There’s been plenty of spirited debate lately about what exactly is Social CRM. I’m sure some of the vendors watch in bemusement as industry gurus wordsmith definitions, while business people and potential buyers ask a more fundamental question: “What will Social CRM do for my business?”
My view is that Social CRM means Social+CRM—bringing the two worlds together through integration. And while I’m a big proponent of strategy, I’m also a pragmatist. Without new social media technology, we wouldn’t be talking much about Social CRM. So this post will focus on a few industry developments to show that there’s more to Social CRM than vendor hype and guru debating circles.
A few months ago I wrote a snarky post about Oracle’s Social CRM because it was basically about internal collaboration for sales reps. Social SFA, really. I was concerned that Oracle, being the big bad marketing machine that it is, would just reinforce the internal orientation of CRM. SFA is not about customers, it’s about deals.
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Since then, other vendors have stepped up and it’s becoming clear that there are many faces to Social CRM solutions, and most actually do involve customers!
Seeing is believing
In our Showcase webinar last week, we polled the audience and found that 59% thought Social CRM would help improve marketing effectiveness, and 51% believed that it would help optimize customer service/support. A bit more than 1/3 picked improving sales or ideation. Oh, and 19% admitted they wanted to stay buzzword compliant!
Demos from Lithium, Helpstream and SAP helped show that Social CRM is not just a concept. Lithium’s robust community solutions are being used by some major brands like Barnes&Noble, Intel and Logitech. Helpstream has a nifty integrated Social CRM solution that has been focused on customer service to this point, but is pushing into marketing now. More on that in a minute.
And SAP? Well, this is not exactly a vendor I would have expected to do much in the social arena. But SAPers appear quite serious about getting into the Social CRM mix; they showed interesting SimplyBox and Twitter integrations with SAP’s CRM solution.
The webinar was recorded and is available for viewing online (free registration required), so I’m not going to give a detailed account here. Suffice it to say that if you’ve been wondering what a Social CRM solution looks like, these demos will help clear some cobwebs.
Helpstream expands into marketing
But this is just the beginning. I believe we’ll see a wave of announcements over the next year as vendors scramble for a piece of the Social CRM pie. While it may not become a market in its own right, it’s still the best thing to happen to CRM in a long time.
Helpstream, one of the younger companies, pioneered an all-in-one social customer service solution that combines communities (social) with incident management (CRM). I think that will appeal mostly to SMBs, but for larger enterprises, integration is key. This week Helpstream announced a new social marketing module that includes social media monitoring, Twitter integration and marketing automation (e.g. Eloqua and Marketo) integration.
Helpstream CEO Bob Warfield advocates that companies should first focus on building a thriving community—and customer service is a natural starting point. But then marketing wants to join in to leverage insights and, dare I say it, generate leads. Done thoughtfully, strong relationships built on customer service can provide better opportunities for marketing. Let’s hope marketers have some common sense and use these tools appropriately.
Neighborhood America and Gov 2.0
I also recently caught up with Neighborhood America, another social software vendor pushing Social+CRM. In fact, Tom Edwards, VP of Sales and Marketing, told me that CRM integration was the key to “driving true value out of social.”
Neighborhood America has been around for some 10 years, but now appears to be gearing up for a major push into Social CRM, backed by substantial private investments. Microsoft has become a close go-to-market partner in the public sector, helped along by Obama’s push to create a more open and transparent government (Gov 2.0).
Microsoft is also a customer, using Neighborhood America to power its Public Sector Idea Bank while also integrating to Microsoft’s “backend” CRM system. Hmmm, this is interesting. Could it be that traditional CRM systems will become the “back office” and social media the new “front office”—a friendlier way for customers and employees to interact?
Amir Capriles, Director of Alliances for Microsoft Dynamics, shares my view that Social CRM is the marriage of the unstructured social world with structured CRM processes. He says that early results from the Idea Bank have been “very very positive” but it’s just six months old so a bit premature to share hard ROI figures.
Show me the money!
Well, hopefully this post will illustrate that while the gurus debate, vendors are busy churning out new tools and expanding suites of technology. But that’s not enough.
We need more real examples of how Social CRM—from strategy to technology—delivers real business value. I challenge the vendors pitching tools, and the consultants debating the concepts, to provide more examples of successful Social+CRM initiatives. Case studies will be key for Social CRM to “cross the chasm” into the mainstream.