CRM Vendors Have a Problem Here: Poor Apps,but Improving - Customer Relationship Management

This would all be wonderful if it could be organized into something other than an operational mishegoss (mess). But most of the CRM applications and even the standalone marketing automation applications are traditional in their functionality and aren’t that great at it either. Even the new breed CRM marketing automation applications like Marketo and Infusionsoft are built along traditional lines,though they are good.

But there are some changes afoot. In particular,enterprise-strength industry leader Eloqua,e-mail marketing star Silverpop,and newcomer Loyalty Lab are all beginning to incorporate contemporary feature sets that will matter to the customer.

Short and Sweet:Social Media/Marketing Automation— A Match Made in Technology
Want to hear about a trend that you’re not going to find on Twitter? Marketing automation applications are increasingly incorporating social features and,while doing that,strengthening their more traditional CRM-ish functionality. In the meantime,social media monitoring applications are increasingly adding CRM-level functionality or integrating with CRM applications to bring their data into the CRM databases and to make their data usefully actionable.

Marketing Automation Adds Social Features
The marketing automation,analytics,and e-mail marketing companies in particular are feeling the pinch of the social customer. Exact- Target,one of the foremost e-mail marketing applications,second to Silverpop in my thinking,did joint research with Ball State and found that more than 46 percent of the e-mail marketing campaigns in 2009 planned on using some social media in tandem with the campaign—up from 13 percent in 2008. Rather than sit on their duffs with this information,ExactTarget went and did something about it. In mid-2009 they launched their Social Forward solution. This allows subscribers to share e-mail content with Facebook,LinkedIn,and other communities and then tracks what the subscribers do. The subscribers can do it with a click of a button,so it’s easy. Since it’s already integrated with salesforce,Microsoft Dynamics,and Omniture,among others,this data becomes an invaluable addition to the arsenal for customer insight.

Other companies aren’t sitting still either,a hard thing to do in a world of ADD. Omniture,an open source provider of web analytics,added new capabilities that allow it to track video shared across the social web. So,if I embedded a YouTube video in my blog,it would distinguish between someone who viewed it on my blog,someone else’s blog,or at the YouTube site.

I want to point out two companies that I think provide what is perhaps the best in their respective class—the grander marketing automation application—the enterprise powerhouse Eloqua and the e-mail marketing innovative leader,Silverpop. The profiles are brief,but the kudos loud.

Enterprise Giant: Eloqua
There is no doubt in pretty much anyone’s mind that Eloqua is the industry leader when it comes to marketing automation. They are scalable,secure,can handle complex campaigns,and have pretty much a complete portfolio of products ranging from demand generation and lead scoring to varying marketing types and event management. They are an on-demand application with a target audience that is large enterprise. They have the client list to prove that too. Think Nokia,Dow Jones,and a huge segment of the software industry. They integrate well with CRM applications in a wide variety of environments. In the web chapter called “Get Down! Right to the Vertical Nitty- Gritty,”look at the story of salesforce.com and Eloqua with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. In coming Chapter,check out the same combo with the Washington,D.C.,leading think tank,the Center for American Progress. They are everywhere.

They don’t only stop with salesforce either. They integrate with Microsoft Dynamics CRM,SalesLogix,and Oracle CRM On Demand. They innovate too. Their chief technology officer,Steven Woods,wrote a book in 2009 called Digital Body Language that describes those things you can measure and identify that can indicate a propensity to buy online. It is an insightful smart book that isn’t mundane in any way,and to Eloqua’s credit they’ve developed a solution around it called Digital Body Language (surprise!) that gives you the toolsets you need to make those measurements.

They don’t have a lot of social features baked into their product as of 2009,but they are as complete and smart a marketing application as you’re going to get without them. Just put aside the bucks. They ain’t cheap,but they are worth it.

Silverpop
Even though their primary message delivery solution is via e-mail,they don’t call themselves an e-mail marketing firm. They provide engagement marketing to B2C and B2B customers. In fact,their commitment to this concept is so strong the product is called Silverpop Engage,with B2B added to the product of the same persuasion.

