I had a great conversation with a friend of mine the other day about social CRM. We talked about the challenge companies face trying to gather all customer data and social media comments and put them into a system where brands can act on them.
It made me think about social media and how marketing is coming full circle, only we don't have the tools yet to do it right.
In the days of my parents or grandparents, you usually went to a local shop owner to buy something. Most of these stores were family owned and run. The owner would great you, make chitchat and then recommend something for you. His CRM tool was his brain. The next time you came in, he remembered you bought that green shirt and he had some sox and a tie that would go perfectly with it. When you bought both, he gave you a little discount.
You were so impressed you started sending your friends to this store. And they were also impressed. The challenge for the shop owner was transferring his knowledge to those of his employees (or his kids who worked for him). Some employees had lousy CRM skills and other had great CRM skills.
His business grew and times changed. He opened up a couple of stores in neighboring towns. While his brother ran one, he had to hire completely new people to run the others. But that was okay. Business was booming.
Rather than word of mouth and social marketing, he started advertising. The experience became less personal, but the assortment and pricing of the goods more than made up for it. So what if the sales person never remembered us? It was still a good deal.
And then the national chains moved in. The shop owner tried appealing to our sense of local commitment but the reality was that he didn't know us and we didn't know him any longer. The chains knew or cared about us even less, but at least they were cheaper with even greater assortment. And they advertised everywhere.
Then, somehow, that wasn't enough any more. We realized we want personal. We want businesses to treat us like people, not like a "prospect" or a "target." We want them to remember what we like and to hear us when we complain. All of those things we loved at that original store we found that we want again.
The question is: can we get it back? Maybe social CRM other social media tools will help. But the tools themselves are not enough.
The original storeowner had his own CRM system in his head. He had to find people who could understand it and, more importantly, who wanted to use it and who were good at using it.
It's the same with social media today. It's about the culture you create and support in your organization. It needs to come from the top and you need to treat each other, co-workers and employees in the same way.
Otherwise no super CRM or social media tool in the world will help. Because at the end of the day, we want to hear you say to us that we look great in that green shirt, that you have sox to match, and you're going to give us a deal. Then, and only then, will we go tell all of our friends.