Category Archives: internet

Two Ways to Make Money – Email and Social Media Marketing

The chicken or the egg?

Many Social Media pundits have stated that “email is dead.”    Social media applications like Facebook and Twitter have killed email.

With 500 million users on Facebook it may not be a stretch to understand why all the “Chicken Little’s” are going around the chicken coop yelling “the sky is falling!” on email marketing.   But Chicken Little was wrong, and so are the “experts.”

Email marketing still makes money in a relatively low cost way.   There are numerous online vendors for small and medium size businesses which offer free or low cost email marketing tools that include analytics (so you can see what works and what does not work).  I use MailChimp which promises it is always free for less than 500 email addresses, and I’m quite impressed with its abilities and the staff’s responsiveness.   One great thing about MailChimp (and a competitor, Constant Contact) is that both have recently integrated Social Media into their offers. Constant Contact announced Social Stats which tracks Facebook “Likes,” tweets, Linked In posts and such.  Social media statistics are shown on the email analytics report.  With MailChimp their social sharing tool lets you post your email marketing campaign on your social  networks with one click in your campaign dashboard.  Be careful, though.  Social Network users HATE “sales pitches” and you can destroy your credibility.   Like Constant Contact, MailChimp lets you you can track the activity on those networks, too.

I’ve mentioned Constant Contact and MailChimp which are great for small and medium size companies, as is iContact.  There are even more out there:  AWeber and Vertical Response are two more.

According to Forrester Research, email marketing is growing, not dying. 

Considering that you can email for free (MailChimp) then Forrester’s research should impress you that you can indeed make money via email marketing.  Their research shows that ROI is two to three times higher with email marketing than with any other form of direct marketing.   Two thirds of the marketing executives interviewed concurred that email marketing is the most cost-effective marketing tool they have.

So much for the death knell!

Far too often techno-geeks (and hey, I like to think that I AM one) decry the death of a technology when something new comes along.  Fact is that it takes a while to kill things off.   There are still people using land line telephones, TVs with picture tubes, and even horse buggy whips.   Direct mailers still “snail mail” catalogs.  Billboards still blight our nation’s highways.  Newspapers still get printed.

So, no, email is not dead.   When it comes to making money with technology, email (with opt-in permission so that you are not SPAMMING) is a very efficient way of communicating sales or new offerings to your customers.

Social media is a fantastic communications media, but it is not meant to be a sales tool (well, not directly).  If you pitch a sale on Facebook you are likely to get flamed and slammed.  Social media is all about conversations, and if along the way people come to hear of a great new product, and buy it — terrific!  Yet, Facebook and others are more likely to be a passive, indirect sales channel rather than an immediate one.  The only difference is an entity like Dell Outlet who may tweet a special sale on Twitter — but most of us are not Dell.   You have to be in a unique position to be able to use Twitter or Facebook as a sales platform directly.

Email marketing and social media are not an “either / or” decision of email OR social media for making money.  Email marketing is still a very strong approach for staying in touch with customers and cross-selling and up-selling into your base.  Social media is a wonderful way to stay in touch more often than you can via email (without irritating your base).  Both are complimentary if used properly, and the email marketing tools with their integration efforts can help you do that — as long as you abide by the “rules” of both email marketing and social media and enhance your customer’s experience.  Don’t over stay your welcome in either venue.

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Three Ways to Make Money with Web 2.0

I do my best to post every few days, and it has been more than a week since my last blog.   I have a good reason.  I’ve been busily creating a new website for SME, Inc. — Social Media Excellence in Orlando, Florida.    I’ve also moved my blog to the site, and the new address is .   If you’ve been reading this blog, or my blog in IT Toolbox or Blogger, hopefully this will be the new “permanent” home for the blog.

I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into social media (Facebook, Twitter, and other methods of online conversation) and have found mostly anecdotal assurances that companies can reap much higher new sales revenue with much lower investment by using Web 2.0 tools such as these.

Believe it or not I actually am from Missouri, the “show me state” and it is hard to believe these claims without some sort of proof.   We’re pretty graphic “down home” and an old saying comes to mind:  “With all this manure, there must be a horse in here somewhere.”

