Even as analysts and experts predict the coming age of more collaborative, enterprise-ready customer relationship management (CRM), savvy marketers have begun using a variety of social media tools already at their disposal to bring CRM 2.0 in through the backdoor.
Rather than wait for enterprise software makers to add collaboration, word-of-mouth and many-to-many marketing to their CRM applications, some customers are experimenting and achieving early successes with publicly available tools, said Forrester Research analyst Bill Band.
“What we found was that there's no need to wait; social technologies are already driving business results today,” said Band, author of a new report titled “CRM 2.0: Fantasy or Reality.” “[Marketers] who wait will find it hard to catch up.”
Band's report includes a discussion of the differences between formal CRM and social media technologies and processes. Whereas CRM, especially at large companies, is a highly disciplined, data-driven process, social media tends to be more ad hoc.
But, Band said, real-world examples show that social media initiatives help companies deepen their relationships with customers, especially self-forming groups of customers. Moreover, social tools and activities pay even greater dividends when combined with CRM's ability to aggregate, analyze and make use of customer data, he added.
Forrester's catalog of social media successes—enterprises using blogs, wikis, podcasts, RSS, widgets and other Web-based social tools to talk to customers—isn't all that new. What is new is the idea that these tools are a key stepping stone from CRM's past to its future.
In fact, traditional CRM vendors haven't been sitting on the sidelines. Several large-scale CRM vendors added social media capabilities to their products in 2008. Oracle's Siebel added support for widgets, gadgets and mashups; SAP CRM now includes a variety of social media tools for managing channel partner relationships; and Salesforce.com added so-called social sales collateral management, or a process for marketing and salespeople to “Digg” or vote on the best sales materials.
Band interviewed nine early-adopter companies, several of which put a b-to-b spin on CRM 2.0 and social media:
? Starwood Hotels assigned a full-time employee to monitor and analyze customer feedback on loyalty program discussion boards, using a predictive analytics tool to discern patterns from more than 100,000 customer postings.
? Citrix Systems built a private community, dubbed Communispace, to serve as a large-scale-yet-still-intimate customer advisory board.
? Law firm Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton implemented a collaborative relationship management and referral database that enabled lawyers to find out who knew whom, adding a social element to the contact management process.
Many of the ideas behind these efforts, Bands said, came from the world of public social media, such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. M
? -Initiate CRM 2.0 experiments immediately; test out new ideas and approaches now.
? -Benchmark customer and prospect social readiness—are they ready for social media?
? -Define your social customer objectives: What are you trying to accomplish?
? -Assess your CRM 2.0 capabilities: Do you have staff, tools in place already?
? -Understand the social computing solutions landscape: Where can you find what you lack?
? -Map out your social CRM capabilities-building plan; link tightly to business goals.
? -Define your metrics for success; fall back to your CRM metric/measurement disciplines.