Customer Relationship Innovation for the Emergent Social Business

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I will be phasing this blog at the end of December, 2011.
Please visit my new blog at http://www.brianvellmure.com
and subscribe to the new feed there. Thanks!
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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 search of: A meaningful measure of Influence

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I will be phasing this blog out soon. Please visit my new blog at
http://www.brianvellmure.com and subscribe to the new feed there. Thanks!
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Influence. It’s a captivating word. It’s an alluring word.

We all want it, and we want to know others who have it.

In high school, if you could get the “cool kids” to the party, the rest would follow.

If the most famous and glamorous people in the world use it, like it, and talk about it, it must be great.

INFLUENCE: THE DEFINITION

But is that influence? From our good friend, Webster, Influence is:

1. A power affecting a person, thing, or course of events, especially one that operates without any direct or apparent effort:
2. Power to sway or affect based on prestige, wealth, ability, or position

WHO, THEN, ARE THE INFLUENCERS?

As part of a thought exercise, I asked myself two questions:

(1) Who are the most influential folks in history?

Names like Jesus, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Adolf Hitler, FDR, Mohandas Ghandi, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Steve Jobs come to mind.

Nelson MandelaMartin Luther King, Jr. Steve Jobs

(2) Who have been the most influential people in my life?

My wife, my parents, a former NBC Universal Executive, a business man turned global missionary, the most successful enterprise sales executive I know, a Navy Seal turned pastor and non-profit Executive Director, and select football and basketball coaches throughout my athletic career.

The irony is that many or most of the most influential people in my life literally have no or limited presence on Social Networks (yet). There are dozens of others who influence my thinking as circles cascade outwards, and as contexts become more detailed and narrowly defined, but these are the ones who have spoken into my life, and who have the most influence on my decisions. Their actions and influence on my behavior is for all intents and purposes, not measurable.

THE “INFLUENCE” OF NETWORKS ON THE SOCIAL CUSTOMER

But I am also a social customer. I read reviews. I ask, comment, and interact in public social networks and forums, and these interactions and the things I learn and observe do influence my buying decisions.

WOMMA put together the following infographic about what fuels our collective purchasing decisions. These are the things that have marketers so excited and quite frankly, confused.

Word of Mouth Marketing

LEVERAGE AND THE DEMOCRATIZATION OF INFLUENCE

As the restricted and proprietary ivory towers of media, global communication, and information flow have given way to citizen journalists, we have witnessed the great democratization of media, celebrity status, and, in turn, the democratization of influence itself. Or have we? Has anything really changed?

In the end, business is all about leverage. It’s about maximizing the return on available time, talents, and resources. The social web, ubiquitous connectedness, and the ongoing digitization of everything finds marketers both forced and opportunistically looking to leverage the new influencers (their reach, their networks, and the trust that they’ve established in their tribe) for their respective interests.

Watch this short clip from a fascinating talk by Deb Roy and you’ll see a fantastic example of how an action by one can truly effect the actions of tens, or hundreds, or potentially thousands of others.

So, then, as marketers, the next obvious questions are:

How do we find the influencers?

How do we engage with them?

How do we entice them?

And, ultimately, how do we provide these influencers with a message that they can carry to their audience(s) that benefit our brand, our company, our products, and ultimately our interests?

FINDING THE INFLUENCERS

Who do we reach out to?
This first question is where most people start. Who are the influencers in our marketplace? The answer to that question, in and of itself, may be tougher than it initially seems. The unaware may start with their offline network, and extend their research by finding those with the highest number of Twitter followers. But studies have shown that there is little correlation to numbers of Twitter followers, facebook fans, or similar social network as measures of real influence.

For more reading on this, check out On Twitter, Followers Don’t Equal Influence and Celebrities’ Twitter Followers Have Zero Influence

Some online services have begun to tackle this problem by attempting to measure influence in a more scientific way. By now, you may have undoubtedly heard of Klout, or PeerIndex, or Traackr, or several other upstart influence measurement tools.

