There is more and more interaction between many useful marketing and customer service tools these days. Take Customer Relationship Management software (CRM). Many packages now integrate your email marketing platform, your email itself, and social media connections. This connection can provide a richer look at prospects and leads to help you qualify them faster and grow relationships more rapidly.
Why does that social integration matter to marketers? Because as we become more social online, there are valuable business opportunities we can capture if we’re paying attention.
Why You Want Social in Your CRM
We’re starting to see a ramp up in integration of social into CRM from big and small companies: everyone from SalesForce to Nimble is finding meaningful ways to use social media profiles and streams within a customer’s profile.
Consider what your CRM looked like before social was added. You had limited data on your leads and clients:
– Contact info
– Purchases or products they were interested in
– Notes on calls or emails
When you throw social into the equation, the data you have on each contact becomes so much richer. With a quick glance at a lead’s profile, you can see her son has a Little League tournament this weekend. What does that have to do with selling? Imagine how flabbergasted and delighted she’d be if you wished him luck on Twitter.
Or maybe you see you’re from the same small town in the Midwest as a new lead. Imagine the rapport you can build talking about those your former high school’s mascot!
These teeny, seemingly insignificant bits of information are what help you build trust with a lead and nurture a relationship. You can now wish a contact happy birthday, like her new profile pic, or share her content. Essentially, it helps you get on her radar and stay there.
Who is Doing Social CRM Well?
It’s still early days in this marriage between the two, but I’ve seen some pretty cool features come out, especially in the small business CRM space. Here are 5 providers that are leading the charge.
Nimble is a my favorite CRM. What I like about it is that you can view a profile (see the image above) or view all their streams at once. So a contact might ask for advice on choosing a product you supply on Twitter, and then share her most recent article on LinkedIn. With a glance, you can see both and respond appropriately.
You can filter social updates by Signals, which include:
– Job changes
– New connections
– Retweets, mentions, comments and likes
These help you quickly skim her posts to find what you want to respond to. You can also see what connections you have in common. If, for example, a lead is also connected with a former co-worker of yours on LinkedIn, you can ask for an invite and mention the relationship as a back door to building trust.
What it costs: There is a free personal account, and business accounts start at $15 a month, with a 2 week free trial. Be careful that you don’t sign up for the free trial and expect to be able to switch to a personal account. I tried that and it’s a pain to do.
Insightly has fewer social functions than Nimble, but they play nicely within each profile. It also integrates with Gmail, so every time a contact emails you, that gets stored within your contact’s profile.
For some reason, Insightly only streams Twitter and LinkedIn, though it does provide links to other social profiles it detects based on the information you input.
What it costs: If you have 3 or fewer users, you can get a free account. After that, plans start at $29 a month.
While it’s not exactly CRM per se, Rapportive still deserves mention. If you’re a Gmail user, you can use this add-on to instantly see all the social profiles of anyone who emails you from within Gmail.
If you’re like me and constantly hunting for the last email you sent someone, Rapportive’s tool makes it easy to find at the bottom of the profile. And if you’re not already connected on a social site, you can do so from within your email. Nice.
What it costs:You’ll notice a pattern here: Rapportive is also free. I’m all about free and useful.
SugarCRM is an example of an established CRM company that’s adapted to change with the times. It was founded in 2004 and has added features that its customers want over time. Now it uses social profiles for social selling; you can use the data you get from your leads’ social streams to move them further down the sales funnel.
What it costs:Plans start at $35 but there is a free trial. And if you’re a developer, you can get the Community Edition free.
SalesForce’s ExactTarget Marketing Cloud
SalesForce is the longest standing CRM platform that I can remember. And rather than sticking to its old school guns, it’s also done a great job of staying relevant, mainly by purchasing smaller companies that have technology it covets. Take ExactTarget. SalesForce is now the proud owner of this digital marketing platform that centers around email as well as insights and analytics for social activity.
ExactTarget also integrates with another of SalesForce’s properties, Radian6, which is a social listening platform.
What it costs: These platforms seem to be aimed at larger businesses, given their robust features. And pricing? It’s a “contact us for pricing” situation, so you know that it certainly isn’t free.
When big players start snapping up smaller companies, you know they’ve hit upon something that’s going to last longer than the latest social media fad. Here’s a look at some of the acquisitions that speak to the future of social CRM:
– Radian6: 2011
– Desk.com: 2011
– BuddyMedia: 2012
– ExactTarget: 2013
– RightNow: 2011
– Vitrue: 2013
– Collective Intellect: 2013
– MarketingPilot: 2012
– Netbreeze: 2013
The connection between customer data and social media will continue to evolve and improve over the next few years. If your CRM platform doesn’t pull data from social profiles, maybe it’s time to consider one of the tools reviewed here. After all, if your competitors have access to this fantastic data, you may find yourself out of the game if you’re not using it to your advantage.
Susan Payton is the President of Egg Marketing & Communications, an Internet marketing firm specializing in marketing communications, copywriting and blog posts. She’s also the founder of How to Create a Press Release, a free resource for business owners. She’s written three books: DIY Press Releases: Your Guide to Becoming Your Own PR Consultant, 101 Entrepreneur Tips and Internet Marketing Strategies for Entrepreneurs, and has blogged for several sites. You can connect with her on Twitter or through Google+.