Social CRM for B2B

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In my last few blog posts I’ve focused on the business-to-customer (B2C) aspects of online social engagement through social CRM. Today I want to talk about how great benefits can be achieved by applying these processes in the business-to-business (B2B) realm and even in the internal business environment.

Many larger companies now employ protected portals to engage and share information with their partners, vendors and employees, either through one-on-one engagements or through community interaction. A vendor might post a question seeking clarification on particular capabilities of a new product and receive an answer from a company rep, or multiple partners of a software developer might share tips with each other about how best to integrate that company’s software with other elements. If your definition of social CRM depends on Twitter and Facebook, these portals might not seem to fit. But if you recognize that social CRM is about improved social engagement, whatever the method, you’re already starting to see the possibilities.

Because these engagements are not shaped from the top down but rather from the bottom up, driven by those seeking information rather than those giving it out, the portals offer many of the same positive opportunities of B2C social CRM systems. More tailored, direct and helpful engagement is possible, increasing perception of the company as responsive and helpful and improving the experience of those ultimately selling, implementing or using a company’s products or services. This type of engagement can go a long way in boosting overall satisfaction and brand loyalty. Some of these portals and internal networks are already taking advantage of these opportunities, with Microsoft’s Partner Network standing out as a particularly good example. However, many others could stand for real improvement through the integration of communities that foster collaborative engagement and reward those who are more active in the community as thought leaders.

The biggest room for improvement, however, is in the area of gathering and using data from portal engagement to drive business strategy. Just like in the B2C social CRM realm, a large amount of helpful information is out there if you know how to gather and analyze it, information that can help you figure out what’s working well and what’s not working at all. Tracking questions by keywords can demonstrate who is asking the most questions and what they’re most frequently asking about – information which can help you identify strengths and weaknesses in your sales and support communication or help your product development team identify helpful design improvements. You can identify regional issues that might point to a problem in the product supply chain or identify particularly active participants as being good candidates for a partner advisory panel. This type of information-gathering can be more active as well, by running surveys or allowing voting for particular product features and perhaps offering incentives for participation. All of this information can enable a company to make better-informed decisions based on actual evidence.

Similar benefits can be gained even through the internal networks for information-sharing in larger companies. By paying attention to how employees are making use of these networks, businesses can identify where needs exist for improved training materials, internal processes, etc.

Making the most of B2C engagement, like any social CRM engagement, requires good strategy and a bit of effort but the payoff can be great.

Jason Swenk
Hi, I'm Jason Swenk. I started my career jumping into the Internet boom in 1999. I had a great passion for technology and marketing, so I started a digital agency. In 2011, I was lucky enough to have my agency acquired and then just 7 months later got acquired again by a public company. What a ride! "My goal of developing this content, is to provide valuable advice that provides immediate actionable steps you can do right now that will make a difference in your business. "

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