Who Leads the Social CRM Market? – An Analysis


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The question was raised on Focus and my answer may have surprised a few people. I started my answer with a disclaimer “I work at Sword Ciboodle” (a technology vendor for those of you who do not know). I then proceeded to state my opinion that no technology vendor currently leads the market, even questioning if there is a “market” for Social CRM, my logic is that technology is only one part of the problem. By the way, the word Social is starting to get in the way:

“The leaders in the market are the consultants and analysts. The reason is simple, I am not convinced that Social CRM is an actual market. Integrating Social Channels into a customer strategy is something that needs to be done, absolutely. Connecting the Social dots is something that does need to be understood and practiced, but a market, not sure yet.

When I was speaking on the topic last year, I was cautious to describe it as ‘CRM in the Age of Social’. Customers have problems to solve, companies need to figure out how to solve those problems – just with a whole lot more channels. My first statement about consultants and analysts was not a knock, it is a recognition of the complexity of the problem, people and process first, not technology.

CRM is often discussed by its 3 core components, Sales, Marketing and Service – when we discuss Social CRM, which one are are talking about? Or are we talking about all 3 and more? Are we talking about Business to Business or Business to Consumer? There are 6 segments at least, where I believe there might be 6 different leaders”

Social CRM does Require Technology, but it is about People

A previous topic also on Focus sheds some light on my answer; “What are the top reasons for integrating Social Media with CRM”. Caty Kobe expands the question/problem statement to facilitate the discussion: “What are the top reasons why an organization should integrate CRM with social media channels” – There is the explanation to my answer, right there, simple. I did not even need to go to the answers (though friend Brian Vellmure has a good one), just the question.

Social CRM, from the technology perspective, is about integration of new channels, Social Media is a channel. Properly, Social Media is dozens of channels, where you need to choose the ones right for your business. The hard part, the real work, is choosing which channels to integrate and then designing the processes around these channels – the people part. Just “being there” because someone told you to is not a reason! Too many industry insiders (Vendors, Analysts and Consultants) are trying to put Social CRM into one simple bucket, it is not simple, and it is not one thing.

We need to find a balance among the new terms, big words and fluffy buzzwords. It is not all new – parts are new, the combinations are new, but in the end, Social Media is just a channel. If you are trying to figure out the Social CRM puzzle and you are doing your research, you might find definitions and descriptions; something like ‘The company’s response to the customers’ control of the conversation’ (@pgreenbe). If you are not comfortable with that one, I am sure you have found one you like. There is only one correct answer to the question of what is Social CRM, yours. Not OK with that, how about focusing on the strategy, not a definition? Looking back to a great post by friend Wim Rampen, who outlined a concise Social CRM Strategy:

“A Social CRM Strategy is all about understanding Who the customer is, through Listening to Engaging with and Collaboration between Customers, Employees and Partners and aimed at Developing Innovations that allow Customers to do What Jobs they need to do, by means of a Personalized Design that empowers Customers, Employees and Partners to influence How well Customers and Companies can meet their Desired Outcomes.”

Wim outlines some great actions, I encourage you to go back and read the original post and the conversation which followed. Notice that Wim only touches upon the technology components. Recognizing that they are there, but not focusing on them first. Some may find this strategy to constraining, some may find it to broad. The beauty of sharing it is that people can take from it and see how it fits within their own organization. It is not only about building new strategies and new frameworks – honestly I think some of the new stuff, without even a hint at looking at the old is pure rubbish. You will need to take this strategy and apply it to your programs of work. If we all spent a little bit more time understanding where we have been, we might be better at figuring out where we need to go.

So, Who is in the Lead?

Finishing off with the Social CRM Market question, which I do not want to leave hanging. There is not ‘a‘ Market, there are many different Markets, including both technology and consultative, there are data questions and process questions. From integrating social channels into your Customer Service operations (where Ciboodle excels) to Socialytics (which Ciboodle does not do, but we have friends who do) – and all the bits in between. For now, it is about how to integrate; technology and process, Social into the programs of work for the foundational components of CRM; Sales Service and Marketing. In the future, we will be able to get rid of the ‘Social’ descriptor and go back to focusing on doing business. The organization or person in the lead is the one who solves the problem you need fixed – not the one with the best marketing department.

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, this is a great analysis. As you know, I’ve had a hard time seeing Social CRM as a market due to the variety of different solutions — each with its own set of leaders.

    There are leaders in multi-function CRM; leaders in marketing, sales or customer service solutions; leaders in text mining; leaders in social media monitoring; leaders in community software; etc. etc. Lots of great tools, but each quite different. Lumping them all into one market/category and then choosing overall leaders makes no sense to me.

    Let’s call it what it really is — not a market but marketing. SCRM-the-buzzword has raised awareness of all the new tools and the ideas behind them. It’s helping get attention just like a “Got Milk?” campaign.

