Customer Relationship Innovation for the Emergent Social Business

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Speaking at an event hosted by SugarCRM and IBM Social Business this week, I informally polled the audience.

“How many of you are NOT on facebook?” No hands were raised.
“How many of you have a twitter account?” Most of the room raised their hands.
“LinkedIn?” Most of the room again raised their hands.

I repeated the same questions, referencing the people in the room’s businesses, and a slightly smaller number of folks raised their hands, but more than half still did.

I then asked – “How many of you know what to do with them?” Giggles. Laughter. Very few hands.

This is where we collectively find ourselves. It’s representative of a number of organizations that I have the opportunity to work with and speak to.

I didn’t even think of asking if any organizations in the room had created a tactical plan to listen and engage with customers and create a seamless (and amazing) experience across multiple channels and domains. Most companies are still trying to get the fundamentals right (as Filiberto Selvas pointed out here)

It’s easy to join a social network. It’s harder to engage. What should I say? What will they think? Do I have permission?

It’s even harder to engage with a coordinated strategy and accurately measure the results of your efforts. Blend activities on the social web with what’s happening in the rest of the organization…across departmentsacross silos?

If we’re not even on the same page internally, how can we communicate a unified message to the world that hasn’t been careful crafted by our marketing team and the agencies that they work with?

My anecdotal observation is that many companies get here and then acknowledge that it’s just too big of a challenge to tackle…at least for now.

“If you’ve got to start somewhere, why not here? If you got to start sometime, why not now?” – Toby Mac

New landscape.
New customer.
New roles.
New communication mediums.
New expectations.
New corporate culture.
New Focus.
New Critical Success Factors.

It’s quite a bit to digest when people are trying to keep their jobs and help keep the company profitable, when they’ve already just absorbed the jobs of 1-2 people who were laid off over the past few years. However, only focusing simply on the here and now is the path to extinction.

Those who understand how these new changes are affecting their marketplace (which in most cases is larger, more complicated, and more diverse than it was just a few years ago) will be hyper-rewarded. Those who fail to admit, understand, and adjust to these rapidly evolving new realities will be destroyed, or more likely die a long, slow, painful death.

Below are a few highlights from the presentation.

B2B Buyers

FOUR THINGS TO FOCUS ON NOW

While there’s no notes or audio to the full deck, I’ve provided it below. Hopefully it provides value, and helps to stimulate some interesting conversations on the social web and for you in your respective organization(s). Interestingly, Mike Fauscette touched on many of the same themes in his blog post “Customer Service – the new Marketing in the era of the Social Customer”. It’s definitely worth a read.

One other final fascinating tidbit from the event was that I met and had a good chat with a Director of Marketing from a Silicon Valley startup. I meet and talk with plenty of Directors of Marketing. What was interesting about this one was that she said that she was actually a social anthropologist. My ears perked up. Seems like someone is paying attention. While the roles of social anthropologist and Director of Marketing may seem to be world’s apart, they’re not. Here’s a link to an article I wrote highlighting why it might be the perfect fit.

It’s fun to be part of the greatest transformation since the industrial revolution? Are you in?

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.

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). 

The Future of Customer Relationships: Where is all this heading?

Shifts in technology and human behavior are rapidly changing customer’s expectations of companies. Things are moving so fast, that most executives are not only trying to catch up with the changes, but identify what some of the changes are. Understanding what those changes mean to each business is a more complicated matter altogether.

Ross Dawson brilliantly lays out his observations of the mega trends happening around us in the charts below.

Ross Dawson Map of the Decade

Ross Dawson Zeitgeist 2011

Two growing and intertwining concepts (influence and reputation) are rapidly gaining ground and creating controversy as to their accuracy, adaptability, and use. There is a growing gap between those who believe that these scores and algorithms are the key to priority and leverage, opening up the door for profitable arbitrage, and others that believe that this is the emergence of a new caste system based on false measurements.

Just today, Klout just released a plugin for Twitter that displays an “influence” score (see the screenshot below), but this type of technology and scoring is currently in its infancy, and still marginally beneficial in the context of real life. However, some large and well known organizations are already giving perks and preference to customers with a high klout score.

Twitter Klout Plugin

Dr. Michael Wu, Chief Scientist, of Lithium Technologies, has been doggedly trying to uncover the meaning of influence, its impact on relationships, and ultimately corporate profit structures. Target the influencers, and you can move the crowd. There are seemingly vast opportunities in understanding and leveraging influencers within networked communities.

Influencer Network Graph

But, in reality, the influence/reputation conundrum is just one small movement in a massive tectonic shift happening that is disrupting geopolitical structures (Egypt, Bahrain, etc.), macro-economic theories and assumptions (the financial meltdown and the current response(s), human behavior, and corporate sustainability.

