Where CRM meets social networking
The global phenomenon of social networking has many companies thinking about new opportunities to engage with customers. A key question, however, is how this reality changes the overall CRM landscape - from a strategy that manages customers to one that is used to converse with them.
“The social software phenomenon has been very interesting and still continues to heat up,” says Heath Turner, CRM Director at IS Partners. “Taking advantage of communities that are forged through relationships with people of similar interests and passions has proven to be a very successful way to reach out to a large and even growing international audience.”
He believes the rules of the Web have changed. Web 2.0, or social media, has meant the billboard type application of before has become an interactive medium that accommodates a variety of communications formats, including text, sound and video.
“This opens up greater scope for maintaining customers' attention with personal pages, on-demand Web applications and social filters to create more collaborative experiences,” he says. The new focus is on consumer relationships; knowing who your customers are, why you need to interact with them and what you can do for them.
“The appropriate use of social networking information can give vendors much better information about their consumers, their thoughts, movements and even their immediate contacts,” Turner says.
He does advise companies to apply some discretion. “Companies need to keep in mind that customer related information needs to be used in an appropriate way. Trying to solicit additional revenue from your customer through Facebook or LinkedIn, for example, is not necessarily going to bring in business and could, in fact, have the opposite effect. Nobody wants to be marketed to all the time, especially not in their social Web environment.”
The sheer wealth of information being added to the Web each day can make it difficult to stay in touch with market and customer information manually. “This is where the CRM system comes into itself in this environment,” Turner says. “CRM can, for example, offer intelligence to sales professionals to obtain a steady stream of data that is relevant to their business needs, ultimately improving productivity and performance.
“Information that is available from various sources can easily be included in the CRM system and provide instant access to information that can determine valid business opportunities.”
Social networking has created communities of people with similar and specific interests, and houses a significant amount of information that marketers could use to better target their marketing initiatives. Organisations wanting to gain knowledge our feedback from the community can be well served by the very forums consumers feel comfortable in to openly chat about their interests and concerns. “This information can be effectively tied back to the CRM application to ensure new communications channels are used to complement the more traditional approach,” he says.
“Customers now have a say, can connect with similar minded individuals and can demand with whom and how they do business. Consumers are now also more educated than before, which means that sales and marketing teams no longer have the informational advantage they previously had, and so need to capitalise on a medium that has certainly matured. Many products and services today need to deliver more unique value on top of their core offering, and this need will only grow as consumers start trusting other consumers over company marketing departments,” Turner adds.