Is Your CRM System Social Media Friendly?

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There are many ways to define social CRM, but a common definition is that it is the integration of social media platforms and techniques that enable companies to engage and listen to their customers.

Traditional CRM applications are comprised of three business functions: sales, marketing, and customer support. All three help manage customers through a pipeline, with the primary functions being to collect customer data and then push marketing messages to customers based on their buying behaviors.

Social CRM empowers customers to collaborate with the companies they do business with and gives companies the ability to create customized experiences while building relationships with customers.

The good news is that larger CRM companies are spending big dollars to integrate social media platforms into their customer engagement strategies, enabling best practices to emerge that can be easily adopted by smaller companies. Just as traditional CRM had its initial growing pains, social CRM is being fine-tuned on the backs of the big boys so that small businesses can piggyback on their lessons and avoid costly mistakes.

TAPPING INTO THE SOCIAL MARKETPLACE

The latest social media count has Facebook out front with almost 1.5 billion users; Twitter and LinkedIn are fast approaching the 1 billion milestone. These staggering numbers give businesses, large or small, the opportunity to increase their customer base dramatically.

Today's customers like to know more than those in the past about the brands they use and the companies they buy from. After they visit your Web site, they will probably check you out on the various social sites and see what their friends and colleagues have to say. These sites have leveraged customers' ability to share their opinion with the masses. In the past, if you had a bad experience with a company or its products, you might tell a few folks and move on. Today, you can post your experience, and everyone in your network—and in their networks—will hear about it.

Another reason social platforms should be a priority is that they enable you to expand your interactions with your customers in terms of enhanced customer service, lead generation, and PR. Companies that effectively utilize social CRM will reach a broader audience in less time and engage them more effectively than their competitors that use traditional CRM only.

CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS ARE BUILT ON TRUST, NOT DATA

In the past, the primary role of a good CRM solution was to manage customer data points. By adding data points that originate from Twitter and Facebook, social CRM gives us insights into the personality of the customer and allows us to communicate more effectively.

Traditional CRM does a decent job of helping us move customers through our sales funnel, track engagement, and provide management with the metrics to manage sales activities. A good social media strategy can enhance your existing CRM by providing a platform that lets you engage more effectively on a personal level and react directly on a one-to-one basis. Did I mention that you can extend your marketing efforts by attracting new opportunities from a Facebook post or tweet as well?

Social media feeds our desire as human beings to connect. A worthy objective of a good social CRM strategy is to build a system that allows customers to interact with an enterprise the way they want to instead of how a company wants to.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Social CRM is enhancing the customer experience. When you can connect with customers on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, you can easily find out their interests, feed them helpful information, and personalize offers. The challenge for many companies is how to engage the customer authentically and add value to the conversation.

Business by its very nature is social. Word of mouth or customer advocacy has always been the goal of organizations as they engage their customers. Social media allows the customer to leverage this process.

Organizations that effectively engage and listen to their customers and add value to the conversation will instill brand loyalty, reduce customer erosion, and hopefully get their customers’ attention—and, most importantly, their endorsement.

Michael Vickers is the executive director of Summit Learning Systems and the author of Becoming Preferred: How to Outsell Your Competition.

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