Why you should attend the Kitchener-Waterloo ‘Knowledge IS Power’ Social Media Summit

Companies have to get in synch with how social/mobile is shaping customer behaviors and expectations in order to provide them with experiences that keep them around longer. Whether you are a business that has been involved in social media efforts already, or just starting to explore the opportunity, the Social Media Summit Knowledge Is Power has something to offer for everyone.  Join the Waterloo Region Small Business Centre on Monday, February 25, 2013 to learn the basics and beyond from community experts. This full-day conference is being held at the Walper Hotel in downtown Kitchener.

The summit theme is focused on helping SMBs evolve from using social media to becoming a social business. The session tracks are centered on a solid learning track for small and medium businesses, including subjects on strategies, engagement, tools, content, and how-to. Session topics include:

  • Social Business Strategy – create a framework of goals, policies, processes, practices, and measurement.
  • Social Analytics –  it takes more than saying “Like Us” or “Follow Us” to create meaningful relationships. Learn how to define and measure meaningful metrics.
  • Writing Content to Attract & Engage Your Audience -Discovering your genuine voice and knowing who your target market is crucial to developing your brand.
  • Effectively Using Video in Your Content Marketing – (Expert Panel)
  • Twitter for Community and Relationship Building – move beyond simply broadcasting information to use this platform to engage supporters and build relationships with them
  • Master the Fundamentals of Social Media – Effectively using social media requires understanding how it is different from traditional ways to reach your target audience.
  • Hands-on How-To – A day in the life of a Community Manager. Best practices, community and content management, and the tools the CM uses.

Also featured is a special luncheon keynote by PR expert and industry guiding force Joseph Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis and 76design: “Who’s the Boss Here?  Make Social Media Work for You!”

Speakers include:

  • Joseph Thornley  (@thornley): Keynote. Past Chair of the Canadian Council of Public Relations Firms. Senior Fellow of the Society for New Communications Research.
  • Kelly Craft (@krcraft): Director of Product and Business Development, Dash Digital Group
  • James Howe (@communic8nhowe): Director of Strategic Communications Initiatives, Communicate & Howe
  • Jackie Ranahan (@thinkmachone): CEO and Creative Director, Mach Oe Communications
  • Carla Bowes (@carlabowes) – Business Analyst, Dash Digital Group
  • Effective Video Panel: Von Darnell of Huckleberry Film Studios (@HuckFilms), Dwight Storring (@dwightstorring), Nelson Dunk, Skylight Productions, Duncan Finnigan, Multicultural Cinema Club,Peter Shannon, Memorytree

Thanks to event sponsors (Waterloo Region Small Business Centre, Communicate & Howe, Social Media Breakfast Waterloo, and the Government of Ontario) we are able to make Social Media Summit affordable investment in your growth – but you must register online in advance to reserve your seat as seating is limited.

I’m excited to be a part of this awesome group of experts speaking in the Kitchener-Waterloo Region.  It’s an opportunity to network with a connected and influential panel, and share real social and digital business knowledge. Learn insights that only experienced practitioners deliver, and develop business relationships and practices that lead to more sales and community growth for your company. We’ll help you transition from using social media to being an evolved social business.

Hope to see you there!  (Event hashtags: #socbizWR, #smbwr, SMsummitWR)

Do you have any specific questions on social strategy or analytics? Post them in the comments or bring them along to the summit. I love a good game of ‘Stump the Chump”

MUST READ: Best answer EVER to the question, “What’s the best CRM?”

If you are interested in CRM and aren’t already reading the work of Brian Vellmure, you should be.  Brian scored a home-run with this post answering the question, “What’s the best CRM?” It’s a must read for customers, and a great perspective for vendors to adopt. Without question, this post is one of the best CRM posts I have  have read in ages.

It is accurate, realistic, and practical.  More significantly, the whole psychology & practice applies to any business app selection, not just CRM.  It should be kept at hand for customers to read, and read by the rest of us as vendors and consultants to keep our focus directed correctly.

The very best part of his approach is that it is also the way that we should approach and answer prospects any time we are asked, “What’s the best X?” for technology.

