Social CRM – Part 1: It Says It’s a CRM, but Is It Really?

As a Partner at Altai Systems, Inc., I am frequently asked, “Why do I need a Social AMS/CRM?” by those unfamiliar with the system. So in response to that question, I wanted to write a blog article about some advantages a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system has over a traditional Association Management System (AMS).  If you hear people mention “CRM 2.0” or “Social CRM,” they are describing the same term, which refers to the continuing evolution of CRM in the marketplace today. I’ve heard many competing AMS companies state that they are a “true” CRM by saying they are a “Vertical CRM,” “Industry specific CRM,” or “Member CRM.” However, associations and nonprofits should look very closely at those AMS companies because chances are they are not a true CRM.

CRM Defined

Just because a term has the initials “CRM” in it, don’t be coaxed into thinking any AMS can be considered a CRM.  I think it is inaccurate to take any software that stores the data (First Name, Last Name, etc.) attached to a Member (i.e. customer) and say, “This is a CRM.”  CRM is a holistic technological approach designed to help you collaborate with your member.  The member defines the collaboration, and your systems should be ready to accept what s/he defines.

Per Management Consultant Paul Greenberg, President of The 56 Group, LLC and author of “CRM at the Speed of Light: Social CRM Strategy, Tools, and Techniques for Engaging Your Customers”:

Social CRM is a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company’s programmatic response to the customer’s control of the conversation.

The key is that a true CRM is designed to engage a customer/member by including the business rules, workflow, processes and social characteristics from its inception. Trying to add any one of these characteristics after the fact does not make it a CRM.

My Perspective

  • My friend Bob builds custom hot rods, but he is not an automotive manufacturer.
  • I built my own house, but I am not a home builder.
  • Company X has created a system that tracks members, dues and events, but they have not created a true CRM.


Industry Perspective:  What is a true Social CRM?

  • CRM was designed from day one to be a Customer Relationship Management system.
  • CRM is designed to foster a relationship using the member’s preferred method of communication.
  • CRM is flexible and supports many industries, not just nonprofits.
  • CRM has thousands of apps (apps are programs you can download into your CRM) that can extend it in many different areas.
  • CRMs are designed to be heavily modified without having the modifications affect the upgrade cycle.
  • There are thousands of blogs, books and other free resources to help you with CRM.
    • Check any search engine like Google or Bing or visit stores such as Amazon for CRM apps, extensions and books.
    • Microsoft Dynamics® CRM awards an MVP status only to those industry experts who meet rigorous criterion and make specific contributions like writing blogs, answering questions, giving presentations and much more.
  • A true Social CRM has had, and continues to receive, billions of dollars in investment. (Microsoft Dynamics®CRM, SalesForce, Oracle, etc. invest billions in development EVERY YEAR!)
  • The marketing, service and commerce subsystems are extremely robust, and there are many different options.

The bottom line is that if an AMS cannot check all of the above listed points, then it’s not a CRM, and the marketing department has simply applied some “lipstick to the pig!” 

To further learn about Altai’s CRM and how it can help your organization, click below: