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What Is Social CRM?

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There is a very long definition, and then there is the one I’m going to give you: 

Social CRM is the enterprise version of Web 2.0; it enables businesses to share organizational knowledge easily, it gathers information from various sources on the internet, it allows companies to become more social in terms of how information flows back and forth across the organization, and, is specifically designed to help sales teams and developmental teams. 

That was pretty painless, right? 

But, why Social CRM? Don’t businesses already have CRM systems out the wazoo? What’s wrong with those systems? 

Having led some large sales teams, I can answer that question. 

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The Real Scoop on “Authenticity” and What It Means to Your Customers

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By Red Slice on May 4, 2011Reprinted here by express permission of Red SliceType “authentic branding” into Bing and you’ll pull up 581,000 results. The advice to “be authentic” hits business owners and entrepreneurs more than gray skies hit Seattle from October to May. And, yes, I give this advice to my clients.

But what does being “authentic” really mean?

This term has been bastardized a bit in the intersection between entrepreneurship and personal development. Many coaches and consultants are advising people to “live their passion” and “live an authentic life” and to find careers and businesses that “authentically” play to their strengths. This is all great advice.

But some business owners confuse “authenticity” with “only the stuff I care about.” And that’s not really what we’re talking about from a branding perspective.

Having an authentic brand means that you deliver what you promise. Period. You do what you say, You walk your talk. When I go to Walmart, I don’t expect great service or quality fashion. I expect what they promise: low prices. That is authenticity. It has more to do with company values, service quality, product line and image. It means that if you advertise your brand as hip, sexy and cool, then your products, your company – heck, maybe even your people – need to walk that talk. It means if you are going to tout “Customer Service is our #1 Priority” that you authentically take care of your customers, go above and beyond, and empower your call center employees to do whatever it takes to solve their problems quickly and painlessly. It means that if you claim to be cheap and disposable, that you ARE cheap and disposable, because that what people want from you if you are promising that.

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Amazon Says, Hey, Look at Me, I’m Flying

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Amazon, the online retail behemoth, has decided to forgo that pesky thing called a music license as it launches their Amazon Cloud Drive, a “virtual” place where Amazon customers can store their digital music on Amazon’s gargantuan servers. Once stored, Amazon facilitates “streaming” of those music files to a computer or handheld device through Amazon Cloud Player.

Amazon has taken the position that they don’t need a license because their customers are only going to store and stream music that they already own. It looks like the record companies may not agree with that point of view. They’re either staying mum, or, as in the case of Sony, “reviewing their options”.

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In A Surprise Move, Radio Gained Listeners Last Year

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The “Statistical Abstract of the United States”, a weighty, riveting (that’s veiled sarcasm, its dry as dust) tome produced by the United States Census Bureau, states that the number of hours America spends with radio has fallen from 836 hours per year per person in 2003 (about 16 per week) to a projected 716 hours in 2009 per person (about 13.7 hours per week).

However, Arbitron, the media and marketing research company that tracks radio listening, among other things, released a study Monday (3/22/11) that states that listenership among people 12 years of age and older actually rose in 2010. Arbitron’s numbers say that an average of 241.6 million people in this group listened to conventional radio stations each week last year, an increase of 2.1 million over 2009.

Carol Hanley, Arbitron’s executive VP of Sales and Marketing, commented, “Radio is much stronger than the general perception of it has been”.

My response is: “Maybe”.

If you’re in charge of marketing somewhere, and you’re thinking about spending some money on radio spots, here are some things to consider:

The renewed vigor of radio listenership numbers is due in no small part to the increase in Hispanic radio stations and the Hispanic listeners that come with them. Radio added 1.1 million Hispanic listeners in the United States last year. As an industry analyst (not with Arbitron) pointed out recently, the state of Texas alone went from 25 Spanish-language stations in 2000 to 154 Spanish-language stations in 2009, and at least a few more were added in 2010, although those numbers are not yet out. That’s great if Hispanics is one of your target markets, but not so meaningful if this group is not in your target demographics.

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Interest In Blogs Among Teens and Young Adults Fades

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If your organization or business has young people as a target audience or target customers, here’s hoping that you are reaching them through your Facebook site or your Twitter feed.

Surprising no one that follows social media, the most recent data available shows that fewer young people are keeping blogs, and more importantly for businesses, fewer young people are visiting blogs.

The sentiment driving this behavior seems to be a combination of:

  • A feeling that writing a blog takes too long
  • Low readership of small blogs
  • Facebook and Twitter are meeting whatever needs they have for self-expression

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Business Blog Primer

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BLOG ME

If you’re a business these days, you’re supposed to have a blog to go along with your company website. The reasons why?