You’ve all heard the term ‘solution fit’, but let me introduce you to the term ‘Situational Leadership’, which is what Brain’s demonstrated in this post. When we’re asked to guide organizations in decision-making and selections, it isn’t about walking in the door to provide answers.  Situational Leadership means that you work to help customers figure out what are the right questions they should be asking themselves. “What are we really trying to accomplish with our customers? (our culture, our budget, our processes, our people, and our goals and objectives?)

There is no single, ‘best’ answer to anything, and this is most especially true when we’re asked to weigh the merits of one product or another for a client’s needs.  Fit is indeed determined by need and goals. Brian’s more accurate refinement of the question leads to a critical shift in perspective for those looking for an answer.  It’s not about the answers – it really is about the questions you’re asking:

“How can we get a deeper understanding of our prospects and customers, create a well crafted vision of how to listen and respond better, and enable people throughout our entire organization to execute in the most efficient. effective, and profitable way?”

Adjust your question slightly and adjust your outcome significantly.

ARE YOU HELPING YOUR CUSTOMERS ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS, OR JUST TOSSING OUT ANSWERS ABOUT YOUR PRODUCTS?

——————

Note: This year’s CRM Idol lucky winner will also receive four hours of of free consultantion by phone with Brian, too! 

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

The Social Business Army: Do You Want a Buck Private or Sniper?

(This is a cross-posting of my CMSWire article .)

As social business vendors grow, especially those who provide solution suites, there is a greater need for professional service consultants/analysts to undergo rigid vetting appraisals and skill certification testing similar to military training courses. It’s one thing to be dedicated to social engagement and quite another to be both committed to improving the business bottom line and the overall experience for the customers and having the skill to do so.

Social Business Boot Camp

How important is “in the trenches” professional service enterprise experience for social business to reach a new level of maturity and more customer successes?

If many of the new breed of social media gurus are to be believed, then probably not much. I disagree. I think it is time to move beyond defining and marketing social this and that, and get down to offering basic training on the delivery best practices. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this is necessary — respected strategist/analyst Esteban Kolsky recently added this comment to a previous post on the Missing Link between the Preachers and Practitioners:

If you provide the profile, the practitioner ranks will swell with people who understand what they need to do. This is, in my opinion, the missing link — no one is taking the time to explain and mentor the up-and-coming practitioners, then expecting sergeants to become colonels in the battle-field. Ain’t happening just by wishing, know what I mean?”

Despite all of the discussion about social business, social CRM and social strategies, vendors need to expend the effort towards building a strong cadre of practitioners capable of training staff of all ranks on the basic tenets of enterprise consultancy and how to incorporate social engagement in context with business transactions. Much can indeed be learned from the methods used by the Armed Forces to train and certify expertise in their own ranks.

The “Who’s Who in the Social Biz Zoo” hierarchy is similar to the military: there are Foot Soldiers, Platoon Leaders, Sergeants, Majors and Colonels and then there are Special Ops groups that include Snipers. How do you recognize a skilled marksman from a newly enlisted grunt? Surely they aren’t all wearing “Expert” badges?

Or are they?

Verifying Service Records

The consumers, customers and businesses that are looking for social strategy guidance have access to more information at hand than ever before to vet the history of analysts, experts and consultants via the very same channels they’re trying to break into. But, they don’t have the ability to simply check service records. It’s all too easy for self-proclaimed gurus to pin badges on their own breasts.

When an expert wants you to believe that he’s honorable, he may tell you that he served in the trenches, lugging a heavy ruck sack over steep hills in blistering weather. When a foot soldier wants you to believe he’s a larger-than-life hero, he may tell you he was a black ops commando. Even worse, some vendors pass off similarly uniformed staff with little to no enterprise experience at all as “the point of the social spear,” yet they’re more like toy tin soldiers.

Here’s what you should remember: true military veterans rarely sit idly talking about their experiences after the fact — they’re always looking ahead to prepare for the next battle. If someone is trying to impress you with tales of social business heroism, there is a good chance he or she is lying, looking to gain 15 minutes of fame on TechCrunch or has awarded themselves a promotion without moving up through the ranks after spending some uncomfortable nights in the muck on the front lines ducking incoming grenades. Hint: look for the business battle-worn with a few scars.

