In the world of CRM we do love our bandwagons and the latest one seems to be social media and CRM, but what does it actually mean? One thing it certainly means is revenue, I can’t tell you the number of times I wish I’d invented LinkedIn.

The interesting thing is that a clear picture is emerging of which tools can be useful, and the role that they can play in providing Marketing and Business Development with a compelling reason why CRM technology is something that professionals can use to generate business.

In the professional services world I am less convinced of the value of Facebook and Twitter but it’s clear that LinkedIn and blogging technology such as WordPress are powerful tools that provide a channel to market which is far more immediate and wide ranging than anything traditional marketing techniques could provide.

For some, these tools are now their primary channels to market moving rapidly towards these in favour of tools such as email marketing. And why not?

As global legislation for data privacy and marketing preferences harmonises around a more stringent set of standards and requirements, and contacts on our CRM system increasingly exercise their rights to stop us from “info-bombing” them, email marketing is rapidly losing its appeal and marketers are looking for alternatives.

As with every single new tool that has ever arrived, the challenge for us as marketers is remembering that this is merely another channel to market. ALL of the principles of good marketing and business development behaviour still apply.

We should definitely not be throwing the marketing baby out with the social media bathwater.

But what can those of us responsible for managing client relationships and the technology that supports that, do with Social Media?

We talk about bringing CRM to social media through integration, but should it be the other way around?

Increasingly professionals want to work in Outlook and even more in LinkedIn. Let’s be honest we’re so far past the tipping point with LinkedIn usage that we can’t see it any more in our rear view mirror!

So we need to start finding ways of bringing the information that exists in the CRM world together with LinkedIn data.

Let’s watch this space to see what happens with LinkedIn, maybe they’ll release their own CRM system, but whether they do or not, the combination of the data sets is critical.

CRM systems contain those contacts and companies with which strategically we SHOULD have relationships and LinkedIn (and also Outlook) contain the information with people with whom we DO have relationships.

Our analysis has shown us that actually there’s very often a mismatch between these two. But why is that?

In our experience it’s for two main reasons:

  • Contacts with whom the professional users really have relationships are not on CRM systems. A lot of this has to do with technology and culture. Professional users don’t want to “go somewhere else” to manage their relationships and so therefore they don’t;
  • CRM systems have traditionally not done well at reviewing targeting and segmentation strategy. As a result even firms who started off with the very best data in their CRM system have found a gradual decline in the relevance and therefore usefulness of that data;

We’ve done a lot of work on analysing contact engagement and value with data in professional firms and we are finding that contacts fall into 3 groups:

  • Highly Responsive and very engaged – about 10% of the data
  • Occasionally responsive and partially engaged – about 30% of the data
  • Not responsive and not engaged – about 60% of the data

In the current environment return on investment is essential so we as marketing, BD and CRM professionals have to do more to track how connections were made, what business they led to and how much it was worth ultimately. But we’re not doing this well enough.

Technology can help. For example tools like Contact Net, DataHug and InterAction IQ are valuable weapons in your armoury to start to address these issues, but they’re only part of the puzzle. We really need to combine information with the data in LinkedIn.

We should also be helping our professionals to exploit their 1st and 2nd degree connections on LinkedIn rather than asking them to review marketing lists that may not even be correctly targeted in the first place? The latter is a complete waste of their time.

And then what about the contacts who aren’t even in your universe at all?

What about targeting contacts with whom you don’t currently have relationships and with whom you’re not currently talking?

You can only really start to get to these people once you’ve done the initial analysis of the current state of your CRM system and how it overlaps with the connections that your professionals have with the outside world.

My advice is definitely start small. You’re not going to be able to implement this across the entire firm, unless you’re lucky enough to have unlimited time and resources.

However you could start with a small pilot of willing professionals. When responding to a pitch you could use LinkedIn to work out where your best connections already are. You could identify which advocate clients will be prepared to introduce you to peers of theirs with whom they are connected that you wish to get to know.

All of the above are definitely achievable.

Social Media is a vital part of client relationship management but it is just that, a part.

It’s a new technical way of tracking relationships.

What we have to do is work out how we can blend that data with other information to provide the “360 degree view” of a contact because after all, that’s what we promised the CRM would deliver in the first place.

Michael Warren, the author, is speaking at a forthcoming LMA event in New York. If you’re an LMA member and you’d like more information or would like to register please contact Matt Parfitt.