Indirect channel sales & marketing related experiences, thoughts, tips

Social CRM has two major and very different aspects:

1) The sCRM Product Solution Aspect

As CRM is under huge pressure from the open and collaborative social media space, CRM vendors (first was Oracle) decided to promote the idea of “Social CRM”. Even so there is no real product and no real product definition, it is the vendors interest to close the gap between the wide open social space and the very close enterprise software space. Other than integrating twitter streams and other social chatter, nothing has materialized, where an enterprise sales or marketing organization would fall in love with.

2) The Philosophical Aspect

Consultants in the sales and marketing field understood the need for a change. Not just an upgrade but a significant shift in the customer interaction model. sCRM sounded like the bridge between those tangential drifting continents. As such the definition is eroding more and more every day. To some it is a future product solution, to others it is Twitter, Groups and communities done right, yet to others it is just a “strategy” and again others see multiple facets of the above – and then there are groups who see it emerging without being able to exactly articulate what it may be in the future.

My personal opinion:

If $100 Billion in aggregate (SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce.com and about 20 other CRM vendors) now promote sCRM and do nothing but bolting the “s” in front of the CRM – the vision of the SCRM strategists will be overshadowed and no way of creating a more social business relationship with customers, prospects and partners will remain a dream.

If instead we work with a new vision, new business processes and as a result completely new products, we may see where the new world leads us to.

SRM – social relationship Management is an attempt to make that shift. As we define SRM and build SRM products, we also define new business processes. Not driven by efficiency or automation but driven by customer requests for a better business relationship with their respective vendors.

See the Definition of SRMAxel

http://xeesm.com/AxelS
(my social map)

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I just read a few articles about sCRM. One was a post on a blog where the blog doesn’t allow comments (very social). The other was talking about Ajax enabled technology that revolutionizes CRM (OMG) and yet another one described the advantage of getting Twitter streams and Facebook wall entrances all feed into the CRM system for better customer information (yes more data). Another system suggest that it takes everything a sales person ever needs so they never have to leave their CRM system (wow – how about leaving the company to actually deal with the customer?). The worst are the ones who still promote the “low touch sales model”. Automation is still the big word. Didn’t we automate already to death so that the customer doesn’t want to speak with us any longer?

NOW – CRM was always a hard nut to crack. Mostly beloved by executives to get data and hated by sales people who (in my personal opinion rightfully) prefer to deal with customers not with data administration and data analysis. I joined – really just for the fun of it – three sCRM and related presentations and was shocked what a sales or marketing person would have to do to “leverage” all the wonderful options of triggers, automated nurture programs, forecast granularity adjustments and a gazillion other options. Social CRM now feeds even more data to an already overwhelmed sales person. There is no word about the actual customer relationship – zero – nada – nothing. Is that how we bring the economy back?

A friend of my (a sales person): “Axel, that is today’s reality. We are customer data admins, not customer relationship managers. We manage the theoretic aspects of the relationship but I am about 10-20% of my business hours with a customer – at best.” What do you do all day long? “I try to reach customers based on a suggestion list, call and call and typically leave 10 voice mails – I know nobody will listen to, in many cases don’t even get to voice mail and one or two people I may be able to talk directly. If I’m on the road I prepare my trip, travel optimization, planning, arranging meetings which is a just an enormous task in itself and so forth. Weekly forecast review, weekly planning for the review meeting, again data into and out of the CRM system – the whole nine yard.” OK and 1 out of 8 hours a day with customers? – “As you can see now – AT BEST. Other activities are reviewing the lead process, the nurturing process, we have very sophisticated processes and it takes a lot to actually go through them every day”.

Bolting an “S” onto the CRM seem to make it harder not better. Of course in the days of Social Media companies need to do something. But sCRM seems to be the opposite direction. sCRM seems to be accelerating the disaster we have on the sales side. Not only because if the incremental information flow but also because of the farther automation instead of the social engagement. Living in a CRM system – that’s what CRM vendors like to see. But don’t you want to see the sales person be with the customer and spend only a fraction of the time with ANY system?

I love Brian Solis statement: “Take the C out of the sCRM”. As our networks grow exponentially, we also may need a good tool, but we need a tool that helps us with the actual relationship – not with the data we aggregate.

Social Relationship Management as it is is currently defined may be a solution to the problem as it focuses on the relationship – not at the data.

