Embrace social CRM strategies, says IBM

IBM report

IBM report

Your organization may be present on social media and it may have a CRM (customer/constituent relationship management) strategy, but if you don’t have a social CRM strategy that combines the strengths of those two, you’re missing a key piece of the puzzle. So says a new report by IBM.

I can’t begin to sum up the greatness of this report, so I’m going to have to resort to a lot of block quotes. Though it’s written by and for a for-profit audience, I believe a lot of this report’s principles can be applied to the nonprofit and association crowd as well.

The first passage that jumped out at me talks about the strategic shift organizations are compelled to take in light of the dawn of social media:

CRM strategy, enabled by processes and technologies, is architected to manage customer relationships as a means for extracting the greatest value from customers over the lifetime of the relationship. These strategies typically concentrate on the operational responses required to manage the customer.

With social media, though, companies are no longer in control of the relationship. Instead, customers (and their highly influential virtual networks) are now driving the conversation, which can trump a company’s marketing, sales and service efforts with unprecedented immediacy and reach.

Companies need to embrace this shift with a new strategy - Social CRM, which recognizes that instead of managing customers, the role of the business is to facilitate collaborative experiences and dialogue that customers value.

If you come from a PR or marketing background, you’ve likely had the concept of “controlling the message” drilled into you, which makes the idea of the customer/constituent driving the conversation scary, to say the least. It’s enough to make your legal team quake in their boots. You can gain traction if you embrace this new model, but according to the IBM report, you can’t jump in tentatively:

Be clear on the differences between social media and other channels.  Social CRM is about enabling engagement with the customer for the mutual benefit of the customer and the business. The traditional model of managing the customer relationship needs to adapt to the reality that the customer is now in control.

The good news is that social media can help you gain valuable intel about a person and better inform your relationship with them, even helping you do cheaper, yet more qualitative, research about your supporter base.

Think of it as getting to know the whole person, not just the person who exists in your database. And that effort requires a multi-pronged effort among the various departments within your organization:

Make the customer experience seamless – across social media and other channels. If you know your customer in one channel, you need to know him or her in other channels as well. This means the social solution should not be devised as an isolated standalone program, but needs to be thoughtfully integrated with other customer-facing initiatives.

(Think marketing, communications, development, membership, etc.) But how do you cultivate that relationship? Simple. Figure out what your stakeholders want, and give it to them:

Start thinking like a customer. Instead of asking why your company should engage in social media, ask why a customer would choose to interact with your company in a social platform. Recast social interaction strategies to focus on giving customers the value they seek and the customer intimacy will come.

You can read the full report here. Post your reactions below!