Category Archives: CRM

“Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi : A Relationship-Centered View on Personal Branding?

Well, it’s taken about two years, but I finally got to actually sit down and read Keith Ferrazzi’s book, “Never Eat Alone.”  Despite the big build up of accolades, reviews and commentary during all this time, I wasn’t disappointed by it.  In fact, it’s probably one of the best career-advice/networking books I’ve read. 

Buy or borrow the book… it’s worth it! 

The central theme of “Never Eat Alone” is to describe what it means to develop your network of personal relationships by authentically connecting with others. The author describes how to develop a lifestyle and career built around relationships and he explains why that should matter to you. He gives his own experience as an example and peppers the book with a good variety of content that will make you want to read it more than once. 

A few things stuck out to me as I read the book:  1) It doesn’t have a “acknowledgements” preamble at its beginning. So I’m thinking, this man is a networking/relationship guru and he doesn’t have any props to give out to his peeps?  But after reading it, I see that the book iteslf serves that function. By spreading the gratitude around into the narrative, the end result is something that comes across as more sincere — and more relevant to the reader — than any preamble would have done. That could just be my interpretation, but I think it’s deliberate.   2) Although he started his career over on the East Coast, Ferrazzi is now based in L.A., and much of this book’s advice on integrating your work and personal life has to be taken with a grain of Pacific Ocean salt. 3)  Early in the book, Ferrazzi gives what could have been a refreshing new take on the whole “Personal Branding” meme:

Each of us is now a brand. (…) I would argue that you relationships with others are your finest, most credible expression of who you are and what you have to offer. Nothing else compares.

He could have stopped there. However, towards the end of the book, Ferrazzi devotes several chapters to the conventional “Brand Called You” dogma, ie, become an expert in one thing, give yourself a singular mission statement, keep it simple, beat your audience over the head with your brand message, etc.. Not that there isn’t some truth and value in applying principles of brand marketing to career development, but <RANT> I feel that it’s gone way too far, especially given our current climate of hyperspecialization and commodification, which, in the final analysis, may do more harm than good for people, particularly those in the earlier stages of their career </RANT>. 

I liked what (I thought) Ferrazzi was saying initially — that a person’s “brand” is simply the sum total of their relationships. But that’s not what the Personal Branding meme is about. It’s about commodification and productization (no, your spellchecker won’t recognize those words) of an individual. An individual who is multi-faceted, who is complex, who is changing. Relationships are multi-faceted, complex and changing. “Brands” — in the classic sense — may have a few facets, but they are simple and enduring.

I’m sitting here watching Dick Clark ring in the New Year. Everyone feels bad for him. The ball is dropping. The man is a brand.

It’s All About Connections

What good would a city map be if all it showed were buildings, and not the streets between those buildings? 

What if a road map gave a ton of information about each destination, but did not distinguish between dirt paths, one-way streets or superhighways? 

Well, that wouldn’t be a very useful map, would it?  While many online social networks (especially LinkedIn) are very good at allowing users to accumulate large number of connections with other users, these sites often lack a way for users to QUALIFY those connections.  By forcing the user to make a binary, black-or-white decision about who to call a “Friend,” these systems lose what is (IMO) a non-trivial distinction in mapping social networks. This distinction is not just an academic concern, but rather, a distinction that inhibits better and more productive web-based functionality.Speaking of circles of friends, the folks at TrustPlus are onto this idea, with their TrustCircle™ concept: 

 fb-friends-level2.JPG

Facebook’s expandable “How Do You Know This Person?” option window is a start, although other than displaying the information alongside your network connections, it doesn’t appear to be tied to any functional processes (yet!).

The next generation of successful online social network tools will be the ones that not only qualify the people/contacts as primary nodes in the data structure, but which also qualify the connection types (or even connection history!) between those people. These sites will also use that connection information to allow users to better navigate and manage the relationships in their wider network. The pieces of this are starting to come together.   The first and simplest example is in the profile display controls that Friedster gives you (allowing/denying people from different geographic regions to view certain fields). On Facebook, there are extensive privacy settings including the “limited view of my profile” option, but that doesn’t overlap with the notion of connection types and categories of “friends.”   

 

  Inner Circle people closest to you, such as your most trusted family members and closest friends
  Friends, Family & Colleagues people you know well
  Acquaintances people you know, but perhaps only casually

This simple three-tier structure offered by TrustPlus is very useful, and I expect to see it adopted/copied by Facebook and others in the future. Sure, each relationship between two people is unique… and sometimes a casual acquaintance can, in some respects, be part of one’s inner circle (and vice versa). However, this basic three-tier approach is an orders-of-magnitude improvement over the current state of affairs which essentially says “all friends/connections are equal.” 

