How Social Media and CRM Work Together Successfully

The blend of social media and Customer Relationship Management (social CRM) enables your brand to truly listen to your customers more than ever before. It enhances your traditional CRM by listening for and engaging with social media conversations, tracking new leads from a Tweet or Facebook post and moving them into your sales funnel.

Jon Ferrara, CEO of NimbleTo learn more about the state of social CRM and how to make it work for your brand, we sat down with Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble, a social CRM platform.

Jon, thanks for your time today. Why now, more than ever, is customer relationship management so critical?
Relationship management is entering a 21st-century renaissance. Business is recognizing the value of the human connection. In our business lives, just as in our personal lives, we appreciate and need authentic and relevant connections more than ever.

Social media has reawakened us all to these values. Our culture of “social networks” is changing our expectations about the people and companies we engage with. Customers don’t want to be “acquired;” they don’t want to be “managed.” They want to be delighted and empowered. They want to work with companies that care about them. People want to connect with real people, and they want to know, like, and trust the people they do business with. It’s good news -- welcome to the renaissance of customer engagement.

How can marketers improve campaigns with social CRM?
Let’s start by burying the phrase “social CRM.” Ultimately, it’s confusing -- because all business truly is social, and businesses are adapting by expanding their thinking to include social networks as an integral part of engagement. Instead let’s talk in terms of authentic and relevant engagement to develop customer relations for life.

Ah, fair enough and well said. Go on.
Old school/Mad Men/Madison Avenue marketing was all about yelling at customers about how great your products and services were to drive them into the hands of salespeople who would control the conversation and get the order. Today, customers are fast-forwarding through commercials, ignoring glossy slick marketing materials, and avoiding “Slick Willy” salespeople. They are having conversations amongst themselves online and in social media. They make decisions on their own about what they want to buy from and talk to companies on whatever channel they choose -- and they expect a relevant conversation.

Some companies have no idea how to manage this sea change. Some try to address the change by hiring a social media hotshot to listen and react to what’s being said. Worse, some use social media to continue to “push” customers and market their products and services.

The social business recognizes that they need to become part of the conversation that customers are having in the marketing funnel. Perhaps even more important, they need to interact within the buyer funnel. They need to be “nimble” enough to be adding value to those conversations -- to become part of the conversation -- in an authentic and relevant way, so that customers can know, trust, and value them as trusted resources.

If companies could truly focus on serving customers in these ways, not only would they come back and buy again but they would likely bring their friends with them to create advocates and evangelists.

Whether you're a startup, SMB or enterprise, what rule(s) of thumb do you always give brands when it comes to starting their social media and CRM journey?
My best advice is to have a basic and clear set of social guidelines. Teach the basics and benefits, and then step back and trust your employees. Companies may be fearful of change  -- we're all a bit risk averse -- but the conversation is already happening publicly, privately, in writing, electronically, and on a wide variety of channels.

Social media is nothing new, it’s simply the manifestation of marketing utilizing the new technology we have today. Like the telephone conversation, we can't control everything.  Companies need to educate and empower both employees and customers -- create social media policies, add tools to track engagement, and teach their people how to do social right.

However, I have to talk here about the social employee. In the past, marketing controlled the message and herded people over to sales -- that won’t elevate the brand anymore. The enlightened social business is empowering the emerging social employee to build their personal brand and nurture their personal network to the point that they become visible to the social customer and a resource and trusted partner of that customer.  Employees are ideally placed to use their personal brand to authentically build on the company’s messages. IBM is a great example, by empowering their customer-facing team members to share content, and engage on a worldwide basis.

The social employee understands that it’s not just customers you sell to, rather the entire community around your business. This community is comprised of influencers, editors, analysts, tech partners, third-party developers, value-added resellers, etc. It’s important to see this constituency as one that the entire team works to maintain.

If you empower your team to listen and engage with your customers and broader company community, it will transform your business. Our communities are crying out for authentic and relevant one-to-one relationships and connections. Companies that are effective at listen and engaging will be the companies that will have customers for life. Don’t we all want that?

How do you get it adopted internally?
You need to lead by example. Top management must participate in listening, engaging, and adding value to conversations that customers are having. Empower and educate the team members to do the same. Internal adoption starts at the top. Show them what’s in it for them. Success will breed success.

Look at Frank Eliason when he was at Comcast, and Vala Afshar at Enterasys. Neither of them had been on social media. As they became involved on the front line, they began to understand that they needed to build a personal brand, an identity. They became recognized as thought leaders. They brought people into the company who also understood this process. Over time, this behavior increases the individual employee’s net worth, and by association, the company’s net worth.

The individual employee and their personal brand can be an important part of social business. When they see that there’s a great benefit for them, it will do wonders for the business. Choose the right people. Encourage everyone to participate. From the CEO throughout the company. Practice it.

You’re so passionate and vested in this field. If you weren't in this business, where would you be and why?
Unquestionably, I’d be a teacher. I love to educate and inspire others. I thrive on helping others achieve their dreams and goals. There’s no better place to do that than with our youth. I’ve seen the power of teaching and nurturing in any number of ways.

After we sold our first company, GoldMine, I spent a lot of time working in classrooms, and as an Assistant Scout Master, and mentoring other entrepreneurs. This is one of the reasons why I loved being part of GoldMine so much, because we truly inspired and empowered millions to achieve their dreams, and that’s why we’re building Nimble today. To help people at scale brings immeasurable satisfaction.

Thanks again, Jon, for your inspirational and insightful words of wisdom. For more information about Jon and Nimble, visit their website.

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