Is There a Method to Social Media Madness?

By Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe, SMB Group, and Brent Leary, CRM Essentials

SMB adoption of social media for sales, marketing, product development and customer service is on the rise – but how are SMBs tracking, analyzing and measuring the success of their social media endeavors?

In our joint SMB Group/CRM Essentials “2011 Small and Medium Business Social Business Study,” we surveyed 750 SMB (small business is 1-99 employees; medium business is 100-999 employees) decision-makers about their use and plans for social media for sales, marketing, customer service and support, product development, HR and other business functions.

Featured Study Highlights

To put social media adoption in context, we asked several questions to better understand how SMBs accomplish their business objectives though different channels and mechanisms, including, “How does your company currently track, analyze and measure the success of its social media efforts?”

In the medium business segment, over half (52%) of respondents indicate that they currently use social media. Among these respondents, about 19% say they use it in an “ad hoc, informal” way, while 33% indicate they use it in a “structured, strategic” manner (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Medium Business: Comparison of Strategic and Ad Hoc Users’ Criteria to Track and Measure Social Media Implementation


When we take a deeper look at how medium businesses using social media track, analyze and measure success of social media efforts, we see that companies that take a strategic approach are more likely to incorporate a greater number and more actionable metrics to measure social media effectiveness than their informal, ad hoc counterparts.

  • For strategic users, actionable, customer-centric metrics such as referrals (14%), click through rates (12%), and inbound links (11%) top the list. These are followed by social media measurements such as number of followers and friends (9%), and sentiment analysis (9%), along with anecdotal feedback (9%).
  • Companies that use social media in an ad hoc manner are more likely to rate “softer”measurements, such as anecdotal favorable feedback (6%) and buzz from social media(4%) as top tracking criteria and yardsticks for success.

Not surprisingly, SMBs that take a structured, strategic approach—and use more actionable metrics—are also more satisfied with the results of their social media efforts than those engaging in an ad hoc manner. This underscores the need for better integration of social media with traditional sales, marketing, and service/support solutions, along with better tools to track and measure results.

Quick Take

For SMBs to truly evolve into “social businesses,” they need to be able to easily track, measure and tweak the results of their social media investments across a wide range of business activities, from product development through marketing and customer service .

Although the social media drumbeat is loud, SMBs’ enthusiasm will be curbed if they can’t figure out what impact their social media initiatives are having on business strategies and processes. Whether on their own or via partner solutions, vendors must provide SMBs the tools they need to integrate and evaluate social media efforts into their larger business strategy and framework or risk having those efforts falter.

Because social media engagement does not occur in a vacuum, businesses will want to measure social media efforts in context of broader sales, marketing and customer service or other initiatives. Although vendors focused on collaboration, CRM, marketing automation and other related areas are integrating social media into existing solutions, few provide the analytics required to track and measure the effectiveness of social media and its different channels in an actionable and streamlined manner.

What is Systems Management, and Why Should You Care?

(Originally published March 23, 2011 in Small Business Computing)

What is Systems Management?

Systems management is an umbrella term that refers to the centralized management of a company’s information technology assets, and it’s one that encompasses many different tasks required to monitor and manage IT systems and resolve IT problems. Systems management solutions can help small business owners address many requirements including (but not limited to) the following:

• Monitoring and management of network, server, storage, printers and client devices (desktop, laptop and mobile devices), including notification of impending or actual failures, capacity issues and other systems and network events

• Hardware asset inventory and configuration management, including firmware, operating systems and related license management

• Application software usage and management

• Software asset inventory, versioning and patching, and license management

• Security management, including anti-virus and malware management tools, including virus definition updates.

• Automated backup and restore, to back up systems data in a central data repository

• Service desk problem management, which provides an automated process to generate and track trouble tickets and resolve problems

Systems Management: Why Should You Care?

As businesses grow, so do IT requirements. In many companies, it’s tough to find a facet of the business that doesn’t depend on IT. As dependence on IT to run the business grows, it becomes vitally important to efficiently manage and safeguard IT and data assets.

System management solutions — such as service desk management, single sign-on authentication and patch management — can help keep systems up and running, and maximize IT and employee productivity. They can also help your IT team efficiently roll out new software solutions, or upgrade existing ones. In a nutshell, effective systems management solutions help IT organizations move beyond fire-drill mode to provide the business with proactive guidance and support.

System management solutions also help companies protect against the fallout from downtime and threats, whether caused by system malfunctions, lost or stolen mobile devices, network sabotage, power outages, security breaches, identity theft, human error and natural and man-made disasters. Should any of these events occur, they can result in lasting financial loss, brand damage, legal liabilities and other extremely unpleasant consequences. Consider these sobering facts:

• In a survey by Kroll Ontrack Inc., 74 percent of respondents experienced a data loss incident in the last two years. And 32 percent of organizations take “several days” to recover from a data loss — another 16 percent never recovered.

Symantec’s 2009 SMB Disaster Preparedness Survey indicates that the average SMB has experienced three disruptions to computer or technology resources within the past 12 months; 26 percent reported losing important data. These firms estimate that these outages cost them about $15,000 per day.

Many small businesses fail to perform regular data back-ups, and even if they do, tools and procedures can fail due to malfunctioning hardware and storage media, corrupted data, or because backup software isn’t reset to include new files or applications. Whatever the reason, costs to replace the data and restore employee productivity can be enormous. Businesses also face stiff penalties if they can’t store, retrieve, monitor and transmit data in accordance with regulatory requirements.