In late 2009, in one the most popular posts ever on customer focused portal, CustomerThink, Graham Hill outlined 15 tenets in his “Manifesto for Social Business


No1. From Individual Customers… to Networks of Customers

No2. From Customer Needs, Wants & Expectations… to Customer Jobs-to-be-Done

No3. From Company Value-in-Exchange… to Customer Value-in-Use

No4. From Delivering Value to Customers… to Co-Creating Value with Customers

No5. From Marketing, Sales & Service Touchpoints… to the End-to-End Customer Experience

No6. From One-Size-Fits-All Products… to a Long-Tail of Mass-Customised Solutions

No7. From Competing on Products, Price or Service… to Competing over Multi-sided Platforms

No8. From Company Push… to Sensing and Responding in Real-Time to Customers

No9. From Technology, Processes & Culture… to Complementary Capabilities and Micro-Foundations

No10. From Made by Companies for Customers… to Made By Customers for Each Other

No11. From On-premise Applications… to On-demand Solutions from the Cloud

No12. From Stand-alone Companies… to an Ecosystem of Networked Partners

No13. From Hierarchical Command & Control… to Collaborative Hybrid Organisations

No14. From Customer Strategy… to a Portfolio of Emergent Customer Options

No15. From Customer Lifetime Value… to Customer Network Value

Add to these, the fast growing mobile, always connected individuals, and you have the making of a perfect storm, for those who understand where things are headed.

Join the Conversation

On Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 1 pm PST / 4 pm EST, please listen in to a conversation as some of the world’s brightest minds will evaluate and debate where we’re heading, project how multiple trajectories might collide, and what your organization should be preparing for now.

I’ll be participating in a roundtable, hosted by Focus.com featuring experts Ross Dawson, Dr. Graham Hill, Dr. Michael Wu, and analyst and futurist Denis Pombriant as we explore topics such as:

1) Influence and Reputation: How forward thinking companies will leverage these new measurements to attract and keep customers
2) Co-Creation: What it is and why it’s next in the evolution of customer centricity
3) The Impact of rapidly maturing mobile and collaborative technologies on organizations, their customers, and society as a whole

Here’s the call-in information – I hope you have the chance to join us:

Toll-free Dial-In Number: (866) 951-1151
International Dial-In Number: (201) 590-2255
Conference # : 4999006

International Toll Free Numbers
United States +1 (866) 951-1151
Canada +1 (866) 951-1151
Australia +61 1800886154
Austria +43 080010251987
Belgium +32 080039174
Brazil +55 08007611761
China +86 108002652569
South China +86 108006500596
North China +86 4001243742
Czech Republic +420 800088444
Denmark +45 80901917
France +33 0800945173
Germany +49 8003304331
Hong Kong +852 800905500
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Taiwan +886 00806651824
Thailand +66 001800658109
United Kingdom +44 08003581576

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!!!!!

The Evolution of Customer Acquisition at CRM Evolution #CRMe10

Last week, I had the privilege of attending and speaking at the CRM Evolution Conference at the New York Marriott Marquis. It was a great couple of days. Big hats off to Paul Greenberg, David Myron, the rest of the team at Information Today, and the unsung heroes that race around behind the scenes to pull off an event such as this.

Instead of providing my own analysis, check out the fantastic write ups from Paul Greenberg, Esteban Kolsky, Chris Bucholtz, Andrew Boyd, Denis Pombriant, and Marcio Saito for more coverage of the event and mark your calendars to attend next years event which promises to be even better.

The Accidental Community was well represented by Mike Fauscette, Brent Leary, Jesus Hoyos, Prem Kumar Aparanji, Mitch Lieberman, Esteban Kolsky, Dr. Natalie Petouhoff, and Michael Krigsman.

On Tuesday morning, I spoke on “Evolving Customer Acquisition for the Social Business”. By show of hands in the room, probably 2/3 of the attendees stated that they were marketing folks, followed by some sales people, senior execs, and a couple of customer service people.

I started off telling the story of Hazel Bishop, and how because of the ability of her company’s ad firm, they were able to harness the rapid widespread adoption of the television to transform a struggling $50,000 a year company to a high flying $10,000,000 a year company in less than 3 years. That triggered a surprising response from one unnamed woman from the lively crowd which set a great tone for rest of the presentation. There was some compelling question and answer after the presentation related to trust and privacy and what it meant to be social in this era. It was a fascinating and unexpected conversation which elicited some strong and insightful opinions from the audience.

During the presentation, I highlighted four examples of companies that are doing innovative and interesting things in attracting new customers, and are being rewarded for their efforts.

The Old Spice Man
The Pepsi Refresh Project
Eloqua
HubSpot

There are too many people to thank for making it a great event for me personally and professionally. A very heartfelt thank you to those of you who attended my session, and especially to those who live tweeted. To those I was able to meet and talk with throughout the conference, I look forward to continuing the dialogue. Please feel free to view and download my presentation below. Just please attribute the work if you publish and use it according to the Creative Commons license attached.

Social Business: May I try and simplify this?

Business is about creating value, and reaping a return from that creation.

People (and/or groups of people) are responsible for:

(1) Evaluating value offerings
(2) Making decisions to exchange value with other people (and/or groups of people) for equal or greater value

Social media is a digital representation of people; their thoughts, their likes, their opinions, their emotions, their friends, their location.

Social networks are where digital expressions of people interact.

The kaleidescope of digital human interaction (people) has simply become richer.

Applying business thought and practice fundamentals to the emerging landscape of interaction and data just makes sense.

Thanks. I just needed to get that off my chest. Now we can get back to sorting out all the details.