Social CRM – is traditional CRM dead?

Social CRM – effectively the integration of social engagement with customer relationship management (CRM) strategies – is arguably the ‘next frontier’ for non-profits and membership organisations who want to ensure meaningful social interactions with members, donors, supporters, customers and stakeholders.

Of course, the debate around what defines Social CRM (a.k.a. CRM 2.0) versus traditional CRM has been raging for at least the last two years. With the worldwide explosion of social media usage – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. – it’s no wonder that organisations are feeling under pressure to be where the people they need to interact with are.

However, using social media as a channel for engagement raises some very interesting challenges for users of traditional CRM approaches. With social media, it’s the members, donors, supporters, customers and stakeholders (and their highly influential virtual networks), rather than non-profits themselves, that are now driving the conversations.

Seismic shift

The challenge is for organisations to embrace this seismic shift with a new Social CRM strategy which recognises the type of collaborative experiences that those they interact with expect and, indeed, value. But while they may have much greater control over how they interact with you, make no mistake, they don’t run your organisation, nor do you have to concede everything to them.
What this means fundamentally is that Social CRM is actually an extension of, and not a replacement for, your traditional CRM. Of course, there’s a dramatic change in terms of what it adds to the features, functionality and characteristics of a CRM ecosystem – but if you thought that the advent of Social CRM means traditional CRM is dead, think again.

New challenges

At Hart Square, we work with non-profit organisations in the UK every day. The rise of Social CRM certainly does pose new challenges to them and is the subject of numerous discussions that we have internally and externally. We believe that Social CRM is a natural evolution of CRM, and that CRM itself has always been an ‘ecosystem’, not just a piece of software; and that it is core to any organisation, regardless of sector.
Not only is CRM a vital ecosystem, but traditional CRM systems are alive and kicking, evolving and as dynamic as ever. The people you want to engage with have to be the focus, the centre of all that you do, and traditional CRM system principles remain as vital as ever.

New ways to engage

There’s no doubt that Social CRM is giving organisations new ways to engage, and a new balance to relationships, but internal business processes and delivery systems have just as important a role to play in on-going success. In essence, a Social CRM strategy is an organisation’s response to the customer’s control of the conversation. But in the end those organisations must have the expertise and tools in place to enable that…

Specialist non-profit CRM solutions offer a strong proposition

Over the past five years or more a lot of the hype and buzz around CRM solutions for non-profits has focused on the emergence of Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce as suitable platforms for technologists to build custom solutions on. Discussion includes the relative merits of “platform and proprietary”, but all the focus is usually placed on the possibilities offered by the rise of platform.

The noise and excitement becomes about comparisons between Salesforce and Dynamics as platforms, and between the partners building on them, but what about those specialist solutions which were already servicing the sector – and their providers who have dedicated years to their development? What happened to them and where do they fit?

To me, it felt like they’ve been a bit battered by the emergence of solutions being built on flexible and adaptive platforms and in many respects many of the specialist solutions providers could be reasonably described as having retreated into their shells in the early 2010’s.

Maybe there was a complacency among them, where they’d been dominant for some years and felt that their knowledge was a suitable safety net to protect them from new competition. Certainly a lot of the leading providers could be accused of having neglected their solutions, or letting them plod along rather than keep pace with the times or seek innovation.

Regardless of the causes, the rise of platform undoubtedly sent a shockwave through the marketplace and it’s taken some time for the traditional specialist providers to understand, appreciate the challenge, and to respond.

In the last year however we’ve seen the first signs of recovery, with specialist providers introducing new modern solutions which leverage their deep knowledge of the sector. These dedicated specialist providers are now adopting modern technology to provide flexible solutions with the inherent characteristics of modern CRM, plus the benefit of their insight and experience.

These specialist non-profit CRM solution providers have regrouped, having learnt some harsh lessons, have refreshed their offerings and are starting to show confidence in the values of their deep sector understanding, and in having specialist systems in which they are invested, and over which they have complete control.

Complementing this, some of the providers who were previously seen as quite entrenched are showing a new side to themselves, with a more open culture, a willingness to engage with the rest of the sector on a more equal footing, to interact and to integrate with a wider number of partners.

