A Social Business Strategy needs Teeth


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Sometimes it is a good idea to keep things simple, and work to hide complexity. This type of exercise can be valuable for people trying to grasp new concepts. That said, oftentimes if you are not careful you can actually do a dis-service and cause issues. With something new, like Social Business, Social CRM and quickly evolving concepts like Social Customer and Social Relationship Management you actually need to produce something with teeth if you are going to recommend people have a strategy. Something that you (or they) could build upon, or take an executive and execute against. If the simplicity takes away all meaning or steers people in the wrong direction, then it really needs to be, well, challenged. Sorry, if this is too harsh, but just calling it like I see it.

A Social Business strategy needs to be more than just a plan that takes into account a modified definition of Social CRM so you can maximize your ability to meet specific goals. That may sound strange, but it was recently done, and I felt the need to address the trend. Something like this does not offer anything of real value to anyone (except me who can use it to try and make a point).  If you really want to help businesses and prepare them for what is needed dig deeper, analyze the problem and add value on top of it. Include the work of Graham Hill, specifically his post a Manifesto for Social Business. Or, dig a little deeper on the recent post by Michael Fauscette, the Social Customer Bill of Rights. Engage with Brian Solis and agree, disagree or modify his thoughts on Social Relationship Management. Pull up a chair and talk to Esteban Kolsky about part 2 of his Roadmap for SCRM, which talks specifically about the changing nature of relationships “Shifting Relationship models”. If the relationships are your focus, how can anyone not read and reread Wim Rampen’s stellar post What Relationships You Should Care For, And Why, along with many many great comments.

I am not trying to go academic here, we have others who are much better at that than I am, really! However, a constant dumbing down of critical concepts does not help implementers, businesses nor push the thinking forward. Taking the works referenced above, and the embedded concepts contained within (including the comments and dialog) would be a hugely valuable exercise (I might just do it when I have some time), but there is no way to summarize a strategy for all of it, in one sentence. Never referencing the work of anyone else, suggests either a lack of research, or disrespect for people’s work who came before. Never commenting on posts, unless they are  your own bugs me…sorry, just sayin’. It is not all about people who agree with me either. Bob Thompson, host of CustomerThink and some newer communities (SocialBusinessOne and SalesEdgeOne, two I am part of) has challenged me to dig deeper about why I am suggesting the things I am suggesting. He questions  whether Social <this or that> is new, or not and needed or not. I have great respect for Bob, we do not always see eye to eye, but the challenges are respectful and thorough – and I am the better for listening. I also have great fun going at with someone I am happy to call a friend; Mike Boysen. We do not see eye to eye on many things (the fact that he is 6’4″ is only one reason). Mike is the pragmatic one in the group, and shares his thoughts on his blog – he keeps me honest. When I learn something new, I reference other who taught me, whether by name, article or twitter handle.  I could have and should have mentioned more people here, I will be sure to do so in the future.

It is not about winning the battle, or the war…it is about pushing the conversations forward together for the betterment of the ecosystem. BTW, the USA won the game 1-1 ;-)

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mitch Lieberman
Finding patterns and connecting the dots across the enterprise. Holding a strong belief that success is achieved by creating tight alignment between business strategy, stakeholder goals, and customer needs. systems need to be intelligent and course through enterprise systems. Moving forward, I will be turning my analytical sights on Conversational Systems and Conversational Intelligence. My Goal is to help enterprise executives fine-tune Customer Experiences


  1. Mitch, the same feelings flow through my writing and my tweeting lately. All of the experimentation with getting noticed by social media is giving a good idea a bad name. Hi, I’m an IT person. I’m an expert in CRM and now Social CRM because I tweet (140 characters) and blog (300 words or less) a lot. Same goes for social media people. Sure they know what social media is, but they have no experience integrating it with the real business world and their needs.

    When you have a good idea, write us a nice long post, telling us a real story. Engage us! Give us a reason to like or hate you. Give attributes where they are deserved. Of course, if YOU are the ONLY ONE that influences you, than at least link to yourself for completely transparency. Oh that’s right, a few of us DO link to ourselves. In fact, complete posts generically dedicated to our great past posts. ROFL and unbelievable.

    Everything this medium shouldn’t be. But you knew it would be.

    BTW, thanks for the mention. At least we’re in 100% agreement on this one.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  2. Hi Mitch,

    Thx for the wonderful mention of my post.. 🙂 highly appreciated..

