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Business

Your first move in social media is…market segmentation?

For most business people, social media appears to be something exotic, even alien.   Partly due to the way it is presented in the media and largely because their “older media” companies are still not sure how to sell it.   There is a big temptation to see it as a completely new paradigm.   Of course it isn’t.   It still homo sapiens communicating.   And by the way, many of those homo sapiens are your old customers communicating.

Social CRM got me excited from the beginning.   I always loved CRM systems, even when they were clunky, tiring and meant more data entry for everyone.  If the customer is king, you had better make sure you know how the king likes his eggs cooked in the morning.  Just as we strived to find ways to unify what an organization knew about a contact into CRM, Social CRM systems try to unify the social media activity with whatever else you know about a contact.  XeeSM was the first system I saw which had the concept of “touch”, in a product called “Flights”.  This is an interaction via social media which isn’t a sales pitch, but a deliberate attempt to get in somebody’s peripheral vision in order to prepare the ground.   Social media is ideal for this.   You just need to “like” their photo on Facebook and they are reminded you exist.   Which makes the next telephone call, less of a cold call.

But you still feel lost.   It is as if all your customers are suddenly out of control, tweeting, blogging and posting anything they want.   It is scary and intimidating.   I am famously quoted as saying more than 15 years ago that “if you want to sell to the Greek market, your CRM system needs 11 million entries.   For starters.”    Sure, that CEO of your main customer is important and you might want to remember his wife’s birthday and kids’ names.   But those 11,000 people that “liked” your offer on Facebook yesterday and then clicked through to it on your website might be more important.   If only you knew them…

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Business ENGLISH Technology

Why on earth did you leave CRM implementation to the IT department?

I was talking to the CEO of a market leading services company recently.  He was trying to entice me to get involved, I was trying to avoid telling him too bluntly that the cosy family-style management he had lived with all these years was about to crash completely.  We skirted about the issues.

“With your sort of market position, it sounds like you could really do magic with a good CRM” I suggested.  “Oh yeah, we bought one of those last year…I think the IT guys are doing it.”

Here’s what I propose:  go get some social scientists to do it instead.  Anthropologists would be great, sociologists if they are not too wishy washy.  Because focusing on the customer should no longer be the domain even of the traditional marketing department.

Marketing has always been squashed between a sales department gung ho attitude and some magical creative juice produced on demand to impress.  Throw a CRM project their way and yes, they will do a better job than IT for sure.  But is that what we need these days?

What sort of salary is your customer living on?  Where is she living?  How on earth do you expect to relate to someone so different unless you have developed the methodological toolset?  This does sound a lot like anthropology, because this is what you need to do.  I would willingly have one of my fingers chopped off for access to Facebook, VISA or Google customer data.  Not that I wouldn’t miss playing the guitar, but the social scientist in me would be in heaven.  It is not about finding shortcuts to selling to them.  It is about understanding how they think and how they feel.

You can do a lot of this without losing any fingers.  Work a different position in your company.  Dress up and play a different role on any sidewalk.  Talk to strangers.  But companies need to be a bit more systematic about this effort.  And what the social sciences have learned over the past half century is an invaluable starting point.  Call him a CCO or whatever you want, but someone near the top of the organisation has to want to understand customers and to add value to their lives.  It isn’t just market research or R&D that has to come under this position, but it is a good place to start.   Any customer facing function needs to be rethought with this hat on.  And in a position to get things done about it. 

Because the customer isn’t going to wait around for you to get it right much longer.