Can Social CRM Live in a Vacuum?

Things are crazy busy here at Sugar HQ – which is always a good thing, even if I am increasingly envying the European summer work ethic.

But I did have a chance to see that Lithium Technologies has expanded its scope as a social community building tool to become a social CRM player. This is an interesting move. While I think Lithium is wise to cash in on the social CRM buzz – it should tread carefully. Just mentioning CRM in a product name ushers in a lot of preconceptions – namely around process management, data sets and a whole world of issues and decisions.

In short, social CRM cannot be added to an organization in a vacuum. Sure, companies can and should be doing things out there on the social web; building communities and expanding their touch points and communication channels. But from a true “CRM” perspective, all of these engagements must ideally be tracked towards and end. Just throwing stuff out there into the social realm will not guarantee any success.

To Lithium’s credit, they have included a concept in this social CRM release they call “CRM Connect” – this allows users to merge the data and processes of the social realm into traditional database-centric CRM systems. This can aid in cross channel and cross-initiative reporting, and place social media interactions and data into a traditional business results context.

It will be interesting to see where Lithium goes with the concept, and more interesting to see how customers utilize the tools.

2 thoughts on “Can Social CRM Live in a Vacuum?

  1. Martin,
    Thanks for the observations on our launch! I’d layer on a couple of points. First, the connection point to traditional CRM systems is a powerful aspect of Social CRM. I would take your point and amplify it even further — integrating traditional CRM systems with social networks to enhance visibility to customer conversations is necessary, but not sufficient. That approach only creates another channel for the company to maintain the same 1-to-1 relationship that they have always had. The true power of Social CRM is in creating a customer network of advocates that can actually do a lot of the work for you.

    Here’s a real example of our solutions at work: A prospect asks a question about a company on a social network like Twitter, “Is ACME worth the money?” This is automatically fed into the company’s online community where it is seen by an advocate, who starts a discussion thread based on it. That discussion automatically surfaces in the CRM system, alerting a sales rep. The sales rep can then engage other advocates — a trusted source — to weigh in on the thread, within the online community, on behalf of the company. The advocates provide honest and favorable commentary and the deal closes within a week — at little to no cost of sales.

    Now imagine that happening at a scale of thousands or millions. If you have built a bigger network of customers and advocates than your competitors, you win. And, here’s the kicker, not only do your sales go up as you build a bigger network…but, your costs go down as your network gets bigger and those advocates do more and more for you. This is exactly to your point that just saying the word ‘social’ doesn’t really get you anywhere — it can’t be in a vacuum — it has to be toward an end, like closing sales faster at lower cost of sale and being able to see that concretely tracked within your CRM/sales systems.

    The second point I’d layer on is the power that lies in the data and interactions of all these social interactions — and how a company can then draw connections and correlations to actual sales activities. We have a number of customers that have tracked direct increases in sales from prospects that participated in community and social conversations (40% to be exact). Historically, data exists outside of traditional CRM systems in the community, but can now be brought back into those same systems to see these black and white — not to mention powerful — business outcomes.

    We’d love to talk with you further as we have partnered and integrated processes deeply with folks like RightNow and Salesforce.com (Salesforce.com’s own community is powered by Lithium) to see how we could help your customers create their “Customer Networks.”

    Sanjay Dholakia
    Chief Marketing Officer
    Lithium Technologies
    @sdholakia

  2. Hey Martin:
    You’re absolutely right that businesses want contextual integration with traditional systems and the social web, which is exactly why Lithium has expanded its solution sets to address these objectives.
    While it’s also true that CRM processes and corporate databases exist and continue to be perfected, it’s become a whole lot more than a company to consumer interaction. Businesses are looking for way to harness, understand, and monetize consumer to consumer interactions, and identify and empower their brand advocates. This will directly help companies to innovate faster, promote their brands, and provide expert customer support.
    Thanks for taking the time to read and blog about Lithium’s direction. You may also want to check out Brent Leary’s Social CRM Blog for your blogroll.
    Best,
    -Dan
    @lostintheflog

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