(This post is the second in a series that starts here.)
Business Objectives of Enterprise SRM
A software solution that enables commercial entities to better capitalize on social media should:
- Increase Sales. It should identify prospective buyers in the social media conversation, based on triggers unique to every product category. ZipCar might follow people who complain about gas prices; Mitsubishi might connect to people who post items tagged with Italian sports car brands in Flickr. In either case the system would help identify and establish contact with prospects, in a fashion appropriate to the medium in which these folks are identified. From there human beings would work to build a relationship over time by adding value to the conversation, not diverting it, or taking it over.
- Build Brand Equity. If a brand is a collective emotional response, what better way to assess and promote the health of a brand than to engage directly with the people exhibiting that response? I think some of the early focus on social media monitoring and reporting features is driven by the learned behavior of marketing executives to examine everything from afar rather than get in there and get dirty. Summary reports and “sentiment trend analysis” have value, especially for the big guys. SRM should instead focus on, facilitate, and actively encourage the messy but satisfying din of real human contact.
- Improve Customer Service. Professor Jim Heskett coined the term “service leverage” a while back, referring to the relationship between the value a customer assigns to a service and the cost of the company to provide it. I’m hard pressed to name a medium where that ratio is stronger than in social media right now. A prompt, proactive response to a customer problem acute enough to be expressed in social media presents not only the opportunity to recover that customer’s loyalty, but to inspire goodwill among every person in contact with him. All for the cost of an occasional Twitter search by the people you already have. C’mon folks.
- Inform Product Management. Stephen Gary Blank’s utterly brilliant work Four Steps to the Epiphany explains in painful detail the horrors that result when startups lose sight of needing to solve a problem people will pay them to solve. Paraphrasing a VC friend of mine, “Startups fail because the dog won’t eat the dog food. Not because you can’t make the dog food, or because you can’t sell the dog food, but because in the end, it’s not what the dog wants.” Amen, brother. And all new products are a kind of startup, where insulating yourself from the external reality is the surest path to oblivion. Ongoing engagement with current and prospective buyers – brought via social media to the desktops of marketing, product management and engineering team members – sure seems to me an easy and cost-effective way to avoid this trap. Focus group, schmocus group. Find the people who like your product enough to talk about it, and listen to them every day.
- Focus Business Strategy. Lou Gerstner famously cautioned fellow CEO’s that “A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.” Amen, Big Lou. While engagement with social media is no replacement for the belly-to-belly relationship building at which great CEO’s excel, I know from my own experience that active executive participation in these media can supplement your efforts on the road with a steady beat of anecdotal data on how the outside world is reacting to your brand, business, or product – right now, around the world. If you can’t afford a half hour a day to do that, I’d say you nee to make some changes in your team.
So that’s my list. Internally focused social systems have a range of other benefits in improving the flow of communication and empowering front line team members, but the above are what I see as the business objectives behind a social relationship management platform for the enterprise.
Buy it? What did I miss?
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