Required Reading: Greenberg at the Speed of Light

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CRM magazine: This book’s a monster. If we weren’t busily bookmarking, dog-earing, and highlighting it, it’d be a doorstop.

Paul Greenberg: That’s one use we hadn’t come up with. Brent Leary and I came up with a few alternate uses: Doing curls. Step aerobics. I had one of my books on the floor, I was stepping on and off it. I’m attempting to market it as a weapon to the NRA: You lift it, you throw it—and if you can’t take someone’s head off with it, it’ll at least crush their throat. And, if you have mortar, you can substitute copies for bricks.

CRM: The ultimate “brick-and-mortar” CRM joke, right there. To be fair, you promised the third edition of this book would be the last. Liar.

Greenberg: Yeah, I totally lied. At the time I said it, I believed it, though. What happened was, I noticed the changes in how people were communicating—the kind of social revolution that has actually occurred—and it meant that CRM was going to change. I figured this out in 2005—I didn’t know how it was going to change exactly, but I knew that it would. That meant I’d have to write again, because the change was going to be a lot more profound than it’s ever been before. When I finally got a handle on the “how”—which was actually in 2007—I contacted the publisher. I said, “Fourth edition.” They said, “Send a proposal.” I did, they said yes, and here we are. 

CRM: Well, we’re not “all” here. For the first time, there’s an online component to the book.

Greenberg: I’d love to say that McGraw-Hill and I were really cool and that’s why we’re doing this new online component because it’s kind of hip, but the reality is, the publishing industry, as you’re aware, is having its ups and downs.

Normally the way it works is that you give the publishers an estimated page count up front and they cost it out.

For the first three editions, I gave McGraw-Hill the page count, they’d ignore it completely, I’d go do whatever I wanted, they’d say “Argh!”—and then they’d print it anyway. This time, they went, “Argh!”—but then they didn’t print. I had estimated 600 pages. It ended up being 800 pages. They didn’t want to make it any more than 650, so I thought, let’s put online five chapters that, if I pulled them out, would still allow the book to be smooth. And we’re giving them away for free without registration. That was the tough part, but to their credit, they agreed. [Visit us online at http://sn.im/feb10-issue for the link to that content.]

CRM: And this time around, you brought in more than a few ringers—industry pundits, vendors, experts—and let them take the stage for a page or two each. 

Greenberg: Those contributions are really the whole thing, I love that. The changes that occurred have been profound, they really have, and collaboration really is a core result of that change. People not only have the expertise, but they want to utilize the expertise and people are interested in that expertise. By collaborating, by bringing other voices into the book and by actually establishing a kind of place where people will hear not just me, but 60 or 70 other people who are experts in particular areas, the wealth of knowledge is much, much greater.

And also, the voices are different. It’s not just hearing me drone on and on; it’s hearing other people blab away and all kinds of chatter. And it’s chatter with content. The purpose was mostly actually good-hearted—they wanted to share what they knew. You get some really good material that way, and that’s already gotten some notice. People are already popping me notes about somebody else’s work in the book.

CRM: They also had a lot of new territory to cover—as did you. Seems a lot of the material was ripped up and rewritten from scratch.

Greenberg: Keep in mind, the older editions were focused entirely around a customer-centric corporate ecosystem. Thus, even though the idea of customer experience and managing and engaging customers was intermingled throughout the [original] book, the idea of customer engagement as a core focus for strategy in a customer ecosystem was mentioned but wasn’t in there. It said we were at the cusp of having one. Now we’re in one.

So every single thing is different than almost every single thing in the last book, even how you look at data. All of a sudden, unstructured data matters, all of a sudden I’ve moved from custom data integration to master data management. It was even at that level I began changing the book. Even how organizational change works now is different because the customer has to be part of the organizational change process and how that works—it’s an online chapter.

The other thing, although it’s not open to the public yet, is a social network built on Ning. At some point—this is going to take me a couple weeks I imagine—I’m going to open it to anybody who wants to come talk about stuff that’s in the book.

CRM: We should time the opening to the printing of this issue.

Greenberg: You know what? That’s a great idea. I think that’s what we’ll do. February 1 will be the launch date. I’m officially announcing it now: February 1, launch date, social network Ning. CRM at the Speed of Light, 4th edition. Come one, come all.

You heard the man. Visit us online at http://sn.im/feb10-issue for the link to the CRM at the Speed of Light community at Ning. You’ll also find an extended version of this wide-ranging conversation, in which Greenberg discusses Salesforce.com’s Chatter, the social power of Altimeter Group partner Jeremiah Owyang, and much, much more.

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