I’ve been out and about the last couple of weeks, first to Holland to the Dutch CRM Awards where Paul Greenberg gave a great Keynote presentation on The Social Customer, and then to the UK to meet with some interesting people to further my understanding of Social CRM – what it is and how it could provide value to how business is done. As I continue with my journey I will try to give you my impressions as I go along.
I met with Ian Hendry of WeCanDoBIZ, who is a great guy with some very sound ideas. This being the small world it is, I discovered through LinkedIn that we had a mutual acquaintance called Myla Memon who had worked for both him and myself in the past! I got in touch with her as well and she made the arrangements for Ian and myself to meet up – networking in action :). After our exchange concerning Social CRM and WeCanDoBiz, she subsequently joined us for dinner and we had a great evening.
Ian has set up a business based on a very simple premise: there are aprroximately 4 million small & medium-sized enterprises(SMEs) in the UK, and they are increasingly looking to the internet to for new business opportunities through networking. He had actually commisioned a study in the autumn of 2008 to validate his impressions, and found out that for 48% of the respondants the main reason for using the internet for SME’s was because they wanted more business. Preliminary results for this year this figure is going to be near 65%!
If you take into consideration that most of these entrepreneurs are not what you could describe in general as being very ‘technology-literate’, it also means that if you want to offer a service to help them improve their business, it needs to be straight-forward, practical and cost-efficient, with a very clear value-proposition.
WeCanDoBIZ (WCDB) started off as a classic B2B Business Directory where each member is listed per its category and in ordered based on the number of endorsements they have received (a search function is also available). Once you have identified someone you think you can do business with, you can contact them directly by using the details provided or add them to yourWCDB contacts. They also have many connectors to import your LinkedIn, Google, Yahoo and other contact management systems.
They have also included a full-fledged online CRM system which they have dubbed WeCanDoCRM (powered by InTouch). This system is provided on a freemium basis, does Leads/Sales and Contact History tracking, Calender, Email and SMS campaigns and so on. Anyone who is in My Contacts on WCDB, and approved (that is both ends have confirmed the relationship) automatically get copied into your contacts in WCDC. It’s quite likely that WCDC will contain many more contacts from other sources though, such as LinkedIn, email, Twitter, CSV files and the like. There is a tool on the website that brings the contacts over, but this is not done automatically. Once they have been carried over, they are synched without further ado. So far though it seems to me that the service delivers on what you would expect and provides a simple way of getting SME’s to connect and manage their interactions. I think they have great potential to set themself like a multi-sided market provider (see point no 7 in G.Hill’s manifesto on social business)
“So what makes all this Social CRM?” you may ask. Whilst I was there, Ian explained to me that they have added a new channel that will dramatically change the way supply and demand are matched between members. Tere is the basic Twitter search function that will find all messages containing your keywords, but it gets much more interesting for premium (members are called Pro Networkers) with the ability to create and respond to Biz Needs. Where WCDB innovates is in their use of Twitter/BizNeed to automate Sales Leads generation in the CRM System.
Rather than have members look at Tweetdeck all day and hopefully pick up on something relevant, the system automates the whole process so that all that needs to be done is look in the CRM Leads section and see a list of opportunities based on Biz Needs tweeted by other members. This list also contains the possility to better qualify the prospect by allowing you to obtain more detailed information on the company, as well as endorsement received (which is basically about reputation). A further novelty is that the need can be created as a leads for multiple suppliers that can all put in a bid (as long as the filter criteria are met).
WeCanDoBiz’s approach basically functions as Esteban Kolsky’s Pivot Point. The WCDB community uses the Twitter channel, rules then funnel this into the CRM system as an actionable insight (a Sales lead). But rather than be dealt with by a single supplier, you can potentially have many responding. There is an advantage for the suppliers because they have qualified leads with a client base that they would never have touched before in the past, and the same reasoning stands as well for those looking to fulfill there need. More qualified opportunities and better options.
Now let’s take a look at the system design. WeCanDoBiz twitter-follows all members and analyses the tweets that start off with “I need”, “We need”, “looking for”, “can recommend”, “can suggest” and a few others. The rest of the message is then “scraped” for its content and matched against the business keywords (currently a maximum of 10 for free users, 50 for Pro Networkers) that are set up in each member’s profile. Operators AND and OR and LIKE or exact matches can be used to filter the leads before they automatically create an entry in the CRM system. Currently the supplier needs to go back into the interface to refresh the current leads (maybe in the future they can choose to be notified by email or SMS that there are new leads in the system?).
In the WCDC interface he can then separate the wheat from the chaff by for example drilling down to get more context; check company details, endorsements (reputation), tweet history, twitter member lists and so on. They then can decide what action to take (without forcing them to go through the CRM interface for example if they feel more comfortable to pick the phone and call) and track all other interactions in the system as you would in standard SFA software.
As such, the idea is very simple, and very (cost) effective and has the advantage that it rapidly connects businesses that normally speaking never have know of eachother’s existence.
Where to next? When looking at how WeCanDoBiz could provide more value to their members with insights derived through interactions with the #scrm crew, I believe there is great potential for them to start an online community where members can discuss doing business as Small/Medium-sized companies (Running a Small Business is a Social Object too). There are many pitfalls when starting a company, and sometimes it is good to exchange experiece with others. WeCanDoBiz can feed the community with information and even act as a connector, and in turn receive valuable feedback and insights on how their service can be continuously improved to better meet the needs of its members. I understand that they are looking into Google Wave as many of its members are currently using Gmail, but I think it may make sense to look at a forum-like solution that allows monitoring and analysis as well to get a better understanding of overall community health as its usage grows.
I wish Ian the best of luck in this venture and will be watching the evolution of WeCanDoBiz closely!
If any of you have feedback, questions or suggestions about the above, you’re very welcome to provide your comments below :)