McKinsey and Company is considered a top notch consulting company and they recently did some research on the topic of ROI with Web 2.0 efforts.  The results are pretty surprising.

69% percent of companies that have made some sort of Web 2.0 investment reported real and substantiated business benefits, including more effective marketing, better collaboration and a reduction in the cost of doing business.

“How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results.” is the source.  This survey examined 1,700 executives from all over the world.

The top three ways to make (or save) money using social media were:

  1. Faster job completion by improving the speed to access information (68 percent of respondents averaged a  30 percent improvement, which is substantial);
  2. Lower communication costs (54 percent of respondents with an average improvement of 20 percent);
  3. Faster access to internal experts (43 percent of respondents with an average improvement of 35 percent)

20-35% improvement is pretty impressive.

When just asked to look externally, the 1,700 executives reported:

  1. More effective marketing (53 percent; average mprovements ranged from 17 percent for conversions up to 25 percent for awareness activities);
  2. Increasing customer satisfaction (43 percent with an average  improvement of 20 percent);
  3. Reduced cost of marketing (38 percent with an average improvement of 15 percent).

Again, not bad.  #2 is particularly interesting since social media is all about communication and conversations — your customers talk to you and to others, as compared to traditional marketing where they passively view a commercial or read an ad.

All in all an interesting report and the beginnings of something to show your management when arguing for the use of social media.

37% of employees using social media w/o IT permission

We make money or save money by providing value to others in a cost effective manner.  Pretty simple, really.  Technology can streamline the process and make us more efficient at a lower price point — but just as easily technology can be a massive time waster that actually costs us money.

Think of all those apps on Android and the iPhone that are games like Zombie Farm.     Loads of fun, but not exactly productivity enhancers!

Which brings me to a recent blog on the Harvard site.   The article discusses a study by Harvard which shows that employees are using social media including mobile technologies and video to improve how they do their jobs.  These employees are solving your customer and business problems without permission from the information technology (IT) departments:

“In a survey of more than 4,000 U.S. information workers, we found that 37% are using do-it-yourself technologies without IT’s permission. LinkedIn, Google Docs,, Facebook, iPads, YouTube, Dropbox, Flipboard — the list is long and growing.”

Forrester Research even gives this trend a name:  Technology Populism.

In a sense all this end user “power” is a good thing — people are not waiting for IT to solve problems.  Technology like Facebook and other social media proves that if companies don’t take advantage of new technologies then customers WILL and this is not always good for companies.   Many a corporation has been blind sided by consumers angry at faulty equipment or mishandled customer “service.”

Yet picture a large company with employees each “doing their own thing” technologically speaking.  Fairly soon will we not have misinformation from our own employees with videos on YouTube giving out erroneous “facts”?   Will we have “stuff everywhere” and a common corporate value proposition (aka the corporate position) totally destroyed and misinterpreted by people who only see part of the picture?

I am reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant.   In this parable by Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi we are told that a group of blind men touch an elephant  and then must describe the elephant. Each man feels a different part, but only one part and the result that no one describes the elephant as a whole, but each describes the animal differently based on one piece.  One describes an elephant as long and thick like a boa constrictor — he feels the trunk.  Another describes the elephant as long and skinny — he is describing the tail.  Another says the elephant is flat like a stingray — he describes the ear, and so forth.

If our employees are using social media and other technologies to help “describe” our companies and our products / services are they knowledgeable enough of the whole —  the goals and true strengths — to be helping the corporation, or is there wholesale chaos as each is so focused on one small part that they miss the elephant for the tail?

True enough there is no way to put the genie back in the bottle.  Technology, particularly “Web 2.0” with smart phones and social media is here and will be part of our future if we deal with it or ignore it.   Should we allow our employees to go off willy nilly and be empowered to “do their own thing” or should we try to build some rules around this wild west of technology?   My contention is that in the end we will all meet somewhere in the middle.  We cannot truly control all of our employees any more than we can control our customers (or our children).  Yet, we must put some structure into place or we will face wholesale anarchy.  Welcome to the new, brave new, world of technology.