What makes these dudes unique is that they have an incredibly rich functional array that they provide from analytics that measure almost every facet of the e-mail “engagement” from when it gets opened to when it gets discarded and all those actions in between. They have a powerful business rules and workflow engine. Using it,a highly personalized e-mail can be sent very quickly to a customer who has just spent time on a website. Very quickly,as in seconds after the visit.

But they do even more than that. In 2008,they were the first e-mail marketing company to my knowledge to add a share-to-social feature,which allows e-mail recipients to share content with others in their social circles on social networks like Facebook and MySpace,among others.

This is a tiny portion of the feature set of the products that this company provides. They do such good work that the Engage B2B product was a finalist for a 2009 Codie Award for Best of Breed business software.

Social Media Monitoring Adds CRM Features
There was a point in 2009,the exact date escapes me,when a flurry of discussion around “Is Twitter Social CRM?” became a hot topic—at least among the social media mavens and CRM gurus. The discussion,which I jumped into big time because of the claim that it was from some of the mavens,reminded me of West Side Story and the Jets and the Sharks squaring off,though I don’t know which side was which. We quashed it pretty quickly,establishing that Twitter was a channel,not Social CRM,but what emerged from the rubble,in a phoenix-like sort of way,was that there also was this effort by social media monitoring companies to either add CRM functionality or integrate CRM applications with their monitoring capabilities. This was a smart move for companies in this realm because it allowed the data that they were accumulating and reporting on to become actionable based on the criteria set by the company using the monitoring tools.

This is no small thing. There are,according to SMM analyst Nathan Gilliat,170 social media monitoring products out there. They are now one of the hottest industries,but most of the companies were (and are) small. The CRM market is a mature multibillion dollar market that is a natural fit for the integration of the two capabilities. This is a way for the product providers to drive revenue and the practitioners to get additional content for their forays into customer insight. A true win-win.

The Crème de la Crème: Radian6
I’m married to a Newfie—for you mainlanders,that’s someone from Newfoundland. As a result I have an interest in all things Canadian Maritime Provinces. That’s why when I began hearing buzz about a social media monitoring company in New Brunswick,Canada,my ears perked up. Turned out they should have,for all kinds of reasons. The company is Radian6,what I think is the premier social media monitoring company in the world today. They have the capability to monitor not only 100 million blogs (not exaggerating) but also social review sites,videos,photo sites,twitter streams,pretty much you name it,they monitor it.

They also measure it. They can measure volume,coverage,authority,and most recently,sentiment, a.k.a.tone. They allow you to slice and dice results in ways that tell you what you need to hear to make decisions. For example,who spread news about your company that you wanted spread? Where did it go? What languages was it in? Who spread news you didn’t want heard? Who heard it?

But they don’t stop there. They are integrated with CRM applications like salesforce.com. The have a client list that anyone would love,with companies like Dell drinking their Kool-Aid.

The only shortcoming they have is that alerts and triggers aren’t automated yet. They will have the workflow and business rules engine they need to truly scale by the end of 2009,according to CTO Chris Newton. You need to go with an SMM tool. This is the one. I say that even without the effects of my love of the Maritimes.

Oh,yeah. One more. There is one other company that stands out when it comes to a new framework for marketing and that’s Loyalty Lab.

Up and Coming: Loyalty Lab
Loyalty Lab,a company I knew next to nothing about,released version 3.0 of its integrated marketing platform in 2008,which they cutely called “Ready-Aim-Engage.” While releases of software or platforms or services are hardly earth shattering—in fact,hardly glass shattering—this one caught my eye because of what the platform purports to do,especially in the world of marketing. Here it is in short order.

Marketers can track responses wherever customers purchase or interact,providing what the company calls “a more accurate view of response rates and performance.” The standalone e-mail marketing product provides data integration with “Ready-Aim-Engage.” It enables marketers to link e-mail to transactional (of course) and nontransactional behaviors,so messaging can be relevant to social networks.