Don’t be fooled by influence rank, as many inexperienced souls are promoted during times of war — it is an inevitable ploy to calm the masses by imposing additional levels of command and control during periods of stress. The reality is that the more people there are shouting orders (“you must listen and engage”), the more confusion sets in. The voices that matter most are those who can pull the trigger with accurate aim. No matter what your social strategy is, what you want is a Special Ops Commando. After all, they’re the resources most often responsible for targeted executions.

Social platform vendors have a responsibility to their customers to fill their professional services ranks with war-tested enterprise business analysts. No, not like Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal – we’re talking real deal action figures armed with cool weaponry and the skill to use them.

Profile of a Social Business Analyst Sharpshooter

How do drill sarges become sarges? It’s not just because they are the loudest.

Simply put, real social business analysts have done real work with enterprises, earning invaluable domain knowledge. The very best of the best, like Special Ops professionals, (cadre — drill sergeant) have know-how in multiple disciplines such as CRM, Customer Service and ERP, as well as an evolving understanding of the impact of pervasive communications (like social engagement) on business. If we look to the military, we can identify seven key characteristics of trained warriors that well represent the abilities competent practitioners should possess:

  1. Proficient and Safe Handling of Weapons — practitioners should have a thorough practical knowledge of the solutions and applications they promote and deliver. This means knowing how to pick the right weapon for the right strengths and how to take them apart and put them back together in the dark without shining a flash light on a manual. They must be capable of guiding implementations and integrations — providing adroit offensive coverage for key processes like sales and marketing, while also applying careful knife skills to compliance and governance requirements.
  2. Observation — practitioners have honed their skills in scanning, observing and logging all they see. This allows them to detect minor details that may aid them in spotting additional quarry and avoiding ambushes, which further develops their ability to collate information scrutinized from multiple angles, which they share with other team members and commanders as real time intelligence. They continue to monitor surroundings and activities and do not pull the trigger until it best supports the mission.
  3. Map Reading and Topography — practitioners carefully read existing maps and sketch additional scaled diagrams to plan navigation to and from operation insertion and extraction points with the ability to identify recognizable landmarks along the route. They must be able to accurately calculate range, wind direction and distance to be covered to get from A to Z, with strategies ready for scaling any obstacles and reconfiguring the path if detours are encountered in between.
  4. Cross Training — practitioners pair up regularly with other forces in sales, product development and customer service to cross train each other and keep each unit on their toes. Encouraging participation in cross training exercises requires the ability to adeptly detail the value to the individuals in learning how all of the pieces fit together to create a customer-centric organization capable of creating consistent customer success stories.
  5. Fitness Training — practitioners undertake daily, rigorous training to keep their skills sharp. They’re disciplined about perfecting their knowledge spanning multiple disciplines. This usually includes trade-craft practice, practice and more practice with their core products, plus research and/or enrollment in additional courses to study new technologies and methodologies.
  6. Communications — practitioners are able to effectively communicate both up channel and down, internally and externally, using a variety of tools. In case of comm system issues, they should have the ability to troubleshoot and find alternate methods to send and receive messages, including the use of hand signals if necessary. ;-P
  7. Marksmanship — practitioners have the ability to consistently hit both stationary and moving targets within short or long ranges. They must be able to accurately use scope to find hidden targets within specifically defined areas. They must be able to fire from conventional and unconventional positions for the strongest probability of a first shot kill.

“In the Trenches” Expertise Drives Social Business Sophistication

Incorporating social listening, analysis and engagement strategies with traditional transactional business processes requires an understanding of the mission in the context of the customers. Putting tactical implementations in the hands of people who may have decent abilities in one or another area of “social” anything is like putting a loaded semi-automatic in the hands of a kid who is so eager to play with his new toy that he just starts shooting for the sheer joy of pulling a trigger.

You shouldn’t get the “social business expert” badge until you’ve earned it by successfully participating in enterprise business executions.

Rally the troops!

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.)