Making Money with Facebook?

Social media (the latest “techno-buzz term”) simply refers to people having conversations online.  In the far away land known as “Web 1.0” the internet was one-way.   You threw a website online or sent out emails and things were pretty simple.  Customers would check out your website for information, and might call your contact center or send you an email.  Ah, the good old days!

Social media (Facebook, Twitter. . .even YouTube) makes this seem quaint and old fashioned.  In the world of Facebook a short comment is followed by other comments and pretty soon you have a town meeting going on.    The vendor does not control the conversation — in fact no one controls it, not even the person who begins it!     With 500 million users now on Facebook it is larger than the United States of America — and perhaps just as powerful in its own way.

This new phenomena of social media can be a power for good or for evil.    It can help your business, or it can destroy you.   Businesses today must learn to deal with it one way or the other — and to try to find a way to use it as a way to make money.

The first thing to realize is that if you take a used car sales approach to Facebook or its ilk you will fail miserably.  Social media is all about the conversation and nothing turns people off faster than a sales pitch in the middle of a party.     To get fans who “like” you and read what you post you must provide valuable information, hopefully in an interesting way!  Doing this must be consistent — you may well have to hire an employee to manage your social media presence.   My company provides training, consulting and even provides the social media “presence” for companies — but be forewarned that if you outsource to someone like me they still need to learn a lot about your company and stay in close contact with you.    Why?

Because it is all about the conversation — and if there is no meat, no “there” there, you will quickly turn off anyone interested in you — and far from making money, you will soon start losing it to your competitors.

Content is king.  To make money on Facebook, Twitter and the rest you must have content of value and you must provide this in a succinct fashion.  You must post often (2-3 times a day on Twitter, at least daily on Facebook and 3-4 times a week on your corporate blog).   Since this is a conversation, you must encourage “fans” (find them via your email databases and by posting in places your customers visit online).    Respond to comments, good and bad — and do not be defensive.

Remember it is a CONVERSATION.

Some of the keys to success in Social Media are:

  1. Build a large and legitimate following by being informative and interesting;
  2. Respond to comments quickly and with substance
  3. Blog, Tweet and post frequently — but again it must be USEFUL information
  4. Monitor your social media communities — know what is working and what is not working

There are some great tools to help you manage multiple social media efforts, and to analyze how successful they are.  You will most likely not see “over night” results, but over time your base and your sales will increase.

As social media grows (and the largest growth is in women 55-65!), the traditional marketing bases of newspapers, radio and television are losing customers and advertisers.    Social media is a revolution.  There are ways to thrive in the revolution, but it is not by playing the game the way you might have historically with press releases, TV ads and the like.   The new world is all about loss of control and “the conversation.”

Social CRM is redefining customer relationships

Have you heard the story about “Dell Hell”?  A few years ago a Dell customer was unhappy with a computer he’d purchased.   In the old days he would have groused to some friends and spent countless frustrating hours on the phone to Dell customer service.    Those days (perhaps unlucky for some vendors) are gone.  Now we live in a social media (Facebook, Linked In, blogging, Twitter, etc.) world where we are no longer “six degrees of separation” from one another — but more right around the internet corner.

In this case the unhappy user wrote a blog and in it he wrote:

I just got a new Dell laptop and paid a fortune for the four-year, in-home service. The machine is a lemon and the service is a lie. I’m having all kinds of trouble with the hardware: overheats, network doesn’t work, maxes out on CPU usage. It’s a lemon.

Jeff Jarvis, the blogger in question, might have been very surprised by the reaction of his blog.  He hit a nerve and within two days his blog was the topic of a New York Times article. This is not the type of public relations any company wants.

In the “old days” of just a few years ago the company drove the message.  Today with social CRM the customer is driving it as well.  If your customers are not happy they are blogging, tweeting and letting the world know of their unhappiness with your products / services.

The future belongs to those who realize that communication with customers is now a ‘two way street.”   Social CRM (customer relationship management) means that the customer can communicate to the world at large without a multi-million dollar ad campaign.   All you need is a keyboard and an internet connection (and the keyboard may be a virtual one on a smart phone).  People “tweet” their unhappiness instantly.

