event you won’t want to miss.

***** To make it even sweeter, mention the special discount code #SCON040511 and get $150 off. *****

Here’s a quick breakdown of the presenter’s lineup, chalk full of folks who have a reputation of keynoting on their own.

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg

Paul Greenberg (@pgreenbe)

Paul will be keynoting the event. If you don’t know who Paul Greenberg is, you probably “have been very busy”. He’s written four versions of the best selling book, “CRM at the Speed of Light”, is an independent analyst, and a well respected consultant to some of the largest and well known CRM vendors in the world. He coined the most used definition of Social CRM, and has energized an industry with his research, intelligence, signature writing style, inquisitive mind, and kind and generous nature. Paul was the mastermind and primary catalyst behind one of the most unique and powerful events I have been to almost exactly a year ago, which has since quite literally propelled an industry (Social CRM) that Gartner is now saying is greater than a $1 Billion marketplace. Paul is well worth the price of admission alone.

By the way, there’s another one of these now famous #scrmsummit events coming up next month (March) in Madrid, Spain if you can make it.

Esteban Kolsky

Esteban Kolsky

Esteban Kolsky (@ekolsky)

If you clicked on the Madrid, Spain “Social CRM Strategies for Business” link, you probably saw a picture of Esteban dropping knowledge in a purple shirt and a shiny blue tie. While he likely won’t be wearing a suit, he most definitely will be dropping knowledge about the evolution of social and CRM to this point in time, and will be leveraging his extensive research experience (former Gartner analyst) to paint his view of the coming “collaborative enterprise”. Esteban is one of the sharpest minds in the space, and possesses a great blend of experience (analyst, consultant, practitioner), and background (an Argentinian of Eastern European descent that floats around Silicon Valley). He’s also got a great sense of humor. You won’t want to miss his session.

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff

Dr. Natalie Petouhoff (@drnatalie)

One of two PhDs. in the lineup, “Dr. Natalie” made quite a splash last year when she jumped from Forrester Research as a Customer Service analyst to take a role as “Chief Strategist” for Weber Shandwick, one of the world’s leading global public relations firms. In fact, Weber Shandwick was just named global agency of the year, for the second year in a row. In addition to being an actual rocket scientist, Dr. Natalie has written multiple books, is a university professor, and has led organizations in a wide variety of capacities as an analyst, consultant, and senior executive. Bringing together a depth of varied experience and a warm and entertaining style, Dr. Natalie will inspire new thoughts and ideas for you to take back to your organization.

Adrian Ott

Adrian Ott

Adrian Ott (@ExponentialEdge)

There’s not many people who have been called “Silicon Valley’s Most Respected Strategist”. Her consulting work is rooted in 18 years of corporate experience, and Adrian recently wrote and published her award winning book “The 24 hour Customer” which takes an intriguing look at why time is more valuable than money, and why and how to work with attention deprived customers. She’s appeared on Bloomberg TV, BusinessWeek, The Washington Post, and other major media for her research and insights about growing businesses in today’s exponential economy. Seriously good stuff. That’s all there is to it.

Dan Zarrella

Dan Zarrella

Dan Zarrella (@danzarrella)

Dan is the original Social Media Scientist. Beneath the hype and hyperbole of the social media evolution, one guy has a reputation of looking deeply into the numbers and producing insights and takeaways that often fly in the face of the mainstream cheerleaders. He knows why certain tweets gets retweeted, and when and why to post certain messages on your facebook page. He is the author of The Facebook Marketing Book and the Social Media Marketing Book. Based on his research, he knows what day and what time you should blog, or tweet. Hubspot is leveraging guys like Dan to fuel exponential growth. Take copious notes when you’re listening to Dan because they’ll translate to success and dollars when you’re back in the office.

