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The Social CRM Fallacy That Could Kill Your Business

By Christopher J. Bucholtz
Nov 18, 2010 5:00 AM PT

For all the talk of social CRM, there's not so much talk of social CRM successes. Oh, sure -- there are scattered success stories, but there's not a wave of SCRM home runs being hit out there. As a result, there's been talk of SCRM having "jumped the shark" or "outlived its hype."

The Social CRM Fallacy That Could Kill Your Business

In talking to users, however, it's clear that the promise of SCRM is well known and fully appreciated. What's lacking -- and I suspect this is the case in any truly revolutionary or dramatically evolutionary change to how business is done -- is a lack of courage to take the first step.

I frequently hear people say that they are waiting for the development of "SCRM best practices." That's a nice, safe way to approach SCRM -- but it utterly misses the point.

Lame Excuse

Social CRM is about building a two-way conversation between your business and your customers. The best practices that work for you are going to be specific to you and your customers -- that relationship will be unique and distinct and impossible to export to another business without making changes to it.

The practices you follow will capitalize on how social your customers are, how skilled your people are at relating to them via social channels, and how many resources you put behind your SCRM efforts.

The answer to this will not come in a business book or in a one-size-fits-all flow chart. It's going to come from your concerted efforts to better understand your customers, the social media channels they use, what they'd like to hear from you through those channels, and how to use the information exchanged in those conversations to create, strengthen and reinforce relationships.

As CRM consultant Jesus Hoyos is fond of saying, "I don't believe in best practices," particularly when it comes to SCRM.

I'll go a bit further -- I think the wait for SCRM best practices to emerge is an excuse for a lot of businesses and a lot of faint-hearted business leaders to avoid taking risks or even thinking about engaging with customers.

The Great Customer Giveaway

"We're waiting until best practices emerge" is tantamount to saying, "we're waiting until our competition completely schools us and we're forced to do something to save our jobs." It is not a reasonable response to today's reality.

That said, there are reasons not to move at flank speed toward the SCRM future. The economic environment certainly has an impact on how fast businesses can respond to the need for some kind of social component to their marketing, service and sales efforts, and a need to establish a methodology for evaluating ROI is simply a responsible thing to have for any initiative.

However, waiting for other businesses to show you how to better interact with your own customers is completely illogical.

The whole point of SCRM -- heck, the whole point of CRM, for that matter -- is to better understand your customers and to build more intimate relationships with them. That means that the most likely businesses to have approaches that appeal to your customers are your competitors.

So, are you going to wait for your competitors to develop best practices before you get your SCRM activities in gear? Why not send them your leads so they can prequalify them for you while you're at it?

A Time for Trust

It is up to you to get out there and determine which SCRM practices are best for you -- and to do it now.

Start monitoring the channels where your customers are talking about you, start participating in the conversation, and start thinking about the elements of those conversations that you can draw useful data from for your sales, service and marketing teams.

What works for you may not work for anyone else -- but that's not a lack of best practices. That's an opportunity to spot competitive advantage.

SCRM is a scary place if you don't trust your customers. It involves the admission that you don't control the conversation -- the customers do. That simple fact can be terrifying if you think the only way to succeed is to control the message and monopolize the conversation -- an approach that is now dead and buried.

Trust yourself and your customers, and get busy figuring out your own best practices for SCRM.


CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz blogs about CRM at Forecasting Clouds. He has been a technology journalist for 15 years and has immersed himself in the world of CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written two books on World War II aviation, and his next two are slated for publication in 2010.


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