Businesses need to realize that social media can be their friend (as in Gary Vaynerchuk who spent $15,000 on a  direct marketing mailing which won 200 new customers; $7,500 on a billboard ad which brought in 300 new customers; and spent $0 on a  Twitter “tweet” (social media blast of a few sentences at most) and got 1,800 new customers.

The power of Social CRM is that today’s savvy customers trust their friends (and social media is all about connecting with people who share your interests) more than they trust a paid marketing mailing or billboard.   When Vaynerchuk tweets and someone contacts them he makes sure he contacts them back.  It is a two way conversation.  Granted he is a busy guy and the reply may take a long time — but he DOES respond.  Meanwhile others continue the dialog for him, and the “conversation” (social media is all about conversation and not a one way ad) continues, the audience grows and the control of the message may not lie with the business — but if the business is involved it influences and wins the business.

The way we sell and market is changing — and this change is bringing us back to the “one to one” marketing goal of CRM in a way that big business could never do all on its own.

Dell learned a lot from “Dell Hell,” and you can too.  Realize that if you have a great product people will sit up and take notice.  They will also notice if your product is not so good — and they will tell others of their unhappiness.  The customer relationship is now perhaps the customer / vendor relationship and it is definitely a two way street.

Disney on the cutting edge again (or is that “still”?)

My last blog discussed how smartphones will soon suprass PCs as the main way we surf the ‘net.   In turn this access gives vendors a whole new way to personalize service to us as consumers.   Using GPS, CRM and unified communications we’ll be able to shop smarter and vendors will be able to pinpoint personalized offers to us based not just on our past buying history or our demographics (where we live, our age, etc.) but actually by knowing where we are and what we are doing.

Big brother is watching!

So how does Disney tie into this?   Disney is working on new technology for its theme parks (Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort and  Disney Hong Kong) .  Disney has not announced this, but a former executive is on record as stating that Disney is working on wireless-communication technology to tailor theme park offerings to the likes of individual visitors.  This same source claims that Disney is spending $1 billion to $1.5 billion on this project, so it is considered a “game changer” by them.

What types of things does Disney plan to do with wireless technology?   CRM of course!  They will offer Disney visitors all kinds of enhanced services that will shorten waits on line, customize the “experience” of a Disney vacation all the while they are compiling information on you and your family. . .what rides you went on, what restaurants you visited, where you stayed. . .  this information is then used to offer you knew vacation offers tailored to your likes.

Nick Franklin Executive Vice President, New Business Development

The person in charge of this herculean effort is Nick Franklin, head of global business and real-estate development for Disney’s theme park division.    Franklin has had an exciting career with Disney Franklin as well as serveing as a member of the Executive Committee for the Parks & Resorts segment overall. “This is not the typical opportunity that gets described in business school,” he said. “My job is to help envision the next generation of Disney experiences around the world, which is pretty cool.”

I’d say so!

I’ll bet back in his days at the investment banking at Goldman, Sachs & Co.  Franklin could never have dreamed he’d be working in the “House of the Mouse” working on new generation entertainment venues!

But I digress.   The rumors (and that is all we have at this time, rumors) say that Disney’s NextGen (code name) CRM technology push will include keyless hotel-room doors to rides and shows in which the experience varies based on an individual guest’s preferences.

The main source of information on this oh so secret development project is Michael Crawford, publisher of Progress City USA. Crawford writes that Imagineers (Disney’s name for engineers)  hope to use RFID technology in concert with their new Fantasyland attractions.  RFID stands for Radio frequency identification.  RFID tags can be incorporated as a chip in a Disney park pass (for example).  RFID can track your ID on your Disney “passport”, it can be your room key to your hotel room and even be used to enter mass transit like the monorail or be used as an in park credit card.    All the while Disney knows where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you are now.

Pretty slick!

