Winning with Social CRM in B2B

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Much has been made of social media’s ability to directly connect businesses and their customers. I’m in the middle of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Thank You Economy (affiliate link), and it has me thinking more about social media’s impact on the future of business. Its influence is undeniable for many B2C comanies, where customers are online talking directly about the brand. But what about B2B companies, where online conversation is much less common?

I work for an enterprise software company that serves small and medium sized businesses. We’re a small team that understands the importance of customer service and relationships. We treat our customer base with respect and ultimately work to a win-win relationship with all of them. Those that can’t (or won’t) work with us in a mutually beneficial relationship are eventually fired. It’s a choice we’ve made as a company, and one we’re fully committed to.

Those choices and commitments have paid off in the form of a really great base of customers. We enjoy working with them, and they with us, as we help to grow their businesses.

But where are they online? Are our users racing off to Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to talk about our latest blunder or accomplishment? Nope. Not that I can find. We have the standard Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn pages, but they just don’t seem to be where our customers want to hang out. Do I blame them? Absolutely not. Could we engage more and pull harder to get them there? Sure, but I’m not convinced of the ROI on that effort. Not that there isn’t an ROI; I just think it’s much higher in other places right now.

While most users may not want to sit around and talk about the features in our latest release, they do want to talk about their businesses. They want to discuss their jobs and the market and the industry and how other businesses are attacking this crazy economy.

That’s the essence of Social CRM. It’s not about you. It’s about your customers.

Your customers want to talk about how they can be better and scale their businesses and make more money. Our job is to be there during those conversations and help out when we can. Being helpful goes a long way.

A lot of businesses just want to take. A lot of (admittedly successful) enterprise software companies just want to pad their stock price. They want you to pay for your ever-increasing license and maintenance fees, and accept subpar services from disconnected consultants. They want to lock you in and force you into decisions that make no sense for your business.

That may work now, but business owners are getting smarter. They’re starting to realize that the IT department might not understand the business enough to make critical business decisions. They’re learning from the mistakes they made with previous vendors and now they’re looking for someone they can partner with for a beneficial relationship. They want a vendor that understands their business and is looking out for their bottom line. Thankfully, many of them are finding us. So many in fact that we can’t keep up with the demand. Good problem to have though. It’s a testament to our product, but it’s more of a testament to how we interact with our customers.

A large majority of our business is generated from word of mouth. That’s our customers telling others in their industries that we make a great product and support it with amazing service. It’s them telling others that we work hard to intimately understand their industry and business. That’s our customers telling people that we’re helpful.

This post is a little bit of ra-ra-ra for ABIS, but that’s ok when it’s deserved. We’re far from perfect, but we work hard every day to be better for our customers. The bottom line is that Social CRM isn’t about Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Social CRM is about going to your customers, wherever they are, and building beneficial relationships. Be helpful, give first, and reap the rewards.

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