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.

So how big is this Social CRM thing going to be?

2009 has seen the rise of Social CRM.
Social CRM Search Traffic 12 months ending 09-09

People are actually proactively searching for the term on Google. Recent CRM industry gatherings; the CRM Evolution conference and Gartner’s CRM Summit, have given way to an avalanche of coverage and discussion of Social CRM. CRM Magazine’s recent awards featured a number of first time award recipients from the world of Social Media and Social CRM. The mainstream press has even gotten in on the act .

The merging of Social Media with CRM has captured the attention and imagination of executives, analysts, vendors, pragmatists, and naysayers. This exponential growth of interest, participation and discussion has blossomed into a steady flow of valuable insights, opinions, stats, debates, and links.

The train has left the station, and I don’t believe it’s coming back.

So how big is this Social CRM thing going to be?

Bob Warfield, CEO of Helpstream says that we are in the midst of a paradigm shift…

Mike Boysen says much of the Social CRM discussion is marketing and hype for nothing more than a channel management system.

There are also a TON of other meaningful discussions and posts happening. Esteban Kolsky links to some of them in his most recent post “I Am Not A SCRM Market Expert, I Just Play One On Twitter”

There are now solid case studies around the tangible, measurable financial benefits of Social CRM. (Reference some of my other recent posts for those) and the downfalls of jumping in carelessly.

Does this collection of new strategies, approaches, and associated technologies really change the very nature of CRM, and business as we know it?

Bill Band provides a nice overview of the Extended CRM Application Ecosystem. It includes:

1. Customer Targeting

2. Customer Acquisition

3. Customer Retention

4. Customer Understanding

5. Customer Collaboration

While Bill’s focus is on the applications and technologies that enable  each category, my takeaway is that each of these functional categories aren’t new, bleeding edge concepts. They are fundamental to the success of organizations, and have been around since medieval bazaars. The technology mix is new, but the strategic focus areas (or categories) remain.

Has Social CRM changed any of this?

No. The overall tenets of effective CRM strategies haven’t changed. The method(s) by which we can accomplish those strategies have. We have new capabilities. The emergence and evolution of the social web has simply enabled us to do the things we wanted to do before, but do them better (if properly executed). For some, it has opened up new possibilities that weren’t even imagined just a few years, or even months ago.

Going back to Mr. Band’s model, does Social CRM deserve it’s own separate category? I think not. Social tools provide new ways to achieve success in all of the categories. In this model, there might be a Social CRM layer in between Customer Understanding, and the other four categories (Customer Collaboration, Customer Targeting, Customer Acquisition, and Customer Retention).

Social CRM is a natural extension of CRM as we have known it up until now, which itself has evolved over the past two decades, and will continue to evolve as technological advances take place.

Does Social CRM include a collection of new channels, tools, and technologies? Absolutely.

Does Social CRM include a shift in mentality and approach to customers? Absolutely – if done right.

Is this collection of new strategies and technologies a paradigm shift?
I don’t think so. At least not yet…

The widespread adoption of the internet was a paradigm shift. The world as we knew it literally changed, dramatically. We are still evolving under that shift. Social Media, and subsequently Social CRM, is simply the next step within that major transformational paradigm shift.

I do think it is possible that we could potentially get to a place where strategies and standard business practice are so dramatically changed that surviving under an old model would be impossible. I’ll be sharing more on this in a future post. But, if that does ever come to pass, we’re still a long way away.

In the end, I agree with Bob that this portion of the conversation is just a matter of semantics.

Why should we consider and embrace a Social CRM initiative?

This is the number one question that visionary organizations are wanting an answer to. The promise of Social CRM is bright. There is already emerging proof. We should collectively focus our attention on tangibly creating measurable value with this collection of new tools and strategies. The argument “because your competitors are doing it” is simply not compelling enough.

So then, as we collectively quibble over Social CRM, and how big it will ultimately be, what it is, who owns it, and the like, I’d like to bring us back to the one thing that really matters:

Can organizations increase their value (the only real measure of success in business) by serving their customers better with the rapidly evolving strategies and technologies that are now known as Social CRM?

I believe the answer is yes. How much? We still don’t know. Results will differ by market, industry, and company size and segment. Like any other enterprise initiative, success will depend on a well defined strategy, and supporting people, processes, and enabling technology to execute upon that strategy.

I’m looking for more stories about how organizations have incorporated Social CRM initiatives into their strategies and the tangible benefits those initiatives have provided.

I’m especially looking to hear from the customers who have benefited from a better experience with their vendor because of Social CRM.

I know you are out there. Come share your story. We are anxious to hear.

And, oh yes, I am absolutely open to hear your candid feedback on my opinions. Agree or disagree, it doesn’t matter. Productive dialogue only furthers the conversation.