Social CRM – Who Gets Credit for Closing the Deal?

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Originally posted on August 11, 2010

Social Relationship Management and Social CRM are terms that are now being thrown around for new technology platforms that are enabling multichannel execution.  Companies like Lithium Technologies have created platforms that allow companies to run hosted communities, listen across a variety of social media channels, and manage content to and from social networks in one integrate tool.

While marketing has steadily evolved from “one to many”, to “one to one“, Social CRM is now creating the opportunity for “many to one.”  For example, a customer tweets a question about a product (e.g. is it worth the money) on Twitter, a customer advocate brings that comment into the company’s online forum. Customers response to the question by sharing their experiences with the product, those comments (most likely only the positive ones) are then tweeted by the company to promote the product.

The promise of Web 2.0 has always been about customers selling to customers.  New Social CRM tools are now enabling that by consolidating platforms.  But this has the potential to raise issues over who gets credit for the sale.  If the true ROI on social media is revenue, which many research studies are now suggesting, then who should gets credit for a sale closed by a customer advocate?

Customer references and testimonials have always been critical for closing deals. What happens when customer advocates volunteer their support for the brand and/or endorsement of a product?  Does marketing get credit for providing platforms for enabling customer advocates?  And what about the customer/s  who’s comments help push the prospect over the goal line…do they need to be rewarded, and if so?

One thing is certain: social media is blurring the line between sales and marketing interactions and dialogues.  Given that, we may have to rethink our traditional views of customer coverage and relationship management.  Perhaps in the future, marketing will be responsible for managing customers online relationships, and sales for the offline experience.

Someone call HR and give them the heads up. Territory planning, revenue crediting, roles and responsibilities might need a refresh soon.

The Top 10 Laziest Sales Tactics

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Original post date August 27, 2010

The amount of “lameness” on the part of some sales people (and some marketers) has now come to a point that I think a public flogging is in order. To those Michael Scott’s of the world (and I like Michael), know that we are on to you. The following tactics have never, and will never, produce a lead.

1. Filling out a company’s contact form on the website with ”contact me if you need…” Yep, I’ll get right on that.  (Click on the image below, it may take a moment to build).

Mike, for example, was able to jam an entire spam email onto our company contact me form, impressive.  Sure, I will take the time to read the entire message box and get back to you.

But wait, sensing that I might not take him seriously, he submits the form again 2 minutes later.

2. Sending an email blast with the generic intro of “Dear Sir.” Forget everything you’ve learned about 1 to 1 marketing, personalization, relevancy, this just might work.  Just get a list, and go.
3. Even better, the telemarketing of version of the “no effort” approach.  Cold calling and asking; “can you please tell me who handles…”  Instead of you doing your job, you’re now asking me to do it for you — beautiful.
4. Some telemarketers have taken it to a whole new level. Love the folks who leave a message without saying why they are calling, but then ask you to call them back. And my personal favorite — the rep who invented the “I’m returning your call…”   It’s like the guy you knew in college that spent hours figuring out how to cheat for a test, instead of using the time to study.
5. Advertising your services in the comment section of a blog.  Let’s take Jeff D, he didn’t even try to hide it in a link.  He went straight for the kill.
It’s not all bad because he does give me “props” at the end of the ad…”I like your information it is helpful to me.”  Mmm, is it helpful because it gives you an opportunity to display spam?   Apparently so, because Jeff D comes back 6 days later, this time pimping new services, Website design and development.  Notice I get no “props” this time.  Pretty tricky changing the name of the company, almost didn’t catch him.
To Jeff D, and all the other spammers, know that bloggers decide whether or not to post your comments.  The comments above never made it public, I saved them for my own personal enjoyment, and this blog post.   Also, know that Blogspot, as well as other platforms, now have enable spam filters.  Good luck on future postings.
6. Posting a discussion within a Linked-in group that isn’t a discussion, but rather, an advertisement for your company…it’s not a discussion; it’s spam, and it’s annoying.

 

Take Mr. Gupta for example, at Web Box Office. He’s advertising “Learn the secrets to success with attendee-funded webinars.” Sounds good, huh. Guess who’s paying for the webinar…you are, Mr. attendee, if you register.

7. Using the yellow pages as your prospect database. I’m not kidding, people are still using it. Just wait until they find out about the internet.

