Technology for Business: Traditional CRM vs. Social CRM

By Brent Leary

Converting marketing leads into buyers, and finding efficient ways to promote and advertise, are two areas small businesses say they struggle the most. To help overcome customer acquisition challenges, many small businesses are looking into customer relationship management tools and strategies.

Traditionally, CRM’s strong suit has been improved operational effectiveness, easier access to information and improved interdepartmental collaboration. While these are critically important to the success of any business, the focal point of these areas are internal to the company. And while a more efficient company should have a positive impact on customer interaction and responsiveness, does it really help us to meaningfully connect with those potential customers empowered in a Web 2.0 world?

Social media adds this missing dimension to the traditional, operational areas of CRM. The integration of social media into CRM strategy — Social CRM — differs in focus from traditional customer relationship management in a few key ways.

Data-driven vs. Content-driven

Before contact management software was available, companies had to store their valuable customer information in Rolodexes, spreadsheets and even filing cabinets. Consequently, traditional CRM grew out of this need to store, track, and report on critical information about customers and prospects.

Social CRM is growing out of a completely different need — the need to attract the attention of those using the Internet to find answers to business challenges they are trying to overcome. And nothing captivates the attention of searchers like relevant, compelling content. Having the right content, and enough of it, will help connect you with those needing your product or service.

Process-centric vs. Conversation-centric

Traditional CRM is heavily focused on implementing and automating processes. Companies looking to implement processes like lead and activity management would turn to CRM. Management would turn to CRM to standardize sales processes and to increase the accuracy of sales forecasts. Customer service requests could be tracked, routed, escalated and resolved in a uniform fashion to ensure proper handling.

While there are processes involved in building a successful social CRM strategy, conversations are at the heart of it. Having meaningful conversations with those searching for the help you can provide is the turning point in transforming clicks into customers. The processes involved are aimed at making it easy for people to find us (through our content) and invite us into a conversation — on their terms. Formalizing a strategy to increase the likelihood of engaging in these conversations is a tenant of social CRM.

Operationally-focused vs. People/Community-focused

As mentioned above, managing customer information is a major concern to businesses of all sizes. It plays a key role in the ability of companies to respond to customer requests, manage resources needed to close deals efficiently, and provide management with reports to keep track of sales performance. This helps executives achieve operational effectiveness, and is particularly important for companies expanding their sales and marketing operations, needing to implement new processes to manage growth.

Whereas traditional CRM activity focused heavily on operational effectiveness and its impact — both internally and on the customer — social CRM is all about people and community. It’s about how your company intends to participate in the ongoing conversations taking place in the industry. Fully understanding the importance of contributing to discussions, in a transparent manner, will help you build the kind of reputation needed to become a valued member of the online communities important to your business.

So, if you’re turning to CRM to help bring on new customers, you’ll have to go beyond traditional CRM focuses by integrating social media infused tactics and strategies. It gets us closer to what we’ve needed all along. AT

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