You may not know it, but there’s a race going on, a big one, that has already been long, slogging and rough and will just become more so. But the prize, ah the prize!
You see, social customer relationship management (CRM) is one of the core tenets of the social media movement.
It’s all about direct communication with your customers, vendors and associates. It’s being part of the conversation, not above it; it’s about “engagement”, the key to traditional and now “Social” CRM.
It’s a key to making sales.
Our social media arsenals are large. From Twitter to Facebook to LinkedIn to more and more and more, the sheer choices and options are overwhelming. And as yet, one piece is missing, the holy grail, the one ring to rule them all:
A centralized social media management platform that incorporates all the features of a traditional CRM solution as well as the critical features required for social media participation.
Let’s Trick It Out
In broad strokes, traditional CRM solutions can include:
- A huge repository of contacts with lots of information about each contact: name, company name, addresses, e-mails, birthday (don’t forget to send a card!), wife’s and kids’ names (don;t forget to ask after them) and much, much more!
- A history of interactions with each of those contacts: conversations, e-mails, sales, returns, complaints, compliments and anything else you wish to track.
- A tickler or reminder functionality to stay on top of those customers – “Haven’t heard from Joe in 6 months. Time to call and ask if he needs more widgets!”
- The ability to share all this with your teammates be they fellow sales folk of customer relationship representatives.
Now, “Social” CRM takes this all and bumps it up a notch. These new solutions can include additional features such as the ability to:
- Go out and grab each contact’s social profiles and add them to the database.
- Show your your customer’s “Social Stream” – their tweets, Facebook Status updates and more – all in one place and allow you to save them as an interaction (see #2 under “traditional CRM) above).
- Integrate your e-mail system so that all sent e-mails can be added to the correct contact’s history of interactions automatically.
- Access your e-mail and social media accounts and updates all in one place and post new updates to each platform.
- Schedule updates on any of your social media platform, days and even weeks in advance.
- Tag your contacts and interactions so you can group them by project or campaign or sales cycle.
- Create shiny graphic reports on anything and everything from mentions of your company’s name to integrating your Google Analytics data.
Sounds great, eh? You bet it does! But there’s only one problem:
No one solution can do it all!
And that’s the race.
Meet the Players
So, the race is on and the prize is the eternal gratitude, and hopefully the patronage, of marketing, sales and customer service professionals everywhere.
Why those folks? Because they are the ones who currently have to jump from site-to-site, enter posts and updates manually day-after-day and devise intricate and convoluted ways to track hits and misses just to stay on top of it all.
Big stakes, yes.
So who’s in the race? Below are some of the top contenders running for the hearts and souls of this market.
There are many, many players in the market, but these are the vendors who are trying to become the one-stop-shop for small businesses online.
Note the recent acquisitions – the market is contracting and the race is heating up.
- Batchbook – one of my favorites – love their “Supertags” as a way to organize everything.
- ContactMe – fun and friendly and easy-to-use.
- Sendible – A solid offering here, but I had some interface issues (i.e. it was lacking in intuitiveness – couldn’t figure out where certain things were logically).
- Flowtown – one of the first players, they have drawn the curtains and are re-tooling. Can’t wait to see what they come out with when they relaunch.
- Nimble – currently in Beta, they have a nice product that brings it all together but with some limitations. Excited to see this one in 6 months.
- BantamLive – also really liked these guys but they were recently acquired by Constant Contact (read the release) so we’ll have to wait to see how it all develops.
- JitterJam – just found these guys and liked what I saw however, they were recently bought by Meltwater (read the release) and will be integrated over time with the company’s social media monitoring tool, “Meltwater Buzz” so only time will tell what the offering will become.
Pick Your Horse!
It’s a little early to be making bets, but this is going to be a really interesting race to sit and watch. Players will drop out and new one will join and who’s left standing in the end is anyone’s guess.
As a customer, I’m delighted to watch these guys push themselves to give us better and better functionality. I’m not so sure I would want to be one of the jockeys though; it’s gonna’ get rough.
Have a favorite listed among the solutions above ? Have I missed one of the horses completely? Let’s hear from you in the comments below.