8. Offering something FREE, unless it is truly FREE.  Taking a credit card number so you can start billing a customer after a “free” trial is not free.  This is not selling, it’s scamming.   There are rules, some people call them laws, governing this practice.  See FreeCredit Report.com for an example of how not to do it.
9. Any email coming from Nigeria, or any other country, offering a fortune if you could just help them  by giving them your social security number, bank account number, etc.  To good to be true, something for nothing?  Any of this ringing a bell?  Ok, maybe I’m a little bitter because I’m still waiting for my $1M from the British Lottery Authority.
10.  Actually, couldn’t think of a 10th, but I’m sure there’s one or more out there.  I’d love to hear your experiences.  Add your “Top 10″ story in the comment section, but please easy on the spam.  Jeff D takes up a lot of my time.

I know that times are tough, but with the amount of information now available in the public domain, there is just no excuse for these tactics other than…just plain laziness.  C’mon guys, kick it up a notch!   If not, I’ll be out with the Top 10 sequel or maybe a FREE webinar.

Social Media and the Upside Down Funnel

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Original post date May 2010, the post was recognized as one of the best post on Social Media for 2010.

As with most new technologies, social media is starting to “settle in” and common applications of the platforms are becoming known.   In many large B2B organizations, that means social media is finding a home in the marketing communications group, often landing in PR.

That seems fine for B2C organizations; however, I’m not convinced that it’s the right spot, and/or the only spot for social media in B2B companies.

The Upside Down Funnel

In most B2B organizations corporate marketing’s role is related to driving “top-of-the-funnel” activities.  From advertising, PR, and now social media, the focus is on creating awareness…and hopefully, driving consideration and preference. There is another opportunity that may not be considered, a part of the funnel where marketing, in particular social media, can play a valuable role.

It’s at the very bottom of what I’ll refer to as the “upside down” funnel. To find such an opportunity you have to think about a funnel that starts with once a prospect becomes a customer.

Just as a sales funnel has stages so does the customer relationship management process. Companies should be actively pursuing strategies and tactics to retain, expand, grow and then leverage customer accounts to win business.

This is where I think the “sweetspot” is for social media in B2B.   Here’s why: social media is about “consumers selling to consumers”, or “professional-to-professional.”  If a company does its job of nurturing and retaining customers, it should be able to transition from having a relatively unknown prospect, to a known customer, to hopefully, a well-understood customer advocate…at least that’s the goal.

The Opportunity

If a company enables those customer advocates with social media it gives them a platform to spread the good word.  The potential of this opportunity is huge, and for the most part, being missed at most companies today.

As we all know, word of mouth is the most effective marketing there is, enabling it with technology creates scale, and the ability to track it.

To do this successfully, companies have to first identify this opportunity within their organization;  second, they have to change their current way of thinking about social media beyond its present use in marcomm and PR.

It means finding uses and opportunities within sales and customer service.  Yes, listening to customers chat about your service on Twitter is important, but I’m talking about creative ways to use it for:

  1. customer-to-customer referrals & recommendations
  2. building communities
  3. facilitating discussion groups

The goal is to find ways to emotional connect avid customers to the company and/or products, and then provide them with an outlet to communicate that passion.  

What to Do

As relationships deepen, customers begin interacting in more personal channels.  Through those interactions they are likely to share more intimate details about themselves, and their relationship with products/services and the company.

Companies have to be able to collect this information across channels to create a complete profile of a customer.  If this can be achieved, an organization will have everything it needs to begin enabling, influencing and studying customer advocates.

Finally, watch out for the “silo” effect.  Typically, at least three different organizations will be interacting with the customer as the relationship develops.  But it’s only one customer interfacing with what the customer expects to be one company.  The organization has to be “in sync” because the last thing a company wants is to provide a customer with a platform for communicating the wrong message.  Turning an advocate into an adversary is not the goal.

 

Inside The Ritz-Calrton Customer Experience Model

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Original post date July 29, 2010

Ritz-Carlton has long been know and recognized for its ability to delight customers.  Although I’ve used them frequently as a best in class example for clients, I never truly experienced what makes them so good…until now.

My family and I just returned for our summer vacation where we had the good fortune of staying at the Ritz-Carlton on Grand Cayman for the week.  While we originally booked the Marriott, but a special off-season promotion through America Express and the loss of our family pet led to a change of plans.

The experience was memorable, even though the weather wasn’t…we now understand why it’s called the off-season.  Nonetheless, during our stay we were continually delighted by the service we received.

The Ritz-Carlton has created a perception of exceptional quality and service, and the staff delivers on it.  They are in the hospitality industry, and as a result it’s “people” business. But their model is not just as simple as ‘serve the customer.” They add interact, engage, and listen.  So simple and intuitive that it makes you wonder why other companies can’t do the same. 

