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 CRM: The #SCRM Accidental Community Roundtable Conversation

Brent Leary, creator of the #scrm hashtag on Twitter and well respected author and speaker, recently invited me to participate in a round table discussion on Social CRM alongside 3 very insightful thought leaders and experts in the field; Prem Kumar Aparanji, Mitch Lieberman, and Esteban Kolsky.

If you have some time, the conversation is worth a listen. You can find it on Brent’s Blog by clicking here.

Social CRM: Overhyped Fad or Transformational Solution

Last month, I wrote  “Unleashing the Value of Social CRM: Where to Find the Biggest Return”.

Towards the end of the article, I posed this question: “Which functional area do you think will be able to leverage Social Media and Social CRM the most, and provide the greatest impact to the profitability of an organization?”

The comments section and some referring posts provide some great discussion from some of the greatest minds in the world of CRM including Graham Hill, Natalie Petouhoff, Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky, and a host of other minds much smarter than mine.

In the end, I walked away with the following conclusion: We collectively don’t know yet. Social Media and Social CRM are still in their relative infancy in delivering solid, proven value. However, there seems to be the strongest argument (and early data from companies like Helpstream, and Lithium) from those in customer service and support functions, and I can’t really argue with them.

In my closing blog comment, the last question I ended with was: “How do you justify the investment – time and money- in Social Media? Where do we have the greatest chance of success (profitability) starting out?”

Yesterday, Bill Band of Forrester Research asked a similar (and very important) question on Twitter: “CRM Evolution Conf. all about social phenom. But, my data shows less than 10% of companies have customer communities now. Too much hype?”

This, undoubtedly sprung from his recent research shared in his recent blog post: “The Extended CRM Application Ecosystem: Value, Risk and the Future of Social CRM”.

Band draws the following conclusions in his article:

“While “Social CRM” solutions have captured the imagination of decision-makers at many organizations, it is the tried-and-true technologies that offer the most certain return on investment.”

“The business value of social solutions is yet to be proven. Interest in “Social CRM” solutions is growing rapidly. But, mainstream companies are watching for evidence of success by the early adopters. Although enterprise feedback solutions, customer community platforms, and customer forums are viewed positively by the respondents in our survey, none of these three are considered “critical” to success. Therefore at this time, business value discounted for uncertainty is low.”

Many, at this point, recognize the potential for using Social Media to transform customer relationships, but the uncertainty factor still weighs heavily.

A study by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law titled “Embracing the Opportunities: Averting the Risks” found that Social media  can be critical to company growth and sustainability.

  • 81% believe social media can enhance relationships with customers/clients
  • 81% agree it can build brand reputation
  • 69% feel such networking can be valuable in recruitment
  • 64% see it as a customer service tool
  • 46% think it can be used to enhance employee morale

However, 51% percent of these executives fear social media could be detrimental to employee productivity, while 49% assert that using social media could damage company reputation.

Much of senior management’s direct experience with social media appears to be reactive versus proactive, concludes the report. 72% of executives say that they, personally, visit social media sites at least weekly:

  • 52% to read what customers may be saying about their company
  • 47% to routinely monitor a competitors’ use of social networking
  • 36% to see what their employees are sharing
  • 25% check the background of a prospective employee

There clearly needs to be much more education. That’s where those of us who regularly interact on Twitter following the #scrm hashtag come in.

Society is making a giant transitional shift because of Social Media. This “change” transcends the conversation of Social CRM and even business as a whole. The world is changing, and rapidly. For some staggering statistics that will make your brain spin, watch the video below:

For the enterprise and business community, things  are still really just beginning. Early adopters will (and some already have) capture the first mover advantage. However, they will also face the obvious risks of venturing into this new frontier first. InfusionSoft has literally saved millions by adopting a Social CRM strategy.

David Alston, Radian6’s VP of marketing and community said in a recent PR week interview:

“We are just scratching the surface in terms of how social media will transform the (PR) agency and the enterprise. The nature of social media – its accessibility, transparency, and its ability to build relationships – is challenging the processes and structures within companies, many that have become too rigid and siloed to react to the new Web 2.0-empowered consumer. I believe we are where CRM was 10 years ago.”

Change is upon us. The question is not whether Social Media and Social CRM will become an important strategy/tool/channel for your organization, but rather, when?

So what should you do now?

1. Learn as much as possible related to Social Media and Social CRM

2. Talk with your best customers, and most importantly, LISTEN

  • What are they doing with Social Media?
  • What do they wish you did better as an organization?
  • What can you do to improve your value offering to them?

