Dealing with Social CRM Vendors

Dealing with Social CRM Vendors
social crm

By Barton Goldenberg

Within any technology implementation, people and process issues will have the greatest impact on the ultimate success of the project. Still, at some point, one or more new pieces of technology will need to be purchased and installed. The issues around this are highly complex, given the ever-expanding number of options in the marketplace, the need to integrate with legacy systems, etc. It is thus critically important that organizations select their Social CRM/Social Media Community vendor(s) with care.

Understanding Your Options

There are two distinct software vendor camps competing for Social CRM business. On one hand are the leading Social Media platform vendors. These vendors create the tools used to create Social Media communities. Their platforms offer functionality like blogs, discussion forums, contests, polls, user-generated content management, community tracking, etc. Many have realized that their stand-alone Social Media community offerings are not tightly integrated with CRM functions like the customer profile, and thus have a limited runway for growth.  Consequently, and with varying degrees of success, they have been expanding their Social Media platforms to include CRM functionality in the areas of sales, marketing and customer service.

On the other hand are the CRM vendors that have made a major push into Social CRM in recent years. They realize that given the explosive growth in Social Media, and the increased value of social insight for managing customer relationships, they need either to integrate with or create their own Social Media functionality.

When an organization sets out to select the best software for their Social CRM initiative, the challenge is to determine which camp best fits the organization’s needs. The organization needs to ask: “Can all of our Social CRM needs be met by one of the vendor camps?  If no, is it feasible to select and integrate the best from each to achieve our goals?”

An equally important question is: “Can either camp actually deliver all that they promise in their Social CRM offering.”  My response is that given that the Social CRM industry is in the third inning of a new ballgame, the current answer is “maybe.”  The implication of this should be clear: when dealing with Social CRM vendors, be careful to conduct appropriate due diligence.

Here are some lessons I have learned.  For the most part, technology vendors are honest and they mean well.  But because of fierce competition as well as pressures from industry analysts, venture capitalists, etc., they may be forced to over-promise to close a sale. It is important to understand this and to make the vendor demonstrate its promises and solutions in real time. Do not give the vendor the opportunity to tell you why “their hammer fits your nail”.  Rather, require the vendor to prove how their solution meets your organization’s needs.

In my next post, I will discuss the key technology challenge of monitoring and filtering within a Social Media Community.

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The Definitive Guide to Social CRMBarton Goldenberg, is the founder and president of ISM Inc., customer-centric strategists/implementers serving best-in-class organizations globally. As a CRM leader for 30 years, he was among the first three inductees in the CRM Hall of Fame. Recognized as a leading “customer-focused” author, his latest book, The Definitive Guide to Social CRM, is hailed as the roadmap for Social CRM success. Barton is a popular speaker on “maximizing customer relationships to gain market insights, customers and profits”. He is a long-term columnist for CRM Magazine and speaker for CRMevolution and frequently quoted in the media.