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?”


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?

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.


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.

One Secret for CRM Success: Understanding the heart, mind, and soul of a sales person

“Anything that helps me sell more effectively, I will employ, but not at the expense of ineffectiveness” – Mike Muhney

Last week, I had the opportunity to have one of many conversations with industry pioneer Mike Muhney, co-founder of ACT! Software, and the sales person’s advocate in the conversation about CRM.

In our conversation, Mike makes a number of thought provoking statements that challenge the conventional thought process leading up to the beginning or advancement of a CRM initiative. Some of the topics you’ll hear include:

– Sales people are the “untethered element” of the organization

– Who does a sales person really work for? The customer or their company?

– CRM software is traditionally too complicated for sales people

– Technology isn’t always unencumbering

– Why sales people sabotage CRM deployments

– CRM needs to revert backwards to less functionality

– What to do when your top sales people refuse to use the system

Each of these topics could be a blog or podcast on their own. While I don’t necessarily agree with some of Mike’s opinions, he makes some great points and brings a convincing voice for those venturing into, or deeper into, the world of CRM systems.

While CRM failure can ultimately stem from a number of strategic, procedural, or organizational factors, end user adoption (and more specifically end user adoption by the sales team) is one of biggest hurdles to overcome.

Michael Krigsman’s ZDNet blog post “Three Big Reasons CRM Initiatives Fail” expand on this thought:

Paying insufficient attention to user needs and benefits.

Engaging users is critical to the success of any enterprise software deployment, but particularly so in the case of CRM, where users can sometimes sidestep the technology and still accomplish their job function.

A research note from AMR Research explains why this aspect of CRM is different from other enterprise software categories:

In applications such as ERP, supply chain, or financial management applications, the users have much less flexibility or choice in whether or not to adopt an enterprise application standard. And when was the last time you heard someone question why financials were implemented?

A quick search reveals that many observers believe poor user adoption is a key driver of failed CRM projects. In a SearchCRM interview, SugarCRM’s former CEO, John Roberts, links adoption to end-user perception of value (emphasis added):

“In a lot of cases, companies deploy CRM, and there’s a lot of euphoria over it for the first couple of months. Then, people stop using it. They look at it as ‘Big Brother’ watching them. CRM is sold as a tool to make an organization more effective and efficient; but the end user doesn’t see CRM as making them more efficient and effective.”

In my view, poor user adoption is not the direct cause of CRM project failure. Rather, it’s a symptom the organization has not anticipated obstacles that may interfere with users embracing the new system.

Adoption may lag for many reasons, including:

  • Software that is complicated or difficult to use
  • Sales people that don’t see adequate value in the new system
  • Poor communication of benefits to users

Get users to adopt a new CRM system by focusing on the WIFM (What’s In It For Me) factor. I asked independent analyst, Erin Kinikin, for her thoughts on engaging users:

“The sales person is quarterback for the customer team. Give the sales people good reasons to login and use the system. If the sales person feels the system saves time, makes money, or helps ‘keep score’, he or she will be much more likely to use the system — and enter customer data.”

One banker involved with CRM efforts told me:

Frontline users, particularly the most effective “top-producers,” will adopt the system only on the basis of real or perceived value.

Engage users early and often during the system planning and implementation phases, so they understand what’s in it for them. When users do not adopt a system as planned, seek their honest feedback on how to make it more usable, helpful, and valuable.

Have a listen. Share your thoughts. I’d love to hear from sales people, executives, consultants and CRM vendors.

Also, which of the bullets above would you be most interested in discussing or hearing about on future blogs and podcasts? Sound off!

The Challenge with CRM Initiatives

John Moore, on his recent blog post, Why aren’t you using your CRM system more? has facilitated a meaningful conversation which has triggered some very productive dialogue related to CRM, what it is, and why companies haven’t had more success.

This thread confirms what I have suspected for quite a while; While the evolution of Social Media and CRM continues to push forward in present day, many are still confused about what CRM is. There is an ever widening gap between those caught in an early 90’s mindset (as Esteban Kolsky references in an earlier comment) regarding CRM and those looking forward to leverage the latest technologies for their customer facing initiatives (ie Social Media, Mobile, Mashups, Cloud Computing, etc).

If you polled 100 executives, and asked them to define CRM, you’d likely get more than 50 different answers.

I’d define CRM as something like this:

CRM is a business strategy for increasing profitability through the alignment of people, processes, and technology towards enhancing the company’s value proposition and overall customer experience.

That said, if you can’t clearly define something, how can you possibly measure success?

The challenge with a CRM initiative is that there are so many expectations at so many levels, both internal and external. Success is certainly attainable, but requires the complex organizational alignment across management levels and functional disciplines.

An organization rolling out a successful CRM initiative will have:

1. An understanding of who their customer is, what their customer needs, and how they can present a compelling value proposition and unmatched customer experience

2. A clear understanding of the organizational and procedural changes required to deliver the compelling value proposition and customer experience

3. A clear understanding of the expectations/needs from:
a. Executives
b. Managers
c. Front Line Workers (across the disciplines of all customer facing departments – Sales, Marketing, Service, Support)

4. An ability to deliver a “system” (process plus technology) that maximizes value to ALL OF THE STAKEHOLDERS presented above.

Doing something like this requires tremendous alignment between executive vision, leadership talent, a “customer centric” culture, systems design, user empowerment, and the proper technology tools to support it.

For every company that is able to execute this, there are boatloads of those who can’t, and most don’t have any idea why.

I’d enjoy hearing your input below.

Is it about the technology, or is it about transforming your business?

Richard Boardman makes a case in his blog post  The CRM Consultant: Independent CRM consultants and their role outside CRM software selection…. that independent CRM consultants have an important role that is seldom recognized or valued.

