Business Strategy for Social Media and Customer Relationship Management: Q&A with Brent Leary from CRM Essentials

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Today I have the pleasure of introducing Brent Leary from CRM Essentials, LLC. Brent is in the business of helping companies understand and use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and social media to grow their customer base. Brent has had a long relastionship with the SMB and CRM folks at Research In Motion® (RIM®), and has been a helpful resource for us with regards to technical information for small businesses. I have wanted to pull Brent into the Inside BlackBerry for Business blog for some time, as I think he is a wealth of fantastic information for businesses. He understands the nuances of CRM/social media and mobile like no one else I know!

I asked Brent a few questions about some of the things he is currently working on, namely the “Getting Down to Social Business” event he is hosting in Atlanta on February 3rd, 2012, as well as his annually published top “CRM-ish” list.

It seems as if there is a real merger between mobile, CRM and social media, especially for small businesses. Can you comment on how small businesses can take advantage of this to better market themselves and be responsive to their customers?

From a small business perspective, the integration of social media, smart mobile devices and CRM tools has been one of the most important developments of the last decade. One of the main competitive advantages that smaller companies have is their flexibility and nimbleness, which allows them to take advantage of opportunities as they arise. And as the integration of social/mobile and CRM accelerates, small businesses can leverage them to be even timelier in their response to current conditions. In fact, these tools coming together provide opportunities to create new business models and interaction points for better customer experiences – in a fraction of the time and cost than even just a few years ago. So it is truly critical for small businesses to embrace the combination of these services in order to find and keep more customers.

This means using apps on your BlackBerry® devices to stay connected with customers on social networks like Twitter® and Facebook®, as well as using BlackBerry® Messenger (BBM™). But now, it also means creating content that looks great on BlackBerry smartphones and BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablets because more of their personal and business interactions are taking place there. Just remember: If you want to have customers eating out of the palm of your hand, you have to figure out how to get into the palm of their hand first.

Why would a business benefit from attending the “Getting Down to Social Business” event you are hosting in Atlanta on February 3rd, 2012? Will any materials from that event be made available in a format accessible for those that couldn’t be there in person?

The focus of the event is on the need for companies to transition their approach to “social” away from a narrow, reactionary set of disconnected activities, to a full-fledged business culture strategically aligned to build long-lasting relationships with today’s empowered customer. So instead of thinking of social media as a “Hail Mary” pass or a silver bullet, we’ll be looking at how companies can integrate it throughout the business to create a consistent game plan for creating exceptional customer experiences that keep them around longer over time.

We will be recording the event and making the sessions available to view online. We’ll also make presentations slides available – check out the event web site for details.

Can you explain what the CRM-ish list is and who should be looking for it?

Back before social tools and sites were around, traditional CRM tools focused on three areas: sales force automation, marketing automation, and customer service. The avenues for engaging customers and prospects were limited to few important interaction channels. But now with the rise of social media – and smart devices like the phones and tablets RIM offers – the number of ways to engage customers has skyrocketed. A host of new applications and services are being created to help companies manage the growing number of ways to listen to customers, analyze what you hear, and create content to respond to them. Many of these only address certain aspects of customer interaction and not all the traditional areas. And while these new services are not CRM in the traditional sense, they are definitely related to the areas of sales, marketing and service – which is why I call them CRM-ish.

The CRM-ish list will be comprised of companies creating applications and services helping small businesses to more effectively find, catch and keep customers today. Some companies on the list will be traditional CRM companies, and some will be the newer breed looking to provide help in one or two important areas. But I think any small business looking to understand what kinds of services are available to them – that are made specifically for them – would gain from checking out the list of companies and services that will be included.

Look for the CRM-Ish List to be announced in early March 2012.

Any last thoughts or suggestions that you want to leave the BlackBerry community with?

Now is really a great time to dig in and understand how to best take advantage of tools and services available today that can help you find, catch and keep good customers. But you have to make sure your company is ready from an organizational culture standpoint. It’s not enough to ask people to “like us” or “follow us” – we have to give them great reasons to do so. And that may mean needing to change how we approach them – not just the technology we use to interact with them, but also what we say and how we say it. Using new technology to deliver old messages won’t get you very far today, so it’s important to match social behavior with social tools to really connect with today’s customer.

Lastly, really explore how you can maximize the use of your BlackBerry devices. There are a good number of business apps in BlackBerry® App World™ that can help you be more productive, more social and more responsive to the needs of your customers. Many of these services are free or very low in cost, which makes it even more important to see how they can assist you in building great customer relationships today.

Thanks for joining me Brent! To our readers: how do you use your BlackBerry device for social CRM? Answer in the comments below.

About Marcy D.

Marcy joined Research In Motion® (RIM®) in 2005 and has been involved in marketing to SMB ever since. Prior to RIM, all of her work experience was in small businesses and startups, both working for and consulting with. Marcy knows firsthand the joys and tribulations faced by small business owners and employees, and hope to share the BlackBerry® solution message to make the experience better for them.

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