Which Comes First?

This isn’t some long, drawn out research-paper-posing-as-blog-post.  I was just thinking about this on the way to work….for the past 6 months.

Which comes first? Social CRM technology, strategy or business process?  I’m assuming some are going to read this and think it a stupid question at this point.  “STRATEGY! You need a scrm strategy!” I can hear many of you yelling at your screen….you know who you are.  (In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ve argued the same thing)

Ok, so why?

What was the impetus for this whole social media thing in first place? Was it a business strategy?  A process map? Nope.  Discussion groups, forums, chat rooms; then Twitter, Facebook and on and on.  Technology, right?  If it weren’t for these social platforms, we wouldn’t be having academic conversations about business strategy or enterprise operating models, would we?

The second coolest word of advice David Alston gave at our panel discussion at the most recent SOCAP conference (this was the first) was to not over complicate this whole social crm thing.  To customer service people, the audience at this event, social media has been portrayed by many consultants and gurus (with a vested interest) as the three headed monster under the bed.  We’ve been talking to customers over the phone for how long?  Exactly!  So, what’s the difference?  Sure, social platforms are more public.  But, does the public nature of the channel automatically turn us into bumbling idiots that are going to trash our company’s brands in 140 characters?  Frank Eliason had a classic retort to an audience question about influencers and influencer analysis.  He said (paraphrasing) I’m in customer service.  I don’t care how influential they are.  I need to solve their problem.  Do you ask who your customer knows before you answer their question on the phone?

So grab some tools, throw them in the back of the pick up truck and get started down the road.  You’re customers are waiting.


  1. I think there are two questions:

    Which CAME first?
    I think tech came first, at least on the large scale that the SCRM bug has spread. Ask some of the SCRM gurus and they'll all scream bloody murder about that. But deep down, they know that TECH is the ONLY reason social CRM has a place at the strategy table.

    Which COMES first?
    Strategy comes first in a perfect world. The reality is that for most companies tech comes first here too. Customers are utilizing social media tools and their vendors are following them there. The strategy is a result of the tech that is being utilized in the first place.

  2. Axel,
    Agree that a plan is good. I separate a plan from a strategy though. To keep the road trip analogy going, the plan is like the directions to the place we're going today. Regardless of what my wife thinks, I prefer to have directions over just jumping in the car and driving aimlessly.

    However, when I first started to drive (had my license at 15.5 goes to show my age), I didn't necessarily know every place I would ever drive to over the last 30 years. As I got more comfortable driving, made some mistakes (man, did I get a lot of tickets back then), I got a better sense of what worked and what didn't. And I developed my overall approach to driving (my strategy) over time.

    In other words, I didn't go to the DMV, get my license and stick it in my pocket until I had it all figured out.

    I took action. My guidance to leaders: don't let your strategy development be your crutch for inaction.

    Thanks so much for the comment!

  3. Tim,
    You know, I had the same thought (I swear. not just stealing your credit for a very thoughtful distinction).

    ERP, CRM, WCM – they all started with technology. And the strategy came later. In many cases also, the strategy was originially misguided and it took a while to get it right.

    And you're right on the second point as well. Key being, in an ideal world. That world is where your competition isn't breathing down your neck. Your customers aren't screaming at you on Twitter and your supply chain isn't leaving you behind. Sure, in that world, we can all hide up in our ivory towers and pontificate about the perfect social business strategy while Nero fiddles a soothing tune to help us think.

    Any idea where that world exists?

    You're comments always make me think differently! thanks

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