    I think you make reference to this post by John F Moore.. but there are more..

    As much as I do admire people’s ability to simplify sometimes complicated thoughts, build a community and maintain many more relationships than I’m capable of, I do agree with you that the trend of over-simplification is spreading.

    I do think there’s value in translating academic or high-level strategic thinking, research and best-practices into pragmatic pieces which can be easily consumed by anyone interested. It gets even better if someone adds his own ideas and thoughts around that to the mix. This stimulates engagement and invites others to think as well..

    Over the past months I see an increase in publications that are no longer about translating and adding something to it.. they are about dumbing down.. and dumbing down, imho is not making us all (look) smarter, to the contrary, it is making us (look) ..well dumber. And I’m using “us” because we are currently discussing this and not doing more valuable things..

    Yet, I agree with you. It’s good to say this now, and (hopefully) for once..

    Thx for writing this!


  3. Wim,

    Thanks for the comments. While a few folks might have known the specific post I was referencing, I was trying not to call out John directly with links. This is not a squabble about definitions, it is about completeness.

    For those of us who are enjoying the World Cup at the moment, a bit of a Soccer analogy might help. Of course the objective is clear, win the game, score more goals than the other team. Including only one component of the game, say, attack the ball as defining the strategy does not really help the team who trying to win. There are a lot of components to a strategy, a recognition of that is important, at least to me.


    Mitch Lieberman
    CEO and Founder
    Comity Technology Advisors

  4. Gentlemen, thank you for an enlightening conversation. Thanks too Mitch for the references, I have some homework to do. My two points are 1. I get concerned when existing words are redefined, put together in new ways or put in a new context. As a businessman of many years I know that those at the coal face will have great difficulty keeping up. We need simple language and uniform definition. Point 2. If we use words without relating to the required competencies and even structural implications then we encourage businesses to take inappropriate risk. My best analogy is the circus, everyone knows what a tightrope act looks like but that dosen’t mean I can do it myself without some extensive training, if I do just “have a go” then I could do myself serious damage. So it is, I believe, with many things “customer” and “social.” Let’s help business people get the skills and confidence to use these exciting new tools productively. Not another CRM debacle please.

  5. Mitch, when you think of very successful businesses like Apple, Southwest, Wal-Mart etc., they have very clear and simple business strategies. Something the CEO could explain to my mother, who if you used the word “facebook” would think it was a photo album full of headshots!

    If you want to promote Social XYZ as a philosophy/concept/strategy, it should be simple and clear what it means and what the outcome will be. One or two sentences. And yet, the blog posts keep on coming with thousands of words and no clear and accepted definition.

    Where “teeth” are needed is in the execution. The detailed plans for exactly how to implement the strategy. And yes, it can be complicated to implement CRM or Social CRM because it involve people, change, technology, etc.

    But strategy is not the same as execution. Although the word is thrown around so casually that strategy can mean just about anything, from a high level business game plan to how to implement some piece of technology.

    When I researched the so-called “CRM strategies” of the past 10 years, most were glorified technology implementation plans. If we’re going to call that strategy, then that really is “dumbing down” as far as I’m concerned.

    Einstein once said: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” My view is that a business strategy statement should be short and sweet. Two or three sentences to explain the overall approach, expected benefits and how it links to the corporate goals.

  6. Thanks Mitch!

    I haven’t read all of the posts referenced (yet) but understand your point completely. We’ve seen (and will again) this occur elsewhere and I continue to see it in my subject of predilection: customer service/experience/excellence.

    I agree with your point, but with a caveat (which I think aligns with Ray above). Simpler IS better BUT it doesn’t mean we should over simplify. I like that Bob quoted Einstein.

    We need to use accepted, standardized definitions and keep the vocabulary understandable for everyone WITHOUT sacrificing important concepts and details. This is the root of a phrase like “Simpler is better”.

    We all have a tendency to forget to look at what we say and write from our customer’s POV. In this case, our customers are our audience/readers.

    If we want our thoughts applied IRL, we need to keep in mind that we aren’t just writing for our peers who already grasp the basic concepts.

    Ouf, I always end up writing more than I originally expected…

    To conclude, I agree with your post but we need to remind ourselves of our target audience and keep it understandable for them.

    Thanks for starting an excellent discussion!


  7. Bob,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree with Einstein, but with Social XYZ, there is a fine line between simple and too simple. I also agree that a strategy needs a defined outcome. Please reference the post that Wim did, and help me to understand the intended outcome of the strategy. It has to be more than a generic meet goals, no?

