I thought about a question mark at the end of the post title, and left it off for some reason. But I do feel that we are in a gray area right now in regards to social CRM. For a while, I have feared that we were in the stage where 99% of those involved in a trend are evangelizing it, while 1% are actually doing anything real about it.
At every single CRM event I’ve been to in the past few years, this was the case. I saw a lot of blowhards talking up the importance of the social customer, engagement, blah blah – but with no real answers for a company looking to meet these changing needs in any systematic manner.
However, at the CRM Evolution show this week in NYC – I saw some stories from companies actually leveraging social media effectively. And I saw some companies hitting the market with tools that actually take results of social media engagement into consideration. Startups like Crowd Factory are truly promising in terms of ending the black hole effect of social marketing.
The event got me thinking about that critical transition in any technology trend – going from What to How. In the social CRM space, it is even more tricky because there are so many potential applications of “social” in the enterprise. It is not like past trends like “web services” that while vast – really just meant a faster, easier way to link via APIs etc. – the business benefit quickly became clear, standards formed and best practices now abound.
Best practices in social CRM have not been as forthcoming. I think the “how do I start?” issue is a major obstacle, followed by “how do I measure?” And sadly I am not here with answers, just a few suggestions.
As we move to the How of social CRM from the What stage – one thing I am 100% certain about is the need for at least some decent traditional CRM footprint in the organization. This needs to be your launch pad. If you know nothing about your customers to begin with – adding fuel to that ignorance fire with social data will only exacerbate the issue.
Social CRM is new, amorphous and I have no doubt we’ll see many iterations of social CRM tools and best practices. Thus, it makes sense to base your initial forays into social CRM on a platform that is flexible enough to manage the changes – and allows you to make changes early and often.
I am often asked “What is SugarCRM’s social CRM strategy?” and I think the answer is simply that Sugar is an enabling platform – though of course there are and will be more social CRM out of the box tools. But for now, as the concept of social CRM slowly becomes absorbed into just “CRM” – we will act as more of a platform that a point solution.
From a “How” perspective, what we are seeing many customers do in Sugar with social is get to a managed phase – as the ability to see myriad social networks and respective data around your brand, leads, sales opportunities and support cases (or potential issues) in a single, easy to use place is a huge advantage to a basic silo approach to managing twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, etc. in separate tabs or windows.