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Bridging the gap between social media hype and business value

This is a cross post – with the primary post being my first on the CRM Outsiders blog. Since the location is different, I am altering the introduction a bit (you know content is king and context is queen and all that).

I do lots of different things for SugarCRM, among them is the beat up the regular author of the CRM Outsiders blog, asking him to write about this or that…So, Martin said in his best mannered Philadelphia tone – “Mitch, if you think it should be said, then start typing” (For those of you who know Martin, that might not be exactly what he said, but we are trying to keep this PG-13).

It is interesting that my first post (on CRM Outsiders) is about an upcoming event in Boston. The interesting part is who the keynote speaker is at the event is, and if I read and understood his book, my job is to make this post as interesting as possible, without being too pushy. I am confident that I can do that, and even went so far as to interview him for this post. Throughout the next couple months, I will be joining Martin more frequently to help set the stage for some of the events SugarCRM will be attending or hosting. Call it the pre-game show if you will. I have been know to bring March madness into the commentary for the US folks and maybe we can even weave a little World Cup into the discussion as we get closer to June.

I am not sure if I will cross post all of these, but I felt an interview with Dharmesh is a worthy post, given just how much he has to offer!

The first stop on the journey is Boston, MA on March 23rd. The event theme is bridging the gap between Social Media hype and business value. I am excited about all of the upcoming events, but this one in particular is a great way to kick things off. Keynoting the event is Dharmesh Shah, Co-Author of Inbound Marketing and Founder of Hubspot.  Full details of the Agenda and other presenters can be found here:

As a lead-in to the event, I conducted a few short, informal, interviews with the presenters, which I will intertwine with my own thoughts through a few blog entries. First on the list is Dharmesh Shah, who I was able to catch-up with prior to his trip to the SXSW conference in Austin. I suppose that I am a bit jealous, SXSW would be a great time! But, I digress, back to the topic at hand:

It is about business value, it always has been and it always will be!

Since the objective is always to derive business value from all investments (make no mistake, people and time are investments too) we make as a company, it is important to understand where investments can and should be made. Some of my peers in the AC might suggest it is really about helping customers get jobs done, and preparing to be an outside-in organization. Yes, that too, but I will address that in another post ( or reference yours).

Being on the ‘bleeding’ edge is not always the best place to be, nor is being a laggard. With this in mind, I asked Dharmesh where on the traditional Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm) adoption curve businesses are with respect to acting (culture) and being (tools and process) Social. Here is what Dharmesh had to say:

“I don’t think we’ve quite hit the early majority quite yet as it comes to social media marketing.  Though there are millions of users joining services like Facebook and Twitter, much of this activity is still individuals making connections — often with no commercial agenda or motive. Many businesses are discovering the potential of the new media and the more ambitious ones are already finding ways to connect to their prospects and customers through these channels. Forward-thinking businesses will capitalize on the shift and encourage their employees to interact online. “

Next I wanted to explore a bit more on the specifics around sales, sales process and engagement. Here is my (long winded) question:

Inbound Marketing (getting found) and leveraging Social Networks (alerts, notifications and process) seem to be two sides of a very important coin. In the context of business to business, the process from getting found, to Prospect, to Lead, to Opportunity, to Customer is not always simple. Since trust is such a big factor, how do you envision a hand-off from Marketing (team) to Sales (team)? In BtoB Lead nurturing might need to be a little more personal 1 to 1 than other consumer types of business, no?

“Absolutely.  In a B2B selling environment, the need to allow the prospect to move through the sales funnel at a pace that makes sense still exists (with or without Inbound Marketing).  My position here is:  Online channels can be used very well to “educate” the prospect in a non-threatening way.  This helps build trust and allows the person to engage the business in ways that are comfortable.  For example, in the “old” B2B selling context, the sales professional would often hold much of the power and release information slowly and deliberately to help “push along” the process.  It was very one-sided.  Now, people expect to find much more information about a business and its offering on the web — without the need to have to go through a gatekeeper.  Whitepapers, customer testimonials and case studies are all content that helps the prospect make a more informed decision.”

There are lots of great ‘nuggets’ in his answer, but there is one that needs highlighting. Online channels absolutely need to be used to educate in a non-threatening way. In other words, we are working to create buyers not sell to people. This approach is what allows you to build and create trust. Gatekeepers, command and control are things that get in the way of building trust. Help people to find what they need, do not simply tell them what they need. This is what the Social part of CRM is about – treating people with respect, as you would a friend.

I would like to thank Dharmesh for his time. If you are in or around Boston, I hope you can join us. We will also be having very similar conversations at SugarCon in April – more on that soon!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Seamus Walsh March 2, 2010, 3:30 PM

    Mitch, once again, the right information at the right time. In your interview, Darmesh mentions, “Online channels can be used very well to “educate” the prospect in a non-threatening way.”

    I assume that online channel is a technology, or is it a technology and people or a technology, a people and a process?

    I think there is a fissure forming between social media and the intersection with social CRM, I think there is a phantom ideology separating those two functions.

    What keeps me up at night these days is trying to figure out where one ends and the other begins. Any insight on that would be helpful. Thanks Mitch.

  • Mitch Lieberman March 2, 2010, 10:02 PM

    Seamus,

    An online channel is defined in his book, but I do not have that in front of me at the moment. Could be a White Paper, a Blog, Video, Landing Page, Social Media. In a B to B world, I would take a little further, might need to be one to one. But that is your realm more than mine :-) In either case, there needs to be a person behind the content, the channel determines the effort there.

    I am not sure of the fissure you are talking about. This is not a one size fits all problem. Similar to the conversation about prospect, this is culture, business, industry specific. I do not see the hand-off as binary, there is a continuum all along building trust and help the customer (or future customer) get what they need, when they need it.

  • Seamus Walsh March 3, 2010, 12:01 PM

    Mitch, we agree on: “the objective is always to derive business value from all investments” I like even better your discussion on social media business value.

    What I am personally working on is personal business value, what am I bringing to the work equation? A personal chart of accounts so to speak.

    One thing I did learn is I have to high tail it out of social media conversation because I can say one thing; VAZT is living proof that it indeed works.

    P.S. If you don’t mind. I am going to strike the word fissure and replace it with “gap” and replace the word social media with SCRM and see if the lightbulb goes out. I hope you don’t mind another question or two as a follow-up?