Examples of how they bring this to life:

  • The Customer Experience – not only do they understand how you might want to spend your time on vacation, they anticipate it.   For example, in the mornings by the front door they had a jogging trail map, cold towels, bottled water, and a sign welcoming back joggers.  They also set up a water cooler at the water sport station anticipating that guests want water given the amount of salt water inhaled while snorkeling…maybe that was just me.
  • The Little Things – If you preferred to run indoors, they had a full service health club complete with trainers.   The most interesting thing in the gym was a 2-inch piece of a foam noodle, commonly used to float in a pool, in the cup holder of the treadmills.   It served as shock absorber, and it elevated your bottle making it easier to reach while running.  I’ve been in a lot of gyms in my life and none of them have had this…only the Ritz.  Most likely this insightful and accommodating amenity came from listening to customer feedback.
  • Going Beyond the Role –The doorman was our personal tour guide.  He told taxis were to take us for dinner, marked up maps on top snorkeling spots when we rented a car, and gave me directions on where I should run in the morning.  And of course, he inquired about our experiences each time we returned.  Similarly, our waitress at breakfast was also our personal shopper.  She told us the shops with the best deals, the best places for kids, etc.  Despite their title and/or their role, these employees played an essential part in defining our customer experience by going above and beyond the call of duty.
  • It’s about the BRAND – They understand and maintain the brand like few others.  The tennis courts by Nick Bollettieri, the golf course designed by Greg Norman golf, the world famous Silver Rain spa from Sweden, and for good measure a Tiffany’s onsite.   Brand was everywhere, on water bottles, towels, the morning newsletter, etc.   A premier brand that only associates with other premier brands.
  • Creating the Perception of Value – This gets back to understanding what guests want to do during their vacation.   The Ritz charged a $35 a day resort fee.  That fee included the use of water sport equipment like snorkeling gear, kayaks, and paddleboards, but then they charged for other items like Hobie Cat sailboats, etc.  The nearby Marriott on the other hand had outsourced their water sports to a local vendor that charged $15 a day for snorkeling gear, and $25 dollars an hour for Kayaks.  With a reef just in front of both hotels, guests at both snorkeled almost every day and/or used the gear to snorkel at other locations around the island.  For a family of four we paid $35 a day for 4 snorkel sets plus the use of the other items listed above.  Marriott guests paid $60 a day simply for the snorkeling gear.  Anticipating that guests would use snorkeling gear daily, The Ritz built it into a daily fee which we learned about at the beginning of our stay, instead of feeling like we were being “nickeled and dimed” to death each time by renting daily.  Packaging “solutions” is a constant challenge for most organizations.   The Ritz teaches us that to be effective organizations must understand how customers want to use their products.
  • Technology – the staff on the beach and at the front door wore headsets and microphones.   As I mentioned earlier the staff took the time to personalize your visit and get to know you and your name.  As you went from one location to another they would alert their counterpart that you were on your way.  This provided them time to greet you by name and to anticipate what you might want…towels for the beach, a taxi, etc.  Simple CRM, applied in a very effective manner.
  • Constant Collection and Use of Customer Information – Regardless of where their staff came from (France, Bali, England, etc.) they all took an interest in their guest’s stay.  They collected information about what they liked, disliked, and then preserved it to pass along to other guests.  In a sense, staff members built their own internal Trip Advisor based on guest feedback.  For example, one night we wanted to go to a Mexican restaurant for dinner.  I searched in a local restaurant guide and found one.  When I asked the Concierge about it, she said she never heard of it, and recommended another restaurant.  Finally I found a person at the front desk that knew where it was, but he proceeded to recommend the same restaurant as the Concierge.  Deciding that the other restaurant was too far, we went with the one I found. It was terrible.  No one knew of it for a reason.  Even the Taxi couldn’t find it despite having been on the island for 20 years, and it turned out to be only 2.5 miles from the hotel.

Ultimately the secret to their success is simple…they understand, personify, and cherish the brand, and they engage and listen to the customer.

Data Driven Insight

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Original post date December 15, 2010

Last month I had the chance to be a panelist at a forum hosted by Wolfgang Jank and the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland.  The topic was on InformaticsData Driven Decision Making in Marketing.

Agreeing to participate without knowing what I would discuss, I searched my files reviewing old project work.  Not only did I find a relevant effort, I also realized that I had spent two years working on building and implementing an insights program at a major Financial Services firm.

What’s interesting about the topic is that everyone will agree that they should be more data driven, or fact based, with their decision-making.   Heads will nod when it’s discussed, it’s intuitive, and so the question…and the problem, is why doesn’t it happen?

