Relationships are Critical, but there is More

Last week I was not very nice to an author who focused on data, and not trust as the ‘tie that binds’ regarding relationships. You can agree, or disagree, but the current thinking is that engagement builds trust, trust is the basis for a relationship and a relationship is the basis for…hmmm, for what? Why do I need a relationship? For one, a relationship is valuable if we want to have a drink, play golf, maybe even do some business together. That said, if one side, or the other is not gaining anything of value out of the relationship, then what is it worth? Value itself is an interesting word, as it is a totally perceived concept, meaning, what something is worth is based on the value I assign to it, no more, no less. Back to the relationship, it needs to be mutual, not one sided. OK, what is my point, where am I going and who cares!

Social Relationship Management is PR 2.0

I have read, and reread a series posts that bring up the topic of Social Relationship Management (SRM). The latest was written by Brian Solis, a brilliant strategist and professional, for whom I have a lot of respect:

“At a minimum, SRM focuses beyond the social customer and escalates the promise and potential of sCRM across an entire organization, not just customer service. Equally, SRM zooms in to evaluate the various stages of decision making and the channels and people that influence outcomes.”

I do not see eye-to-eye with Brian, I  commented respectfully and he responded (I will get into details in a moment). I want to take a quick moment and highlight the importance of engaging.  A willingness to respond and engage is critical to building your own trust. Thanks, Brian, I appreciate it. There were a few other posts which touched on the topic, and I find it frustrating that on such a topic the companies would not engage. There was one written by John Bell a strategist for Ogilvy. They call it Social IRM (Influencer Relationship Management). To write in a blog format about the importance of the way YOU believe relationships should be managed, yet do not respond, is well, NOT very social is it. Sounds rather like advertising, not being social; ‘I will broadcast my message, and it is what it is, no engagement’. How then could someone trust you to engage with their customers and/or influencers?

Back to the concepts of SRM, which at a conceptual level I do not disagree with, but it feels like the direction which Public Relations needs to go, not CRM (remember, Social CRM is an extension of CRM). What I do believe is that if you spend the time to cultivate a relationship, it should be easy to quickly understand how each side gains value from the relationship. Some are customers, some are prospect, influencers, partners, suppliers, etc.,…The focus should remain on understanding what the relationships brings, not simply the relationship itself. Do we need another TLA to define these activities? If an agency needs to help their clients to manage these people differently, then maybe. For the company, I do not think so, for the agency, maybe.

Understanding Jobs to be done is the Critical Element

In his article, John Bell makes the following statement:

“But until we connect all that great data to the actual sales data for said customers, I don’t think its wise to label it ‘Social CRM.'”

I am not going down the path of the ROI debate, which is an important conversation to have. But it sounds like Ogilvy does not believe in tying the numbers to Sales data, so what exactly should it be tied to? Again, the label game is not the critical point here, the critical point is who are the customers and what are they trying to achieve? You can and should have relationships with recommenders, influencers and the like, but how are they helping you to understand the job the customer is trying to get done. Whether you call it Social CRM, SRM, Sales or Marketing is not the question, the relationship is not the answer either – the value exchange enabled by the relationship is the answer.

The following from Brian’s post is important, but I believe it needs to be extended:

“I believe at the heart of sCRM methodologies, the recognition that customers are only part of the new equation, sets the stage for long-term and advantageous change.”

The heart of Social CRM is the simple recognition that companies are going to focus on the needs of the customer, not their own rules. Customers are not only central to the theme, they are the heart and focus. If companies spend too much time and effort focusing on influencers they will take their ‘eye off the ball’ and lose focus. There are certain parts of the organization which need to focus on the influencers and decision makers, and it would of course be advantageous to have a developed understanding of these people, whether I would call that a relationship is open for interpretation.

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