  • Are these valid?
  • Should they be used? And if so, how?
  • Does it help me identify the influencers who can allow me the greatest amount of leverage for distributing my message, and more importantly, help make a measurable impact for my organization?

THE EMERGENCE OF INFLUENCE MEASUREMENT SCORES



Klout, the most widely recognized service, recently stirred a sea of controversy when they changed their algorithm score. Perusing through the comments, it was apparent that some had so deeply embraced these influence scores, that they were literally upset that they might lose their jobs, their clients, and for a moment, I was concerned that many of them might even lose their lives.

While Klout’s messaging spun this as a “More Accurate, Transparent Klout Score”, I have to wonder. They’ve never been very transparent about the mechanics of what makes up the Klout score. While Klout started with Twitter, it has since expanded to Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and a host of other social sharing sites. At first glance, it appears that facebook, in particular, has taken on a far more significant weighting in their recent shift.

When trying to understand the motivations behind actions, I often start with the looking at the money trail. It’s important to know that Klout is a for-profit corporation with venture capital funding. It’s also important to know that they are monetizing their service by providing social data to large consumer brands. Alignment with the world’s most popular and mainstream social network probably makes sense and may contain the most valuable unstructured data for what has emerged as Klout’s primary paying customers, the world’s largest consumer brands. To their credit. it seems that Klout has perhaps taken a big step towards alignment with their customers in providing relevance. Perhaps I’ll no longer be the ideal candidate for pre-screening and behind the scenes previews for new release movies and TV shows, which I’ve received numerous Klout Perk offers for, ignoring all of them.

Watch this editorial video from the Wall St. Journal as it gives deeper insight into Klout and its effect on many participating in digital media today.

THE STATE OF INFLUENCE MEASUREMENT

Is this really a measure of influence, and if so, in what context, for whom? Or is this simply a service that major brands can leverage to gain access to more targeted recipients of their ads?

How does this concept of influence measurement apply to the billions who choose to make significant changes in their communities, in their businesses, with their customers, and behind the walls of their organizations without doing so on public social networks? How will Klout or something like it really measure actions and communications that truly inspire change and affect thoughts, behaviors, and actions of others?

There is a long way to go. These fledgling measurement scores are valid experiments and I firmly believe the precursors to something more meaningful, more relevant, and more useful, but there is only so much they can measure today. Couple that with the extreme potential and propensity for inaccuracy and fraud, and the system’s reliability breaks down.

Ironically, Klout specifically has suffered quite the backlash on social channels. Recent alarms have sounded over privacy concerns and the inability to remove one’s self from Klout. (Though you can do that now.)

In closing, there are several challenges that the world of influence measurement must overcome before being truly valuable for organizations and brands. I’ll start with a few and let others weigh in.

(1) Klout (and other measurement tools) will act in their best interest. As long as their interests are aligned with profit, their is opportunity for corruption. Witness recent allegations against the major ratings agencies in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis for an example. (To be clear, I have no problem with Klout specifically, nor is this in any way any allegation against them)

(2) As evidenced by the video above, online personalities will act to game their score, something that has been proven to be easy to do. High “Influence” scores then have the potential to be allocated to those who have the most time on their hands to play an online game, then actually make any meaningful change or impact on the world.

(3) True influence is about changing behavior. It’s hard to measure anything truly meaningful today and correlate to something measurable (ie. a purchase, a referral or mention that led to multiple purchases)

(4) Measurement scores must be relevant to the motivations and priorities of the ones utilizing the scores.

(5) *** Perhaps the biggest one that will only be resolved with time and the eventual “digitization of everything”:

Only a small percentage of most of our actions happen in the digital world today. Though, this is changing rapidly , digital influence measurement systems can only evaluate a very small percentage of what’s happening in the real world.

THE REST IS UP TO YOU

I’m sure I’ve missed a ton so I’ll leave the rest to you.

What are some other challenges / gaps you see in today’s “influence measurement” scores? How would you improve them?

Or, maybe you can surprise me, what are some ways that you have used one of the emerging influence measurement systems to measurably impact the bottom line of your organization?

