How Social Are Social CRM Vendors?

Allen Bonde, managing director of Evoke CRM Partners, says he believes B2B has often been left out of the conversation when it comes to social. There so many of the visible examples from B2C, Bonde notes. From Starbucks to Comcast to Dell, since they were first out of the gate, examples tend to come from the consumer side. "B2B marketing is less in the public eye," he says. "A lot of B2B marketing happens behind the scenes." Social media, however, is making a marketer's moves much more visible. Bonde demonstrates this paradigm shift in an Evoke study looking at how social are the leading CRM and social business vendors.

According to Forrester, 91 percent of B2B technology buyer decision makers now use social media to gather information. This appears to be dead on in the CRM industry. Bonde, a CRM veteran, says that he has been keeping a close eye on the leading CRM vendors participating in social media. Back in March, Bonde conducted some research for his firm Evoke CRM on how the top CRM vendors were behaving on Twitter. More recently, he decided to take that research a few steps further, looking at new components and adding corporate blogging into the mix. Bonde started his exploration mostly out of curiosity if whether some of the social CRM players were really "walking the walk," he says.

Bonde writes in a blogpost: "The evolution of B2B in social has been mostly about establishing trust, content strategy, thought leadership and ongoing discussions... And while not all social channels apply to most B2B marketing, it should be clear that a business' social media presence and use of tools like blogging and Twitter can have a material impact on the buying process." It's important to keep in mind that B2B is a different animal than B2C which we are so prone to hear about in social media.

Bonde states that B2B marketing differs from B2C in three key areas:

  • B2B sales cycles tend to be much longer and require a continuous approach.
  • B2B purchases often involve 3rd-party opinions and evaluations. Therefore, it's critical for a B2B organization to establish a relationship with industry influencers.
  • B2B products are often much more complex than B2B and can't be discounted or promoted like many retail products or services.

"It's much more of an ongoing discussion, where you have to establish trust," Bonde says of the B2B landscape, "B2B involves more complex sales where an extra premium is placed on trusted content and active discussions." Social media has led to a paradigm shift in B2B sales and marketing. Thanks to social networks, blogs, and new channels for conversation, companies are able to find more information from more sources that they trust.

Bonde, in his research of CRM vendors in social media, has evaluated 21 vendors in the space. (A few weeks later, he added another six vendors to his study.)  In order to be included in the evaluation, vendors must have an established Twitter account and a corporate blog that allowed for commenting. He focuses primarily on how each of the vendors are using Twitter and blogging as a measure of social activity.

About Twitter he found that,

  • 14 of 21 vendors have a link to Twitter on their home page,
  • 5 vendors like from their press pages, and
  • 2 vendors have no link at all.

During the past three months, vendors in the study have

  • Generated an average of 670 tweets from their corporate account,
  • Written 13.5 blogposts, and
  • Gotten 5 comments.

Evoke categorizes the vendors into three areas — early movers and mavens, social climbers, and late arrivals. Here are the final standings based on Evoke's evaluation of number of Tweets, blog posts, blog comments, and engagement on Twitter.

Early Movers & Mavens

CRM vendors

  • Amdocs,
  • OracleCRM
  • Parature
  • Sage
  • SugarCRM

SBS vendors

  • Awareness
  • Jive Software
  • Lithium Technologies

Social Climbers

CRM vendors

  • Convergys
  • nGeneraCIM
  • NetSuite
  • Pegasystems
  • RightNow Technologies

SBS vendors

  • KickApps
  • Mzinga
  • OutStart

Late Arrivals

CRM vendors

  • Aplicor
  • Astute Solutions
  • Consona
  • Ciboodle
  • Kana

[Visit Bonde's blog for a visual graphic of the scores.]

Of the leading vendors, Bonde notes that Parature clearly does well in the social space with multimedia on its blog and active discussions on both the blog and Twitter. Interestingly, a few legacy CRM vendors (Sage, Oracle, and Amdocs) have made it in the "mavens" circle. Bonde admits it was a little surprising to him. "They tend to be very guarded when it comes to PR," he notes.

However, Bonde notes great progress among those three in the social space. Amdocs relaunched its blog, he says, "It looks like they have reinvigorated social efforts." Bonde adds that it seems like Anthony Lye, senior vice president for Oracle CRM, has had influence on Oracle's social strategy. [CRM named Lye an Influential Leader in 2009 for his social CRM vision.] The "mavens" and early movers Bonde says think like this: "We better be participants of those discussions. If not, there's no way we can play that role within the community if we aren't participating.

Bonde says he expects, rather hopes, that all of the vendors soon make their way into the social media mavens slot. "I wouldn't say everyone needs to do everything with all the channels," he says. "But if you are in the CRM space with the introduction of social CRM, Twitter and Facebook, and all the things the experts are talking about, why wouldn't you do that in your own business?"

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