CRM and Social Media – is that Social CRM?

Social CRM is an emerging concept that springs from an attempt to integrate the management capability of CRM systems with the wealth of customer information available in Social Media channels. There is still some confusion, however, about where the boundaries lie and a lack of clarity on how small and business can start to take advantage of this idea.

Steve Orriss, Director at The National B2B Centre, has taken a look at what’s happening in the marketplace to provide some clear thinking on Social CRM and what it means for you.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions are about building a database of everything you know about all your customers and using that data to drive your business, putting the customer at the centre. CRM systems help businesses to manage Sales, Marketing and Customer Service activities and business processes. The concept is to analyse the data collected to understand what products and services your customers want and to market those directly to them. So CRM is about you deciding what your customer needs and pushing your solution to them, a task and process oriented approach managed by you.

Social Media on the other hand provides tools to allow people to interact with each other and the businesses and brands they are interested in. What is said about them becomes a conversation between customers (and non-customers) and is in effect a communication and interaction between people to which you can listen and respond, but largely not necessarily control. This can deliver a 2 way interaction to provide insights into what your customers think of you and your products. There can also be discussions going on about your brand on Social Media sites which you don’t own or control, which can be both positive and damaging, so you need to be listening and reacting to keep control.

Businesses can learn a lot from their customers by using and listening to Social Media and should be using it to support and inform business decisions about new product developments and new marketing initiatives. So clearly Social Media is a tool which supports Sales, Marketing and Customer Service and so should ideally be managed through your CRM system along with conventional sales and marketing activities.

So, if you already have a CRM system, or you are in the process of getting one, can it be used to manage Social Media as well? …and is that Social CRM?

Social Media Strategy for SMEs

Social Media is still going through the hype stage. You’d think success with it simply depends on setting up an account, throwing out a few words of wisdom and waiting for the cash to start rolling in. The reality is that it requires thinking and some hard graft to make it

Gareth Edwards, the National B2B Centre’s Associate E-Marketing Consultant, has used his extensive experience of working with SMEs to develop a series of practical steps that will help you get the results you’re after.


The real challenge of using Social Media is not how individual sites work – most people can eventually sort out to do a tweet – it’s about how to fit Social Media into the way you operate and what changes you need to make to incorporate it.

Social Media is not a magic bullet. It is another part of your marketing activity and like any other marketing technique you have to plan to be successful. I would also stick my neck out and suggest that there are plenty of you for whom Social Media shouldn’t be top of your marketing priority list.

The steps I have outlined below should give you an indication of what’s required. Feel free to contact me at the B2B Centre if you have any questions about the approach.

Understand how Social Media marketing can help.

People often jump into to Social Media because they see it as a way of generating sales.

In fact Social Media is providing benefits to businesses in lots of different ways; as a research tool, to help with brand recognition or provide better customer service, for instance. Some commentators would even say that Social Media is not a good selling tool because your audience expect interaction and relationship building not a hard sell.

Simple SEO Tips for SMEs

With our SEO training course being heavily booked yet again it’s clear that optimising your website to improve its performance in the search engines and to generate more visitors is still an important topic to many SMEs.

Gareth Edwards, The National B2B Centre Associate e-Marketing Consultant, quick guide to some important activities that you can conduct yourself or instruct your web developer to carry out for you.

1./ Install Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free tool that provides a lot of valuable information about who is visiting your site, how they got there and what they do when they arrived.

Get Analytics on your website today and start looking at the search terms your visitors have used or which sites they saw and clicked on your link.


You’ll need to be able to edit your website’s code or have access to a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress to add Analytics yourself. Otherwise your web developer should be able to do it easily and cheaply.

How to get what you really need from new IT

Steve Orriss, Director at The National B2B Centre, spends a lot of time rescuing the situation for companies who haven’t quite got what they wanted from their latest IT investment.

Here’s Steve’s advice on getting the purchase right first time.


It’s a common occurrence when I meet a client to find they are not happy with the way their IT projects have gone (or are going). Apart from being over budget with expensive unforeseen extras common complaints include:

  • not having got the functionality the business needs,
  • the system is working but the users won’t use it

Both of these issues are most easily addressed right at the beginning of your project by understanding in detail exactly what your business needs are – and then asking suppliers if they can meet them.