And if you still want more on the topic of influence, my friend Dr. Michael Wu has written quite a bit on the subject, especially as it pertains to social networks.

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
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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.

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.

The changing face of Marketing

As the social web evolves and we collectively turn off our ears to unidirectional ads and messaging, the face of marketing continues to evolve. Prospects continually seek to find and pull valuable information and content without wanting to give up much in exchange. How do marketer’s respond?

The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key buyers and influencers within your demographic.

An interesting thing happened this week. Eloqua, a leader in marketing automation, drip campaigns, marketing analytics, and all the traditional fundamental building blocks of marketing did something different.

They created and shared freely a couple of pieces that most marketers will find value. No opt-in. No forms. No registration.

Not only is their content valuable, especially for those marketers just getting started and trying to wade through the variety of tools and how to incorporate them into their marketing mix. More significantly, a marketing automation company just became another living example of how marketers must evolve in order to gain Attention the first step in the 5 Stages of Customer Acquisition for the Social Business.

AIPEE Pyramid

The Content Grid
This graphic creates a framework for creating and distributing content to align with the demands of the new marketplace. Personally, I have some questions and don’t totally agree with or understand everything in it, but it’s a fantastic piece of reference and valuable as a framework as organizations begin to organize their content strategy.

The content grid

The Social Media Playbook

Click on the image below to download the playbook. It’s built and designed for those new to the Social web, and provides an overview of all the tools out there. It doesn’t speak too much about the strategy of participation, or corporate strategy for actually bringing customers into the corporate ecosystem (critical first steps), but it does provide loads of tactical tidbits and an overview of the many of the leading publicly available tools for use on the social web.

Eloqua Social Media Playbook

Social Media Playbook

Both pieces were done in collaboration with Jess3, the creators who worked in collaboration with Brian Solis to create the now ubiquitous Conversation Prism and the video embedded below – “The State of the Internet”, which contains a dizzying array of facts about today’s internet (or yesterday’s as it is now a few months old, but helpful nonetheless)

Need more examples of valuable content that went viral, or why every company should be creating and providing valuable content? Check out “Three New Roles for your company: Media Mogul”

Have more examples to share? Please post them below.

Circles: The Real Driver behind Social Business

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

It’s too much.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three New Required Roles for your company: (#3) Media Mogul

Longer ago than I’d like to mention, I started a series called “Three New Required Roles for your company”. As the business landscape changes, shifts in business models and design require new roles and adjustments to traditional thinking. New opportunities emerge, and businesses who understand the greater trends can profit from seizing these gaps in market awareness and efficiencies.

In the first first two posts of this series, I advocated incorporating two new roles into your organization. These were:

(1) The CIA Operative, which highlighted the importance of listening to what folks are saying about your company, your products and services and other key topics that are relevant to what your organization is interested in.

(2) The Social Anthropologist, which highlighted a rapidly growing requirement for a skill set that has previously been relegated to studies of remote people groups, but now has potential ground breaking applications for forward looking organizations. Know your customers (and their network).

If you haven’t read those, or you need to refresh your memory, please (re)read those at your convenience, as I’d love to hear your thoughts, feedback, criticism (or praise).

Now, let’s take a look at the third and final critical role necessary for you to compete in the new business landscape: Your company’s very own Media Mogul.

I’m not talking about a web designer. I’m not talking about the Director of Marketing who comes up with good campaign ideas and glossy slicks to hand out at trade shows. I’m not talking about Press Releases.

I’m literally asking you to think about figureheads like Rupert Murdoch, Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, Steve Forbes, Ted Turner, etc. Get those people in your mind. Imagine them working for your company. Think about how they’d corral attention in your business domain. Keep them there and let that image frame this conversation. We’ll come back to those folks later.

Oprah

Ted Turner

Ted Turner

There are at least 5 reasons why we need to consider this strategic hire:

(1) Time is the most elusive resource for all of us. We increasingly only seek media that we want and need. Filters play an increasingly important role in our daily lives. Your customers, prospects, partners, influencers, and vendors in the same boat. If you’re not providing something that they want or need, it’s not getting through.