The company I was working with had an abundance of data but were faced with two consistent problems related to the use of it:

  • Reps wanted better insight
  • Customers wanted a POV

The first issue we probably spent a good six months on defining what an ‘insight” was, how to create it, and who was responsible for doing it.  The second issue was more complicated, and took much longer to resolve.

Over that two-year period, I learned how challenging it is for an organization to use one source of data effectively across the enterprise.  Some of the challenges we uncovered were typical such as lack of resources, process, and funding.  Others were more challenging: People funded their own resources and research to support their strategy, budget or group.

To begin to solve this complex problem we created a “data value chain” (see below).   The starting point was having one centralized source for data.   As we discovered, as data flows from across the organization to the customer, enhancements were needed to make it more valuable, like growth rings on a tree.

As data became more customized, and localized, it grew more valuable.   This helped to identify why, for example, research that was being produced at corporate was not often used by the sales teams…it lacked relevancy, especially in regions outside of the US.

Once we got everyone on the same page the next challenge was to align the various groups in the organization across the value chain.  We learned there could be as many as five different groups involved in handoffs as the data moved across the value chain.  This help to explain why product groups were developing solutions without market insights, and regions were not leveraging corporate insights for business development.

Handoff points in an organization

As a result, we had to design process maps, hand-off points, engagement process, etc.   The elephant in the room, and one of the biggest challenges was wrestling with the budget.  The solution for that last huddle was turned out to be pretty simple.

The corporate “insights” team would work with those regions that wanted to work with corporate.  Those regions had to be willing to fund resources to finish the “last mile”…building a solution or a customer business cases with a defined solution in mind.  Even though everyone wanted more relevant insight, and more defined points of view, not all regions were willing to pay for it.   Finally, to secure the funding to make the fixes we had to be able to answer a very simple question; “how does being more data driven provide value to the organization?”

The answer was getting the data closer to revenue or a sale….”turning data into dollars.”  The epiphany wasn’t that the value was found at the end of the chain but the number of groups, and the coordination needed to be involved to reach that destination.

Selecting and Enabling Channel Partnerships

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Original post date November 22, 2010

On Wednesday November 17th, I attended the Corporate Executive Board’s Enterprise Council on Small Business member meeting in Philadelphia.  The meeting entitled Selecting and Building Channel Partnerships included attendees from about 10 member companies such as; Xerox, Symantec, Experian, Erie Insurance and Comcast, who hosted the event.

ECSB practice leaders opened the meeting reviewing recent research on enabling channel partners to effectively sell to small business (title of the post).  The research compared the performance of high and low performing partner programs.  The meeting also included a review of best practice case studies.   Highlights from the research include:

  • How small business owners want to buy – business owners stated that the type of supplier most preferred was a local supplier (34%), followed by a sales rep selling multiple lines (26%).   Top 3 reasons they buy from a local supplier; 1) location, 2) know them personally, and 3) responsiveness (immediate answers to questions).
  • What high performing partners want from companies – 1) Training (all types), 2) Evaluation (compensation related), and 3) Resources (access to information, additional infrastructure, etc.)   This was interesting because low performing partners ranked Leads as #1.
  • High Performing vs Low Performing Partners – the size or maturity of the partner’s business did not impact the findings, however the age of the ownership team did; younger partners performed better than their older peers.
  • Partner Compensation - the preferred plan was overwhelmingly  ”percentage of sales” 38%; flat $ per unit commission 17%, and discount (either dollar or percentage) was 13%.

Highlights from the case studies and discussion:

  • Measuring Partner Performance - 61% of partners said that they are evaluated on a single metric. Number one metric “Volume of Sales”.  Most of the attendees also agreed, only one had used an additional measurement for performance.
  • Net Promoter – the additional metric used was a net promoter score to measure the performance of partners…really interestiing application of this tool
  • Using a Third Party Facilitator –  the use of a third party mediator was highlighted in one of the best practice case studies.  The company used an outside facilitator to help the two companies negogiate a partner agreement.   The goal of the mediator was to encourage honesty, and bring about an accurate appraisal of the relationship potential.  Really interesting process to get at what’s in it for both parties, and for getting everyone aligned on expectations.

My key takeaway was that there is a significant opportunity to improve partner performance that is being missed. The opportunity is directing partners to desired customers and/or market segments.   Granted some partners are selected just for that reason, but in general, companies do not typically articulate what customers they want or who are best for their products.  A couple of members mentioned that they organize products against customer segments and assume that points partners in the direction of those customers.

