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First steps are always critical; before the design and deployment stages begin, planning is everything.

CRM IMPLEMENTATIONS have long relied for their success on people, processes, and technology. For my next three columns, join me on a journey to implement a large social media initiative--CRM's newest frontier--at one of our long-term customers, a global consumer brand we'll refer to here as Front Runner. We'll plan, design, and implement social media pilots at four Front Runner subsidiaries, sharing all of the lessons learned along the way.

Social media consists of highly interactive technology that leverages the fundamental desire for human interaction, such as blogs, wikis, video, RSS feeds, widgets, podcasts, and social networking solutions. Front Runner sees social media as a new way to communicate with and relate to employees, consumers, partners, and other stakeholders. Using these tools, Front Runner will create online communities enabling its customers and prospects to get information, opinions, solutions, and ratings directly from each other.

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Social media is blossoming mainly because it's the preferred channel for communications among the world's 750 million Digital Clients, 75 million of which reside in the United States. The growth of social media is mind-boggling: Community members spend 54 percent more than nonmembers, and 56 percent of members log on once a day or more. Compared to outside visitors, members of a company's social media site visit nine times more often and view four times the number of pages.

We'll start our journey with the building of a social media plan for Front Runner, which has decided to utilize the following four-step approach:

Step #1: Constituency Selection. After much consideration, Front Runner subsidiaries selected customers and prospects as their constituency of choice for the four-month-long pilots, having also considered internal employees, partners, and even prospective employees.

Step #2: Technographic Profiling. Front Runner is now in the process of determining this constituency's technographic profile--a relatively new way of segmenting your customer base, akin to demographic or psychographic segmentation but focusing on technology behaviors.

Forrester Research has created a technographic ladder, at one end of which you have the "creators" of blogs, videos, etc.; in the middle you have the "joiners" who tag Web pages, use RSS feeds, etc.; and at the other end of the ladder you have the "inactives" sitting on the sideline, not participating in the social media boom. Front Runner's technographic profiles will determine which customer and prospect constituents are most likely to participate in the social media pilots, and how best to approach and engage them.

Step #3: Business Goal Identification. Front Runner has three goals. The first is to increase customer satisfaction/loyalty, which will be measured by better access to information, more responsiveness from Front Runner subsidiaries, and community building. The second goal is to increase sales through strengthening the Front Runner brand, promoting word of mouth, and developing customer evangelists. The third goal is to decrease the cost of acquiring new customers and also to cut costs via self-service and community support. As Front Runner implements the pilots, we'll be sharing with you how well these goals are achieved.

Step #4: Strategy Selection. Each Front Runner subsidiary will soon lock in an appropriate social media strategy for its pilot, relying on the options outlined in the book Groundswell by analysts Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li. This ranges from customer listening (researching) and talking (marketing), to energizing (sales), supporting (support), and embracing (product development).

While guiding Front Runner subsidiaries in the planning and design of the social media pilots, we're also in the process of assessing platform vendors to implement the pilots. My next column will detail each of the four pilots, and we'll examine how the social media tools offered by Front Runner's vendors of choice will deliver a world-class experience for customers and prospects.

Barton Goldenberg (bgoldenberg@ismguide.com) is president and founder of ISM Inc., a Bethesda, Md.-based strategic consulting organization that since 1985 has specialized in CRM, contact centers, and the Digital Client. He is the publisher of The Guide to CRM Automation and author of the new CRM in Real Time: Empowering Customer Relationships (Information Today, Inc.).
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Title Annotation:Reality Check
Author:Goldenberg, Barton
Publication:CRM Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2009
Words:674
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