Archives For social media

When I read GigaOM’s Mike Jones’s great contribution to the growing discussions on the future of SaaS, one thought kept going through my mind. Who’s taking the customer side in this discussion? So far the SaaS vs. XaaS discussion is mostly a technical and infrastructure discussion. “Acronyms as a Service” is a great idea, but really, shouldn’t it come down to giving customers choices?

It’s not up to our industry to dictate what solution customers should use. It’s up to us to create the solutions that enable customers to choose the right deployment model that meets their specific requirements. For some customers that will be SaaS, for others that will be IaaS or PaaS.

So to add to the discussion and focus it a bit more on CRM, what customers need is choice:

  • The choice to freely move their data between different clouds;
  • The choice to where they want to deploy their CRM instance;
  • The choice to integrate with any open social platform;
  • The choice to access their CRM solution from any mobile platform;
  • The choice to change their CRM when they run against the limitations that come with legacy CRM solutions; both on-premise as well as SaaS.

And for that CRM needs to be open. Today, SugarCRM is the only solution in the market that is open and built for the cloud. This flexibility offers customers choice.

By Andy Monshaw, General Manager, IBM Midmarket

Customer is king. Seems like a simple premise, but for most businesses, managing customer relationships is a means to an end – a way to reduce costs while increasing profitability. Customer Relationship Management, or CRM, allows businesses to solidify customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. Today’s challenge is how fast the right information can be put into the hands of those who need to know and know right now.

Today, cloud computing is creating new business opportunities in the world of CRM.  In fact, AMI Partners forecasts that in the U.S. alone, the SMB Cloud CRM market is set to triple by 2015.  Additionally, the global CRM applications market is expected to continue on this trajectory in 2011 with revenue approaching $18 billion on 7.6 percent year-over-year growth.

Through IBM SmartCloud, SugarCRM is making CRM on the cloud a reality for businesses of all sizes so clients can readily take advantage of these advanced capabilities in a matter of minutes and bring new efficiencies into their businesses.

True CRM brings together information from numerous data sources to give one, holistic view of customers. Also, methods for reaching customers are changing as social media channels are becoming more widely used by consumers. With the emergence of social business, consumers are empowered in more ways than ever before to access information that helps them make informed decisions on the products and services they choose to buy. As a result, organizations are rethinking the way they approach CRM and looking to the cloud to gain faster access to sales reports and data, as well as analytical tools to evaluate sales performance that would help deliver better consumer insight.

For any business looking to improve its customer relationship management, implementing a CRM system through the cloud is both efficient and cost effective. A CRM running in the cloud helps a company track data, such as orders, discounts, references, competitors and much more, without having to worry about any potential limitations of the underlying technology. The sky’s the limit!

Today’s small and medium-sized businesses are looking to the cloud to find answers about their customers. CRM running in the cloud makes it that much easier because at the end of the day, clients want innovative yet affordable technologies to make their business hum.

Many of you may have taken part, or at least seen the results of our recent Social Media Survey.

Some of the highlights of the survey were interesting, but not all that surprising.  Among them, these points stand out to me:

  • Only 26 percent of respondents said they currently integrate their customers’ social networking information with their existing CRM data.
  • 72 percent of respondents said they plan to integrate their customers’ social networking information into their existing CRM data within the next year.

When you put these two together – it would seem that ideally EVERYONE would be undergoing social CRM initiatives in the coming months. That is a huge opportunity, but also a bit scary. There is an amazing propensity for people to overpay “gurus” and point vendors with no real solution in place, and thus not see results because they did not properly align business goals with the IT work underneath. (Really, there is not much difference between the potential social CRM miscues we could see and the high-level “CRM failures” of the Siebel era.)

The plus side?  A lot of the tools needed to “get social” can be accessed (albeit in a more ad hoc or manual manner) for free. This certainly lessens a lot of the financial risk associated with a new IT initiative.

I had an online chat with InformationWeek’s Dana Blankenhorn and he gets it. In his write up on the survey, Dana points out that this need not be an expensive undertaking.

Overall, I think we can safely say that Social is here to stay…now, the real question is – how will you leverage social in your organization to better your business in 2011?

Editor’s note: This blog post originally appeared in the UK-based B2B Marketing magazine blog series. And, since I think these are points worth repeating (and I wanted to get a blog post out this week!) I am reprinting my thoughts hereAlso note, while it’s true I am too lazy to change spelling back to American English – I think the British English stylizing gives my thoughts a bit of an air of respectability ;)

The explosion of social media over the past several years has certainly begun to make its mark in the business world. What started out as a primarily consumer-driven concept has become big business on many fronts: companies are marketing to customers via social networks; supporting customers and identifying trouble spots via Twitter; and leveraging these new social channels for market research and to qualify leads.