Up to this point,it sounds interesting for its nontransactional promise,but not real interesting,right? But then you see it recording customer activities that go beyond simple transactional behavior,including:

  • Interacting with social media applications
  • Recording important dates
  • Reading or posting to blogs
  • Referring friends

Now that should get your attention.
Why? you might ask in a puzzled way,with your brow furrowed and your finger (depends on which one) up in the air—all the while thinking that Paul is nuts.

The former features are ways of integrating traditional tools such as customer segmentation, the operational kind of CRM,and a nontraditional tool or two (like actions on nontransactional behaviors) to a traditional channel,e-mail in particular. Nice,but not dramatically different than a number of things out there.

Their tools for recording,interacting,reading,and referring are the foundation for a platform that truly believes that,as The Cluetrain Manifesto says,“marketing is a conversation” Which makes it completely unlike all the marketing apps tied to CRM suites or best-ofbreed approaches,which,with some exceptions mentioned above, remain remarkably traditional given the times.

There is a unique value in this approach that has a double edge. First,this is allowing a company to create an actual dialogue with its customers and informing the company as to when the dialogue advances. That is beyond merely important—that is mission-critical to interacting with customers who control the business ecosystem.

The second side bears a little more explanation.

In her “Social Technographics” white paper of April 2008,when she worked for Forrester Research,current Altimeter CEO and author of “Groundswell” social computing whiz Charlene Li found that companies
(1)don’t know how their customers use social technologies and
(2)are inexperienced with what works,when it works,and where it works. Plus (not from the paper) it’s hard to measure and,because much of the behaviors generated are emotional nontransactional in this case),the value is hard to understand. What makes R-A-E 3.0 important is that it gives the enterprise social mavens the ability to capture interactions that involve the social media—blogs,social networks,and so on. This is not something that has been easily available—especially in a framework. It seems that part of the technology solution is that they have prebuilt bridges to social networks like Facebook and APIs to customize the connections between the social networks and the enterprise or to build internal social network applications. Plus,they provide social network analysis tools which allow you to discover which customers are influencing your “database,”as they put it in their promotional materials.

And all of this is on demand.

While trolling around the website,I found that they had a modestly interesting and certainly informally (entertainingly) written blog called Loyalty Dogs that basically covers topical areas like customer experience,loyalty (duh!),program analytics, technology trends,and “interesting stuff.” Additionally,they have a Loyalty Lab Library,which is a compendium of recent articles drawn from the industry standard sources (such as they are) such as DestinationCRM and 1to1 Magazine,again on topical subjects. What is glaringly missing in their library are the blog resources that could add a lot to their library or wiki resources or podcast links. But that can be a niggling or painful omission,depending on your requirements.

This is something worth looking into further. I’m not sure how well executed it is. I’ve never seen it in a production environment so I don’t know if R-A-E 3.0 even works. But I have to say that Loyalty Lab at least seems to be not just paying attention to the customer that is now running the ecosystem,but also trying to capture what that customer is doing. And that is attention-getting.

That’s enough technology,I think. Given that I started this whole thing with the idea of aligning sales and marketing,what better way to close the chapter than a pair of mini-conversations,one with senior marketing whiz John Cass,and the other with CRM and sales superstar Dr.John Tanner,a.k.a Jeff Tanner.

John Cass is someone I’ve personally known since 2008,but knew of for his work at Forrester Research Group for years before. He is one of the foremost experts in marketing in the United States and is not only a savant,but a genuinely good guy. He is currently the director of marketing at ideaLaunch,a content marketing services company. He also is smart enough to be part of the brain trust at the Society for New Communications Research,a leading think tank in figuring out what the new paradigm for communications actually is. So he’s well worth listening to. Which is why he’s leading this conversation.

Mini-Conversation with John Cass
Marketing is dead. Social media has swept the need for promotion,advertising,and sales,and instead conversation,dialogue,and engagement have replaced traditional marketing techniques.