Well, it can keep your customers informed, for one. It can provide a great platform for your customers to interact with the company, for two. Third, it’s a great way to keep talking about the company in a positive way. Fourth, it’s a good way for the company viewpoint on issues to be delineated, if that is important to the business. Fifth, people may actually come to your site just to read your blog, or, some other site may find something interesting on your blog and link to it, thereby driving potential customers to your site. Sixth, each new blog post (and each new comment, if you allow comments) is yet another reason for the search engine bots to crawl your site, thereby moving you up in the search engine rankings, which is always good for business.

Okay, so a lot of good reasons to have a company blog. The problem is, of course, just as with other things, the execution. Apropos of that execution, how do you get a blog, how do you get good, relevant content for the blog, and how do you keep it going?

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Stodgy Old-Fashioned Dull Obsolete Antique Outdated Sales and Marketing

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What I need is a really cool website.

Online marketing is the only kind of marketing I want to do for my company.

Who needs salespeople when you have the web?

Who needs a call center when you have the web?

I hate actually interacting with someone face-to-face and I’m sure all of my customers hate it, too.

Isn’t everyone on the Internet now?

Digital marketing is always cheaper on a cost-per-account basis.

Everyone just throws out direct mail solicitations.

Outdoor media? You mean, like billboards and stuff? Wow, that’s really old-school, isn’t it?

Why would I bother offering sales training to my customer service employees and my other employees? That’s not their job.

Industry conventions seem like a massive waste of time and, plus, they’re a huge pain.

IF you talk to companies about sales and marketing, you’ll frequently hear comments and questions like this, because everyone’s dream these days is to have a virtual organization that does all its sales and marketing over the web, or on mobile phones, or whatever. You know; the kind of organization where you just click on keys, your advertisements go out, customers respond to your website through an online checkout, and you make millions of dollars with less than 10 employees, and very little overhead.

That’s the kind of marketing plan I want, companies will say.

Well, sure.

I want to date Halle Berry, have my own island, and have Warren Buffet asking me for advice about investing, too. The chance of even one of the items in that scenario occurring for me is about the same as all of the pieces falling into place for the kind of company to happen. Yes, occasionally the planets line up and your idea that turns into your product that your company sells is both irresistible and is able to be sold over the internet in such large numbers that you then have articles in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times business section written about your firm.

But most of the time, the results are less lofty. The internet is merely one small part of all the moving parts that make up a typical successful company, and that’s not how most business comes in the door. Some small companies have less than a dozen employees, but large companies have hundreds, or thousands, of employees. Everyone in the company works hard, because they’re competing with other people at other companies that are working just as hard in the same segment, and that hard work eventually makes for a good living and a good return for the company’s shareholders. It’s not exciting and notable enough so that it’s newsworthy, but it’s a good result. That’s what usually happens.

The reason I’m noting this is because many companies, in their rush to embrace Web 2.0 technology, are now giving short shrift to perfectly good customer acquisition platforms that they’ve successfully used for years, things like a field sales force or radio advertising. Seduced by a younger, more attractive face, these businesses are abandoning their long-time partners for a tempestuous fling with digital marketing. They’re doing this even if that doesn’t make sense in terms of their revenue, profit and strategic goals.

Now, just to be clear, I would not advise any client to eschew a meaningful presence on the web. If you’re in business, your customers need to be able to find you on the web. Much of the work we do for clients is in the area of bolstering their presence on the web, whether that’s through SEO marketing, developing a better website for them, developing a blog component for their corporate site, etc. So we are strong cheerleaders for a healthy web presence.

No, what I’m saying here is that traditional marketing and sales may still be where your company’s bread will be buttered, and there is absolutely no reason to cut back or discard those customer acquisition platforms simply because they’re “not new”.

For many companies, those “old-fashioned” methods are still the most cost-effective, despite all the infrastructure needed, and the blocking and tackling needed to execute, and frankly, with a little tuning up and focused process-improvement work, those old-school platforms can be made even more attractive from a cost-acquisition ratio.

Furthermore, there is absolutely no reason you cannot keep doing what is bringing you good business results currently, and, beef up your profile and capabilities on the internet at the same time. In other words, there isn’t any way to do too much marketing in too many places.

There is an optimum mix of traditional marketing and digital marketing, specific to your company’s needs and goals. Find that mix and your company will prosper. Because, despite what you read in the media about the latest company to set up a website, and 18 months later, launch a $6 billion IPO, most companies still need the combination of traditional marketing and digital marketing to thrive.

Brendan Moore is a Principal Consultant with Cedar Point Consulting, a management consulting practice based in the Washington, DC area, where he advises businesses in marketing, sales, front-end operations, and strategy. Cedar Point Consulting can be found at http://cedarpointconsulting.com

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