5 Reasons Social CRM Is the High Ground for Revenue Production

CRM is just overblown contact lists and pipeline spreadsheets, right? Toy CRM systems might look that way, but serious CRM is changing the world of sales and marketing by leveraging social networking functionality.

By David Taber
Thu, July 12, 2012

CIO — Readers will know that I'm hardly a booster of the latest whizzy thing. I'll take value engineering and reliability over cool technology any day. In fact, I'm OK if you think of me a technology curmudgeon.

So this article may come as something of a surprise, as I'm going to be beating the drums about social CRM. Not because Facebook or LinkedIn or Chatter are cool—they're just technologies, after all—but because of ubiquity.

Almost anybody you want to do business with is somewhere in these social networks, at least in the United States. Desirable customers are going to be there just as surely as they're going to have an iOS or Android device. Both mobile and social give you access to new kinds of information and real-time feedback for critical parts of sales and marketing.

I'm not pumping product here. Rather, I'm focused on visibility into purchasing behavior that marketers and sellers have never had before.

1. Social Is a Huge Adoption Aid.

If there were one critical success factor for CRM projects, it's the depth and speed of user adoption. The more users adding data to the system, the more likely CRM will be a useful asset for others. More, higher quality data begets more usage, more users and a more complete picture of the customer relationship.

But getting those first users going is always a challenge. The sales guys will whine that they don't have time to type prospect and pipeline data into the CRM, and they often resist having to log in to the system at all. Of course, those same sales reps seem to have no problem writing Tweets, sending an email and jumping onto their social network.

Commentary: Salesforce.com Chatter Teaches Lessons About Social Networks

When social networking and communications are done right—fully threaded through the rest of the CRM object model—they quickly add to the depth of data in the system. For this reason alone, Chatter can be a huge win, with a big caveat about signal-to-noise ratio: make sure you've developed netiquette around what you post, how you post and what you measure.

2. Everyone Loves to Play.

What could be more flash-in-the-pan than gamification, you say? Don't discount this one, though, as it really matters for high usage and quick adoption. New research shows exactly how games and gambling get you hooked. When the techniques are used correctly, they really can change behaviors.

A bunch of startups are working to gamify business applications—not only to increase usage but to achieve business goals such as deeper customer engagement, faster problem solving, better collaboration and healthy competition. It's early days for these technologies, but watch out for what it can mean for the effectiveness of marketing and sales.

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