VRM is all about ordinary customers managing their vendors with tools,typically web based. Those companies that can help enable customers to manage vendors will have more success in the future. At least that’s my understanding of the concept.

That’s the story some social media evangelists would propose. In reality, web 2.0 does not mean that marketing has ended but rather the Web and consumers’ new powers of creation and participation mean that it has never been easier to fulfill the real meaning of marketing.

“Creating, communicating,delivering,and exchanging offerings that have value for customers” and “identifying,anticipating,and satisfying customer requirements” are two descriptions at the core of both the American Marketing Association’s and Chartered Institute of Marketing’s definitions of marketing.

Both descriptions represent that marketing is and always has been about listening,observing customers to make something of value for customers. The rise of social media does not mean the strategy of marketing has changed marketing,just the tools available to understand,anticipate,and innovate based upon customer needs.

Customers coming together on the Web are able to create their own content about products, brands,and ideas,on their own sites,blogs,or in social networking sites such as Facebook. That ability to easily connect and create content changes the relationship between customers and companies. Consumers have more power to discuss and influence other consumers without having to go through mainstream media. Companies also have the ability to connect with customers for customer service,innovation,and customer evangelism.

For marketers steeped in the tradition of push marketing, the new Web is a challenge; you can push your message,but be prepared for customers to interact with your company and push back, sometimes with a louder voice than your company! Learning how to engage the community using social media for customer service, though leadership and innovation management, is something every company will have to learn eventually.

Three Considerations
1) Business intelligence about the product and service delivery is dramatically affected by social media. The difficulty in identifying relevant conversations gave semantic technology tool vendors the opportunity to develop monitoring technologies using natural language processing. Once companies wanted to respond,the question became who in the organization should respond? As a result,semantic technologies are being integrated with CRM so that companies can respond.

Monitoring the Web,triaging opportunities,and responding can all be conducted using manual tools and processes. The volume of content online means that companies need filters to find the most relevant conversations. Natural language processing can provide an automatic review of online content by filtering compliant conversations for useful analysis.

Natural language processing is the process of analyzing content found on the Web for meaning. Sophisticated linguistic technologies source content by issues and content,then determine key metrics associated with the content. First,large volumes of content are collected into a database, then identifying information will be tagged,perhaps by the source or author of the content. All of the data is standardized into one relational database. Lastly,key metrics are drawn from the raw data. The metrics might include the specific issues being discussed, or the sentiment of the posting. Sentiment determines if a discussion was favorable or not.

Semantic technologies enable companies to understand the meaning of content,and in the process enable companies to automatically determine how people feel about a brand. Natural language processing can help to determine the volume of conversation about issues,the importance of issues,and the rate of growth about new issues as they arise. NPL can help to determine who is influential on a topic,or if a company’s marketing communications efforts engage and resonate with customers.

As the sophistication of companies about what it means to engage customers has grown,so has the understanding that the entire organization should be involved in the process of engaging customers and community online. Semantic web technology vendors have developed workflow processes that copy the manual systems developed by companies to triage online opportunities. These workflow processes are CRM tools. In the process,semantic technologies have moved from just business intelligence or monitoring tools to engagement tools that allow sophisticated response management across the enterprise.

2) Personal referral and customer feedback continue to be the most important facets of how sales occur. Social networking and social media give ordinary people the ability to efficiently refer products and services to their peers. Companies that facilitate such referrals and listen to customer feedback will accelerate the process of referral.

Doc Searls,one of the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto,proposes that companies help facilitate the development of VRM—vendor relationship management systems. VRM is all about ordinary customers managing their vendors with web-based tools. Those companies that can help enable customers to manage vendors will produce more referrals because they are helping consumers to find the best vendor. By facilitating the exchange,the chances of referral increase.

3) Company responses to private citizens are no longer private. Whether public,if they occur in social media,or recorded by consumers,companies have to develop a strategy for handling both customer support online and the publicity that can surround their response.

