2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar

Drumroll, please…announcing:

What: 2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar
Where: San Francisco, CA
When: March 27-28, 2007
Learn more: http://www.bptpartners.com/socialmedia_agenda.aspx

On March 27th and March 28th, I’ll be co-hosting a two-day professional seminar, “Social Media & CRM 2.0” along with Paul Greenberg (Author, “CRM at the Speed of Light” and principal at BPT Partners). This event will be held at the offices of our friends Fleishman-Hillard here in San Francisco. (Thanks, Fleishman!)

The 2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar is endorsed by Rutgers University Center for CRM Research, CRMGuru.com, the National CRM Association, Greater China CRM and CRMA Japan.


Topics include:

Why the new social media: Communications and the era of the social customer — Traditional means of doing this through messaging marketing campaigns are no longer adequate. The new social media, blogging, user communities, podcasting and social networking are increasingly become tools of choice for businesses. Learn the why’s, where’s, and what’s in the segment on the strategic framework.

The Business Blog Field Guide — Every publication from Business Week, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal to online white papers warn businesses the blogging is not an optional endeavour. Those that don’t will not survive, so we are going to give you what you need to not just survive the on rush but prosper. This module will explain how to produce a blog, what the benefits are, and what conditions you need to make it a success.

Components of Blogging — You have the framework with the first 2 modules, now we’re going to get down. You’ve created the environment, time for you to get what you need to know to actually write the business blog in a consistent and timely way.

Customer Communities and Social Network Analysis — In this session, you will learn about the value of social networks, customer communities and the tools and practices to facilitate their creation and maintenance. If you do it right, your customers will be the advocates you desire and the business lifeblood you need for sustaining the kind of growth you’ve dreamed about – in collaboration with those customers you know to be important to your present and future.

The Theory and Practice of Podcasting — This module will not only explain what a podcast is, why it’s important to you as a business person, but how to actually produce a podcast. It will also bust some of the myths of podcasting that have already grown up around its young, explosive life. There is no form of social media that promises to meet the needs of the new generations of customers as well as this one – especially for those on the move. Imagine, having a good time creating something that can benefit your business – anytime, anywhere, any way you like? This module will give you the tools to do that.

Defining Your High Value Opportunities Using Social Media — Now, we get down and well, sorta dirty. How does this directly apply to your business? What industry you’re in, who your target markets are, will make a genuine difference in the approaches and applications of the social media tools. If you’re a B2B business v. a B2C business, there will be differences in approach. If you want to use the tools for co-creation of value with your customers or for feedback retrieval and customer conversations it will make a difference. The final module will examine what those specific applications can be for specific business situations and models.

Learn more: http://www.bptpartners.com/socialmedia_agenda.aspx

More Human Than Human


the human touch
Originally uploaded by max_thinks_sees.

“I am the jigsaw.” – R.Z.

I have to disagree, relatively strongly, with a number of items in Dave Taylor’s post “When Is A Blog Too Personal?” Dave writes:

“One of the great ongoing debates in the murky world of blogging is whether your weblog should be personal or professional, whether you should be revealing or private. There are, of course, many different answers and at some level the real answer is “whatever you’re comfortable with”, but I think it’s a topic worth exploration nonetheless.

Business blogging is a different story because your goal is to convey a certain level of expertise, credibility and, yes, professionalism, and that can be counter to the idea of being too personal.

One solution is to use the “water cooler rule”. If a topic isn’t something you’d talk about with your supervisor hanging around the water cooler or coffee station at your office, it’s probably not appropriate for your professional blog either.

That might work pretty well for you, but I don’t think it goes far enough, because I can easily imagine chatting about the latest TV show or sporting event with colleagues and supervisors, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for my business blog.”

I actually think the “water cooler rule” is a pretty good one. However, Dave continues:

“I have a friend who is a professional editor and writer who is also in what she calls an “alternative relationship” where she and her husband both date other people. It works for her, but when she blogged about her relationship on her professional blog, I was shocked.

She said that “I’d rather just ‘out’ myself and if it turns off potential clients, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to work with them anyway.” I just don’t see it that way. When you buy a burger from the local eatery, do you want to know the politics of the owner? When you get your car tuned up at the local garage, do you even care about the religious background of the mechanic?”

Here is where we disagree, strongly. When choosing a service provider, I absolutely want to know his or her context and worldview, biases and motivations, whenever possible.