    For those of us that saw CRM (in the most mature form) as collaboration with customers, I don’t see any new news with SCRM-the-idea. But again, if a new buzzword will help raise awareness, it’s all good.

    It will be interesting to check in 5 years from now to see how Social CRM is viewed. I see three scenarios.

    1. Social CRM gets swept into CRM, because social becomes a set of channels that all CRM solutions support (like email, chat, etc.).

    2. The “social” part of Social CRM (community software, monitoring, etc.) gets consolidated into a broader Social Business category which also includes Enterprise 2.0 (the internal social stuff).

    3. Social CRM replaces CRM and includes today’s CRM category and includes all the CRM solutions and all the customer-facing social solutions.

    Hopefully as this plays out everyone will remember your advice that social is about people. But, then, I thought that was what CRM was supposed to be about. What happened?

    Further reading: Nailing Jell-O to the Wall: The Real Social CRM Leader is… Salesforce.com?

  2. Bob,

    Thanks for the comment and your astute observation about Social CRM being marketing, not a market. I agree that the awareness has been raised, and I suppose I should be happy about that – in a a ‘be careful what you wish for’ sort of way.

    I like you number 1 scenario, but would possibly turn it around a bit to make it more attractive. It might be a game of semantics, admittedly, but it may make it more palatable. “CRM matures and is able to rise to the challenge and absorb the new channels which are becoming relevant to the business. These channels are currently known as Social channels but will eventually be simply channels”

    I hope that this does not digress into a shouting match of right and wrong. In that scenario our clients and customers will lose.

    Cheers – Mitch

  3. Mitch: thanks for this post, which I found a forward-thinking counter to the often-maniacal quest to discover a product or market superlative. As you and Bob point out, the potential for misleading ourselves is high. In a different scenario, figuring out which company makes the largest-selling passenger vehicle provides scant benefit if my needs are in a different niche.

    One observation, though. You mentioned “the organization or person in the lead is the one who solves the problem you need fixed – not the one with the best marketing department.” My view is that while salespeople do ‘problem solve,’ and ‘fix’ what’s broken, a large proportion of selling opportunities are not manifest in correcting under performance, but rather in enabling companies to achieve strategy.

    That’s a significant distinction for many of us. We’ve all been brought up in a reactionary selling culture that focuses on “customer pains,” finding out “what keeps the CEO up at night,” “trigger events,” and pitching “problem-solution-benefit.” But this myopia risks missing the opportunities to collaborate with customers on strategic goals that don’t necessarily begin with repairing a problem, but rather begin with developing an innovation or proprietary advantage.

  4. Mitch, in the social age I don’t think any one vendor can drive the market anymore. Not even the very biggest.

    So a “loud voice” may help (marketing does matter), but I think it will be the collective voice of the market that will determine what Social CRM ultimately means. Similar to how “CRM” developed, except faster due to (ironically) social media itself.

    Sites like Wikipedia along with CustomerThink and many others will capture that collective “wisdom” at any point in time. Hopefully without too much shouting!

    I like your phrasing about CRM maturing and incorporating new channels. I would add that maturing has another dimension beyond channels — towards becoming truly customer-centric and co-creation. That’s the more difficult type of maturation.

    Kind of like a kid growing up. Easy to grow in terms of height, weight and other physical characteristics. Not so easy to develop social skills and grown-up interpersonal behavior. Both are needed to be an “adult” and I think the same is true for the adult version of S/CRM.

  5. Andy,

    Thanks for stopping by and the comment. Just to try and put things in a bit of context, I wanted to take a peek at some of the pieces you have written lately. The one that sticks out is your piece No One Cares About Your Stinking Market Share” . I absolutely love this part of that post:

    “Go ahead, keep your company's market share objectives on all your internal communications. But remember, your customers aren't necessarily wowed by market share, and they aren’t seeking a percentage–just value.”

    I believe that many, not all, sales people take the path of least resistance to making the sale. It is often a much easier task to fix what is understood to be broken – as you point out here. Marketshare is just another one of the bullets in the slide deck which helps the sales people close the transaction, but speaks nothing to the value equation. From a Social CRM market perspective, each segment needs a value part. Since Social CRM is so many things to so many people I believe we are going to find that marketshare bullet showing up in odd places.


  6. Hi Mitch, thanks for the great post. It’s strange but I wrote a similar post with some personal consideration on the SCRM market few days ago on my blog. Like you I think that it’s quite logic to see in the near future a collapse of some practices (i.e. social media monitoring functionalities/tools) inside the CRM perimeter together with social channels and their management (Bob first scenario). But I also think that all this rationalization won’t be worth anything without a deep change in culture inside organizations. So besides E20 tools adoption I believe in a must-have “change management” process in order to achieve a big SCRM success. In few words customer will find real value in the relationship only when the customer-facing and internal-facing aspects of the business will meet each other. So,at the end, i found myself more between the 1 and 2 scenario.


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