Brent Leary is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award winning blogger. He is co-founder and Partner of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. His client list includes Sage, Microsoft, Intuit, Cisco, Research In Motion and the state of Georgia's Depart of Economic Development. Recognized by InsideCRM as one of 2007's 25 most influential industry leaders, Leary also is a past recipient of CRM Magazine's Most Influential Leader Award. He serves on the national board of the CRM Association, and as a subject matter expert for the Small Business Technology Task Force. He's been quoted in several national business publications, including the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Entrepreneur magazine.
In 2009 Leary co-authored Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business. He has written regular online columns for Inc. and Black Enterprise magazines, as well as for popular business sites including American Express OPEN Forum. Leary also hosts and produces the popular "Technology For Business $ake" internet radio program. His popular blog on social media is here. You can find him on Twitter at BrentLeary.
Awright. Now let’s get down to truth. When did you get religion with social media and CRM? What was the moment when the light went on and you go...there it is. THAT’s the differentiator for CRM?
Describe that experience for us.
In 2004 I had an opportunity to write an article for CRM Magazine website to discuss the state of CRM in small business and more specifically, women and minority owned businesses. There was such a fantastic initial response that the Editor in Chief requested a follow up article. At this time, there was a tremendous buzz about blogging versus online articles and by the end of June 2005 I was ready for a test drive.
I began blogging and thought it was pretty “cool” to talk about what was happening in the industry, even though no one was really paying attention. This continued for about five to six months, until my friend, Paul Greenburg put him in touch with the CEO of Right Now Technology, Greg Gianforte, author of Bootstrapping Your Business. Greg had asked me to review his book. I turned that review into a blog post, which may have helped establish me as a blogger.
Several weeks later, I received an email from Frank Warren asking me to review a book, The Post Secret. [ Twitter: PostSecret.) Frank was one of the most successful nationally known bloggers. It was here that I realized the value of blogs and the power of social media.
It is also so important to utilize the comment function on other blogs, not merely writing your own. The objective is to be a part of ongoing conversations. People are already talking and sharing. It is here where you can be viewed as a valuable member of the community. You must participate. Don’t be afraid to join in and add something to the conversation. This is how you gain people’s trust and develop relationships. If they like you, they are more open to learning more about you.
In the social media echo-chamber, everyone’s doing it. Everyone’s using social media and connecting and conversating with customers and employees. But that’s not true. A majority of small businesses don’t even have a website. And only a handful of global brands allow, and I emphasize a handful allow the use of social media.
It can be the perceived amount of time it takes to be involved and the organization does not have any measured results. They want to know what they will be derived from active participation. It is a fear of the unknown that really holds them back. They need to have clear expectations and invest in the time it takes to make it worthwhile. Social media is another form of business communication and they need to be prepared to invest their time and effort.
Social media is a method to inform people about who you are; what your brand is. It is not a pure marketing, cost per lead. It is just the first step to enhance your branding and recognition. You need to find out where your market is and participate in that particular venue.
Start simply with a blog post per week. See what the response is. Then participate once a week in your desired social media platform. Continuing and expanding on this mode to see what people are talking about. You can then enhance your blog postings based on what you learned from these activities. Just start small.
What’s your reasonable aspiration, or hoped for goal, as Erika Andersen calls it with social media and your business CRMEssentials?
CRM Essentials began in late 90’s, early 2000 to concentrate on small business efforts versus the large enterprises. They became certified in Microsoft CRM and soon were invited to be a partner with salesforce.com.
Goal in starting CRM Essentials was to serve the small business with customer relations management. They didn’t necessarily concentrate on just one product – they were diversified. It is help companies understand what CRM can do. It is a comprehensive strategy, a part of your business that speaks to how you want to do business with people and how you want to be viewed as a partner or advocate. The most important piece is about your relationships with your customers, your roles, and your process to make it all synergistically work together. If you have the right people and process, then you implement with technology, you have a greater chance for success.
The goal of your book, “Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business” was to show small businesses how to use the same tools and strategies that the Obama campaign used for such great success. Tell us about that.
I had read an article asking if Obama would be the first CRM President. It was so interesting how they connected with and engage with everyone. Obama had a blog, then a podcast, one million friends on Facebook and thirty thousand followers on Twitter. He was using all these social networks to not only share his message, but to extend it to the population.
People were so interested in this medium. I conducted a webinar regarding Obama and his phenomenal use of social media and received overwhelming feedback so the next step was to set up a website with weekly updates. They talked about the lessons that small businesses could learn from his social media usage, all the way to the election. AND after Obama won, they touted the results of social media for business.
How do you use social media in your consulting business?
What resources do you use?
In my business, I use blogs, podcasting and social networks. They have all helped to put me and my company on the map, building relationships and brands. It is the integral first step towards creating a strong foundation.
What are the three essential social media resources every business should use?
2. Identify the most important social network to your industry
3. Learning the other online tools – like webinars that are recorded and found on the internet
4.Begin to understand the power of digital video networks as they allow us to say many things, more so than a blog
These things are critical and powerful to success.
What’s the biggest and best trend in social media now: stats, resources, demographics...?
The biggest and best trend in Social Media right now is Twitter, especially with Oprah and Ashton Kutcher. Social media analytics is extremely important to see what you are doing and how it is affecting your audience. You must measure your efforts. One example is Twitalyzer to measure the impact of you social media.
What’s the worst?
The worst trend is the AUTO DMs on Twitter!! This is pure spam!
What are the three biggest changes we’ll see with social media’s use in small business?
In one year from now, the questions for small business will be:
- How do I stand out?
- How do I get my voice heard?
It will be the biggest challenge for Small Business to be able to be different from the next guy.