Exhibit A: I will never get a Domino’s pizza, because I disagree strongly with founder Tom Monaghan’s politics.

Exhibit B: I really like the Magnolia pub, in the Haight in San Francisco. Not only do they have terrific beer, but their menu tells me this about the philosophy of the owners:

“Magnolia is proud to support sustainable agriculture as well as local farms and businesses in order to serve food that tastes better. We buy as much of our produce as possible from independent, local, organic farms based on seasonal availability. Our meat and poultry is all natural, free range, and raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. We make sure that our seafood choices are abundant and fished or farmed in sustainable ways. In general, we buy as locally and sustainably as possible and encourage you to do the same.”

So I suppose, yes, I do want to know the politics of the owner of the burger joint. (n.b. That said, there are a whole bunch of waypoints from transactions to community.)

We’re all jigsaw puzzles of varying interests, history, background and, yes, skills. For some, the Joe Friday, “just the facts” approach may be what they desire from their vendors. On the other hand, many of us spend at least a third (ha, right…more like two-thirds) of our days in our “professional” skins. Do we really want to be denying all of those aspects of “who we are” a majority of our lives? I think not, so Dave, I need to respectfully disagree with your post.

Some other viewpoints on humanity and business blogging:

From the archives:
The Business Blogging Field Guide (HTML, or PDF)

Let’s Say This Again, One More Time, With Feeling: Robo-selling Does Not Create A Relationship With The Customer

~rant on~
RobotIn a post earlier today, the usually-on-the-money Jim Berkowitz at the CRM Mastery blog had a post entitled “Turning Sales Into Science” that spotlighted a number of emerging technologies that are (according to Berkowtiz Inc.’s Alex Salkever) going to “launch your sales force into the future” and “turn a sales operation into a gleaming high-tech machine.”

Ahem.

First off…sales should be about the customer, not the technology.
Secondly…actually, there is no “secondly.” Sales should be about the customer, period.

Now, Salkever’s list has a number of points that require comment.

AS: “If you’ve already won a client’s trust, it ought to be relatively easy to sell him or her more stuff.”

Yes, indeed. If you can fake sincerity, you are golden. And that’s right…it’s not about helping the customer solve a problem, it’s about the stuff!

AS: “Now, for the first time, smaller businesses can afford to send automated phone messages to targeted clients. With these products , a salesperson or business owner calls a toll-free number and records a brief message with a sales pitch. The message is uploaded to the Internet and broadcast using a voice over Internet protocol system to anywhere from a dozen to thousands of customers.”

Greeeeeaaaat. I, for one, would like to welcome our robot overlords.

AS: “Make the buyers come to you.”

Yes, because I certainly know that I love it when vendors make me do things. I really do!

Gah, blech, ick, etcetera, etcetera. The rest of the post is all about the shiny tools that sales folks can use to automate tasks and further dehumanize the customer-vendor interaction. And so forth.
~rant off~

I need my moment of Zen. Ah, here’s one. And here’s another. And one more.

Update: As pointed out in the comments, apologies to Jim Berkowitz, who was excerpting this article by Alex Salkever in the above. The post above has been updated to reflect the correct attribution where necessary.

A Look Back At 2006 – The Customer Really Is In Charge

This is my look back at 2006 from the current issue of CRMGuru.


Companies Are Actually Engaging in Conversations With Customers

By Christopher Carfi, Cerado Inc.

In 2004, there were a few odd shakes. Some organizations noticed them, but most ignored them, perhaps attributing them to the distant passing of large truck.

In 2005, a few small, but noticeable, cracks appeared in the fortifications that separated The Corporation from its customers.

In 2006, the cracks widened. For some organizations, portions of the fortifications began to crumble and crash to the ground, casting away long-held beliefs and practices as they fell. It was the year the reliance on one-way “control” of the customer began to give way to “conversations” in earnest.

While viewing the world through the three-sided prism of “sales,” marketing” and “service” still holds as a reasonable way to characterize the breadth of CRM, these changes in customer relations affected all three areas very differently.

Sales

For some in sales, “CRM” is synonymous with Sales Force Automation (SFA). The problem is, very few customers want to be “managed” by their sales representatives. In 2006, those customers who “weren’t going to take it anymore” started taking up arms.

