If you’re still tracking your business contacts in an outdated Rolodex (or worse, an Excel spreadsheet!), it’s time for a change! Business today happens on the fly, so if you’re stuck behind the times relying on the carefully sorted notecards stored back at your office, you risk losing out on the potential business opportunities that are happening all around you. What you need is a social CRM system!
But what is a social customer relationship management (CRM) system? And why should you make it a priority to integrate this technology into your business when there are so many other things floating around on your “to do” list?
According to Paul Greenberg, widely recognized as the leading authority on social CRM, “Social CRM” is:
“…designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide a mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company response to the customer’s owning of the relationship.”
Holy jargon, Batman! Don’t worry if that definition of social CRM doesn’t make any sense. To really understand what social CRM is and what it can do for your organization, it’s easier to look at an example of how these programs are used, compared to traditional CRM programs…
Traditional CRM systems are – essentially – glorified Rolodexes, in that the information they track is relatively one-sided. Whenever you meet new prospects, you neatly enter their personal information into your system and then add relevant notes about potential business opportunities as your relationships grow. For example, you might use this type of system to track the date and time of a recent business lunch – as well as the follow up actions you took as a result of the meeting – for future reference.
This type of system has some obvious limitations. First, you’re the only one in control of the data – meaning that it’s up to you to enter new contacts and to track relevant data as your relationship develops. In a traditional CRM, there’s no way to capture ongoing conversations, social media mentions and other new forms of communication without manually entering this information yourself (which, truth be told, few business owners have the extra time for).
A social CRM system, on the other hand, is intended to track relationships by reflecting the way information is shared in a digital world. Continuing with our earlier business lunch example, say that, immediately after leaving the restaurant, your prospect tweets a message to his Twitter followers about the great meeting you just held.
If you rely on traditional CRM programs to capture this information, you’ll need to enter the tweet manually – if you see it at all. On the other hand, a good social CRM would notify you of this message, track it automatically within the contact’s CRM profile and allow you to respond instantly, improving your relationship with this potential customer and gaining exposure for your business amongst his Twitter followers.
To get an even better feel for the full complexity of interactions that can be captured by a social CRM system, check out the following graphic by Chess Media:
Essentially, a good social CRM system allows you to do four things, according to a framework provided by Maria Ogneva of Attensity:
● Listen to customer conversations
● Analyze those conversations
● Relate this information to existing information within your enterprise
● Act on those customer conversations
All of these elements are critical for doing business in a digital environment. Really, if you’re relying on archaic forms of customer relationship management that only allow you to track information from your point of view; you’re missing out on some incredible opportunities to be a part of the larger online conversation surrounding your business and services!
So where can you find these social CRM programs? Obviously, we’re pretty partial to the Gist mobile app [available for download here], which allows you to bring all of your contacts together in one place and get a full view of their activity across different networks at a glance. By tracking the latest news and updates from your contacts, you’ll be better able to “strike while the iron’s hot” and prevent important opportunities from being lost in the online noise. (Oh, and did we mention that it’s totally free to use?!)
However, if you want to explore other options as well, check out any of the following social CRM alternatives:
● Salesforce.com Social Enterprise Edition (starts at $15/month, per user)
● Highrise CRM by 37Signals (starts at $24/month)
● Nimble CRM (starts at $15/month, per user for business accounts)
● Batchbook CRM (starts at $14.95/month, per user)
● Sugar CRM (starts at $360/year, per user)
Whichever program you choose, the critical thing is that you begin taking advantage of the features offered by social CRM systems as soon as possible. Given the complexity of the different types of information shared online today, as well as the various ways these conversations are occurring, integrating tools that allow you to manage contacts and tune into their various activities effortlessly is an absolute must for business in the 21st century.