I don’t think that is enough.  At the end of the day, manufacturers know how to sell products better then partners.   As a result, they should know which customers/type of customer will most value their product or service, and those customers that will be most profitable and loyal.  Use this information to help partners understand, and identify what a good customer looks like, and why.  Give clear direction on what you want.  If there is one thing we’ve learned from previous research, it is clear communications with partners is highly valued, that in itself might be a wi

The Social Manifesto

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Original post date December 6, 2010 
I’m on the plane returning from Munich, Germany, and I’m having a “Jerry McQuire” moment.  Today’s Financial Times has an article on Mark Zuckerberg entitled; ‘This is just the early stage.’ In the article, “Zuck,” as friends call him talks about the new technologies and enhancements Facebook will be rolling out soon.
One of which is Facebook Deals, which according to Zuck, will transform the way local businesses reach consumers as they walk down the street. I had to laugh when I read that, as I thought about my previous night’s experience at the Christmas Market in heart of old town (Altstadt) Munich.

German Christmas Market

For those of you who have never been to Germany in December, christmas markets start at the end of November and go through Christmas. The markets, that seem to occupy every square in town, are a mix of vendors selling everything from Gluhwein (a seasonal drink of warm wine) to Christmas ornaments of all types. But, what is must remarkable, is the experience that it creates.
The streets are filed with families, tourists, business people, and college students as they mix drinking, eating, socializing and shopping. I was in a packed square with fresh fallen snow, carolers atop of the Rathaus, with probably 5000 people jammed into a city block, surrounded by vendors and stores filled with shoppers. It’s as close to as you can get to seeing the North Pole and Santa’s workshop.
So, it struck me as funny that Zuck could think that he could change that experience with Facebook. Zuckerberg tells the reporter, David Gelles, that “Facebook’s unique map of human relationships will change business forever.”  To that I say, Facebook, and Zuck, you know nothing about human relationships, and, with the help of other new technologies, you are helping to destroy it.

You only need to watch a pack of teenage girls texting while at the mall, or a father on his blackberry at his child’s sporting event to see it. New technologies are enabling to us to be absent from the present…more so than ever. One thing I noticed last night was the revelers were not checking their phones or texting, they were in the moment, enjoying each other and soaking in the experience…except me.

I was busy sending texts and photos to my wife and my kids pretending that they were with me, when what I really wanted was to have them there or to hear their voices. It left me hollow, longing and lonely, the reason I’m having my Jerry McQuire moment.

 

New technologies are a double edged sword. They can enable good and bad, depending on how we used them. They promise greater “interactions” or “engagement” but that’s not to be confused with, or substituted for, relationships. They are not the same. And for business, don’t confuse your followers as loyal customers, because they are not. Most people are engaging for selfish reasons, they need or want something. What they don’t want, or need, is a relationship with a vendor who only wants to sell them something.

What it has done is enable us to be more self-centered and lazy. “But Scott,” you say, “how can that be? I’m busier than ever, new technologies are helping stay in touch.” Allow me to explain.

The phone eliminates the need to have to go see someone, email and text freed us having to place a call, and now you can simply tweet or post a comment and wait for someone to “Like” it, or leave a comment. No need to get involved, just do it and feedback will be sent to you. “Ah, 10 people like my comment…that makes me feel good.” Really?
Relationships take work and sometimes they can be painful, but they make us feel alive. They’re not easy, and you can’t automate them. Time is finite, and how we spend it, along with those experiences, helps define us. We can’t make more of it, or get it back. The more time we invest with technology means it is coming from something or someone, and it’s keeping us from something, or someone.
Perhaps what Facebook, and other technologies are doing is redefining how we think about ourselves. Technology allows us to express ourselves without having to invest a whole lot of time or emotion. We can go broad without having to go deep.
People now measure themselves by how many friends or followers they have. but what does that mean? To me it means that we are taking time away from family members or customers to interact with people who we don’t, or hardly, know. Why?  Because it’s easy, convenient, provides immediate gratification, and we can carry it around with us at all time…it’s a social security blanket.
The voice in our head saying; “just go online and see what people are posting on your wall, it’s happening now…you should check.”  It’s leading us down the wrong road. More time online means less time spent offline.  I went to Germany…and I almost missed being there.
Facebook now has over a half a billion users. It’s a runaway train.  It fills a need, but so does fast food. Plenty of people have told us that eating it is bad for us, but it’s convenient, cheap and the high salt content keeps us coming back for more. But just as fast food restaurants offer the 1000 calorie meal, they also offer healthy alternatives. It’s up to us to make the right decision.
Our Facebook pages may feed the ego and give us a sense of immediacy, but it won’t nourish the soul, or satisfy our desire for intimacy.  To borrow liberally from Jerry McQuire; ”Technology, you don’t complete me…and you never will.”