We’ve entered an era rich with cheap, easy, accessible of online tools to publish in nearly any format. Consequently, 2006 saw an explosion of words, photos and videos of customers documenting their experiences with products of nearly every stripe. Did you see the photos of the exploding Dell laptop in Osaka? If you didn’t, search on “dell laptop fire.” Those pictures sparked Dell to recall more than 4 million laptop batteries, and the incident ultimately may cost Sony, which manufactured the batteries, hundreds of millions of dollars. Millions of customers shared their experiences with companies with the world via their personal blogs, as well as through online communities such as TripAdvisor. Consequently, salespeople have been put in the unenviable position of competing in a world where the customer is, in many cases, better-informed than they are.

Another trend that affects sales is the rise of a new type of corporate customer: the “bizsumer.” These are individuals within large organizations who are making buying decisions at an individual level, oftentimes as a means to “get things done” in their groups without having to deal with the bureaucracy of their own organization.

The bizsumer is purchasing tools for project management, collaboration, business social networking and other systems at a price point that is often below the radar of centralized organizational planning—and usually delivered as an online service. (Joe Kraus, CEO of collaboration provider Jot, calls this purchasing things that are “expensable,” rather than “approvable.”) As such, sales has needed to embrace tactics that are much more common in the mass-market realm, such as online ordering and payment by credit card, which is a marked shift in the customer engagement process.

Marketing and PR

Of the three primary CRM areas, the areas of marketing and public relations made the most strides with respect to customer engagement. Not only startups but also behemoths such as General Motors, Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems have embraced social technologies such as blogs and podcasts in a big way, as a method of getting their message out and engaging customers in the conversation about their products. These processes of engagement with customers through social media, however, need to be done correctly, and with unassailable ethics and transparency. As an example, Wal-Mart and Edelman, a PR firm, found themselves in significant hot water in October 2006, when it came to light that a blog framed as a “grassroots” effort of regular, everyday folk (“Jim and Laura,” who were driving their RV across the country, from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart and documenting it) was actually a planned marketing campaign, paid for by Wal-Mart and supported by Edelman.

It turned out that “Jim” and “Laura” were professional journalists on assignment. (“Jim” was Jim Thresher, a photojournalist for The Washington Post, and “Laura” was Laura St. Claire, a professional freelancer.) With incredible research tools at their fingertips, customers now can ferret out the truth about products and companies in only a few clicks. Despite such missteps, through social networking, other companies began to put a more human face on their organizations. An increasing number of companies are engaging with their customers directly online; answering their questions in the public square; and moving away from “marketingspeak” and toward developing deeper relationships with their customers based on actual interpersonal trust.

Beacons

And then came “support tagging.” Stowe Boyd and Greg Narain, of the social application firm Blue Whale Labs, call these tags “beacons.” A beacon is a post in a public place, such as a personal blog, meant to draw the attention of a service provider to an issue the customer is having with the company’s products. In essence, beacons turn the service model upside down, drawing companies to the customer’s site to help them, rather than forcing the customers to go through the often onerous support process prescribed by the vendor organization. (The vendor organizations respond to such beacons through diligent, often automated, monitoring of search engine results for new items containing their company name, their products or relevant phrases.)

When it works, a representative from the vendor organization, or even an individual who may be part of a larger enthusiast community, will connect with the customer in the customer’s space and resolve the issue.

So I would call 2006 a sea-change year for CRM. Sales faced an ever-more-vigilant buyer. Marketing engaged with customers—and was called to task when it went overboard. Support is actually—surprise—supporting the customer, as opposed to purely being a cost center. The customer really is in charge.

(link)

Podcast: Customer Relationships, Communications and Enterprise Social Networking

Had a great conversation on Wednesday with Shel Holtz, on the For Immediate Release podcast. We chatted about the link between communications and customer relationships, and the importance of communication within an organization. We also talked at some length about where things are going with Haystack, Cerado’s enterprise social networking tool.

Would love your feedback! Click here to listen.

Signal vs. Noise vs. Customers

There’s quite the conversation going on over at 37signals‘ “Signal vs. Noise” blog today, and I’m still puzzling over why said conversation is even taking place. What’s going down: Matt Linderman, from 37s, today put up a post that starts like this:

Useless, absurd, must, need, appalled, just, infuriating, essential, etc.

“What could be more fun than those magnetic words that let you write poems on the fridge? How about a set of magnetic words that let you write support emails. Our kit would include the following: useless, absurd, must, need, appalled, just, infuriating, essential, oversight, pointless, confusing, nutty, and maybe some good phrases too, like ‘it can’t be that hard,’ ‘i’m a programmer, i should know,’ and ‘even Blogger let’s you do that.’ Of course, the whole set should be ALL CAPS too.”