Disney could even use the personalized card to allow attractions to access personalized information about each guest, thus personalizing your “experience.”  This was somewhat tested out last year with Disney’s  Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure at EPCOT in Walt Disney World Resorts.   This features an interactive experience where guests are given a “Kimmunicator” (Kim Possible is a Disney cartoon about a girl who is a spy) found at kiosks in Epcot. These interactive devices use  technology which gives clues from the Kim Possible characters to find “villains” they cna track as they wander around the theme park.

Each adventure is unique, personalized.  CRM, right?  Right!

RFID should be used to make each vacation to a Disney theme park totally random and new — thus removing the “we’ve already been to Disney and it’s boring, can’t we go somewhere ELSE this year?” argument moot.  At least that is the hope of Disney.

It just struck me as interesting that this news hit the Orlando Sentinel today, the very week I blogged about Smartphones and CRM.   As I mentioned in that blog — the world is moving at a very fast clip these days!

Smartphones and CRM

Have you ever noticed that the world just seems to be changing faster and faster all the time?

I’m a big fan of the British television show, “Doctor Who.” The premise of the show is that a time lord travels throughout time and space — from ancient times to tens of thousands of years into the future.  “The Doctor” is a mysterious time traveler whose life is often lived “backwards” as he appears in places where people may know him, but he hasn’t met them in “his” life yet.  It must be very confusing.

Sometimes I can relate to the Doctor.

The way our world is moving so quickly it is hard to “keep up” with the technology and how it changes us.  Technology changes the way we work, how we interact with our own families and how we shop.

The idea behind CRM (customer relationship management) is that vendors, to be successful, must know who their customers are and why they buy what they buy.  In the “old days” a small town might have had one butcher, one baker and one candlestick maker.  A customer was known by name and the vendor (say the candlestick maker) knew what kind and color of candle Mr. Jones bought or Mrs. Smith acquired.  CRM was just a part of the small customer base and the small proprieter.

Today we live in a world of Wal-Mart and Best Buy, not to mention and .   We customers are anonymous, and if we are anonymous we may only shop one time and never return.  To gain our loyalty these large retailers must understand “who we are” by our buying habits, our demographics and our past buying habits.

Have you ever noticed when you visit Amazon’s website that (if you’ve shopped there before) the website recommends new purchases to you based on what you’ve bought before?   Smart marketing, and a good application of CRM.

The days of shopping online via our PC alone has already changed and CRM must change along with it.

Gartner Group, a research company specializing in high technology,  is predicting that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common way to access the Internet by 2013.  This has both a huge impact on what vendors will require from CRM, as well as a huge opportunity to sell us more, while also making us happier by meeting our needs in “real time.”  Customer loyalty and customer retention benefits from CRM tied to smart phones is an enormous potential — and the holy grail of CRM.

Smart phones use both push and pull technology.  Pull technology is when a phone user goes online via the phone and searches for an address or driving directions.  They have proactively “searched” (or pulled) data from the internet.  Perhaps they are looking for a nearby drug store.  Perhaps they are searching for a certain product (perhaps a Wii game for their child).  As the person runs the search CRM is at work.

Now “push” technology comes into play.  An add for a Wii game sale is sent to the phone via GameStop or Wal-Mart.  The user checks local prices and sees how close each vendor is to them (pull technology.  GameStop is say 1/2 a mile away and Wal-Mart is 3 miles away).   A 15% off coupon is sent to the phone by GameStop (push technology).

And so it goes.   The future is the past, and soon the mega-stores may know you as well as the local candlemaker ever did.

The potential value of combining CRM, smartphones, GPS and unified communications to empower the customer while ensuring even higher customer loyalty is staggering.   The opportunity is there, if CRM is properly utilized.  The winners will do it.  The losers will be gone.

CRM and Email Marketing

Since CRM (customer relationship management) is supposed to mean any one or any system that interacts with customers one would logically think that email marketing would be an integral part of any CRM solution.

But it isn’t.

Email marketing has been around as long as email itself has.  Yet most companies who do email marketing for customer retention (up selling and cross selling) or acquisition (acquiring new customers) do so blindly using third party lists or hobbled together lists.   Some may use Templates found on Microsoft’s template section of their website.  Others use a variety of software or internet based solutions — and there same to be a plethora of them out there.

