In many ways, I have a feeling we’re doing that because “social business” might feel too lofty or abstract, and things like “social media marketing” don’t really express our desire to wire the implications of social into our companies or the business relationships we have. CRM is at least a somewhat familiar construct, something that many businesses have spent the last decade or two coming to understand, and it’s a great bridge from our existing understanding of customer relationships to learning how they’re changing in front of our eyes (and what we must do in response).
All aspects of today’s social web – from marketing to relationships and the very culture of business – are all related to one another if we’re ever to truly realize the potential of This Thing Called Social. And as we continue to look at Social CRM’s place in the world and its evolution in business, we have to consider some key aspects of it:
1. Social CRM as a Mindset
Social CRM as a concept is complex, and is really at the heart of today’s business shift. It begins with the intent to develop more nuanced and personalized relationships with past, present, and future customers. That comes with it not just the technologies, but the culture shift. The idea that as businesses, we can and should be doing more to bring the voice of the customer into our organization and incorporate it into every aspect of the company, and that we should let it drive both why and how we do what we do. It’s the philosophy that underpins the practice. And it’s really where the work is, because for many companies, this is a gigantic, seismic shift in the way they’ve ever approached customer relationships before.
2. Social CRM as a Mechanism
Much like social media, social CRM is a term you can apply to the mechanics, platforms and systems that provide its infrastructure. So in some moments, when we discuss social CRM, we’re addressing the need for the technologies to adapt and include dimensions of social relationships in the data itself, to integrate that data into other key business systems, and to improve and enhance how that data is delivered back to the people who need and use it. Simply put, one part of social CRM is about evolving the tools we use and know in order to incorporate these new interactions and touchpoints across the web. We need that for the active cultivation of the relationships themselves, and so that we can do detailed analysis at all stages of a customer’s lifecycle with our company.
3. Social CRM as a Strategy
Building a pervasive social CRM strategy will mean it touches many areas of the organization, from sales to marketing to product management to customer service. But in order to do that effectively, both the Mindset and the Mechanisms need to be in place. I’d argue that mindset and philosophy have to come first, or the deployment of all of the best processes, tools, and systems will forever struggle for a foothold. But if a business first wants to build more dynamic customer relationships and then will support that shift by empowering both people and systems, then and only then can an effective strategy follow, from goals through the tactical execution. It’s the equivalent of building a house once the foundation and the frame are actually in place.
Social CRM has massive potential in all three areas, but they’re inextricably linked to one another. One can’t really survive long term unless the others are in play, and over the course of the next several years for most businesses, they’re going to need to shift and evolve in parallel. I’d actually go so far as to say that social CRM can be a significant pivot point for much of social media’s future in business, as the relationships between us and our past, present, and future customers are really the center of it all.
But we cannot talk about social CRM as a blanket term unless we understand which aspect we’re addressing, and how it impacts the others. Much like social media and social communications. Are we talking the intent? The strategy? The execution?
They’re all intertwined, and they all have importance. But as we continue to discuss where the varying applications of social sit inside our companies and our industry, it does us all well to be specific about our discussions so that we can understand where we have to begin to build.
Have you been chewing on social CRM? What does it mean to your business, and what about it do you feel is getting too much emphasis or not enough? Would love to hear your thoughts and discussion in the comments.