He then proceeds to excerpt fifteen customer emails that 37s has received, annotating each one with a snippet of text that certainly could be interpreted as an accusatory finger, highlighting what was wrong with each email that their support line had received.

After reading and re-reading the emails that Linderman posted, I’m even more puzzled. Yes, some of them contained some hyperbole. But what about the others, like this one?

“Please call me regarding my basecamp system — (615) 780-XXXX.”

Yeah. Boy, I could see how that would be upsetting…a customer wanted to connect with someone at her service provider. Or how about this one?

“We NEED a web based system like Basecamp, but I cannot tell if it will be any better by reading the information you have available. I’m looking for sort of a web based excel-like program. We need to be able to see at a glance every sponsor’s name, sponsor level, address, contact info, if they’ve been billed/payed, if we need/have artwork, and if they have comments. We need to authorize up to five people for editing and another 60 or so for viewing.”

Indeed. A customer clearly spelling out his requirements and needs. That customer must obviously be deluded and prone to hysterics.

The conversation plays out over 120+ comments. And then “JF” (I’m assuming Jason Fried, of 37signals) jumps in with two comments that, frankly, just seem defensive and tinged with the slightest bit of hubris, all at once.

“We’re well aware of that, we’re well aware of our cash flow, we’re well aware of our churn, we’re well aware of our signups, we’re well aware of our growth, we’re well aware of our big-picture customer satisfaction. We’re well aware of what we’re doing, thank you.”

and

“120 comments in and I’m surprised we haven’t heard from a progressive thinker who might wonder if all this ‘bad’ stuff is actually good for business. Could these sorts of discussions actually be good for a non-traditional business like 37signals? Do sales/signups go up on days with these heated debates? Could there be a positive business motive behind all this that more traditional business observers haven’t groked?”

Now, Cerado is a customer of 37signals, in that we use Basecamp. But this last quote from Fried has given me pause, and I’m hoping it’s not a canary in the coalmine. The phrase “Do sales/signups go up on days with these heated debates?” is looking at a point in time. It’s solely looking at the transaction. Now, couple that with the fact that (I hope!) any rational customer would certainly entertain taking his business elsewhere if he saw his support request pilloried in the public square as an example of what not to do. Put those two data points together, and one begins to wonder if 37signals is truly doing something differently (as they continuously claim), or if it’s just another business looking for the quick turn, long-term-relationships be damned.

Others talking:

Zoli Erdos
Jason Kolb
Kandace Nuckolls
Steve Portigal
Marcus Campbell
Joe Taylor Jr.

(thanks to Zoli for the tip)

The Social Customer Manifesto Podcast 27JAN2006

click here to subscribe

Summary: Leif Chastaine and Christopher Carfi discuss the American Marketing Association’s “Ahead of the Curve” session in Chicago, the marketing challenge for RSS, Salesforce.com taunts and tempts Siebel employees, launch of the “Healing Space” health and environment blog, and this week’s RIM/BlackBerry Supreme Court decision. (33:32)

Show notes for January 27, 2006

The audio file is available here (MP3, 32MB), or subscribe to our RSS feed to automatically have future shows downloaded to your MP3 player.

00:00 : Intro

01:10 : Recap of the AMA’s Ahead of the Curve session: High Tech Trends in Marketing

02:40 : What is RSS?

Metaphors:
Google search for RSS metaphors (n.b. and yes, actually these are “similes” and not “metaphors,” we know, we know…)

“RSS is like an API for content”
“RSS is like selling dogfood over the internet”
“RSS is like Tivo for the web”
“Explaining RSS is like explaining sex. You just don’t get it until you do it.” (also here)
Dave Winer

11:45 : Salesforce.com to Siebel employees: “No Future

19:30 : Healing Space health, wellness and environment blog launched

25:15 : Supremes won’t intervene in RIM BlackBerry / NTP dispute

33:50 : Wrapup

Links:

Bill Flitter, Stowe Boyd, Randy Moss, Michael Sevilla, TheCradle, Salesforce.com, Siebel, Paul Greenberg, Todd Pesek, EarthHealers, Naturaleza Foundation, eco-tourism, Craig Williams, Howard Bashman, Research in Motion, BlackBerry, Ross Mayfield, Davos, BlackBerries a matter of national security

Best Buy Apologizes For Strongarming Some Xbox Customers

Apparently, some customers looking for the best buy on the new Xbox 360 instead were met with less-than-stellar sales tactics at some Best Buy stores, with sales personnel “requiring” customers to purchase unwanted accessories as part of a bundle in order to get the base Xbox unit. Gamedaily reports:

“Console bundles for new hardware launches certainly aren’t unusual—many retailers (especially online) have been selling the Xbox 360 in bundle form only—but this practice is one that doesn’t sit well with many consumers and was not supposed to have been adopted by popular retail chain Best Buy.

