Social CRM strategy – counterproductive


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There are a lot of discussions and endless posts about Social CRM being a philosophy, a strategy and other esoteric viewpoints. Hmmm – why is that?

First: The term Social CRM was coined by Oracle in 2008 – certainly not as an esoteric view of the world but a technology that is going to evolve in the future. Over time others chimed in and companies like Nimble, SocioToco and Xeesm began to actually build products from scratch and the traditional CRM companies will soon have solutions too. Social CRM = Technology.

Many consultants and analysts however pointed to the esoteric part of Social CRM for several reasons:

– One it is good for selling consulting hours
– Two there was no solution to implement anyway
– Three it provides an open field for discussion, confusion and then offer help to resolve it.

But there is a thing called social media where it is much harder to base your consulting business on the “fear uncertainty and doubt model

An interesting list of influencer you may check. It is not a quality seal but at least people who are very active in the social web and do understand the social part of Social CRM.

Reality check

A business leader need to implement strategies for their various departments. One being sales. And whatever that leader is implementing is a “business strategy” maybe a “sales strategy” or it may be the “customer engagement strategy” it may be a customer experience improvement strategy or any other term that fits the O B J E C T I V E of that strategy. But trying to “sell” a cookie cutter “Social customer relationship management strategy” is just sick in my point of view.

Why “Social CRM strategy” is counter productive

Most businesses are trying to achieve a better customer relationship, they try to find ways to better listen, they try to be more social and more connected with their market. To do that right, each business leader wants to find their own, very individual and tailor made strategy for their very specific market, very specific industry and very specific geography, very specific customer demographics and very specific products. Any “XYZ strategy” is counter productive and the root cause to failure. Why? Because a business leader need to find a business strategy not an “XYZ strategy” and follow the pack like a lemming.

The technology part

Now based on whatever strategy a leader and their consultants developed will need some tools to execute. A social CRM solution may or may not be such a tool. Branded online communities is another tool that will raise above the surface any soon. Social media monitoring for lead identification is another set of tools, the social networks themselves are yet another set of tools. And of course Social CRM systems. All valuable technologies that may become part of the execution plan of a strategy.

Calling a strategy “Social CRM strategy” as a global strategy term is doomed to become a dead end very much like the CRM strategies in the past. A mistake that cost customers millions of dollars in the past.

Don’t be fooled

As a business leader you may have a variety of considerations. Here are a few in no particular order and just a few examples

* How can I improve the customer experience for my market?

* How can I build a better customer engagement model?

* How can I involve  more customers in the brand building process

* What can we do to listen more carefully to market needs

* What do we have to improve to actually better / faster *act* on needs

* How can we empower teams and partners to better and faster response processes

And whatever concerns you most in your specific business. Define the objectives and build a strategy – the name of that strategy only matters to you and your ecosystem.

In other words if somebody want’s to “sell” you on a Social CRM strategy, be extremely careful.

What to look for

If you look for a business consultant, look for people who don’t run behind a term and sell you a cookie cutter model (of course they would tell you it’s all custom). You will want to avoid the “10 best blah blah blah to implement Social CRM”. Instead look for consultants who understand customer experience models, customer engagement models, understand social media and base their work on common sense and most up to date market situation. You will find those in large established firms (did you note that none of them follow the “social CRM strategy hype”) and you will find that in young, up and coming solo consulatnts.

As a leader you will want a consultant who understands your very specific needs and then create a solution in the good old model  “Assessment – Strategy – Execution”.  Tools are a result of said strategy and the name for the strategy is totally up to you.

As a follower you will want to wait two years and see what others did and than make a decision. Watch the market and mark your calendar:  June 2012 “Review Sales Strategy”.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Axel Schultze
CEO of Society3. Our S3 Buzz technology is empowering business teams to create buzz campaigns and increase mentions and reach. S3 Buzz provides specific solutions for event buzz, products and brand buzz, partner buzz and talent acquisition buzz campaigns. We helped creating campaigns with up to 100 Million in reach. Silicon Valley entrepreneur, published author, frequent speaker, and winner of the 2008 SF Entrepreneur award. Former CEO of BlueRoads, Infinigate, Computer2000.


  1. Hi Axel. An interesting read, although I can’t say I agree with every one of your points. Firstly, I’d like to stress that the need for a sCRM strategy is a very real one. While I acknowledge that technological advances have driven the development of sCRM it would be wrong to suggest that sCRM is just a technological advancement. These developments have created the possibility to work in a different way, and need a different approach (or strategy) by which to realize this. This isn’t an exaggeration to sell more consulting hours; the move from automated, transactional interaction to customer-centric, social engagement requires a number of offline changes (including a culture change) to respond to the challenges it presents. Secondly, a branded online community is not a tool – it’s a platform. The tools come in the form of sCRM technology (which encompasses social monitoring and lead identification tools), which then help you to make the most out of these platforms. The tool cannot wield itself, as it needs the offline procedural architecture to be aligned around it. One quick example, social is all about creating sales via peer-to-peer recommendations. Therefore, marketing’s tactics, targets and bonuses may need to be re-positioned to reward the creation of evangelists – not just leads. These offline considerations all come under the blanket term ‘sCRM Strategy’ and only focusing on the technology will lead to failure. What you’ve done is inadvertently highlighted the danger of incorrectly labeling sCRM as a technology rather than a strategy. Finally, you’re right in pointing out that strategies need to be tailored to the specific needs of the business and the market, and that a bolted-on ‘cookie cutter’ or one-size-fits-all model is counterproductive. I would also stress caution towards anyone who tries to sell you one. However, that doesn’t negate the value in learning lessons from other sCRM adoptions (their successes and failures) and using this experience to guide future ones; or, indeed, even having a list of basic principles when approaching sCRM. A business consultant who isn’t versed in the intricacies of sCRM as a strategy is no more useful than a sCRM consultant who doesn’t understand the wider business context in which the technology sits. Therefore, I would join you in urging companies to shop around and educate themselves before choosing their consultants.

  2. Matt I guess in spirit we are in agreement. In words we may not (yet) 😉
    To me a social CRM strategy is like a PBX strategy or a mobile phone strategy. What businesses need is a business strategy or a sales strategy or a customer engagement strategy. But not A Social Customer relationship management strategy.

    We had people sell CRM strategies for 20 years with moderate to no success. The successful implementation of CRM tools where those who had a sound and profound business strategy.

    We are selling Social CRM solutions. And what we ask our clients to do is think about their customer engagement philosophy, their sales culture and how they merge buying processes with selling behavior.

    I am very proud of our solution – but it is only a piece of software – the solution is much bigger than a SCRM strategy and tool. By reading your comment you pointed exactly to the strategic elements – so why downsize such an important strategy to a buzzword that has no legs and no meaning other than selling tools and hours 😉


  3. You’re right: I think we’re aiming for the same thing here.

    The strategic elements that I pointed to in my post are exactly what we at Intelestream consider a sCRM solution (software and strategy) to encompass.

    Knowing the way in which CRM and sCRM touches upon and relies on buy-in from different functions, it’s absolutely essential that a strategy is enterprise-wide and considers and connects both the customer-facing tactics and the offline procedural architecture.

    I suspect that our differences are due to the misappropriation of the sCRM label, by those who only regard the software as the solution. As such, it seems – and I’m not suggesting that you’re alone here – to have sullied the perception of what sCRM is. The same fate befell CRM before it*, for the same reasons: because people just see the technology and aren’t linking it with a holistic, strategic approach to customer relationship management. As such, CRM has suffered an unacceptably high rate of failure in the past.

    This misconception surrounding sCRM isn’t necessary the fault of the customer. I’m sure that in the past, irresponsible vendors have sold the software with a ‘CRM Strategy’ that amounted to little more than a software implementation strategy (the project management aspect of migrating data and undertaking UAT etc) and a few selling tactics, and that has contributed to this undesirable reading of what sCRM (and CRM) strategy is. I don’t know whether sCRM needs a new label or just better definition; while it would be a shame for such a useful tool and approach to be dismissed as a buzzword, inventing new names for the same concept may just create more confusion.

    Regardless, the software tool that we’re referring to should always be subordinate to and compliment to the enterprise-wide business strategy it sits within. Of that, I think we agree.

    *I should stress that I’m not suggesting that the strategies are alike – sCRM and CRM involve very different approaches to customer engagement, even if the acronyms are similar.


  4. The goal of any business is to become successful and earn good profits. But for that, having excellent CRM is a top priority. You customers are the ones who are going to decide where your business is going.


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