One of CRM's goals within companies has been to break down historical silos between sales, marketing, and customer service -- be it through a comprehensive solution, organizational change, or a mix of the two. With the explosion of social media, bringing all of the departments together is becoming more important.
Looking to take the next step, social CRM solutions provider Helpstream recently expanded its customer-service oriented community platform with marketing automation and social monitoring capabilities. "Once you have an active customer service community, thoughts can turn to marketing purposes," says Bob Warfield, Helpstream's chief executive officer, of the expansion. "There's a huge benefit to be had around the voice of the customer and finding new leads and prospects."
The new release provides productized integrations with marketing automation solutions from Marketo, Eloqua, and Infuisonsoft. Warfield insists that companies can integrate the Helpstream CRM offering with any marketing automation provider, though. New features in the social marketing module include:
- "Overheard" Cloud Feeds, enabling organizations to incorporate feeds for any public social network into their Helpstream communities;
- Twitter Monitoring, bringing selected search and keyword content from the microblogging giant into the community for real-time visibility into relevant conversations;
- Tweet Backs, giving users the ability to tweet community content from personal or corporate Twitter accounts without leaving the Helpstream community;
- Mention This, using pre-defined replies to tweets with built-in tiny URLs; and
- marketing automation integration, bringing together the Helpstream community with solutions for lead scoring and nurturing.
To Helpstream executives, this is the next step in what they deem the "virtuous cycle" of social CRM. The on-ramp is customer service, and the next stop is marketing. Once marketing is taken cared of, you can drive in the fast lane to more-effective sales. "We have a fundamental belief that over time companies want to have one social platform as it pertains to CRM, one that can work for multiple functions," says Bill Odell, Helpstream's vice president of marketing.
Paul Greenberg, president of The 56 Group, believes this is a wise move for the vendor. He explains that in a time when more software-as-a-service vendors including Salesforce.com are placing emphasis on customer service in the cloud, Helpstream continues to remain strong in also providing business rules and a workflow engine in addition to its community platform. "That was always mission-critical to why it was more of a CRM application than just a pure social and community platform," he says. "That's one of the components missing out there."
Greenberg explains this also falls in line with the company's strategy to fill in gaps in CRM-related ecosystems. "What's meaningful for Helpstream is that it continues to execute on its strategy," he says. "Executives are following through on what they told me they would do. In this case, it can move the industry forward if done well."
This move is happening in a quickly evolving business landscape where vendors are adding on social media capabilities and connectors left and right. Greenberg says this continued expansion toward puts Helpstream in competition with vendors including Salesforce.com, RightNow Technologies, Oracle, Lithium, and Radian6. "As Helpstream continues to add on more elements they will compete with companies they partner with, including Oracle," he says. "It makes this market very interesting ... but the more competition, the better. It's not going to be an easy ride, but company [executives] are intelligent and have a history of producing a good product."
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