    The devil is in the details, execution, implementation of the philosophy, culture and technology – all considered simultaneously. It would be difficult to detail a plan for an individual business, using generalities. My key point is that in a forum like this, we should have a higher expectation than to simply take the wikipedia definition of strategy and insert a few words.

    Thanks for the discussion. As I said, I am willing to learn, and do by thinking through these discussions.


    Mitch Lieberman
    CEO and Founder
    Comity Technology Advisors

  8. Hi Mitch

    Another interesting post. I don’t need to write anything myself these days with people like you writing such good stuff.

    We should not be surprised by what we see. All systems are normal. Think back to the start of CRM almost 20 years ago. Ask 10 different ‘experts’ what CRM was and you would get 15 different answers. We had the same more recently with CExM. Surprise, surprise, we have exactly the same with SocCRM.

    The fact is that SocCRM is in the rapid expansion phase of its development. It isn’t a fixed concept yet, it’s more like a series of localised experiments as people promote their own particular flavour of SocCRM. If you are a technology analyst struggling to make sense of this brave new world, you write about technology stacks (sic). If you are a community software vendor struggling to make the numbers in an economic recession, you promote SocCRM as customer communities. If you are a social media agency battling with customers unreachable by traditional marketing, you proselytize about the power of influencers. As the old saying goes, if the only tool you have is a hammer, suddenly, everything starts to look like a nail.

    But all is not lost. SocCRM will gradually build a body of knowledge describing exactly what it is. Consultants and academics will likely be in the lead here as they generally know the most about what works and why. SocCRM will also gradually build experience in how it works. Companies and their advisors will likely be in the lead here as they are the ones who know the most about how to implement SocCRM. And last but not least, SocCRM will build a the skills to implement it one step at a time so that it enables all parties – companies, their customers and other co-creators – to co-create the most value together.

    If you are a company, a consultant or an academic, you know what you have to do. So what are you waiting for?

    Graham Hill
    Customer-centric Innovator
    Follow me on Twitter

    Interested in Customer Driven Innovation? Join the Customer Driven Innovation groups on LinkedIn or Facebook to learn more.

  9. Mitch, I’m not advocating dumbing down or oversimplifying. I’ve been a critic of NPS for that very reason. A simplistic method for determining loyalty. Attractive to busy executives but not the “one number” that proponents advocate.

    My point is that a real business strategy should be able to be communicated in a few sentences. And it should have a clear business benefit/outcome that explains the point of the strategy. Things like increasing revenue, reducing cost, building loyalty, …

    Social CRM has merit as the latest iteration of CRM, one that will for sure include new tools and the use social channels. Whether it will become the answer to truly collaborative co-creating relationship (with or without social media), I’m skeptical. But we’ll have to wait and see if the 2nd time will be the charm for CRM.

    In any case, while SCRM is an interesting and complex philosophy/method/technology depending on who is talking about it, SCRM is not a business strategy unless it delivers specific sbusiness benefits. An outcome that makes sense to a business leader, like a CEO, CMO, VP Sales, VP Service, etc.) I sincerely doubt that any of these managers will be promoted or earn bonuses based on “responding to the social customer.”

    I think Harish did a nice job with this strategy statement:

    “Social CRM is the business strategy of engaging customers through Social Media with goal of building trust and brand loyalty.”

    Now, I may quibble about whether this definition will actually come to be, but Harish ties together engaging customers with the use of social media (a key differentiators in SCRM, in my view) and most importantly, a business result — trust and brand loyalty.

    There’s a lot of complexity under the covers of that simple statement. What does it mean to “engage” customers? What’s the value of trust or loyalty in customers relationship? How does a company actually do this? The execution part that is complicated. But a CEO could understand the point of SCRM with this one sentence definition that does not “dumb down” SCRM at all.

    Of course, someone else could make an equally valid and quite different strategy statement, like this one for a sales executive: “SCRM is the use of social networks connecting to our SFA system, to enable us to better prepare for sales calls and increase sales productivity by 20%.”

    Social CRM is like a Swiss army knife. A multi-function concept supported by a wide range of technologies. In the end, my feeling is that none of the buzzwords we use (CRM, CEM, SCRM, …) are business strategies in and of themselves. They are ideas, frameworks and tools that a business leader can turn into a strategy.


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