What is Social CRM?

During some of my recent dealer visits, dealers have been asking how to properly monitor their social media accounts and how they can use the information that they receive to improve their business.

By Christopher Kourtakis, director of sales and marketing, 360° Industry Solutions — During some of my recent dealer visits, dealers have been asking how to properly monitor their social media accounts and how they can use the information that they receive to improve their business.  Like other industries, the marine industry needs to figure out what is being said and how to use the information correctly.  We all know the acronym CRM and use it on a daily basis, but what about social CRM?  Social CRM has become a hot topic in the online media world, the automotive world and now in the marine industry.

What everyone needs to understand is that social CRM is a strategy and needs to be supported with the proper tools and latest technologies.  The strategy needs to be based around the customer and how your dealership interacts with them and the business transactions are the byproduct.

CRM will mean different things to different dealerships.  However, the key is to being able to understand the business challenges you are looking to solve and then solving them.   Social CRM is still CRM and back side or back end processes and programs are still needed to manage the relationships and the data that are derived from them.  Remember, social CRM is one piece of the puzzle to developing a collaborative business, both internally and externally.

In the past traditional CRM was based around data and information that brands could collect on their customers, all of which would go into a CRM system that then allowed the company to better target various customers.  The CRM was comprised of sales, marketing and service/support – based functions whose purpose was to move the customer through the dealership’s various departments with the goal of keeping the customer coming back into the dealership to purchase a new boat, service, storage, etc.

Social CRM is managed a little differently and includes more departments than it did in the past.  In fact, in many large corporations, PR departments now control the budgets when it comes to CRM.   In the larger corporations, PR departments manage the social presence of brands and handle the customer engagement. The next big change that can be seen is that business promotion and experience are crucial components of social CRM, which all revolve around the customer instead of pushing them through the business’ customer service process.

Social CRM, which has completely changed the focus of CRM and the customer, is actually the focal point of how an organization operates. Instead of marketing or pushing messages to customers, businesses, brands and services now collaborate with the customer to solve the business’ problems.  This will empower the customer and allow them to shape their own experiences and build customer relationships, which will hopefully turn the customers into advocates of the dealership.  However, please remember, it is important to keep in mind that social CRM is not the “newest” trend or marketing fad on the market that replaces traditional CRM, it is simply an evolution of the process to help make your dealership more profitable.

The evolution was the result of customers wanting businesses and brands to have a social media presence.  In fact, 60% of Americans regularly interact with business’ social media sites (Cone Business in Social Media Study).  In fact, the three most influential factors for consumers when considering which companies to do business with were personal experience (98%), company’s reputation (92%) and recommendations from friends and family members.  In fact, 43% of the consumers surveyed said that companies should use social networks to solve their consumer issues, resolve problems and communication communicate information from the business.

Furthermore, according to the Brand Science Institute, European Perspective, August 2010, only 7% of organizations understand the CRM value of social media.  However, four out of five (81%) of consumers will search online sources to verify the recommended products or services before they make a purchase or decision on which company to use.  They will specifically use research and service information, read user reviews and search product rating websites.  (Cone Online Influence Trend Tracker, 2010)

This is just an example of the available data on the Web that shows how consumers are changing and evolving with the growth of social media and the online resources available to them.

The challenge for dealerships now is adapting and evolving their current CRM systems to meet the needs and demands of these new social customers.  However, dealerships cannot rush into it without a plan, and a plan that coordinates with the rest of their marketing plan.  One of my recent favorite business quotes is:

“By 2010, more than half of companies that have established an online community will fail to manage it as an agent of change, ultimately eroding customer value. Rushing into social computing initiatives without clearly defined benefits for both the company and the customer will be the biggest cause of failure.” – Gartner

We all need to understand that social media is one part of your marketing plan puzzle.  Without it, the puzzle is incomplete, but rushing into it will force you to place pieces of the puzzle where they do not belong.  The entire marketing plan needs to support each other and have one common goal.  Social CRM is still a piece of the marketing puzzle; you just need to figure out how it fits and where it belongs within your dealership’s ultimate strategy.


  1. For dealers who want to know where and when boaters are using social media, check out our recent social media survey of anglers and boaters. http://www.rbff.org/uploads/Research_section/RBFF_Magnet360StakeholderResearch2.pdf

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