The non profit CRM marketplace is as vibrant as it’s ever been and there are substantial benefits to be achieved from buying in to the modern tech propositions from specialist providers with deep credentials and dedication. The competitive edge between providers and between solution models can only benefit the non profit sector as the propositions and delivery options enhance and evolve.

Subscribe to hear more about this over the coming weeks, or give us a call to find out more!

Membership Management and Technology – Article 2

It’s about culture

In the second of our four-part series of articles on membership management, we look at why culture is so important.

One really important aspect to consider when looking at membership management is your organisational culture. The technology you choose must be a ‘good fit’ culturally for your organisation, otherwise you will face a major challenge in terms of ensuring it is embedded and ‘bought into’ by your staff.

In fact, the culture of the organisation can often be the very foundation of everything you do from a technology perspective.

Cultural fit – questions to ask

Key questions to ask when assessing your organisation’s cultural fit for technology change include:

  • Are you risk averse or not? It’s not easy ‘going out on a limb’ and selecting and implementing new technology – it takes guts, and not all organisations are prepared to tackle the risks involved.
  • What resources and skillsets do you have? You staff are recruited for their specific skills and experience – that doesn’t necessarily mean they have the right skillsets to implement new technology, or maximise its use.
  • How do your staff adapt to change? There is always a certain amount of inertia in any organisation. Change isn’t easy for everyone – and adapting to it can be a major hurdle to overcome for some.
  • Do you outsource (i.e. work with external consultancies, external subject matter experts) or do you do everything in-house? It is unlikely that you will have all the knowledge, skills and experience in-house, so bringing in external experts can provide real benefits – and enable internal staff to concentrate on what they do best.
  • What governance is in place? You need to ensure that both internal and external standards and processes are adhered to.
  • What is your Board like – i.e. are they hands-on and involved, how do they feel about technology and technology projects? It’s a truism that most senior management are technology averse – they need to see the business processes and advantages of technology, rather than the ‘bits and bytes’.
  • Do you have an IT department? If so, what are their skillsets, size, and do they have CRM-specific and implementation skills? Technology is so wide ranging and moves so fast that many internal IT staff can struggle to keep up and acquire and maintain the skills required for new technology projects.
  • Are you realistic about budgets, timeframes and staff workloads? It’s easy for technology projects to bust timeframes and budgets, so you need to build in contingency – and some.

Remember that the culture of your organisation may need to change towards a more collaborative approach to working. CRM will facilitate departments that previously worked in ‘silos’ – centralisation may be key, and indeed should be encouraged.

This isn’t easily done of course – data/information ‘ownership’ needs to be addressed, there are standards and protocols to follow and processes need to be consistent.

Top tips

  • Technology must be a good fit culturally
  • Check if you have the right skills and resources in-house
  • Seek to deliver on your organisation’s cultural values
  • Consider bringing in external experts to advise


Membership Management and Technology – Article 1

It’s technology – and a whole lot more

In the first of our four-part series of articles on membership management, we look at why it’s a lot more than just technology.

There’s a temptation to view technology – whether it’s CRM, CMS or whatever – as some sort of panacea when it comes to membership management. It isn’t.

Technology can really help in knowing and understanding the membership and help to enhance the member experience which, in turn, will better support the mission of the organisation. It can also help to segment and target based on preferences and behaviour. However, before embarking on technology selection, there are some important steps to consider first.

Technology lifecycle

It is absolutely vital to consider at what stage you are at in your technology lifecycle. First and foremost, do you have Strategic Objectives and a Business Plan? These are essential in terms of providing a framework within which important technology decisions can be made. Once you have these in place, you can then be much clearer about the technologies that will help deliver against the plan, and the benefits that technology can bring to your organisation. Effective membership management requires a multi-faceted effort that incorporates not only the selection, deployment and use of technology and systems, but also how people and business processes integrate and work as part of a ‘bigger picture’.

CRM as a ‘hub’

Yes, you need to harness the value of CRM and other technologies as a ‘hub’ for information about members, sales, marketing effectiveness, market trends and responsiveness. You need that information and you simply cannot deliver member value without it. However, you need the culture, people and processes in place to manage that information effectively to maximise membership value. Technology is definitely an enabler – but consider it as only part of an entire ‘ecosystem’.

Top tips

  • Don’t view technology as a panacea
  • Create a framework for technology decisions
  • Focus on the ‘bigger picture’
  • Consider technology as only one part of an ‘ecosystem’