Dr. Michael Wu

Dr. Michael Wu

Dr. Michael Wu (@mich8elwu)

Speaking of scientists, Dr. Michael Wu is taking some of the most complicated subjects underpinning the social web, social business, and social networks, dissecting them and then educating the masses with detailed yet digestible explanations of how things really work and how successful organizations can leverage networks to thrive. As the principal scientist of Lithium Technologies, a leader in Gartner’s Social CRM Magic Quadrant, and the pioneer platform provider for customer communities, Dr. Wu has access to a boatload of data, and he slices and dices it with precision. The output is keen insights into why some communities, organizations, and individuals thrive on the social web, and others don’t. Dr. Wu will teach you how seemingly far reaching concepts such as influence, gaming dynamics, and other factors can be key differentiators between marketing and customer service success and failure.

Becky Carroll

Becky Carroll

Becky Carroll (@bcarroll7)

What Becky Carroll is working on now could be enough for most people to complete in a lifetime. She’s a professor at UC San Diego, an NBC news correspondent, book author, consultant, and manages the Verizon customer community. She’s long been an author of one of the most popular blogs in the world focused on customer service and customer experience. Entertaining, multi-talented, and engaging, she understands the social world well, and knows what works with customers. Soak up her wisdom and add to your bottom line.

Christopher Carfi

Christopher Carfi

Christopher Carfi (@ccarfi)

Christopher started his blog called “The Social Customer Manifesto” in 2004! He saw today’s reality nearly a decade ahead of it’s time, and is now looking ahead at the future and the impact of the perfect storm mashup of social, mobile, and cloud computing and what it means for consumers, and in turn, the organizations that seek to earn their business. After nearly a decade at Anderson consulting, he founded Cerado, Inc. to provide software and services that enable businesses, organizations and associations to better connect and understand their customer and member communities. He recently joined Edelman Digital, the digital arm of the largest, independently owned communications firm in the world, Edelman, the publishers of the Edelman Trust Barometer, the subject of my last blog post.

Brent Leary

Brent Leary

Brent Leary (@brentleary)

Another guy who was early to the game, Brent literally started the social crm conversation on Twitter back in 2008 by creating the #scrm hashtag and bringing together a community of thousands to discuss the topic. He co-authored Barack 2.0, chronicling how Barack Obama leveraged Social Media on the way to the presidential election. Brent is the principal and founder of CRM Essentials, and is a well respected analyst, consultant, and thought leader. His thoughts are regularly featured in Inc. magazine, OPEN by American Express, and he’s been quoted in several national business publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Entrepreneur magazine. Brent specializes in the SMB market and always has unique, relevant and actionable insights to share.

Laurence Buchanan

Laurence Buchanan

Laurence Buchanan (@buchanla)

Laurence heads up CRM and Social CRM within the UK for Capgemini (Technology Services). In his current role Laurence is responsible for Capgemini’s CRM & Social CRM go-to-market strategy and business development across all packaged vendors and industries. He is passionate about helping clients articulate their customer-centric vision and strategy, and enabling that through the smart use of technology. Prior to Capgemini, Laurence spent a decade with SAP, where he was global vice president for SAP CRM. He is a recognised authority and evangelist on CRM, Social CRM and customer experience transformation. He writes regularly on Social CRM at The Customer Revolution and is a member of the CRM advisory board at the Rotman Centre for CRM excellence in Toronto.

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew Rosenhaft (@mmrosenhaft)

Matthew Rosenhaft is the Principal of Social Gastronomy and Co-Founder of the Social Executive Council, an elite group of global CxOs, focused on leveraging social technologies in their organizations. He is a former marketing executive who specializes in Social Business, Marketing, and Architecture Strategy. He also has founded several early-stage venture-backed technology companies and holds a US patent for a mobile marketing technology. You won’t want to miss Matthew’s session as he unveils the research findings of his firm, and provides an ultra-tangible example of how companies can leverage social market research to provide insight into strategic customer focused initiatives. The subject of his research? SugarCRM. Come attend this no-holds barred session as Matthew unveils clues to Sugar about what the marketplace and prospective buyers think about them, and offers some suggestions about how they might respond.

That’s the lineup. What are you waiting for? Register here, save some cash with the #SCON040511 discount code, and let’s setup a time to connect while you’re there.

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.

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.