(2) EVERYONE (including you and I) now has access to content creation tools AND significant media distribution channels. More and more individuals and organizations are hopping into the pool everyday.

(3) Traditional company centric messaging is increasingly ignored, less effective, and more expensive

(4) The makeup of Internet content is rapidly moving:
—> AWAY from text TO rich media
—> AWAY from computer based interaction TO mobile device interaction
—> AWAY from unidirectional communication and information consumption TO multi-directional annotated sharing, conversation, and feedback

(5) Valuable Content is being syndicated at exponential reach through newly formed and evolving “Communities of Trust”.

Look at points 1 and 2. Merge them together. Time is the most elusive resource for all of us and EVERYONE has access to content creation tools AND significant media distribution channels.

There is an absolute collision happening right now. Blogs, Microblogging, Video Production, and other Interactive Media Production is now essentially open to everyone. A huge majority of new media distribution is on “free” channels. There is a rush to participate.

People who were already faced the challenge of time management, are now faced with an increasing complex dilemma of what to read, who to listen to, who to talk to, etc., and every day there are more entrants competing for our time and attention… for your customer’s and prospect’s time and attention.

In short, there is chaos. And, where there is chaos, there is opportunity.

With the inability to filter, we look for others to help us with our decisions of what media to consume. Who do we trust? People we like. People we trust. People we admire. People…like us. This is one reason why Valuable Content is being syndicated at exponential speed and reach through newly formed and evolving “Communities of Trust”.

There is a heated battle happening for attention.

Those that are able to capture it, provide something extraordinary while they have it, and enable those that engage to share with their trusted circle have a huge advantage. Once you gain pole position, you have a great chance to stay there. (Hat tip to Tom Foremski at Every Company is a Media Company who provided this analogy and seems to have very similar thinking on this)

For a moment, let’s bring those media moguls we referenced earlier back to the forefront of this conversation. What is the common thread for each of them? There are probably dozens, but here’s a key one: They have consistently created (bought, or curated) compelling and interesting content consistently over time that attract people AND keep their attention. Many of them have also bought distribution channels so that they could control the content on each respective channel.

Who else is doing this, and what benefits have they reaped?

Wine Library

Gary Vaynerchuk grew his family’s local New Jersey liquor store into a $60 million dollar a year business by creating a daily video blog Now he’s written a book, has signed a multi-book deal, has joined the speaker circuit, and his company is growing even more as he rides the media wave.

Blendtec – a blender manufacturer

Created one of the most successful viral marketing campaigns ever and increased their retail sales by more than 700% because of it! Read the case study. Perhaps many of you can relate.

They’ve since parlayed their initial success of that “media” into the production of 96 videos capturing the attention of millions of would be customers.

In another recent stroke of genius, they leveraged the recent hype and publicity of the iPad to create this cameo appearance on YouTube, which oh, by the way, has garnered more than 6 MILLION views in just a few weeks. Here’s the video:

BluDot

Here’s another example from BluDot, a chair manufacturer who observed a community culture in SoHo of those who liked to find interesting things on the street and take them home. In response, they came up with a creative experiment, and subsequent video:

But, it doesn’t have to be video.

Read this article posted on the American Express OPEN site about how a university differentiated themselves by giving their prospective attendees (prospects) something useful that helped them achieve what they are trying to do.

The Altimeter Group recently produced a framework for Social CRM which has garnered nearly 40,000 views at the time of writing this post, which by the way, is a very good starting point if you are considering a Social CRM initiative.

You get the idea. Think along these lines. Think outside the realm of your traditional thinking. You are now a media company.

And if you want to get a glimpse of where this all is heading so you can be ahead of the curve, here’s a VERY interesting glimpse into the future of publishing:

And finally, if you’re still not convinced, check out what’s happening over at salesforce.com.

It seems that marketing and business visionary Marc Benioff also sees things the way that I do. In addition to Salesforce.com’s recent acquisitions of Jigsaw and launch of VMForce, he just hired his own Media Mogul, Steve Gillmor, away from TechCrunch.