Axel
http://xeesm.com/AxelS

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We are conducting a project to empower partners to participate in social media. The funding is done through MDF. The details are here:

Purpose:
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Social media is a place where customers hang out and converse over products, best practices, service tips and more. The purpose to get partners involved in those conversations is a) to intensify or win back customer relationships and b) connect with new potential customers who are discussing and dealing with the same topics.

Benefit:
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The benefit to the dealers and reseller to engage is an obvious business benefit in increasing sales and gaining back market share.

Challenges:
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A) Channel partners have neither a good plan, nor the resources nor the education to launch such a social media engagement. It is not so much an investment in tools or equipment but in knowledge and time. More so channel partners don’t have the content they want like attractive video clips, white papers, ongoing new blog posts and more.
B) Channel partners are scared to death to expose any customer data. So what we needed to do is build a technology that allows partners to have a private customer community (with no access for vendors, unless wanted) but still provide vendors with relevant meta data to see that the communities are actually active and growing.

Solution:
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Vendors “sponsor” the partners social media engagement including three components:
a) The base education for the partners
b) Some vendor side resource allocation to feed content to the partners
c) An online community system that allows the partner to build their own social community, which in turn is connected to the vendors who feed content straight into all the connected partner communities (in our case 3,500 connected partner communities)

Funding:
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The whole project is funded through MDF – and it cost less than the typical but less effective local marketing events. The initial funds allocation is $800 per partner for training, a few dollars for the online community and more but only if successful for community engagement (see below)

Reporting and justification
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The MDF funds per partner grow with the activities and engagement in the communities. In other words if a partner does not engage with their market – no more money. If the partner engages and their community grows – additional money. If a partner is REALLY active constantly grows the ecosystem and develops a vibrant community – even more MDF cash. The reporting system provides activity level that in turn controls the MDF flow.

So at the end of the day – social media and its transparency provides an even deeper insight into the effectiveness of the partner activities. Probably a bid hard to explain in words but once you see it you will get the idea.

It is a multi million dollar project but simply because the channel is a global channel. Cost is less than 0.5% of the revenue through the channel.

However the concept is scalable and will work with channels as small as 100 partners for around $25,000 to start with.

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After 25 years in indirect business – growing channels for Rockwell International, building my own global distribution organization (Computer 2000), today part of Tech Data, successfully growing yet a new channel during the DotCom boom (Infinigate) – while the saying went “The internet eliminates the middleman”, then building a new category of Channel CRM Software as founder and CEO of BlueRoads and lately helping the SaaS industry to create a whole new channel structure, I decided to write a book about “Channel Excellence”.

I’m pretty far and plan to publish it in about 12 weeks. In the meantime I will interview channel chiefs, channel workers and people who helped shape the indirect channels in the high tech industry. Any inputs are very welcome!

To support that project I created a separate blog ay http://www.channelexcellence.com

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Much is written about how Software as a Service will kill the indirect channel. SaaS vendors flip a switch and the application is live. It seams that the 250,000+ US based VARs and resellers go out of business any soon. But wasn’t that the story when the Internet came into existence? Or earlier when CDW opened their doors? Or… 1850 when the industrial revolution started?

N O – the channel isn’t going to die!
I recently talked to a few executives in medium and larger size organizations. And there was 1 single question that makes it so obvious what role a channel needs to play in SaaS: “Who has the capability to help us put it all together” – “Who can help me composing my new IT world which may consist of multiple vendors for different jobs i.e. Sales, HR, Expense Management and so forth”. The channel business simply hasn’t really started yet. But here are already several cases with great success stories.

B U T – the new industry needs a new type of channel.
There is no need for a warehouse, for technicians to install and configure software. The new world needs business savvy and business process aware people. There is no margin to be made from reselling but money from consulting, implementation, integration and ongoing maintenance. Feel free to download my whitepaper at Tanooma.

SaaS is not only no danger for the channel – it may actually be the biggest business opportunity in IT history. About 1 Million early adopter started with SaaS so far. About 750 Million will join the party in the next 10 years or so. That requires 1 – 5 Million Channel partners to act as catalysts for that new industry; it may turn out an even bigger channel than in the traditional IT industry.

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One of the innovations I was working on the last few years was a better way of getting sales leads to resellers. Rather than pushing them out and hoping somebody will follow up, I developed a pull methodology where Partners can pull them from a pool to make sure that the lead will have a follow up. Several rules, a well thought out process flow and an automatic tracking made it work. I applied for a patent which was awarded patent number 09,514,997 by the United States Patent and Trademark Office last week.

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