Most companies seem to use the axiom:  throw enough mud on the wall and some of it is bound to stick when sending out corporate marketing emails.

No tracking of the ROI (return on investment).  No knowing if you are “ticking off” your best customers.  No knowing how many hit the SPAM filter.  No knowing how many people get multiple emails from you (annoying them).  Bad email marketing hurts every other aspect of CRM, and does more damage than good.

This is mass emailing.  My friend, Sundeep Kapur (other wise known as the Email Yogi) has been an email marketing guru since around 1999 and he has outlined “Seven Stages of eMarketing” in a  Whitepaper – available, with just a simple request.  The first is exactly what I outlined above:  mass marketing with the hope someone, somewhere will read it.

I don’t want to “give away” everything in Sundeep’s excellent paper, but suffice it to say that email CRM isn’t any different than CRM in general — know thy customer.  You must target your existing customers and potential customers by market segment (customer segmentation), by demographics, by buying history, etc.  None of this is rocket science, but it is all hard work — that results in qualified leads that generate new customers.

The more you can customize the email to the prospect the better.  And if you can make it FUN even better still!

Customer segmentation allows you to target your email messaging.

Once you’ve created an email offer, newsletter, etc. it is a good idea to set up two separate tests with similar, but not identical, offers.  The test audiences must be the same segmentation for this to work.  Try to make an offer that requires a response (buy in) before the scroll down point (above 400 pixels in height) and if this is the first email one of those should be an opt in to get more emails from you.

Design the email using HTML and a plain text file.  If you start getting fancy with CSS or flash — even Java — many email programs won’t read it properly.

When CRM and email marketing work together it is a beautiful thing.    Email marketing can also extend into social networking (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter) via RSS and SMS.

Sundeep works for my old boss, NCR — a leader in retail and hospitality solutions.   Software solutions vary based on your own corporate needs (and budget).  RWD uses Constant Contact.  The design of emails is pretty easy, but it isn’t your standard Windows “look and feel” so there is a learning curve and difficulty if you want to copy or paste from it into another program.   They do offer a free 60 day trial, so if you are new to email marketing take a look at them and try them out.

More mid-range companies might look at Gold Lasso.   The UI is also not the easiest to use, but they do have some analytics thrown into the mix.  Also good in the mid-range and even enterprise (big) company range is ResponsysJupiterResearch awarded Responsys the highest combined score in “market suitability” and “overall business value” among all enterprise-oriented email service providers.  It also ranked high with Forrester and Gartner (in a niche category).  The Enterprise level also includes the market leader, Cheetahmail (now part of Experian).

Cheetahmail is the most entrenched, and it is very feature rich.  The UI (user interface) suffers from some of the same issues as Constant Contact and Gold Lasso.

In a future blog I’d like to delve into how well email marketing soltuions tie into legacy systems (the back end CRM, ERP and industry specific apps which hold the wealth of customer data) — both from a push and pull perspective.

The World is Upside Down

This blog spends a lot of pixels on the topic of CRM (Customer Relationship Management).  How can companies manage their customers.  How can we keep current customers loyal and retain them?  How can we find new customers who will be profitable and love us and stay with us?

Simple answer?

You can’t.

You don’t really manage customers anymore — if you ever did.  Perhaps the idea was always unreasonable.

Customers are people.  Newsflash.

People are unpredictable.  People are not, by nature, loyal.  If they were the divorce rate wouldn’t be at 50%.

People only care about what they care about NOW.  Today.  If you are selling Christmas trees to Jews they won’t care.  They don’t use them (well, some do but not many).

Customers buy what they WANT to buy and the key today is not in trying to manage your customers but in understanding who they are, what they want (or need) and making it easy for them to be in the right place at the right time with the right story.    Story is key here — because customers need to be able to find what they need when they need it.

And it needs to be simple.  Simple for customers to understand what your widget is.  Easy for them to understand why it matters to THEM (not you, they could care less about you) and then make it easy for them to get to the end result of what they want.   Intuitive (like a iPod, like a GUI (graphical user interface) versus a c: prompt).