The most common reason for not getting what you want is not thinking about it and defining exactly what you need at the start. A typical scenario is for a business to decide it needs a new IT system and then to call in a supplier immediately to recommend a solution. Funnily enough most recommend a solution they sell, but it might not fit your needs if you haven’t stated them clearly.

So what can the smaller businesses do about it? The answer is to do a bit of work up front before speaking to a supplier. Start by writing down the problem you are trying to solve with new IT and what your business will look like when it is fixed – some goals and the benefits of achieving them will help you focus.

There are 3 key elements to getting the successful IT project you want and these are:

  • People,
  • Processes and
  • Technology.

Technology is deliberately last – you can’t decide which solution is right for your business until you are clear what you want it to do – not all software solutions of a given type do the same thing. To achieve success you need to address all three.


Protecting Information – Your Most Important Asset

Small businesses are both extremely vulnerable to and unaware of the consequences of poor information protection. Business failure, fines and loss of reputation are just some the potential outcomes, so even the smallest firm should consider taking preventative action.

This article by Richard Henson, Senior Lecturer in Computing at the University of Worcester and joint founder of IASME information assurance management standard highlights what you can do to reduce the risks.


According to research published by PWC 70% of small firms that experience a major data loss go out of business within a year. At the same time the penalties for putting personal data at risk have risen dramatically: the Information Commissioner has the power to impose fines of up to £500,000 for Data Protection breaches.

Unfortunately many small companies either do not realise how big a risk they are running by not managing their information in a secure way or think that only bigger companies can actually do something about the problem.

This article highlights practical ways to improve your information security and a pathway to a more structured approach to the issue.


How to Improve your next Software Purchase

One of the big areas of concern for the National B2B Centre’s clients is “How do we choose the right software and supplier for our business?” With more choices than ever in terms of different software packages, system platforms, including The Cloud and types of supplier it isn’t surprising that people find it difficult to make accurate assessments and successful selections.

National B2B Centre directors, Steve Orriss and Martin King-Turner, both have many years of experience helping businesses large and small through the software selection process and they now offer up some suggestions that should make your next purchase that bit easier.

As people who have worked with business oriented technology throughout our careers we find it disappointing that it is still so difficult for organisations to successfully leverage the power of Information Technology (IT). What makes it worse is that in many cases the problems are not only about making IT work effectively once it has been implemented but also about actually bringing IT into the organisation in the first place.

There are a number of problem scenarios that we find occupy our clients.

  • Some organisations, though very aware that they have growth opportunities or operational issues to solve don’t connect that awareness with the capability of technology to help. This is frequently because they can’t translate the jargon surrounding technology or that they do not have access to an IT expert who can “translate” it for them.
  • People who are aware of the transformational benefits of a new IT system but who find it hard to express what they want or know who can help them. In this situation the blockage is often because the organisation believes it must state its needs in a format that suits the technologists, but has neither the understanding nor resources to present it in that way.
  • Companies who launch into the purchase of a complex business solution in the same way as they might for a more straightforward product; for example, a single user licence for Microsoft Office. These companies typically identify a solution which claims to solve all their problems and decide to buy it. What happens here is that the scope and business requirements with regard to the people who will use it and the business processes it needs to manage tend to be inadequately defined. This makes it difficult to evaluate potential solutions and suppliers because the selection criteria are too generic. This can lead to different expectations about, for instance, system functionality or project responsibilities between clients and suppliers and so to possible disagreements and disputes.

The B2B Centre has had years of involvement in helping companies through these issues or rescuing projects that have floundered. Based on that experience we have put together a series of simple steps which will help you to overcome these problems and achieve the business improvement that we all want.


Using People, Process and Technology to achieve a Successful ERP Implementation

Our introduction of the “People, Process and Technology” approach to planning and implementing technology investment has created plenty of interest amongst our clients, contacts and the supplier community.

Because ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems are a particularly important area of technology for all of these stakeholders, we have asked Martin King-Turner, Director at The National B2B Centre and ERP expert, to reflect on how “People, Process and Technology” could maximise the chances of implementation success for your ERP project.

One of The National B2B Centre’s primary roles is to ensure that both clients and their IT suppliers can work together to ensure that the maximum value is generated from technology investments.

