The Risk that Social CRM will Exclude Small Businesses

by Jim Berkowitz on July 15, 2009

Here’s an excellent post by Ian Hendry CEO, of WeCanDo.BIZ about the risk that Social CRM will exclude small businesses:

The CRM 2.0 train is gaining steam, but most of its first uses are of little relevance to small businesses. Might they get looked over by one of the most exciting business web iniatives ever?

Anyone who reads my blog posts will know I’m a big advocate of Social CRM: the coming together of social networks with Customer Realtionship Management system to provide businesses with a wealth of data never before available. I’ve called the union ‘The Perfect Business Application’.

So it’s been very exciting for me to watch an increasing number of established CRM vendors — the latest of which is Microsoft with its Dynamics CRM offering — start to offer various degrees of integration with social networks and other social media. Micosoft’s announcement comes within a week of and Social Media Monitoring experts Radian6 announcing a tie-up to help bring a view of the Social Web into the leading cloud-based CRM system.

In addition to these established CRM players making their applications more “socially aware” there are also companies coming at the challenge from the other end; CoTweet is an application that enables workflow and task assignment to be attached to Twitter activity, making it easier for a team of people to ‘tweet’ through a single corporate Twitter account. It could provide particularly useful making Twitter-based enquiry handling scalable.

But I have concerns. Most of the ways I hear the benefits of Social CRM being discussed is in the context of helping to drive conversation about brands, either from a marketing or customer service perspective. The idea of most of these unions is that you can be there when people across the Social Web discuss your company and products, helping to drive the conversation or manage negative publicity.

I understand these benefits, but I just don’t believe many small businesses find conversations being had about their company or products — that’s the problem. They’re too small for this to be a problem; the real opportunity for them with Social Media is as much about winning new customers as it is serving existing ones. Their “brands” aren’t known, so what is it they use Social CRM to follow exactly?

And that’s when I get frustrated, because I just don’t hear enough being said of how Social CRM might help companies market better and sell more. Rather than searching for conversations that might be going on across the web that could affect reputation, how about using the wealth of free specific customer insight that’s being shared to better market to those customers online and offline?

Think about this: as much as you might ask your customers or target market what they like and what they want, few ever answer and those that do can give you skewed answers. But that sort of information is available across the Social Web as those same customers update their profiles; post, tweet, StumbleUpon and Digg. Your customers are revealing aspects of their needs that they’d never bother sharing with you directly, but by knowing where they are online a whole heap of additional information can be at your fingertips before you contact them; helping to drive the dialogue you have before they’ve even started thinking about your company, let alone discussing it.

By attaching CRM records to social identities, you can build a profile that sigificantly advances what you know about your customers and how you market to them. Using all the contact methods at your disposal, not just social media, you can build a need rather than wait for them to chirp up online before you chip in and interrupt their conversation in attempt to ensure they say only nice things about you.

This is the sort of use of Social CRM that small companies can most benefit from, as most simply won’t find their companies being discussed — they just aren’t well known enough.

Why aren’t we hearing more about this use or the opportunities in Social CRM for SMEs?

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