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The Emergence of Social CRM – A Discussion with Brent Leary of CRM Essentials

by Steve Fisher on October 30, 2008

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Brent Leary came to my attention with the launch of the site, Barack20.com, which is focused on studying how campaign for the 2008 Democratic Nominee for President of the United States has used social media to build awareness and rally a whole new generation of voters. The site is an excellent case study in the use of social media to run a grassroots marketing campaign. I am sure that this site will be used by many in future to study this campaign regardless if he wins or not.

However, Brent is not just about Barack20.com, he is someone at the forefront if a concept called Social CRM. I will let him do a better job of describing it, but it is about leveraging social media with customer relationship management (CRM). His firm, CRM Essentials, is focused on this effort and I was able to sit down and chat with him about all his ventures. Here is the transcript of that interview:

Steve: So what is the focus of CRM Essentials?
Brent:
We focus on helping businesses formulate their strategies for finding, captivating and keeping good customers through the proper use of the latest technologies. Additionally we work with the technology vendor community on ways to better serve the small business community.

Steve: What products and services do you provide?
Brent:
We offer CRM industry analysis, strategic consulting, thought leadership products, and other services related to integrating social media into customer relationship management processes

Steve: What is Social CRM exactly?
Brent:
Social CRM focuses on creating compelling, while leveraging social tools and sites, to create opportunities to attract and engage prospects in meaningful conversations leading to real business relationships.

Steve: How does it differ from traditional CRM?
Brent:
Traditional CRM is focused more on operational effectiveness, centralizing customer data and internal processes. Social CRM is focused on turning content into conversations, conversations into meaningful experiences, and meaningful experiences into valuable long lasting relationships.

Steve: Why should a business implement a Social CRM strategy?
Brent:
Traditional definitions of CRM were fleshed out before the web took over our lives. Customers have more power over who they do business with, how they do it, and who they do it with. And the web is totally entrenched in their buying process. So if you don’t show up on the web in ways to capture their attention, you won’t be able to compete.

Steve: What if they have already implemented a CRM system with certain processes. Can they adapt or integrate this into their business?
Brent:
Social CRM is not a substitute for traditional CRM, it’s a new dimension. It is more successful if you have a strong traditional foundation including a central database, lead management, opportunity management, automated workflow, etc.

Steve: Let’s talk about Barack20.com for a minute. What was the motivation to launch the site and how do you think the campaign’s use of social media will be viewed in the years to come?
Brent:
The Obama campaign is one of the best examples of Social CRM. They’ve utilized Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other social tools and sites in conjunction with their own web properties to reach an amazing number of people, raise hundreds of millions of dollars, and to invite people to join their cause – and help shape it. That’s Social CRM personified, and a great source of inspiration for businesses trying to figure out how to “win friends and influence people” on the web.

Steve: According to Gartner, “Web 2.0” is in the “Trough of Disillusionment” where is projects over the next 12-18 months that since the hype has worn off that these technologies will be folded into mainstream software development and adoption. Do you agree or disagree and why?
Brent:
I tend to believe social media is more successful in the hands of the business people as opposed to IT. But I do think the disillusionment surrounding social media comes from unrealistic expectations based on the hype surrounding the space. But the 2008 Cone Business in Social Media study recently found 60% percent of Americans use social media, and 85% those users believe a company should not only be present but also interact with its consumers via social media. This seems to reinforce findings from a recent study conducted by Coleman Parkes Research that found 84% of companies headquartered in North America feel they need to find new ways to communicate with customers; with 80% feeling social media will add real value to customer interactions. That tells me that companies will continue to explore how social media can help them get closer to their customers.

Steve: To close our interview I would like to get a “Top 5” from both of you. Since we are facing some tough economic times ahead for possibly the next 12-18 months, what are the Top 5 CRM related things you would recommend new entrepreneurs running a business should do to weather the storm?
Brent:
1.
Be as responsive and attentive to your current customers as you possibly can. It’s easier to keep them than to find new ones
2. Leverage the web to automate routine tasks and activities involved in lead generation and qualification processes.
3. Become a valued member of the online networks frequented by your current customers in order to strengthen relationships, and also to find more customers like them
4. Create attractive, compelling content that will capture the attention of those looking for the products and services you provide
5. Create a strategy to transfer online conversations into offline business opportunities

Steve: If someone wants to learn more about SocialCRM or check out Barack 2.0, where should they go and how can they contact you?
Brent:
BrentLeary.com OR   Barack20.com
Upcoming webinar on October 21st: “Social CRM: Going Beyond the Boundaries of Traditional CRM”. Information at www.sagecrmsolutions.com/socialcrm

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    • http://crm2.typepad.com Brent Leary

      Steve thanks so much for shining some of your spotlight on Social CRM. It's pretty exciting to see how social media is beginning to shake up how we view customer relationship management. And I think Senator Obama's campaign is a great case study of the power Social CRM can have in terms of fully embracing the web to engage people.

      For those of your readers that are interested in learning a little more about Social CRM I recently put together a whitepaper that maybe of interest. You can find it at http://www.box.net/shared/static/adqb9k3pqy.pdf.

      Steve thanks again!

    • http://crm2.typepad.com Brent Leary

      Steve thanks so much for shining some of your spotlight on Social CRM. It's pretty exciting to see how social media is beginning to shake up how we view customer relationship management. And I think Senator Obama's campaign is a great case study of the power Social CRM can have in terms of fully embracing the web to engage people.

      For those of your readers that are interested in learning a little more about Social CRM I recently put together a whitepaper that maybe of interest. You can find it at http://www.box.net/shared/static/adqb9k3pqy.pdf.

      Steve thanks again!

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