In making this point, he points out a number of common false assumptions:

That selecting the right technology is the key challenge, and once you are settled on that everything else is straightforward. In reality while technology (and implementation partner selection) is very important, it is by no means the toughest challenge in applying CRM technology. The areas of strategy, process design, and user adoption are far more demanding.

That the quoted price in an accurate representation of what you will end up paying. Since most CRM vendor pricing is provided on indicative or estimated basis what the client ends up paying can be an order of magnitude different from the initial quoted price. The client either has to dumb down the requirements or accept the shift in budget.

That CRM vendors have the ability and inclination to deliver a system that significantly improves performance rather than a system helps them meet their sales targets. The two objectives rarely coincide in my experience.

So often, companies start by asking the wrong question:  Which CRM software technology is best?

They should be starting by clearly defining their CRM strategy, refining their business processes, and definining a clear set of specifications that their business requires. Once this is done, they can go out to find the best fit in the marketplace for their needs.

Start there, and you’ll exponentially increase your chance of success, and more importantly the profitability of your organization

Avoid 3 Roads to CRM Disaster

Rich Cook, in his article below,reminds us that CRM is largely about strategy, people, and processes. With a CRM implementation, there are a ton of moving parts to measure and keep track of. Making sure that you are attending to the 3 items below will give you a great shot at success, and most importantly, increased profitability.

3 Roads to CRM Disaster

Know the signs to avoid these all too common CRM hazards.

By Rick Cook | April 23, 2009

A few years ago, analysts were reporting failure rates as high as 50 to 70 percent for CRM projects. While companies have gotten more savvy about CRM and how to implement it, the failure rate for the software still remains high.

Part of that rate depends on the definition of “failure” as well as unrealistic expectations. But the fact remains that many CRM projects fail in the sense of not delivering the estimated increases to the bottom line, customer satisfaction and other endpoint metrics.

While the details, and the definitions, of these failures often vary significantly, they usually come down to the same major errors.

Here are three pitfalls you want to avoid with CRM:

1. Concentrating on the technology at the expense of the people: CRM is not technology. Instead, it uses technology to support sales and marketing’s efforts to get closer to your customers.

Implementing CRM starts well before you purchase the system or even decide which software to use. It begins with a clear definition of CRM goals, project requirements and success factors. In other words, what are you trying to do, what will you need to do it and how will you know when you’ve succeeded? This also has to include a careful analysis of your sales process, its strengths and weaknesses and where you need to improve.

This definition phase is doubly important because not all CRM packages are created equal. Like companies, they have different strengths and weaknesses and you need to choose one which matches your needs. All of them have the same general functionality but they vary in how well and how completely they do different jobs.

Similarly, you have to consider the nature of your business when choosing a CRM solution. If your business involves long sales cycles of high-value equipment with multiple decision makers, you want to emphasize different things in your sales strategy than if you’re selling lower-cost goods on a fast sales cycle with many repeat customers.

Because CRM makes heavy use of computers, it’s easy to confuse it with technology. In fact, the history of CRM implementation is rife with projects which were a technical success — delivered on time and within budget — but which were practical failures because the project didn’t deliver the bottom-line benefits.

If you equate technology with CRM, you’ll probably end up confusing your employees and annoying your customers.

2. Not having everyone aboard: According to Gartner Group, most CRM failures are the result of user errors rather than technological ones.

The most common of these failures, experts agree, is not having everyone on the same page. A successful CRM effort has support from all staff and widespread agreement on the goals and methods of the CRM project. That includes the sales staff, whom will use the CRM tools, and top management, whom must provide the drive and oversight for the project.

A full CRM implementation requires wide-ranging changes throughout your sales and marketing organization. If the people who have to execute your new CRM strategy don’t understand and agree with what you’re doing, you’ll most likely have a failure.

Likewise, a CRM project needs realistic, enthusiastic support from management at all levels, including a manager or managers who will champion the project and help to keep it on track. This kind of broad-based support is critical and it usually doesn’t happen automatically. It has to be built. To repeat an often-stressed theme, CRM requires selling inside your company.

Stress the benefits that CRM will bring to your staff. The fact that a CRM system will give you greater control over your sales process isn’t nearly as important to your sales reps as the potential to increase sales, and hence profits. On the other hand, it’s likely to be much more important to the managers above you. When you talk about CRM’s benefits, stress the ones that the people you are talking to are likely to be most interested in.

It’s also important to realize that the job of getting and keeping everyone aboard doesn’t end when the CRM project goes live. The sales staff has to be constantly encouraged, reminded and sometimes pushed to use CRM tools. Managers have to be shown through clear metrics how the CRM effort is paying off.

In making CRM work, both in implementation and in ongoing use, feedback is critical. You’re almost certainly going to have to adjust the project as you go along, and to get it right you’re going to have to rely on feedback from all levels. More than most project implementations, CRM is a matter of constantly adjusting to get things “right” under continuously changing conditions.

3. Not putting the customer first: By its nature, CRM is customer-centric. The CRM model tries to increase sales by focusing on and building better relations with the customer.

A successful CRM implementation improves the customer experience. One that fails makes the customer less willing to deal with you. This is an important metric, even if it isn’t always as easy to see.

One place where success with the customers shows up is in the bottom line. An effective CRM implementation makes it easier and more pleasant for customers to buy from you. This shows up not just in increased sales, but in increased sales per customer, increased cross-selling and up-selling and other measures of sales activity. However, this is only a surrogate. You need to listen carefully to your customers to find out what they like and don’t like.

None of these causes for failure is rocket science — or even high school chemistry. They can be easily avoided, as many companies do each year. While that requires some knowledge of the warning signs, mostly it is a matter of attention to detail and understanding where CRM fits into your sales and marketing organization.

via Inside CRM – 3 Roads to CRM Disaster