3. Begin to experiment with  Social Media for your business

  • Blogs
  • Wikis
  • Twitter
  • Community Platforms and Forums
  • Social Networking (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Social Media Monitoring

Perhaps best-selling author and Founder of the The Altimeter Group Charlene Li said it best:

“Mistakes in social media are inevitable – after all, you’re building relationships and what relationship is perfect?”

Paul Greenberg, Brent Leary, and Bill Band discuss Social CRM with 1to1 Media

If you have the time, the videos below provide a great chance to listen to 3 industry experts discuss Social CRM.

Traditional CRM vs Social CRM: Expanded

Brent Leary, widely recognized expert on Social CRM, does a great job of summarizing the difference between Traditional CRM and Social CRM in the Inc. magazine Article below. I’ve added some of my additional thoughts.

Traditional CRM vs. Social CRM

By Brent Leary

Traditional customer relationship management’s strong suit has been improved operational effectiveness, easier access to data, and improved collaboration. Social media adds the dimension of connecting with potential customers.

Connecting with potential customers is one of the biggest challenges facing small businesses today. A recent study by Network Solutions and the University of Maryland shows that marketing/innovation is the single biggest competitive disadvantage confronting small business, after access to capital. In fact, converting marketing leads into buyers and finding efficient ways to promote and advertise, are two areas small businesses say they struggle the most with. This finding is supported by a recent Microsoft small business study, which found customer acquisition and retention to be the biggest challenges facing their small business partners.

To help overcome customer acquisition challenges, many small businesses are looking into customer relationship management (CRM) tools and strategies. In the past, many viewed CRM as being too complex and expensive to implement for the expected return on investment. But over the last couple of years, software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings from the likes of Salesforce.com, NetSuite, and a host of others have allowed companies of all sizes to implement CRM products and services at a fraction of the cost, time and effort needed in the past.

Brian here. I would add the following to Brent’s statements:

The first being that many companies are now looking towards “Traditional CRM” solutions not only because they are interested in improving their customer acquisition efforts, but because they have realized that customer retention efforts are their best bet in an environment where there are fewer new and existing customers in the marketplace. This desire to improve customer retention is currently next to impossible because they don’t really even know who their customers are, and which ones would be the most beneficial to keep. CRM can help with that.

SaaS (Software as a Service) offerings have been steadily gaining traction over the past several years, but the argument that it saves cost, time, and effort has been a hotly debated topic. For some small businesses a SaaS solution certainly makes the most sense, but a good percentage of companies still choose an on-premise solution because of 1. Security/Privacy Concerns, 2. Ease of Integration with other applications 3. Lower long term TCO (Total Cost of Ownership).

Traditionally, CRM’s strong suit has been improved operational effectiveness, easier access to information, and improved interdepartmental collaboration. While these are critically important to the success of any business, the focal point of these areas are internal to the company. And while a more efficient company should have a positive impact on customer interaction and responsiveness, does it really help us to meaningfully connect with those potential customers empowered in a Web 2.0 world?

Social media adds this missing dimension to the traditional, operational areas of CRM. And according to a recent Nielsen Company study, two-thirds of the world’s Internet population visited a social networking site or blogging site — what they refer to as “member communities.” The integration of social media into CR strategy — called Social CRM — differs in focus from traditional customer relationship management in a few key ways.

Data-driven vs. content-driven

Businesses began investing in CRM applications in the ‘90s mainly to store contact data. Before contact management software was available, businesses had to store their valuable customer information in Rolodexes, spreadsheets, and even filing cabinets. It was important to have a central location to store the data that was also easily accessible to communicate effectively with contacts. And with multiple people “touching” the customer for various reasons, it quickly became important to be able to track activities, appointments, potential deals, notes, and other information. Consequently, traditional CRM grew out of this need to store, track, and report on critical information about customers and prospects.

Social CRM is growing out of a completely different need — the need to attract the attention of those using the Internet to find answers to business challenges they are trying to overcome. And nothing captivates the attention of searchers like relevant, compelling content. Having the right content, and enough of it, will help connect you with those needing your product or service. Creating content in formats that make it easy for your target audience to consume it increases the probability that you will move them to action — starting a conversation with you. Whether it be by developing a blog post, podcast, YouTube video, or Webinar, creating attractive content is a key pillar of social CRM strategy.