While social channels present an opportunity, companies must not forget the core foundations that actually manage the core data and processes within the organisation. New concepts like ‘social CRM’ are appealing for many reasons. But, ultimately, are not a replacement for traditional CRM. Rather, it is more important to augment existing CRM strategies and systems with social tools – because abandoning core systems could lead to chaos inside the organisation.

To best navigate your move into social CRM, it is useful to ask yourself five simple questions before spending precious time and other resources towards a social media endeavour:

1. Where are my customers and prospects aggregating online?

This seems fairly simple, but might be more complex than it seems.  For large B2C organisations, it may be enough to blast messaging across sites like Facebook. But for more niche markets and products, or more specialised B2B sales models – it may take some more research and listening to your customers before you begin any outreach via social channels.

2. How will this social initiative enhance the customer experience?

Just being social for the sake of being social is useless, and can backfire. For many B2B sales and support organisations, social media should be a means of adding convenience to the sales or customer support cycle – not an intrusive waste of time. Insure that your social interactions are a benefit, not a detractor to the overall customer experience.

3. Am I using social media to hide deeper flaws in my business?

Many companies are using social media as a “band-aid” to hide poor support processes or other problem areas. Customers who tweet about a bad experience get preferential treatment; but what does that really solve?  Before adding layers of social engagement, try to insure your customer-facing processes are already strong before exposing them to the hyper-critical social channels.

4. Who will be responsible for our social outreach?

This is a huge problem area for those looking to jump into social business. If you are going to generate leads, or attempt to handle customer complaints via social media – insure that a proper escalation path is in place. If a customer reaches out via social media and gets no response – it is almost worse than not having a social policy. Insure the right people are in place to quickly and consistently manage inquiries received via social channels.

5. How will I track and measure success?

It is very easy for a social media initiative to create even more data silos, with loads of data not providing insight. However, if you tightly integrate your social tools and data with well-structured existing systems like a CRM tool, you can more effectively track interactions and outcomes. Again, social CRM is not a new concept in itself – we are just using new technology to do what we have always done as  businesspeople: attract and manage customer relationships.

Two of the biggest trends in CRM over the past couple of years have been mobile access and the addition of social media channels. While these technology trends were developing, more and more small and midsize companies around the world were discovering that thanks to open source and the cloud – they could now afford to add the benefits of CRM to their businesses.

Now, all of these technology and business trends are converging in the latest release of Sugar 6. The latest and greatest from the people that pioneered “CRM Made Simple” are at it again, this time adding Global, Mobile and Social capabilities to Sugar 6.

On the global front, 13 new language packs make it easier than ever for companies around the world to get up and running quickly with a best in class CRM system. Sugar will continue to add these fully supported language and currency translations – which no longer require downloading and installing or updating. Just select your language and currency from the drop down list at startup – and you’re good to go!

More and more workers are looking to gain access to data and do their jobs more effectively while away from the office. SugarCRM has answered this call with a new Sugar Mobile application for the iPhone. This native application captures the sleek look and feel of iPhone resident applications, and is fully integrated with the iPhone features. This means you can click to call, and log that call in Sugar in seconds. Click on an address to jump to the google map of that location. With Sugar Mobile – all of your data and connections are just a click away at all times.

Social media is a hot topic, and adding social channels to your CRM system can give you an edge in the market. With the latest edition of Sugar 6, you can quickly check the Twitter streams of contacts and accounts with the new Twitter Connector. And a new integration with social collaboration vendor Qontext makes it easier to collaborate in real time with co-workers and customers in a cool new social media friendly manner.

So there you have it – new Global, Mobile and Social tools – right inside the most intuitive, flexible and open CRM system on the planet.

Check out these new features for yourself by grabbing your own Free Trial of Sugar 6 today.

Are you searching social networks for leads? Connecting with potential partners on LinkedIn? Are your support agents reaching troubled customers with Twitter?

If you are using social media as part of your CRM strategy – we want to hear from you!  We have put together a short survey to learn how companies and individuals are leveraging social data in their business life.

So, wether you have a full-scale company wide social CRM agenda, or are simply a savvy ales rep using LinkedIn to eliminate cold calls – We’d love to hear from you.

Take the short survey here: Social Media Survey

In addition to providing some valuable data on social media usage, you can qualify for a Free iPod Shuffle prize pack!

I will share the results of the survey on Outsiders once complete. Thanks for providing insight!