Tearing Down the CRM Barriers

In networked CRM, there’s no tightly defined “conversion path.” Instead, every social media touchpoint serves as a point of entry, interaction and advocacy. Other than that, everything you do in your traditional CRM program you can apply to your networked CRM ecosystem. It just takes a little ingenuity.

OK, let’s get started. To begin, I have a few questions for you:

  • Is a “registered user” a better indicator of interest in your company than someone who chooses to “follow” you on Twitter?
  • Is a customer who forwards your email to a friend any more valuable than someone who celebrates your product(s) by creating and posting a video to YouTube for everyone to see?
  • Is a call-center inquiry any more personal than a conversation that takes place between you and a consumer on your Facebook wall?

My guess is that the customer who’s choosing to follow you, retweet you, fan you, check into your place of business or respond to your Facebook wall post is more committed, more influential and more valuable to you than the average “member” in your database. Why? These actions are implicit personal endorsements of your brand broadcast to a network of hundreds of friends and followers.

Yet, despite all the different ways consumers are engaging retailers today, CRM still remains an entirely linear process for most companies.

  • Step 1: Drive to website/store/call center;
  • Step 2: Acquire contact information;
  • Step 3: Send email and/or direct mail piece;
  • Step 4: Repeat step 3 until they shop; and
  • Step 5: Win them back.

This process exists for a reason — it works. When applied skillfully, this system allows retailers to target communications, measure important things like return on investment and lifetime value, and ultimately market more effectively and efficiently.

So, what’s the catch?

The shortcoming of this process is that retailers are undervaluing and underserving those who have chosen to interact with them outside the gated community of their traditional CRM program. In working with clients, I’ve consistently found a large percentage of consumers who follow or fan brands in the social media realm are nowhere to be found in their databases. At a minimum, this is in the thousands for most brands and maybe even the millions if you’ve been working your social media mojo.

The linear model of CRM is no longer adequate. It’s time for what I’m calling “networked CRM.”

In networked CRM, there’s no tightly defined “conversion path.” Instead, every social media touchpoint serves as a point of entry, interaction and advocacy. Other than that, everything you do in your traditional CRM program you can apply to your networked CRM ecosystem. It just takes a little ingenuity.

Segmentation and targeting take on new forms. For example, set up different Twitter accounts for different audiences. Dell operates more than 80 Twitter accounts, covering a broad range of interests, from regional deals to crowd-sourcing innovation. But the rules of relevance and moderation in communications still apply. No marketer would imagine calling their customers at home eight times in a day to talk about a new product line, but that’s exactly what a major retailer did recently when it sent its fans eight wall posts about its new product.

As for analytics, while there are no ready-made identifiers like member IDs or source codes — as is the case in a traditional CRM program — there are a plethora of nontraditional measurement options. At its simplest, you can use bit.ly or site-side analytic referral tags to track clickthroughs from wall posts and tweets.

If you’re more ambitious, build individual profiles by using social media overlay services such as Rapleaf or Flowtown, experimenting with Facebook and Twitter application program interfaces to reap information, or even just ask your customers to provide the information.

Social media can no longer be a mere afterthought. This isn’t about blowing up your existing CRM program, but rethinking it to encompass some of your most valuable customers.

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