In a recent article I explained our approach to making this co-operative effort work in practice. Technology is still an important part of the proceedings but successful system implementations also require an understanding of the people issues involved (from both a client and supplier perspective) and an appreciation of the impact on business processes.

What I would like to do is reflect on how this approach has helped us work with a range of clients involved in the implementation of ERP.

Three Keys to IT System Success: People, Process, Technology

In a previous post, Bridging the gap between IT suppliers and clients, we identified the need for technology suppliers to do more than simply recite jargon and provide detailed specifications. Clients are looking for an approach that builds their confidence that suppliers both understand their business and take account of the key risk factors in delivering ROI (Return On Investment).

Martin King-Turner, MD of the National B2B Centre outlines an approach to technology development and investment that suppliers could take into account and clients might want to request: People, Process, Technology.

The National B2B Centre has a goal to help businesses “wring maximum value out of every pound you spend on IT”. Sometimes that statement is taken to mean that we are all about squeezing suppliers to provide the maximum input at the minimum cost but that view would be mistaken.

Instead our role is more often than not to support both suppliers and end-users in working together to achieve a result that delivers the benefits that the client is seeking and rewards the supplier appropriately for hitting the agreed objective.

A big part of that role is making sure both sides take into account more than just the technology. The reason for that is that despite the lurid headlines around the FireControl project or the NHS National Project for IT, for instance, implementation failure is rarely due to the hardware chosen or the software package used. Instead there is a range of other factors involved that lead to problems.

This article isn’t a detailed investigation into why IT projects go wrong but what we can do is throw light on the areas where suppliers and end-users should place the most attention. And in our view there are 3 factors that deserve most attention: People, Process and Technology.

People, Process and Technology
What I would like to do is explore these factors in more detail to highlight some of the specific elements that could have an impact on the kind of IT projects that SMEs are involved in. This provides some pointers as to how clients can ensure they get the system (and the ROI) they want and how suppliers could enhance their credibility.

Bridging the gap between IT suppliers and clients

The National B2B Centre is an independent provider of IT consultancy and training services. That puts us slap bang in the middle of an on-going divide between IT suppliers and their clients. This is a divide characterised by debates over costs, deadlines and deliverables.

In this article by Martin King-Turner, MD of the B2B Centre, we look at some of the concerns that clients and end-users flag up about their dealings with suppliers.


The B2B Centre has had a long running role in connecting the small and medium sized business community with IT suppliers over the years.

It’s been our job to help SMEs to adopt technologies that will help them to grow their businesses and this has entailed preparing them to firstly provide adequate information to potential suppliers and then to define good processes for making a final choice.

At the same time we have worked with IT suppliers to help them understand the wants and needs of the SME sector and highlight both where their prospective clients have some difficulties and where they could change their approach.

The problem as we see it is, however, that the gap between end-users and suppliers doesn’t seem to have closed. So building on our on-going dialogue with SMEs we have put together a short list of the key issues and some possible solutions to a get a discussion going to help close the divide.

Consumerisation of Technology

Consumerisation of technology is a concept that is taxing the minds of IT Directors and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) of very large companies. If you haven’t heard of it before, relax, but read on because it has almost certainly had an impact on you as an individual and will affect your business too.

Martin King-Turner, Director of the National B2B Centre explains what consumerism is all about and why you should be thinking about it.

What is Consumerisation of Technology?
15 years ago technology was still largely driven by the needs of business. Hardware and software innovations mainly came about as part of the need to make businesses cheaper to run or to improve the quality of the products or services being delivered.

In the past 15 years technological progress has largely been driven by the need to give consumers what they want. Technology has gone from geeky to sexy in the form of extremely powerful personal computers, very clever mobile devices that blur the lines between computers and phones, gaming consoles that double as online video viewers, and a multiplicity of websites, online shops, fun apps and powerful applications.

That’s part of Consumerisation. The other part goes somewhat unnoticed: most of this stuff just works when you switch it on. Hardware and software have become more intuitive to use and more reliable – some people call it the Apple effect. In fact problems become newsworthy because they don’t happen so often or we notice, for instance, that one website doesn’t work as well as another and we stop using it.

So how does this impact on us?