June 16th, 2009 by Larry Ritter, senior VP & general manager, Sage CRM Solutions

By Larry Ritter, senior vice president & general manager, Sage CRM Solutions

CRM magazine, June 2009, cover

CRM magazine, June 2009, cover

[EDITORS’ NOTE: This is part of a series of posts that began here, dissecting a two-page chart that appeared in CRM magazine’s June 2009 issue on social media. The digital edition of that issue can be found here, and a standalone image of the chart itself can be seen here. (Click on the “View Full Size” button at the top right of that page.) To view all posts in the series, please add this RSS feed to your RSS reader.]

JUNE 12, 2009 — Interesting diagram! CRM magazine’s Social Media Maturity Model illustrates how the very nature of exchanging information is changing, rapidly.

During CRM 101 see detail, below right — businesses had much of the control over communication as prospects typically learned from, and potentially became motivated by, information that businesses pushed to them. As we move further along the maturity curve, prospects are making — or will soon start to make — their business and purchasing decisions by gathering more and more kinds of information on their own, information generated outside the influence of the selling organization.

Social Media Maturity Model, detail of customer-centric CRM five years ago (January 2004), CRM magazine, June 2009

Social Media Maturity Model, detail of customer-centric CRM five years ago (January 2004), CRM magazine, June 2009

This shift may be a challenge for some, but overall it’s a change for the better. The new circumstances represent a natural evolution aided by technology companies and individuals who assert themselves by publishing and sharing their opinions. It’s also an opportunity for more-open communication, problem-solving, and collaborating among businesses and their customers.

With prospects increasingly being influenced by sources outside of vendors’ immediate control, it’s vital to monitor, understand, and ultimately manage — to an appropriate degree — all the sources your prospects are learning from.

Information has always been the main catalyst for CRM. Over time, we’ve experienced several iterations of learning how to manage ever-larger amounts of information — the adoption and proliferation of email in the early ’90s is a classic example.

Today’s CRM is good at collating and organizing information: the messages that have been sent, the history associated, timely contact points, the recall of critical facts and attentive service — collectively and (especially) cumulatively, these all make a difference in closing the sale. Today’s technology makes it easier and faster to search and collate data in real time — makes it easier, in other words, for us to find the information we’re seeking.

The world of information, however, has now become too big and too fast to digest efficiently or effectively by searching alone. We need a new kind of information organization — and social media is helping to shape it. Through even the most basic social media activities — such as joining groups, publishing our profiles, networking with like-minded and interesting people, monitoring, and gradually introducing some context and location-aware capabilities — information of interest finds us!

So now what? Various observers report that less than 10 percent of connected people on Facebook and other social networking sites have frequent or meaningful exchanges. Are you tired of former coworkers finding you on LinkedIn asking you to “join their network” when you know you’ll never really have anything to do with them? How do we separate the true opportunities from the endless number of people and sites that will tie us up for hours on end? It’s about aggregation, filtering, and managing a prioritized order of action. People, businesses, and technologies are all merging in a collaborative fashion to define and create these efficiencies.

As an industry, we’re onto something big here. I’ve heard people say companies won’t let their employees engage in social media because that activity allows information to escape the organization. These may be the same people who as recently as five years ago were saying, “Let’s lock down Internet access so employees don’t spend their day surfing the Web.”

Can you even imagine doing your job today without always-on Internet access? Well, apply this to social networking three and five years out. You’re at risk of becoming utterly irrelevant if you’re not directly engaged with your entire ecosystem of prospects, customers, partners, coworkers, stakeholders, and influencers.

The natural evolution of CRM is to better manage information by teaching it to find us, and then doing something meaningful and profitable with that information when it reaches us.

CRM and social media definitely have a cooperative place in our new world, so don’t just watch this space — be part of it.

Larry Ritter is senior vice president and general manager for Sage CRM Solutions (@sageCRMsolution on Twitter), part of The Sage Group plc, supplier of business management software and services to more than 5.8 million small and midsize business customers worldwide.

Managing large amounts of information has always been a hassle. Using database and CRM programs helps you and your business in the long run.

Comment by Customer Relationship Management — — July 6, 2009 @ 7:19 pm

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