Social CRM: social and communities in CRM and marketing

Gerry McGovern CEO of Customer Carewords
Gerry McGovern, CEO of Customer Carewords

Social CRM is a term that is often misused, certainly in a product and solution context. It’s also frequently narrowed down to specific customer-oriented activities such as customer service and even social media monitoring. It seems everyone is offering social CRM solutions these days.

However, social CRM is not about tools in the first place. It’s a business function that revolves around processes, people, and a customer-centric strategy. An exploration.

Here is a quote from “Using your customers’ desired actions to increase your sales”, a paper Gerry McGovern (among others, known as author of “Killer Web Content”) and Kristin Zhivago published in 2010 (note: it’s not about Social CRM): “You think you know what is important to customers. You have a list. Your company is managed according to this list”.

They further write that “thousands of customer interviews have convinced them that the “company’s list” and the “customer’s list” are always significantly different – including the items on the list, the specific characteristics of the items on the list, and the priority of the items on the list”.

This is indeed a fundamental issue in nearly all businesses today, and it’s crucial to overcome it and gain a single view on the customer in a fragmented and multi-channel reality. As McGovern and Zhivago write: “Your list is driving your decisions, your decisions are driving your actions, and your actions are driving your results. If your list is correct, your decisions and your actions will lead to better results – and higher revenue”. In other words: don’t have your list and customer data environments right, and you miss out on revenue. That seems obvious.

The lack of integrated and connected lists

The traditional ways of looking at “the list” were mainly built around historically gathered demographic, transactional and – increasingly – behavioral data from several customer interactions (online, call centre, customer service, after-sales, email, whatever).

This doesn’t mean all businesses have integrated and built their customer (and prospect) databases, interaction lists, etc. already this way.

On the contrary: many are still stuck in the demographand sometimes transactional phase. Data are dispersed, systems are disconnected, and we are far from a single view.

The integration of data from different customer interactions and channels is a challenge for many marketers (think about the integration of email data, web analytics and CRM, for instance).

These days, the “list” should be fed with other data, and it should also feed social interactions. It is again a matter of cross-fertilization, connected marketing and holistic thinking.

Social CRM, listening and real-time data

Kristin Zhivago founder of Zhivago Management Partners
Kristin Zhivago, founder of Zhivago Management Partners

In social CRM and relationship marketing, we need real-time data that come from various online and offline interactions, including social media conversations, “listening”, Web 2.0 sales tools, email interactions and all the other channels and contact moments available. Marketing automation is important here, as is building it within a social and interactive CRM approach.

The automation is not a replacement of real interactions. It is a “conditio sine qua non” to move from connections to customers and we can’t overlook the human dimension of intent and emotions in it all.

We know we need more personal, relevant and social interactions, regardless of the channels. Some of them are hard to put in “a list” or translate in data, but there is a LOT you can measure, track and analyze. Furthermore, in social media you can go far beyond typical social media metrics such as engagement, etc.

Social media do play a role in lead generation, direct marketing strategies and sales if you work in a people-centric and thus by definition cross-channel way.

Customer relationships beyond the first degree

We also need to add less tangible data such as engagement or influence in our customer insights and look beyond the customer himself. Our customers have customers and understanding these end customers and their interactions with our customers and even between themselves and others, is key in customer-centric/people-centric thinking.

In the end, being customer-centric is not being good friends with your customers: it’s helping them to improve their business, make their buying journey easier, etc. by understanding their needs, on all levels. Our customers also have connections and a multi-channel behavior. Analyzing influence for instance, is not a matter of Klout scores. It is a matter of tracking what the customers and connections of our customers do in the second, third and really infinite degree.

We have to look at the whole value chain, move away from first degree connections and put the customer in the centre our connected, interactive or social CRM, marketing and businesses processes. Furthermore, we must stop thinking from the message and channel perspective to achieve all this.

Identifying the engagement and influence of customers requires a cross-channel approach that is impossible if silos exist. The customer life cycle has to be tracked in relation to his integrated journey and social ecosystems, regardless of channels and media.

The two-way social CRM voice

Social interactions happen. The challenge is to channel them, capture them, integrate them and turn them into benefits for your brand, customers, relationship marketing efforts and insights in customer-to-customer interactions. The list is fed by interactions and conversations, and it feeds interactions and conversations.

Customer-to-customer interactions give you an enormous opportunity to optimize your business-to-customer interactions as well.

If you let your customers participate, collaborate and co-create you are doing community marketing, but you will also get input and feedback in real-time in the most natural way possible.

This is one of the main things social media marketing is about: using social media and Web 2.0 techniques and participative, real-time customer engagement, social media listening and collaboration approaches to go beyond the good old list. Adding the social media voices and signals of your customers, who by definition are in real-time, to your “data”.

However, it’s also the other way around: your “data”, your “list”, if correct, helps you make the interactions with your customers more valuable for both.

Social CRM and communities

In the end, it’s really a closed loop of data that support interaction, word-of-mouth, social media conversations, customer-to-customer interactions and much more. It provides real-time data enabling you to take better cross-channel, marketing and sales decisions in everything you do. The channels don’t matter: inbound or outbound, email and social, offline and online, it’s all set up around the customer.

He is key in customer-centric thinking and thus social CRM. He is also increasingly online, multi-channel and on social media. Thus it’s obvious that CRM has to include, besides transactional and other customer data, date regarding social media feedback, community input and social interactions.

So why wouldn’t it be obvious that your CRM efforts are shared with your communities, fed by them and in the end feed them?

It’s the role of a business to enable these conversations across all channels, leading to an improved customer experience and a truly social CRM. Social CRM in fact is interactive and connected CRM where customers, connections, communities and conversations are involved.

That and people-centric thinking requires fundamental changes that go beyond departments, silos, channels and customer programs.

More posts about Gerry McGovern and Kristin Zhivago

Gerry McGovern:

Kristin Zhivago: