SCRM Vendor Challenge: Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It… Craft More Compelling Social Business Narratives

GOTCHA! HOW MANY OF YOU ARE NOW HUMMING THE MISSION IMPOSSIBLE THEME? 

This challenge isn’t at all impossible, plus I PROMISE that it will be both an educational and valuable exercise for any of you who pick up the thrown gauntlet. As well, likelihood is extremely high that you will have new &/or improved narratives to use in your marketing, demos, and training videos.

First a small disclaimer to frame this up: As you know, I don’t participate in either the CRM Idol contest judging or reviews. (Although I do vote on finalists at the end of the competition.)  There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that as the CRM Idol Community Manager, it is very important that I keep my focus on each of you as people, rather than vendors of solutions. Which is not to say that I don’t discuss any CRM or Enterprise 2.0 vendors with the Judges in a professional context as industry colleagues – of course I do. But during CRM Idol season, with the panelists and judges I do my best to limit discussions about contestants to pointing out their feedback on experiences gained through participation, and highlighting examples of their contributions to the competition and the entire CRM community.

But during the off-season, you’re all fair game!

I can, will, and do, test and review offerings in my professional capacity. But my approach to assessment of products is much different from how the Judges approach and evaluate it, mostly because I’m deep in the trenches servicing CRM customers daily. Perspectives are different when you are the one selling, designing, implementing, and supporting social business, CRM, and Enterprise solutions. The CRM Idol judges offer you the 10,000′ vision and strategy perspective, while I am digging around with the wiring 5′ under the hood from the consultant’s vantage point.

I’m going to let you in on a secret that is both a coaching guide and your challenge:

It doesn’t matter what CRM or SCRM product I review, I use the same scenario as my testing framework for every single offering. His, yours & the other guy’s. And this is it:

Why do I use this ‘old school, traditional’ CRM process flow as a testing framework methodology?

  • Because I have used this same trade show scenario in hundreds of demos myself to tell an ‘end-to-end’ story about CRM.
  • It might not be a trade show, but ALL organizations have events of some sort or another. The events vary, but the end-to-end processes don’t change much.
  • That’s a screen shot from one of my demos. During the demo, I click into each and every one of those icons to show features & functionality while I am telling a use case story.
  • The flow above is pretty much the same for marketing campaigns, new product launches, promo code sales, etc.
  • (Some orgs may not create quotes, credit checks or order acknowledgements, but those are usually backend processes anyway, so they are there as placeholders for integration examples with ERP/Order Entry systems.)
  • This testing framework allows me to assess your product (and his, hers & theirs,) consistently on key deliverables & comparables:
  • Which of these same processes, functions, features and analytics can I do? Which ones are missing?
  • If any are missing, are they in planned development? Can I integrate with other products that fill in the gaps? If so, which ones?
  • How would I implement this in your product?
  • Can I configure &/or customize rules, logic, and flow?
  • Can I set data requirements or standards to collect/store what I need at each step of the process flow and the underlying processes, too?
  • How would I migrate data to your offering?  Is the data information architected well for integrations?
  • Can I get the reports and data I need to do a robust analysis of the whole flow and select processes/phases?
  • Do I like the user interface? Is it intuitive as I work through & navigate this flow?
  • How would I fit your innovations into this traditional example of a CRM flow.
  • Where are the logical spots to incorporate your social capabilities into my story & demo?
  • How could this process flow be improved and made more efficient using your Product/Service?

So there it is – your challenge, should you choose to accept it.  Step back and review your product with a proven use case story like the one above.

Most of you won’t put tickmarks beside all of these processes and features or you’d already be selling like the big platform players, (and for the record, in 15 years I’ve only worked with one product to date that did all of this easily, so don’t be discouraged – very few other vendors could check every box either). But… you can write your own new narrative about the things you can do innately, and via integrations, and craft kick-ass use case demos!

For those of you who are real keeners, I’ve created a slide deck for you with loads more coaching, strategy, and examples for telling more compelling CRM and social business stories.

It is up to you to decide if you’d like to share your discoveries & experience if you take on this challenge, but I’d be interested if you are willing.  It’d be fun to compare notes between contestant perspectives & learning, wouldn’t it? I know I’d love to see that trade show image totally reworked with a flow that demonstrates your own compelling use case.  Tell us a story.

I’ll leave you to it. Queue the Mission Impossible theme again… :-p

Does Salesforce Get what they’ve Got with Radian6?

I was eagerly waiting for Paul Greenberg’s  thoughts on the latest Salesforce announcements from Cloudforce,  as his is most often the first & last voice I rely upon to tell it like it is when it comes to Salesforce and Radian6 as ‘the social platform to beat’. And I’m not disappointed – it was worth the wait. In his post ‘Salesforce & the Social Marketing Cloud: Round 1 Goes to…‘ Paul carefully dissects the positioning of Radian6 as a Marketing Cloud, delivering astute cautionary points on the pitfalls of pitching it this way. Good advice that I hope Salesforce will sit up and take note of.  As someone more interested in enterprise customer success than the buzz that fills the pipeline, Paul’s post highlights a bigger issue for Salesforce. They don’t get what they’ve got. Or if they do, they aren’t quite showing it in a way that will accelerate enterprise acceptance yet.

Like Paul, I think that while the Radian6 acquisition is one of the most significant moves that has long-term impact on the social business industry, I’m not yet convinced that SFDC has put the right team of strategists together to design truly persuasive value positioning of the suite for the enterprise.  In my opinion, Paul nailed it with this statement:

“Salesforce is underestimating the value or at least apparently underestimating the value of the Radian6 platform to its entire product suite and platform.”

Note the underline above – I couldn’t agree more heartily with that observation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,  many vendors either don’t tell a story at all, or don’t tell the right story, and that gives me the vapors. It could be argued that Salesforce strategists are less aware of the true potential of what can be delivered than outsiders like us are. With what they now have to offer, there are better ways to tell compelling stories to the enterprise, but SFDC doesn’t seem to have the right type of enterprise suite strategists guiding a team of kickass engineering tacticians, as voices at levels in the organization’s hierarchy to drive development of clear, relatable, doable use cases.  Sure, SFDC is beginning to show touch points spanning the offerings, but only as touch points – not as part of process chains. With Radian6, plus other key acquisitions and integrations like the plan to ‘unlock the SAP core‘, the pieces are there to sell, but a different level of  ability is required to demonstrate and implement it all in a meaningful way for the enterprise.

Warning, Symptom – or is this a Clue?

Scanning career openings posted on three of the ‘top’ social platform vendor sites (aside from SFDC), doesn’t bode well for the customers or the VARs. Of fifty-five jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or enterprise software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of blood-&-guts bad horror movie scary. You just know that the virgin is going to go in the room where the killer is, regardless of the foreshadowing.

(Queue up ominous Metallica sound track here – sleep with one eye open… )

Several other respected analyst/strategists like Esteban Kolsky are also questioning the logic behind positioning E20 suites using ‘social voices’ instead of, or in tandem with enterprise platform professionals delivering proven, vetted value.  Esteban recently shared a an episode of Cheers with me as an allegorical story highlighting one issue that is prevalent with vendors and customers both in their approach to hiring ‘social stars’ to lead the team. In this episode, Sam is asked to join the executive team at a corporation… but only so he could play on the baseball team.  He insists on being taken seriously and writes a report about something, only to be dismissed out of hand. His intended role was to garner exposure from sports fans and maybe go up to bat to hit one now and then — not to plan strategy for the company.

The same scenario is more common than not with many organisations who want to play the social business game. They hire and put people out front who can fill the seats with spectator butts, but those players can’t always deliver home runs, because they’ve never worked in strategic enterprise or management consulting.  I haven’t seen much yet by way of functional coaching and instruction on how to merge listening and new analytics into operations intelligently. If you can’t show me an end-to-end story from trade show through sales pipeline to order entry and delivery, then circle back on customer satisfaction at all points, then you don’t understand how the pieces all fit together for the enterprise to begin with. Can it be done with the SFDC suite and select integrations? Hell yes, it can.  But the resources with the knowledge to engineer that kind of story either aren’t on board yet, or aren’t being used to deliver ‘proof of concept’ examples for the enterprise, and they certainly aren’t evident as part of the positioning team.

Fortunately, Salesforce has put another key piece in play with automated workflow that can now be used to fill in the gaps in the stories.  The fact that SocialHub can be used for marketing isn’t the big news.

 The real SocialHub headline is: the fact that this workflow ensures that the right information gets to the right people in the organization

That means action and efficiencies for organizations. And if SFDC is really, really smart they’ll take this a step further and show the analytics that tell the story of what happened before, during and after each event that spawned the alert in the first place.  That is the real value they coulda, shoulda, woulda be pitching to the enterprise. This is the story that every demo should be showing:

Listen -> Alert -> Action -> Engage -> Analyse = Organizational Intelligence 

The Fix

Salesforce needs to build a core team of enterprise suite experts. These aren’t people who would give the demos or write the positioning messages, but are strategists who guide the direction of the positioning and make sure that sales & marketing have the right demos to present, and that professional services is ready to deliver on the promises that Benioff and the marketing team are extolling.  There are CRM experts, and listening/engagement gurus at hand, but as I said above, this team must be lead by enterprise suite strategists and analysts guiding a team of kickass engineering tacticians, responsible for these key deliverables:

  1. Touch point Maps: A clear map of what the touch points are spanning the various apps is invaluable for several purposes – it surfaces shared areas for use that folks might not otherwise recognize, and is important for setting standards for Professional Services delivery standards.
  2. SFDC and Radian6 Capability Maturity model: define and articulate the capabilities and competencies. Tool to categorize messaging, define best practices and design case studies.
  3. End-to-end Use Cases: And by use cases here, I mean whole process chain stories.  Great, so SocialHub can be used for marketing.  Now show us how we’ll use Salesforce and Radian6 to market to three different audiences (customers, partners and public) before, during, and after a product launch or conference – say something like Dreamforce? ;-P That’s a use case that can be used in whole and in snippet parts to show impact and outcomes to enterprises. All businesses are different, but every organization has events of one sort or another. Build the use cases around that basic premise.
  4. Detailed Implementation Plans: The plans need to be developed by tacticians that know how to break requirements down based on the needs of all the business units in enterprises – sales & marketing, support, delivery, HR and finance first to actually deliver a comprehensive, holistic solution suite.
  5. Coaching Guides:  Teaching the SFDC positioning, marketing, delivery, sales engineers, and the VARs not how to build it, but how to tell the story creatively and where to pause to show genuine insights of value to the customer.
That’s a sure path for Salesforce to start getting what they’ve got.

(And if Salesforce wants to get busy on this, they can always call me. I’d be happy to help.)

The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools.

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

 

Previous comments on this post here.

Highlights from the Focus ‘CRM Idol: In Search of the Best CRMish Programs You’ve Never Heard Of’ Event

Photo credit and use permission given by copyright holder Charlie Isaacs

CRM Idol isn’t like American Idol, it’s better! This competition provides unique opportunities to contestants, industry analysts, and consumers alike. Any small business can benefit from the advice offered during the Focus ‘CRM Idol: In Search of the Best CRMish Programs You’ve Never Heard Of‘ event today,as  judges Paul GreenbergEsteban KolskyBrent Leary and Brian Vellmure shared some key insights about the contest, and the contestants, gained during the North American first round of the competition. If you missed the event, I highly recommend that you listen to the replay here – especially if you are a young, small start-up in need of some wise mentoring in any industry.

 Highlights

  • The idea for CRM Idol evolved from bad PR. Many influencers are approached frequently by companies trying to pitch their wares, but typically, the pitches are badly done and not in a way that encouraged in-depth reviews. Initially, there was talk of an Eminem/Rihanna style video along the lines of parody  ‘Love the way you Lie‘ and the idea to have companies compete for face time. Charlie Isaacs quipped that it sounded a lot like American Idol, and CRM Idol evolved into the extraordinary competition and opportunity that it is today.
  • Judges were somewhat surprised that many of the companies are still building apps on .NET framework. This was an unexpected result. There didn’t seem to be any judgement attached to the statement either way, but it’s an interesting statistic that we might learn more about as the judges continue the competition. (@FuzeDigital started a discussion on stacks here in the community – weigh in! )
  • Some of the competitors did interesting things with java scripting and interfaces.
  • Across the board, most of the entrants would benefit from more focus on marketing. As an example, while most of the orgs had the requisite three references, the fact that many didn’t understand the process to provide the references highlighted other some challenges that small businesses face. “The biggest problem contestants in CRM Idol have isn’t building great products, it’s marketing,” said Paul Greenberg, which was echoed by the other panelists.
  • One of the biggest benefits to participants was the education the panelists provided on raising their visibility, which will continue after the competition. “Once a CRM Idol contestant, always a CRM Idol contact.”
  • Contestant Salestrakr added via twitter “Gotta say, #CRMIdol provided more reach to people of influence than we’ve ever experienced.” @Salestrakr’s CEO Steve Youngblood was praised during today’s event for setting an example as an active participant in the contest and the Idol community. He took it seriously and recognized the opportunity before them. (Demo here)
  • One of the key differentials between semi-finalists and the other entrants was storytelling ability. Esteban Kolsky stressed that participants should, “Know your story.” We all forget that our story is as important as our product. The companies that did really well told their story extremely well and had a product worth showing.
  • Paul added, “Don’t pitch a ball at their face! Do your homework. It doesn’t take much effort to learn a bit about the panel and understand that Influencers are human, get to know them. Swim where they swim, build a connection.”
  • Brent Leary sang harmony with, “Want to get noticed? Be interesting!” and offered up Hubspot as a poster child example to study. Hubspot excels at presenting their story across multiple channels using many different types of media.
  • “Be brief. Tell a story. Have fun!” * (Note that while Judges were amazed at the prevalence for use of @Prezi, which I happen to think is a really fun storytelling tool, it also made some feel seasick, and others feel old.) ;-P
  • Judges were exposed to some negativity, and that did effect potential semi-finalists. “It just doesn’t work if you try to make another company look bad.” Hard lesson learned by one organization that was right on the edge of making the semi-finals, but lost out due to negativity. Brent encouraged participants, “CRM Idol is a community, Be civil. Support each other.”
  • And the community is busy. Paul notes that the site is getting between 1,000 – 3,000 hits a day right now.
  • It was also clear to the Judges and panelists which companies had taken the guidance Esteban Kolsky shared during his presentation guidance webinar, and which contestants hadn’t. It showed during the presentations.
  • Esteban: “There’s not a single influencer in the world that’s beyond the reach of any vendor.” (If they do their homework and craft the story well as advised.)
  • Late comers @AddressTwo who took the last contest spot when another entrant dropped out provided one jaw-dropping demo to the Judges. Towards the end of their presentation they said, “Oh by the way, we also have Addy,” a simple, elegant tool that Esteban expressed would help get work done like an extra employee for a business.
  • “Sometimes it wasn’t about innovation, but a fresh look at traditional things done in a more useful way.” Judges offered up SalesNexus as an vendor who took a fresh look at marketing and sales, “They were very smart in their approach.”
  • Esteban Kolsky expressed humble thanks to all of the contestants. Judges learned tons by listening to all the vendors. Additionally, CRM Idol brings visibility to the whole #CRM and #SCRM community.
  • Event organizer Paul Greenberg further encourages all small vendors to join the crmidol.com community. “You don’t have to be a contestant. It’s a venue for discussion. If you get too markety we’ll beat you with a bat and pitch you out,” but it is an ideal destination spot to engage with others and learn from the influencers. All small CRM companies are welcome to talk on CRM Idol and foloow the #crmidol tag.

An all around excellent session, with worthwhile advice and feedback for small tech companies spanning many industries, not just CRM. I can’t stress often enough that the reviews are also a must read for small businesses searching for new tools, consultants supporting their customers, and analysts who want to benefit from the hard work of the CRM Idol Judges, all of which was volunteered graciously.

Sing it Out! Add your voice – How do the CRM Idol Contestant Entries Measure Up?

For anyone who has any interest at all in emerging technologies in social business in general, and CRM offerings in particular, it’s time to reap the the benefits of the CRM Idol 2011 contest, by learning what the experts’ initial feedback is and adding your own insights for the Judges’ consideration.

I’ve been fascinated by the concept of CRM Idol since the idea was first launched in the Spring for many reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity for solution shoppers and analysts to tap into Paul Greenberg’s gathered army of industry experts acting as judges, panelists and mentors, for their views on some of the smaller/newer CRM offerings. Patience has paid off and the judges have started to post their concise, candid first reviews of the companies that have presented their wares so far.  This is a valuable contribution to the ecosystem with the joint wisdom of this élite crowd of leaders like Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky, and Jesus Hoyos,  sharing the highlights and challenges of each, as Paul explains:

“Each review has been signed off by all the CRM Idol Primary Judges – currently for the Americas and in early September for EMEA. So these are all jointly done in effect. They represent a distillation of the understanding of the companies and their products from the principals who did the demos and briefing with us throughout last week and through the end of this week.”

As the judging moves toward the selection of semi-finalists, the panelists will also be reading your comments and opinions on the entries, which will factor in to the eventual choices. Reviews are being posted at a rate of 2-4 daily, so check often, read through them carefully to learn how each company might have solutions for your own clients or business, and speak up with questions and direct experience. It’s a rare opportunity all the way around for anyone who gets involved.  Now it is your turn to take part.

You can find the reviews, weigh in and add your comments on:

Sing it out! Who do you think the CRM Idol semi-finalists should be?

CRM Idol – Crowd Wisdom for the Candidates

Paul Greenberg’s CRM Idol is a brilliant concept as competition with an initiative to both identify and showcase CRM and SCRM related start ups. Fortunate candidates gain exposure and support from investors, influencers, technology/strategic partners, media connections, etc.  But there is more to explore if we look at the contest from the inside of the industry outwards. In addition to the the unique opportunity that CRM Idol has offered these emerging companies, it’s also been an interesting example of what candidates should and should not be doing, with some startling preliminary results so far.

In short, many of the candidates could have done more to maximize their exposure with the related high value FREE PR.

Using start up Next Principles Event Monitoring offering, NP CEO Satya Krishnaswamy and I have  been measuring CRM Idol impact from the perspective of the event organizers and judges for several months now. While working in the spring with @NextPrinciples on some design/development/use ideas, I thought what better example to use for monitoring events via social channels than to select an event-driven by social business industry leaders?  There were some good reasons for picking CRM Idol specifically for this experiment:

  • The teams of judges, panelists, mentors, sponsors offer a rare grouping of many of the very best minds in the social business arena. How does that play out in their own event promotion?
  • The high level of interest in technologies and innovations geared towards bridging the gaps between traditional and socialized crm
  • The opportunity for the candidates to show their own social/crm savvy as participants in the event

The Basics

Adopting the persona of Paul Greenberg his very own self, we created an event template in April including several of the main influencer judges as ’employees’ tasked with running, promoting, monitoring and following up on the event.   Related blogs (10 ‘company’ and 14 ‘non-company’) were identified as key industry news sources, twitter keywords identified and began watching the results.  Here are a few of the preliminary highlights from the competition during its first week of demo judging:
  • Aside from the ‘company’ event tweeters, 570 more people tweeted about CRM Idol resulting in a 12% follower growth rate for the specific event handle ‘@pgreenbe’
  • Oddly, we would have predicted both social and SCRM to have been included in more related tweets considering today’s hash tag economy, but ‘latam’ made a surprisingly strong appearance, likely due to Jesus Hoyos influence

The Candidates ‘Social Event’ Performance

Interesting – and disturbing – was the lack of promotion participation by the real competition candidates themselves.  Using some of the measurement results along with good old-fashioned human observation it’s clear that many of these organizations missed the boat when it came to using this as a social PR opportunity to show that they’re walking their talk as part of their own strategies for CRM.  Relatively few pushed one or more blog posts about being selected to take part, or related their demo experiences so far, almost none tagged their demo videos on YouTube with CRM Idol to maximize hit results beyond their inclusion on the CRM Idol site, and the level of engagement with CRM Idol audience/fans/followers via twitter was astonishingly low. In fact, most candidates barely shared news or excitement about the event at all.
There was one noticeable exception in Aplicor’s response to the event chatter. Marketing Director Tracy Fawcett not only engaged with the RT’ing audience and other candidates, she followed up with personalized invites to advocates and candidates alike to connect on other channels like LinkedIn.  You know – cross pollinating and building relationships in a genuine way via social? Yeah, like that.
To some, the social crm (read business) community may seem to be a bit insular, and of course the candidates’ current focus is on learning from and impressing the influencers and investors, but I’m hoping they’ll be wise enough to spend time after the competition in building additional strategic partnerships, or just pausing to share their stories with those who expressed interest in their success during the competition. Never know who might help you build relationships with more leads and customers.

Advice for the Candidates

It’s a simple concept: For start ups participating in an event, especially one like CRM Idol that has a built in network of influential broadcasters – grab the free PR and run with it! Talk it up at all stages.

Pre-event

  •  Post blogs! Share your stories about being accepted to present, your demo prep, your expectations. Hell show your belly and admit to being nervous, if you are.
  • Get to know the other candidates/presenters.  Don’t just stalk them surreptitiously and mock their videos. Make an effort to explore commonalities and differences beyond their solutions. Who is their customer and can you share them?  Who are these other entrepreneurs who are just as eager as yourselves to be change agents? What can you learn from their experiences?

Don’t just wait for the event to jump into tagging – add ‘CRM Idol’ to videos, images, tutorials early on so that the chatter starts – and the impact will last long beyond the event.

During the event 

  • Carve time out each day to respond to people who’ve tweeted about your participation. Especially those who’ve expressed further interest in you or your products.
  • Wish the others luck. Did I really have to say that? Good sportsmanship is always a sign of a good leader.
  • Tweet, write, update at least a few times a day. Interested people who aren’t watching in real-time will surely check the social channels for updates, won’t they?
  • Thank the organizers. And the judges. And the panelists. And anyone else who has shown the slightest bit of attention your way.
Post Event
  • Thank the organizers/participants again – in detail. Write about it again in 1, 3, 6 months and share the impact it’s had on you and your company.  Did one key conversation or insight radically change your strategy?  How’s that working out?
  • Provide the organizers real feedback. Did you have an increase in sales? Did you form new partnerships? Let them know if you got results, even if you didn’t ‘win’.
Paul and the rest of the CRM Idol team have done an outstanding job of providing real value to the enterprise ecosystem.  I’d like to hear their own observations on how candidates are using this opportunity to their best benefit to build relationships directly and indirectly. But for now, I’ll just issue this challenge to the contestants:
Walk your talk. Demonstrate that you do understand all aspects of social impact on your own business. Work it.

The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools. 

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:  
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?