The customer is now in charge of the world.  Realize it.  Embrace it.  So now more than ever is “know thy customer” and realize that while you need them, they don’t need you.  Unless you give them a reason to need you.

CRM and Unified Communications

My last blog focused on how Unified Communications (UC) can empower the contact center by directing nontraditional call center calls to the center.  Most people think of UC as a way of combining multiple contact points for one person to a single point of contact (thus John Smith’s office phone, cell phone, email, IM, etc. can all be directed to “ring” on his cell phone).  This is the common way UC is explained, and it can be very valuable — but it can also result in TMI (too much information).

Everyone may be created equal, but we can’t give all of our customers, peers, bosses, and the world at large equal access to us or we’d never get any work done.  We need to prioritize who can contact us and how.  Thus with UC we can identify specific people (our boss, our spouse, our key customer) to reach us at our #1 end point (maybe that cell phone) while other important people get directed to voice mail — or as I pointed out in my last blog — this is a perfect opportunity to now direct those folks to a contact center where an inside sales rep or pool admin can hopefully handle their needs in one call (OCR = one call resolution).

So there is a natural marriage between UC and CC (contact center).

Where does CRM come into play?

CRM (customer relationship management) has become such a muddied term.  It has become far too generic.  To some it does mean contact center software (and it can be that), to some it means the software or software as a service (SaaS) that outside sales reps use to keep track of their accounts, where they are in the sales cycle, etc. — and that is a good definition. . .but CRM is much bigger than that.

CRM is really broken into two broad categories:  “front office CRM” and “Back office CRM.”

Front office CRM are the applications that actually touch the customer directly — the voice on the phone in the contact center, an internet interface where they can place an order, customer service (again online or over the phone) or the live customer service rep (CSR).  Any part where the customer is directly interfacing with your company is a form of “front office CRM.”

And a logical touchpoint for UC and CRM to link.

The holy grail of the contact center for years has been OCR – one call resolution.    Any problem that isn’t resolved in one call, or any sale that can’t be closed in one call (“we have an internet special where for the same price you are paying today you can add XYZ. . .”) costs lots of money.  Any customer service call that takes too long or requires “follow up” also begins to alienate your customers making them more inclined to leave you for another firm.

UC can dramatically improve the goal of OCR — whether that “one call” is a phone call, an internet access or even your face to face outside sales rep.

It all has to do with the “hand off.”  Inside a contact center this can be done with intelligent routing (which is really what UC is in a larger scheme of things).  We route the call to the most logical, not the first available, agent.   With UC we are now moving beyond the barrier of the contact center and able to route the call to best person no matter what department they work in, or even WHERE THEY ARE physically.

Setting up skills routing takes time, but the rewards are immense both in customer satisfaction and in cost reduction.

All of this so far focuses on the connectivity between front office CRM and UC, but back office CRM can increase this cost reduction by quantum factors.  Using a data warehouse (or perhaps data mart) to identify your most profitable customers you may choose to always route them to a specific department or person — not blindly treating all customers the same but giving platinum treatment to platinum customers.

By contrast your lower value customers (in margins) can always be routed through an IVR (interactive voice response) unit and routed to newer agents. . .  The dirty little reality in sales is that there are some customers that are not worth having because the amount of work they require (and work = expense to your company) may mean you actually lose money by having them as a customer.  Back end CRM identifies who is profitable and thus worth retaining.

One to one marketing is a myth.  We do not market to all of our prospects and customers in the same way and we shouldn’t.   Back end CRM’s information on customer profitability can help determine who we route to whom in our dynamic, unified communications world.

This blog is speaking in generalities — as if we had all the money and time in the world to link all of these disparate systems together.    The good news is that many of these systems are already begining to be linked — Cisco with, Aspect with MicrosoftAvaya and SAP, Nortel offers integration to Microsoft Dynamics CRM and implemented Dynamics internally.   The idea is to take advantage of the technologies you may already have in place such as a legacy  Siebel implementation maybe using AT&T’s Siebel Solutions offer) to improve relations with your customers and business partners through a streamlined “one call resolution” that goes far beyond the silos of “outside sales,” “engineering,” “customer service” across your business.

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