Helpstream Adds Incremental Value to SCRM with Social Marketing

On Tuesday October 6th 2009 Helpstream announced a new module for their Social CRM Product: Social Marketing.  I had a briefing with Bob Warfield (CEO) and Bill Odell (VP of Marketing) to understand better what the new offer is all about, and how it moves the company closer to a Social CRM Suite.  Here are my thoughts:

I like the company’s approach of going beyond Customer Service communities and knowledge management to other areas of CRM.  It’s a good initiative towards establishing presence in a different area.  I also like their approach of partnering and leveraging expertise and knowledge in those areas – as opposed to the previous CRM iterations where acquisitions, mergers, and hard-coded integrations were the norm.  The value delivered by those suites in past lives was negligible at best since the integrations never worked as expected.  Thankfully we advanced technologies in the areas of Clouds and Web Services to where we don’t have to see a company acquire 18 others to gain minimal functionality add-on.

So, for the $64,000.00 question — how does it work?  Glad you asked…

Let’s say you are a customer of Helpstream and you have a Marketing Automation solution running in your organization already.  You are using the Demand Generation and Lead Scoring modules and wish you had more data about how customer’s and prospects that use the Support site.  You could merge usage and web logs, find common data points, and report what you could (sometimes done in Excel, mind you).  If you have different vendors for different functions it is nearly impossible to get cross-functional data into Demand Generation.

Helpstream establishes a data-connection between their usage logs, profile information, and social media monitoring tools on one hand and Marketing Automation on the other.  By linking known-prospects or customers between both applications (leverage the information collected when the customer signed up for the community or collected from the social networks they monitor) they can pass along all the usage data about the support communities. The Marketing Automation tool uses that information to score the lead higher or lower, and use that lead in other activities.  As Larry Dignan said in his ZDNet Blog it tries to turn every support user into a lead — of sorts.

I would not go that far, but I think there is real incremental value (thanks Dennis Howlett for the distinction) in their offer.  Lack of cross-channel and cross-function tracking between vendors is the most frustrating aspect in CRM – and the one where it mostly failed to deliver the promised value.  In the demo I saw you can see an integration between Helpstream and Marketo (Eloqua is also ready, others can be done “within a couple of weeks” per the company) passing data back and forth to increase the lead scoring and the segmentation on the support site.  Very interesting.

I am sure it is not perfect, there is still the issue of anonymous users (tracking cookies can be used – but they don’t always work as expected), or incomplete information (which may not reflect on the proper prospect or the proper place) in addition to the many other problems we always experience with Marketing Automation.  Alas, the value for those that can be identified and integrated is very high.  It should not be hard to create a business justification in short term by cross-referencing databases and finding a few key customers whose data you don’t have and would like to aggregate.

Bottom Line: Good show of what the potential for SCRM is, good move by Helpstream to grow into a SCRM provider, and looks interesting enough to provide sufficient incremental value to try it on a pilot program.  I am not saying it is free of problems or defects, but it does the job it is intended to do.  Good first step towards a Social CRM Suite.

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Since I was doing disclosures before the FTC forced me, I did not take payment for this write up nor do I have an ongoing partnership or business relationship with Helpstream.  I don’t expect to get any business from them because of this blog, nor do i expect any other sort of compensation from them or anyone else for writing this blog.  As usual, my reviews don’t indicate endorsement or support for a product or vendor, just an interesting advance in the world of Customer Strategies.  You are hereby admonished to do your own Due Diligence before deciding to invest or acquire this tool or enter into an agreement with the vendor in this story.  I make no statements of accuracy with respect to features and functions beyond what I saw and understood and any miscommunication is not intentional.  I am not liable for your decisions to adopt or implement this or any other product or vendor reviewed – you are on your own making your decisions.

6 thoughts on “Helpstream Adds Incremental Value to SCRM with Social Marketing”

  1. ROFL for the disclaimer. We should all just have a web page for the fine-print that we can link to!

    I like the pluggable, or extensable approach – it also means that the platform stays open enough to allow new modules can be integrated easily to accomodate future needs.

    As the business moves forward on the road implementing its Social Business Design and becomes more ‘mature’ in its acceptance and adoption of the Social Business strategy, it can take a stepped approach rather than have a have full suite dumped on them at once (with potentially catastrophic results).
    .-= Mark Tamis´s last blog ..On Social CRM Options =-.

    1. Mark,

      Thanks for the disclaimer comment. I tried to use that one while at Gartner but they were not very receptive to it.

      I think that Cloud/Services model makes a lot more sense than it did in the past, and something that is going to help CRM (pardon me, SCRM) be succesful this time time around (as opposed to last time) if we can just focus on the needs and how to best serve them.

      The full Suite comment is very good. And I cannot add more than that to it.

      Thanks for the read and the comment…

  2. Hi Esteban:

    Helpstream has some interesting stuff going on.

    I will be interested to see how it proves out to increase lead quality.

    You mentioned that data is passed back from the Marketing Automation tool. What types of data is passed back and how is it used?

    I also assume that all of the scoring of support activity is done in the MA application. Correct?

    I clearly realize that you can only disclose non-proprietary info.

    Bests, Chuck

    1. Chuck,

      I also want to see it in use, I think there are some deployments already under way. Will see soon…

      As for data passed back, as the old saying says – you can pass anything you want to pass back as long as the data is mapped. There are not restrictions — but keep in mind that the data being passed back is limited by the amount of data available to the MA tool. In the scenario we worked, data passed back is lead score used to segment service levels. The rest is up to your imagination…

      Yes, the lead scoring is done in the MA tool — which is what it does better and what you want it to do. That to me is the best part of the solution — pass data to some other tool that can do what is supposed to do and get the results only: distributed architectures at their best.

      Thanks for the read
      Esteban

  3. Esteban – thanks for continuing to be the focal point for all news in SCRM. It is greatly helpful.

    One thing I am trying to visualize not very successfully is how will this all work in the enterprise software world, where most of the people that visit the site for support and community related activity are several layers of management removed from the decision makers and the people the vendor is trying to sell to. Obviously it is possible to get more information about the functionality used, expertise of the technical ranks, etc., but my basic sense is that the more strategic the product (and hence the distance between website users and decision makers in the customer’s ranks) the lower the impact of such products would be.

    I am curious to hear your opinion, as well as that of Bob Warfield who hopefully is reading this.

    Haim

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