Buyers are acting like consumers – they are doing more research online before talking with potential suppliers of products and services. Initially, most of that research was being done through the 3 big search engines – Google, Bing and Yahoo – plus some specialist sites for particular industries, such as GlobalSpec in the US for industrial supplies. However, in the past seven years people have also begun asking their contacts on social networks for advice on potential purchases. The Edelman Trust Barometer examines trust in sources of information. Since about 2004 people have indicated their most trusted source of information is from “people like me” – 65% gave this response in the 2012 Barmoeter. This means they are using the input from friends, colleagues and their professional peer group across their social and real world networks when making purchase decisions.

First things first: what is CRM?

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is an approach to maximize the value of your relationships with customers, based on how you manage (1) sales, (2) customer service and support and (3) marketing.  The idea is to have a “single view of the customer” across an organization, and to have an up-to-date view of the most recent interactions with that customer.  CRM also means implementing processes to ensure smooth and efficient customer interactions from the initial sales contacts at the start of a relationship through to ongoing customer service and, hopefully, repeat purchases.


Since the 1990s the term CRM has been used interchangeably to describe the technology used to implement CRM, which range from enterprise scale systems like Oracle CRM through to systems with a focus on salesforce automation (SFA) such as and then to specialist CRM systems for particular sectors, such as Lagan for public sector deployments. (And a shout out to a client of ours, OnePageCRM, which focuses on sales automation for small businesses).

Early CRM programs initially focused on automating customer service centres.  Next the focus moved to sales force automation –using automated workflow to coordinate the work of sales teams from first contact with a prospective customer through to processing an order.  More recently the emphasis shifted to managing marketing processes.  Throughout the basis of CRM has been to maintain a central, accurate picture of the customer and use that to guide how the organization manages its communication with that customer.

It’s worth noting that the CRM market is pretty big – Gartner estimated it to be worth $13 billion in 2012, growing to $17 billion in 2015.

So what about Social CRM?

Over the past 4 years social media has had a huge impact on how companies interact with their customers.  Initially social media was viewed as a new channel for marketing departments, but it quickly became clear there were implications for sales and customer support too.  For example, customers expect to connect with customer support via Facebook and Twitter as well as via phone and email.  And potential buyers are doing a lot of their research online and more of this research is being done via contact on social networks.  Sales staff need to be aware of their prospects’ social media profiles and behaviour on social networks as they pursue a sale.

The original intention of the older enterprise CRM systems was to build a single, accurate record of the customer in a centralised database owned by the corporation.  But today, the most accurate, up-to-date information on many individuals is the one they self-maintain on their preferred social networks, be that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google+.  They keep their own information up-to-date, but restrict access to it and distribute it across networks.

Definition of Social CRM

According to the commentator Paul Greenberg, Social CRM is an extension of standard CRM, one that reflects the impact of social networks on business and particularly the fact that customers have greater control of the relationship because of those networks.  He offers this definition of Social CRM (

Social CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.

What are the implications for businesses?  Well, with the advent of internet search, it became essential that businesses know how to bring their target customers to them online.  With the increasing use of peer group referrals and contacts it is also imperative that businesses understand how their customers use social networks.  How can you monitor if someone is looking for your kind of product?  Where can your customers interact with you?  If they try to contact you via a social channel will you be able to respond quickly and effectively?  How do you generate sales and leads from social media?

Social CRM
Social CRM

How to Get Started

The social media solution providers Lithium, in their paper “Nailing Social Media Maketing ROI” suggest a four-step approach:

  • Listen to your social customers
  • Engage them with purpose
  • Operationalize your business around the social customer and
  • Extend the business value of your social interactions

As a first step on the road we suggest putting together a short plan of action, time-boxed for about 3 months out.  Start by assessing your existing social network capability as a business:

  • Do you have a company page on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, other networks?
  • Do you and your staff have LinkedIn profiles? Do these link to your company page?
  • Do you know where your existing customers hang-out on social networks?
  • Are you posting to social networks?
  • Are you monitoring social channels? Would you notice if someone was asking on a network about your type of product or service?

Next, set one or two clear objectives, with the focus on driving business results. For example, set the goal of generating a specific number of sales leads from your blog, Twitter or LinkedIn within the next 3 months.

With the goal defined, identify a set of steps to achieve that goal.  These could include:

  • Set up an account on any networks you think your customers use
  • Ask your staff to setup profiles on LinkedIn and link those to your company page.
  • Set up a blog so you can post information on industry trends, innovations, general news of interest to your target customers. Have “calls to action” in each post to help generate sales leads.
  • Ask staff to add an email signature that links to the company’s other social media accounts too.
  • Use Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your company, your products and services, and your competitors.
  • Identify a list of social media monitoring tools that you could use.
  • Identify any additional tools that will make managing your social media easier e.g. Hootsuite.
  • Test ways to profile target organizations and target prospects using LinkedIn, Twitter and other social networks they use.

How to Use Social Media to Drive Lead Generation

Marketers and sales staff can use social media to generate leads, identify prospects and to profile those prospects.  Deborah Ann Gibbs provides some great examples at the Windmill Networking blog

  • Capture information shared in social channels and add it to a contact’s profile
  • Use social sign-in for quick response on landing pages
  • Use “social sharing” features in email to encourage recipients to share content
  • Embed social feeds or videos into landing pages
  • Track contribution of social sites to website traffic
  • Monitor conversations by prospects on key social channels
  • Manage updates to major social channels (automated posting)
  • Adjust lead scoring to reflect social conversations

Some additional points to remember

  • In B2B, you are targeting the entire prospect organisation, not just individuals, so use social media to profile the company and the group you are targeting as well as specific target prospects.
  • Leverage the social media connections of your colleagues – make sure everyone in your organization is connected so you can access their networks of contacts.

Social CRM Resources and links

Motarme provides sales prospecting and lead generation services to Business-to-Business (B2B) technology, engineering and services companies.


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