Despite this, certain Best Buy stores in the U.S. apparently ignored the standalone $299 (core) and $399 (premium) SKUs and either forced consumers to buy Xbox 360 bundles or strongly suggested that they do so.”

For example, back on November 23rd, the Northwest Indiana Times reported:

“Glancing down the line Tuesday morning at the Valparaiso store, there was a sea of heads covered with knit caps or hoodies. The crowd consisted mostly of guys in their late teens to early 20s, sprinkled lightly with motivated soccer moms and young women.

It wasn’t just the weather that was unpredictable. At 8:15 a.m., after many nighttime hours spent shivering in line, a Best Buy employee announced that the unit would not be sold alone for the $399 advertised in the sales flier. Instead, those in line were told they would have seconds to decide whether to buy a higher-priced bundle, adding a game and other accessories.”

In the wake of this, did some looking around and just tripped across the following memo, penned by Brian Dunn, Best Buy’s President of Retail for North America (via Mike Antonucci at the Merc):

“TO: Open Letter to Customers

FROM: Brian Dunn, President – Retail, North America

RE: Launch of Xbox 360

CC: Best Buy Store, District and Territory Employees; All Officers and Directors

DATE: December 6, 2005

I’m writing to apologize.

While all of us at Best Buy were thrilled to be part of the recent launch of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 video game system – one of the most anticipated events in the history of electronic gaming – the launch did not go as we had hoped. We sold out of Xbox 360s nationwide in less than two hours, and most of our stores did an outstanding job of serving our gaming customers. I’d like to thank the majority of our employees, who provided a terrific experience for customers at the launch date. However, our promotional activities in certain cases failed to follow company guidelines. As a result, some of our valued gaming customers had an experience in our stores that was inconsistent with what you’ve come to expect from us, as a leader in the consumer electronics industry.

Specifically, customers in some Best Buy stores were told that they were required to buy additional Xbox accessories or services if they wanted one of the sought-after Xbox 360 consoles, even though we advertised the Xbox 360 console alone. I want to be very clear that Best Buy does not condone pressuring customers to purchase items they may not want or that may not fit their lifestyle. In fact, these behaviors are in direct conflict with our desire to serve customers’ needs better than anyone else, and our values of honesty and integrity.

We are currently investigating all leads about promotional practices that may have violated the company’s guidelines, and we will take disciplinary actions as appropriate. We also have reminded all of our stores about our policies with respect to launches of hot products. Meanwhile, on behalf of Best Buy, I’d like to offer a sincere apology to any customers who felt pressured to buy items they did not want.

Customers who are unhappy with Xbox 360-related purchases made in November 2005 may return unwanted items for a full refund at any Best Buy store. In addition, if your Xbox 360 purchasing experience did not meet your expectations for any reason, please email us at xbox360@bestbuy.com . (Employees with information pertinent to our investigation are encouraged to call our Ethics Hot Line instead.)

Last, I would like to invite you back to our stores, particularly later this month, when Best Buy will receive more shipments of Xbox 360s. While supplies continue to be very limited, we are truly excited about this new gaming platform, and we’d like to deliver the best of that experience to you. We promise an in-store experience that is focused on your needs and the needs of everyone on your holiday gift list.

Brian Dunn”

(UPDATE: The letter has since been posted here, with a miniscule link to a PDF buried next to the garish page navigation photograph .)

So, from both the communications and customer interaction points-of-view, a well-handled episode for Best Buy. Although a few individuals tried to take advantage of customers, Best Buy corporate is doing the right thing in not only investigating (and, presumably, disciplining) the responsible parties, but also taking an aggressive tack to make whole the customers who were affected by the issue. Of course, it would have been better if this never had happened in the first place, but still an “B+” response based on relative timeliness and assumption of responsibility for the issue. (Would have been an “A” if they had done this in an even more timely manner and made the letter to customers more visible on their web site.)