Paul Greenberg is the Managing Principal of the 56 Group, LLC, a customer engagement and CRM consultancy, and the author of CRM at the Speed of Light, called the “Bible of CRM.” He is one of the few members of CRM Magazine’s CRM Hall of Fame and is writing a new book on customer engagement “The Commonwealth of Self-Interest” (Harvard Business Press, 2016).

Q: With SMBs in mind: is marketing automation the logical progression from traditional CRM?

A: No. Marketing automation is an important thing for SMBs to start considering. It’s not a logical progression from CRM, because it is already part of it.

SMBs should be looking at some degree of marketing automation and for a very specific reason: A business is a business, and one thing a business has to do is to attract customers. In the past, if you look at how businesses ran from a competitive standpoint, they would go out and they’d have marketing campaigns, and that marketing campaign will be built around a message that was either specific to a company or product or that was both specific to a company/product and competitive with other companies in the same domain.

Now, we’ve got a different universe. Now, if you believe the various stats out there, there are roughly 3,000 messages a day assaulting every single one of us. Now, the interesting thing is, you know that before you’re competing with your competitors you’re competing to just get attention against all those other messages that people are being assaulted with, whether they have anything to do with your business or not.

The value of marketing automation is that it gives you the tools that allow you to sustain efforts to actually get attention.

Q: What can you tell me about customer engagement, as opposed to customer experience? Why does this matter to CRM?

A: I love this question. There are two types of customer experience. One is the broader customer experience, which is essentially how I feel over time about a company. I’m using the word “feel” explicitly here. It’s not what I think, it’s how I feel. It works like this: if a customer likes you and continues to like you, they’ll continue to do business with you. If they don’t, they won’t. That’s one side.

The other kind of customer experience is a consumable experience. That sits more in the category of product services, tools, and consumable experiences. That would be going to an American Girl store with your daughter who has an American Girl doll, with a whole back story. When you get to the store, you can go to lunch with the doll, you can watch a play with the doll, you can get a haircut and go to a beauty salon with the doll in the store; and you come out $400 poorer, but you’ll do it every time because your daughter absolutely loves it. That’s a consumable experience. You have to separate the two in this case. Keep that in mind.

Then there’s customer engagement. Clearly defined, customer engagement is the ongoing interactions between company and customer offered by the company, chosen by customer. Now, that’s very different than experience, right? Experience is bigger, it’s over time, and it’s a feeling.

You’ll see a lot of people providing what they call “customer experience management technology” these days. To be perfectly honest, that’s a crock. The reality is technology itself doesn’t produce a feeling. You can, however, have technology to produce engagement. Those are the technologies that facilitate the interactions in a useful and valuable way between the companies and the customers. They call them systems of engagement.

You don’t have a system of experience; you have a system of engagement. You have CRM as a system of record. The combination of the two work together very well. But what do you have and what does it mean? Number one, it means there is no customer experience technology market. It’s a non-starter. In fact, if you look at most of what call customer experience technologies, they’re basically repackaged customer analytics. I’m not trying to denigrate it; it’s just really bad positioning and marketing, that’s all.

Secondly, there is a very broad customer engagement market that’s beginning to form now, and we’re starting to see all kinds of companies who had previously fit different categories that are now calling themselves customer engagement platforms. You’re starting to see companies come out with customer engagement analytics, companies that were gamification companies calling themselves customer engagement platforms, you’re starting to see CRM fit nicely in there, but as the system of record for the much larger customer engagement marketplaces of the near future. In fact, I’ve identified 16 different components of a fast moving customer engagement technology ecosystem.  Customer experience as a technology will probably disappear, and we’ll just see people re-brand it as customer engagement, which is more appropriate. Developing a strategy around customer experience is still a viable approach, but customer experience technology will fade.

So, on the one hand you’ve got customer experience, which broadly means the feeling that I have as a customer about a company over time. You have customer engagement, which means the kinds of interactions that the company offers me that I choose to use so that I can continue my relationship with that company. Then you have CRM, which plays the operational and transactional role: the technology and systems that are designed as systems of record to capture all the data, analyze the data, gain some insights from the data, and then apply that to the engagements and apply that to the customer’s journeys, and then enhance the overall experience that the customer has with the company so that the engagements continue. That is, I think, the best way to understand these big changes going on as we see 21st century business transform.

Thank You Paul! Follow him at: @CRMWatchlist