Managing the volume of content in social media is difficult. Not only does monitoring take a lot of time to understand what is being said about a company and their brands,but it takes time to respond to the community. Customer service in the world of social media is outside such existing channels of communication as e-mail and the telephone.

Because any company response takes place in the public realm,companies are unsure as to which part of a company should respond to a customer support opportunity. Public relations professionals are more adept at understanding how to navigate the process of responding to questions in the media,while customer service has the infrastructure and the answers. Companies have to understand the new reality and build a new infrastructure that can deal with how social media works. This new infrastructure will be different for every company,different people drawn from different disciplines and with different workflow processes.

Now we move on to Jeff Tanner, who is as brilliant and laconic a person as I’ve ever met. He is not only one of the most accomplished academicians in the United States in marketing,sales,and CRM,he is the author of more than a dozen books,including leading texts in sales (Selling: Building Partnerships) and B2B marketing (Business Marketing: Connecting Strategy,Relationships,and Learning).

He holds a unique position in academia as a professor of marketing at Baylor University,where he also serves as associate dean in the business school. He also is the head of the only CRM M.B.A. degree program in the United States,and maybe,though I don’t know this,the world.

He is a great friend, truly one of my favorite people,and a cofounder of BPT Partners with me and Bruce Culbert. With all this,he also actively consults and trains,working with the likes of JCPenney,Teradata,and IBM. But you know what’s coolest? He owns and races thoroughbred horses,including one he used to have called Thunkin’ Theodore,who owned my horse-loving heart for a long time.

Mini-Conversation with Jeff Tanner
Marketing is no longer about the 4 Ps. As Hiram Barkdale,one of my professors said over 20 years ago,“We’ve been P-ed on long enough.” Marketing is now about creating offerings that deliver value,then communicating and delivering that value.

But when the sales force is the lead go-to-market channel,marketing’s role is often vilified while sales is glorified. Marketing’s contribution to creating,communicating,and delivering value is hindered,in part by marketing’s own assumption that it has responsibility and control over customer strategy. Questions over who owns the customer take over the conversation,and everyone’s ability to deliver value is diminished. Since this book is more likely to be read by marketing types,here’s how to play nice with salespeople:

  1. In all situations, the one closest to the customer should own the relationship. So if you have salespeople who call regularly on customers,they own the customer.
  2. That means they own the data. You might own the CRM system,but until and unless they put data in your system,you got bupkes.
  3. Prove your value to salespeople first. Then ask for the data. That means you have to buy data,make do with less,try a test case,whatever; prove your value first.
  4. Automate data capture. There are many others who touch customers who can contribute valuable data to your dataset. Salespeople can also add data without pain if you can think of ways to make it easier. Don’t forget that customers can add data,too. If you have self-serve options for customers,use those touchpoints as an opportunity to gather information.
  5. Never underestimate the value of a smile and a little flattery, as well as asking. Qualitative data from salespeople can be even more valuable than hard data if gathered in a scientific and formal manner. For example,trade shows may be “old school,”but they are still a great opportunity to meet and gather information from customers. Yet, when creating your messaging for the show, consider asking salespeople what messaging they use that opens doors for them. If they can open a door with a certain phrase,use it to bring folks into the booth. Use it to get prospects to open an e-mail. You can’t get that kind of knowledge from a database.

Salespeople engage customers in conversations. Yes, they are directed conversations,meaning the salesperson is attempting to direct the customer toward a specific action most of the time,but they are conversations nonetheless. Take a lesson from sales and treat data gathering as a conversation,beginning by asking to listen in and learn.

This may have been an overly ambitious chapter,but I think it was necessary. Sales and marketing,at this point,necessarily need alignment and at some point might even be integrated. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

But there is one other traditional pillar of CRM that we have to look at. Perhaps more than any other,it is undergoing the most dramatic,if not the biggest transformation and has the most viral implications. That is customer service and,after you catch your breath,we’ll head over to the customer service department.


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