Of course, none of this is really new is it?  There are many well established cultural traditions, going back to ancient times, that include the concept of concentric circles of friends. Some of these systems include many layers (the family, the clan, the tribe, the nation, etc.) and in many there are even intricate rules of conduct and levels of responsibility accorded each layer of the “relationship onion.” Again, it’s true that all relationships are unique, and we certainly live in post-structural  times with concentric, overlapping and non-overlapping circles or all shapes, colors and sizes. Fine.  Then design a system where users can assign n-number of relationship spheres and categorize their connections accordingly (with a few handy templates for those with more “average” social network topologies).  In the meantime, while you’re designing that system and trying to get people to adopt it, let’s take the millions of users with simple 1-tier connections and migrate them up to TrustPlus’ 3-tier connection system.  (By the way, I should probably add as a disclaimer that I’m acquainted with the folks at TrustPlus. But that just means I vouch for ’em.)

  This problem of “simple connections” has been bugging me since I first starting using online social networks.  In fact, there is a similar thing that’s been bugging me for years in the world of mainstream CRM / contact management software. One of things that sucks about most out-of-the-box CRM systems is the lack of an ability to qualify (or even create) connections between contacts. I don’t just want to keep records of the people I know (or who are my potential clients, or who are my non-profit’s donors, etc)… I want to map the relationships between those people.  Now, once we’re starting to add an reference table in our database (PERSON_ID , CONNECTIONTYPE_ID,  PERSON_ID ) we don’t need to stop at linking people. We can link people with organizations and map out the various changing affiliations between them.

I have confidence in a company like Facebook, which appears to be incrementally adding this kind of functionality to their system, thereby reinforcing their position as a market leaders.  Compare that to Microsoft Outlook… a piece of software that enjoys even more widespread use and “platform” status than Facebook, and yet, their latest releases consist primarily a new visual interface and no substantial improvement to functionality, underlaying structure or capability. As for LinkedIn, I still like ’em, but Facebook has made some serious inroads into the business world already…. if they want to be more than a glorified phone directory, they’ll need to start catching up faster on this kind of thing.

Google vs Microsoft : M&A slugfest (right hook with aQuantive, left hook with Salesforce)

Not wanting to be left behind the ever-growing Google AdWords / YouTube /  DoubleClick / etc. / etc. empire , Microsoft just revealed on Friday that it will buy aQuantive for $6 *BILLION* dollars.  How quickly did MSFT scramble that deal together?  

Well, don’t blink, cause Google’s hitting back today, with a strange,vaporware-esque leak to the WSJ about doing some kind of deal with Salesforce. This deal/alliance is sketchy on the details and seems like a case of PR one-upmanship, a kind of quick counterpunch designed to make me say, “Yeah, Redmond’s a cash-fillled heavyweight who’s fighting strong,  but those Google guys are dancing circles around ’em in the ring, three steps ahead.”  Ok, they made me say it. 

The thing is, I need more than just a whiff of Google “working together” with Salesforce.  All I’m being told is that there might be some kind of

“…web-based offering that integrates some of Google’s online services such as email and instant-messaging with those of Salesforce.com…”

Well, YEAH.  Salesforce integrates with EVERYTHING… that’s the idea.  It integrates with Lotus, and it integrates with Microsoft Outlook.  And it should integrate with Gmail. Or Gtalk.  There’s no revolution there. 

Anyway, this boxing match is fun to watch and all, but how much new & real customer/product value is being created out of all this expended energy and activity?  I’m still waiting for that.

 -<>-

 [Postscript, a few hours later:  Hmmm, Google CRM?  Ok, maybe… but that’s more like a SMB (small/medium business) play for Salesforce… it would be more of an anti-ACT!/Goldmine move, rather than an anti-Outlook/MicrosoftCRM move.  Also, unlike how Google Analytics dovetails with Adwords, I don’t see where “GCRM” would mesh with the rest of Google’s offerings.  On the other hand, Salesforce+Intuit, or better yet,  Google + Intuit,  now that would be something. 

Salesforce.com – Bit the Bullet

They say that the best salesmen don’t make good sales managers.  

I see the truth in this now, and that is why I am unleashing Salesforce.com onto my team.  

 This is about more than just CRM.  This is about BPM, dammit. 

Pre-Dated Entry (Icon)

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