Sunday 11 April 2010

Social CRM - evolution or revolution?


CRM is going Social. But isn't Social CRM just CRM done across social networks?

[pause] [wait for the flames]

The answer if you listen to the promoters of S-CRM is (quite vehemently) no, Social CRM is not a channel. It is not about using social networks to execute standard CRM practices.

In fact, in an interesting blog post by Wim Rampen, he makes some really excellent points about why Social CRM is simply not a channel extension of CRM - another way to speak customers - and instead has many unique properties that make it a more interactive, two way dialogue.

Whilst I get all of that - and largely agree, I guess my problem isn't with the Social aspect of S-CRM, it's with the CRM aspect.

If marketing started out as a way of focusing on the benefit the product provided, rather than on the product itself (so called Marketing Myopia) then CRM was a step forward again, focusing instead on the customer that was receiving the benefit and not just on the benefit itself. All customers weren't equal and so knowing which product to sell, what benefits to highlight, at what quantity and at what price became the mantra.

The buzz words were all about personalisation or 1 to 1 marketing - delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

If only we could anticipate what you wanted to buy and nip in there quickly enough on a channel you were likely to read then we'd make a sale. You'd be happy as you got something you wanted and we'd be happy as we had sold it to you.

I think times are moving on though and if the focus on the product rather than the benefit was essentially Marketing Myopia - a blinkered view of the business a company was in - then focusing on the customer is potentially another blinkered view - almost a Social Myopia - in that it assumes that customers fit into a single neat box. There may be many different boxes, but each customer fits into each box.

This however is just not true and Will makes a very good point in his blog when he says:-

If there is one thing we (should) learn from emergent on-line communities it is that people join these communities to perform a certain job. This can be a social job, functional job or emotional jobs, mostly formed around a shared interest. It is these jobs & interests that bond the people in a community.

What this suggests (and it seems obvious really) is that it is not just about a customer segment, but almost customer personalities - or customer communities as Will defines them.

The problem with this thinking though is that if you begin to segment customers not just by social-demographic measures or exhibited behaviours but instead by community, a customer no longer fits into a neat box. I may be part of many communities - whether they're based around a passion like football, an interest like gardening or a function like my job. Even more complicated, these communities or personalities may vary by time.

My needs when doing the weekly shopping with a large shopping trolley are very different to when I'm walking the aisles on a Saturday evening with a basket - browsing DVDs, wine and ready cooked meals. I'm the same customer, reading the same newspaper, watching the same TV programmes - but I have different needs, desires and approach.

This is obviously difficult to have a view of in the physical world - but in the online world it is much easier to have a view of a persons different personalities or communities, and to interact with these at the appropriate time.

Will makes another interesting observation in a related blog when he says:-
Social Customer Relationship Management is not about managing the relationships with your Customers, it is (increasingly) about managing the knowledge-flows through the relationships of your Customers. And yes, you as a company maybe part of this eco-system of your Customers’ relationships. But please, don’t put yourself at the center of it.

I agree with this and it is why I think Social CRM is not really the right phrase - it isn't really Customer Relationship Marketing - in the traditional sense of trying to build a direct, single relationship with the customer and may be better phrased Customer Context Marketing - building numerous relationships centred around the relevant communities or personalities for a customer and being part of the conversation, not trying to own the conversation.

Whatever it's called however, it's clear that you can't simply apply existing CRM techniques in a social context. This would be similar to brands which simply "mobilised" their websites to create a mobile site - only to find it wasn't relevant to customers in the mobile context.

In the social space, context is king - it's not just the right message at the right time, but more the right message in the right context. Interestingly, a Forrester report designated 2010 as the era of Social Context based on the evolution of the Social Web with the author of the report quoted as saying:-

"The community will take charge and that's going to happen whether or not marketers or brands participate."

I think it's fair to say this also applies to the evolution of CRM - and communities and social context need to be at the heart of it. As the quote suggests, the community will take charge and if the interaction is not relevant and in context, it will be ignored.

1 comment:

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