Web 2.0 for CRM Users

Updated: April 30, 2009


It's hard to go anywhere these days without hearing someone gushing about Web 2.0 and its close cousin Enterprise 2.0. But nailing down what these terms really mean is difficult because they both encompass many concepts and technologies, and everyone's idea of what they are is a bit different. Confused? You have a right to be.


Coming to Terms

The term Web 2.0 was first coined by the venerable Tim O'Reilly back in 2004 (ancient history in technology terms). Web 1.0 enabled a few gifted folks to build Web sites which everyone else visited. The second wave now involves more individual engagement in the process, taking it out of the hands of the technology gurus and using the Web as a platform where ordinary people can create their own content. Tools and concepts frequently attributed to Web 2.0 include:

  • Blogs, Wikis and Content Syndication: These tools provide the ability for individuals to self-publish a Web page and for people to subscribe to them, so content gets pushed to readers rather than readers seeking out content.
  • Folksonomies: These allow ordinary people to organize Web content using terms that make sense to them.
  • Ratings: Ratings give people the ability to choose the content they think is best through votes or another simple system. Digg.com is a prime example of this.
  • Social Networking: These now well-known sites let people easily build their own personal Web sites and connect and share information with their peers. Examples include Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.
  • Cloud Computing: This new technology moves many traditional computing tasks from the desktop onto the Web. Examples include Salesforce.com and Google Docs.
  • Mashups: These tools let individuals without programming experience combine features from different platforms to create something completely geared to personal computing needs.

Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee is credited with coining the term Enterprise 2.0, which in effect takes these Web 2.0 concepts and moves them inside the enterprise to encourage collaboration and give business-level control of applications and processes, removing a lot of the heavy lifting usually required by IT personnel .

Applying CRM to Web 2.0

Typically, CRM has been about getting to know and building relationships with your customers. Where are they located? Who are the key business contacts? What do they like to buy? With each piece of information you collect, you get a little bit more familiar with your customers and you can tailor your message to their specific needs.

Web 2.0 takes this idea a step further by not only giving you access to customer information, but letting customers participate in the conversation to share ideas about your products, give you direct feedback and communicate with peers. Customers might even have the ability to exchange photos and videos. This can be pretty powerful (if a bit frightening), and can give you direct insight into what your customers need from your products. Instead of trying to design a need for the customer, you can design products the customers need. What's more, testimonials from your biggest fans can be far more powerful than your own internal marketing literature.

Applying CRM to Enterprise 2.0

The CRM database is a great equalizer internally because it gives every salesperson access to the same customer information. But sales reps don't necessarily share all of their customer knowledge in the CRM database. Imagine if you could share and access information more easily with your colleagues, partners and customers. That's Enterprise 2.0: taking Web 2.0 concepts into a business context.

Consider the simple act of finding sales collateral on current systems. Typically, it involves drilling through endless directories to find the document you need and if you can't find it, you end up starting over. With Enterprise 2.0, you can tag documents related to product x, so you can access a list of documents related to that product in one simple step. You can see what the most popular documents are, or which could be useful when creating a customer presentation. You can even rate the documents you like to help the community of users determine which are best.

You can set up communities in a wiki or a blog to share information about products — which are selling, for instance, or what tools and techniques are available. Since everyone can participate, the community can monitor information and clear up misconceptions that might have developed about a customer or product line.

These Tools Were Made for Customer Management

The Web is just going to get more social, so take advantage of these 2.0 technologies. You may want to start off with a small project or see if your CRM vendor has some of these tools; chances are they have at least some functionality you can use as a starting point. Web 2.0 — most notably social networking — can provide valuable insight into your customers and can help your sales staff bond and share important information. All of this can enhance your CRM tools and make them more valuable for your users.

Make sure you don't ignore this trend because, ready or not, it's where technology is moving.

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