Social CRM Innovation – Where Is It?


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Yesterday (March 18th) there was a CRM Innovation Event in The Netherlands. Speakers like Paul Greenberg and Alan Rosenblatt told an audience full of CRM experts how Social CRM would change their world.

But the CRM industry isn’t that far with Social CRM yet.

The state of the CRM business quickly became apparent from the many dark business suits and a relatively high average age of the attendees. (Our own company had 2 people there, 24-32 years old, and some asked if they were students…)

And what did the dark business suits talk about and demonstrate to each other?

They discussed brand monitoring. Checking out what people are saying on social networks. So we asked them: “Are you monitoring what your own customers are saying? Because the information on Twitter and Facebook from paying customers might be most valuable.” But the answer was no, they couldn’t do this yet.

And they demonstrated framing social profiles. A good old-fashioned IFrame in a CRM system, showing the LinkedIn profile page of a customer. So we asked them: “Does your CRM know when the profile information on LinkedIn has changed?” But again, the answer was no. That was still a bridge too far.

To us it seemed that people were only talking about social networks. They were not really using them. For example, conversation on the Twitter backchannel during the conference was less than impressive when compared to other “social” conferences. And where was the Twitter wall?

Come to think of it, where was the real innovation?

Our own people walked around with a MacBook, showing the business suits that it is possible to make real connections between CRM contact data and social network profiles, where LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are actually updating the stale old data in the CRM system. And people thought this was very interesting. One even recognized it as the first real innovative stuff he had seen at the conference… But getting their systems ready for such forms of integration still seems far away. We heard “We are not ready for this yet,” and “We have other priorities right now,” and “Why should we need that?”

The CRM business seems like an aging horse, pulling an old cart that lost a wheel, and a wooden bench that has been eaten away. How are the business suits able to keep up with the jockeys who know how to harness the speed of social media every day?

Fortunately, there are some people who do understand that the business needs racing horses. We compliment the organizers of the event for putting Social CRM at the heart of a day that should have been about innovation in CRM. Even if it wasn’t really there yet.

But it’s a start. And a few young horses are getting ready. Let the race begin…


  1. Jurgen,

    I think it’s important to keep in mind that it’s early days for social CRM. While there is a lot of talk and interest, it will likely take time for technology developments to catch up. That said, there is a lot happening, which will likely address some of the impatience being expressed.

    cheers, Mark

    Mark Evans
    Director of Communications
    Sysomos Inc.

  2. You are right where is the actual Social CRM system that supports the vision of an integrated social customer?

    Maybe here:

    So What is this screen about?
    You see people
    Not names but photos. What does it do? You see in 20 millisecond who you are dealing with. And yes, our system knows the moment a person changed their LinkedIn profile, Twitter status you name it.

    You see completion
    Not a 7 step cookie cutter sales process but a completion rate of a process where sales people help prospects buy – we need to stop dreaming about “we are in control” – Even Cisco CEO John Chambers said it.

    You see revenue potential
    It’s not all about holding somebody’s hand. We still want to do business and need to plan production and make a forecast. Well if the customer is in control you need new models that are more predictable. So we make progress based forecast computing.

    Don’t want to do a product education – but you get the idea…
    But more importantly this is not just a cool looking social media application, but built on an understanding how customers explore, select and purchase today.

    So – it is going in the right direction I guess


  3. It seems to me that the driving force behind innovation is looking at the jobs people are doing and understanding where the frustrations, inefficiencies and train-wrecks exist. These are the opportunities to innovate – whatever form it might take; product, service or package deal.

    Here’s the question: What job are people failing at that your solution solves? If it’s truly designed for a job that existed “before your solution existed”, the fit should be obvious because people should be bleeding all over the place looking for your fix.

    On the other hand, not every “social” software application is solving a problem other than it’s “inside-out” creator trying to push something that they feel is important.

    Mike Boysen
    Effective CRM

  4. I am not surprised by the feedback such as “we are not ready for this”. Companies are struggling with their current Business Applications and to what extend they really support their business. Companies are still in the process implementing CRM, and the right IT architecture to support this. What large company can really present a 360° customer view?

  5. Mark,

    Thanks, I’m looking forward to all the stuff that’s coming. 🙂

    Jurgen Appelo
    Chief Inspiration Officer

  6. Axel,

    I was talking about the (lack of) innovation in traditional CRM applications, the “old horses”.
    You’re a young horse. Like us. I think the new generation (we) understand the opportunities much better.

    Chief Inspiration Officer

  7. Agreed, there should be a problem first before trying a solution.
    But I think many businesses don’t see that they have a problem.
    The challenge for us is to try and make them see. 🙂

    Chief Inspiration Officer


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