Systems Management: What to Consider

Criteria such as company size, number of devices, complexity of IT infrastructure, IT resources and expertise all come into play when considering centralized systems management.  For instance, in a small business with just a handful of PCs, centralized systems management may require more of an investment in time and dollars than it would take to just manage each device individually.

But as companies grow, a lack of centralized system management can become a pain point and true vulnerability. However, the sheer number and assortment of products and approaches available can be confusing, and the cost of traditional enterprise system management solutions can send small businesses into sticker shock. Driven by the need for a quick fix, businesses can end up with several disparate point products that don’t work together. This can create both short-term gaps and integration and scalability problems over time.

Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution or short-cut to a short-list. But small businesses can avoid these potential pitfalls by taking action on these tips:

• Assess gaps, bottlenecks and vulnerabilities in your IT environment

• Look for vendors and solutions that can address immediate pain points, but also provide incremental capabilities that your company may need over time

• Seek out vendors with solutions designed to meet the needs of SMBs, such as Dell KACE, HP Insight Manager, IBM Service Manager for Smart Business, Kaseya and Spiceworks

• Evaluate managed service provider (MSP) offerings. Major vendors, such as Dell and IBM, as well as many regional and local service providers offer managed infrastructure services that can be a great fit for companies with limited or non-existent IT staff. MSPs can often provide a level technical expertise, trouble-shooting and proactive 24/7 support that surpass the capabilities of most internal SMB IT shops

By investing time upfront to consider business priorities, IT requirements and constraints, and evaluating the pros and cons of different approaches and offerings, small business owners can find a systems management solution or an MSP that will support the business now, and in the future. 

Intuit and Salesforce Partner Up: Who’s the Big Winner?

Last week, Intuit and Salesforce.com announced that they would partner to integrate Intuit QuickBooks and QuickBooks Online small business accounting software with Salesforce’s small business CRM editions (Contact Manager, Group and Professional).

Under the terms of the deal, Intuit will resell a pre-integrated version of the Salesforce CRM application via Intuit’s App Center (as well as Intuit channel partners). Data will be automatically synchronized across QuickBooks and Salesforce, giving customers a real-time, unified view of the data, regardless of which application the customer is working in.

Intuit and Salesforce indicated that the integration should be completed this summer.

Above the Surface

Clearly, the deal provides Salesforce with a great entrée to Intuit’s 4.5 million QuickBooks users, gives Intuit a marquee CRM partner in the App Center.

This is also a very big deal for customers. While the small business CRM market is fragmented, Salesforce is a top CRM vendor in small business. Demand for integration between QuickBooks and Salesforce is evidenced by the fact that so many integration vendors—Dell-Boomi, Pervasive, Informatica, IBM-Cast Iron and others—offer this integration, which is typically priced at about $50 to $75 per month. With a direct QuickBooks-Salesforce integration, small businesses get a seamless way to synchronize data between QuickBooks and Salesforce.com without having to buy an additional integration service or solution. (Although pricing has yet to be announced, I’ve been told that it will be more economical than using third-party integration tools).

Below the Surface

The partnership also provides Intuit with substantial validation for the approach it has taken with the Intuit Partner Platform  (Intuit Partner Platform: Changing the Rules of Cloud Platforms with Federated Applications). Intuit’s “federated applications” approach means that instead of having to rewrite applications from scratch, partners that have built their applications on other cloud platforms can use basic XML integration to configure or “federate” their solutions with key integration points, including the user interface, billing, account management and permissions, data and single sign-on to ensure that their solutions integrate with QuickBooks and other solutions on the Intuit Workplace.

This approach removes a lot of development and partnering barriers—in fact, it seems that it removed enough barriers for Salesforce that it is, for the first time, providing its solutions via a partner’s platform, rather than requiring the partner to develop on Force.com.

Salesforce also gains a new venue for Chatter (free with all of its CRM offerings, including the small business editions noted above). As I’ve said many times, collaboration is the only activity that every employee in every company engages in everyday. In addition to getting another on ramp for CRM, Salesforce can also make new market inroads for Chatter and its collaboration strategy ( Salesforce’s Dimdim Acquisition–Adding to a String of Collaboration Pearls).

Quick Take

Many analysts and pundits have been asking (and arguing about) whether this is a bigger win for Salesforce.com or for Intuit. At first blush, my take was that Salesforce would potentially have more to gain because Intuit would be promoting and selling Salesforce CRM and Chatter to its installed base.

Giving it a little more thought, I’m thinking it’s a pretty balanced deal. Having a high-profile partner such as Salesforce should help Intuit attract more end-user customers to its App Center, and pull in more developers as well—in line with its goal to establish the App Center as “the” app store for small businesses.

Small businesses win big too. Integrating business solutions shouldn’t cost more than the business solutions themselves, and this partnership should make integration and the benefits it provides more attainable for more small businesses.

Furthermore, there’s nothing exclusive about the deal for either party. Salesforce, will, of course, continue to partner up with FinancialForce, Intacct and countless other financials vendors, and Intuit can do the same with CRM and collaboration vendors.  Which is a good thing—because small business is anything but a one-size-fits-all market, and neither vendor should presume that this is the best accounting-CRM pairing for all of their small business customers.

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