In addition to supporting and enabling marketing, lead generation, and customer acquisition efforts, Social Media and therefore Social CRM are also being leveraged by companies for customer service, brand monitoring, and customer retention efforts. The content production that Brent mentions is a great way of attracting eyeballs and filling the lead funnel, but companies are also integrating “listening” into their Social CRM strategy. Companies like Comcast have used Twitter to monitor negative comments about their brand and take a proactive approach at solving problems for disgruntled customers. Social Media and its integration with traditional CRM efforts have opened up new ways to turn an unhappy customer into a raving fan. Other companies like HelpStream and Lithium are pioneering new ground, using Social Technologies to build communities where customers and prospects interact with each other to solve problems and discuss ways to best leverage companies products and services.

Process-centric vs. conversation-centric

Traditional customer relationship management is heavily focused on implementing and automating processes. Companies looking to implement processes like lead and activity management would turn to CRM. Management would turn to CRM to standardize on sales processes to increase the accuracy of sales forecasts. And customer service requests could be tracked, routed, escalated, and resolved in a uniform fashion to ensure proper handling. Traditional CRM helped make it possible to ensure the proper activities and tasks would be performed by the appropriate people, in the correct sequences.

While there are processes involved in building a successful social CRM strategy, conversations are at the heart of it. Having meaningful conversations with those searching for the help you can provide is the turning point in transforming clicks into customers. The processes involved are aimed at making it easy for people to find us (through our content) and invite us into a conversation — on their terms. This may take the form of a comment left on a blog post, following your company on Twitter, or possibly embedding your PowerPoint presentation on their webpage. There are numerous ways to participate in meaningful conversations with people looking for help in solving challenges. Formalizing a strategy to increase the likelihood of engaging in these conversations is a tenant of social CRM.

Operationally-focused vs. people/community-focused

As mentioned above, managing customer information is a major concern to businesses of all sizes. It plays a key role in the ability of businesses to respond to customer requests, manage resources needed to close deals efficiently, and provide management with reports to keep track of sales performance. This helps executives achieve operational effectiveness, and is particularly important for businesses expanding their sales and marketing operations, needing to implement new processes to manage growth. Businesses have typically turned to CRM to improve communication between sales and marketing operations, as well as to improve data-access to positively impact decision making.

Whereas traditional CRM activity focused heavily on operational effectiveness and its impact — both internally and on the customer — social CRM is all about people and community. It’s about how your company intends to participate in the ongoing conversations taking place in the industry. How you embrace non-traditional influential people like popular industry bloggers, and social sites on the Web frequented by your audience. And fully understanding the importance of contributing to discussions, in a transparent manner, will help you build the kind of reputation needed to become a valued member of the online communities important to your business.

So if you’re turning to CRM to help bring on new customers, you’ll have to go beyond traditional CRM focuses by integrating social media infused tactics and strategies. But it’s important to remember social CRM is not a substitute, but a much needed complement to traditional areas of customer relationship management. It gets us close to what we’ve needed all along.

Brent Leary is a small-business technology analyst, adviser, and award-winning blogger. He is the co-author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. His blog can be found at http://brentleary.com, or follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/brentleary

via Traditional CRM vs. Social CRM

Have additional thoughts or ideas related to the differences? Please share them below!

Looking Forward: Social CRM Explained

A great introduction to Social CRM and how it differs from traditional CRM by Brent Leary

Social CRM: Not your father’s Customer Relationship Management

destinationCRM.com: The Tweet Is Mightier than the Sword

Still wrestling with how you can utilize Twitter to foster relationships with your customers? Check out the following article by Brent Leary:

Posted Mar 1, 2009

Can you imagine Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s reaction to Twitter? Credited with the phrase “the pen is mightier than the sword” in 1839, he might have chosen a different metaphor if he’d lived long enough to see what you could do in Twitter’s microblogging microverse with 140 characters. And who those characters can reach. And how far they can travel.

This isn’t Ed’s world. In fact, it’s not even the one we had just a few years ago. And if your CRM strategy was developed before Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube came to town, it’s time to upgrade: We’re living in the age of social CRM.

Social CRM is not a substitute for traditional CRM. Instead, what emerges is a new, outward-facing dimension that extends the operational areas of CRM. That new dimension is inevitably more successful if you’re building off a strong foundation in traditional CRM.

Social CRM is about joining conversations between customers and prospects while resisting the urge to control those conversations. Customers today have more power over who they do business with, and how that business is conducted. And the Web is totally entrenched in their buying process. So if you’re not on the Web in ways to capture their attention, you won’t be able to compete.

via destinationCRM.com: The Tweet Is Mightier than the Sword .