Brent Leary is a DJ. But he’s more well-known as co-founder and partner over at CRM Essentials, and a popular writer and speaker on all aspects of social customer engagement strategy. Leary was a main attraction this year at CRM Evolution, participating in a keynote speech “Delivering on Social CRM’s Promise” and two panel discussions, including “The Convergence of CRM and Marketing Automation for SMBs” and “Merging CRM with Social CRM.” Leary is a crowd favorite at CRM Evolution due to his practical strategy suggestions, case studies and down-to-earth sensibility. He sat down with us to talk CRM, social and -- of course -- music.

His Keynote, Panel Discussion

Blake Landau: How is the event going for you this year?

Brent Leary: It’s always amazing to hear from so many great thought leaders and experts who are focusing on this. It’s a shame you can’t go to all the content. It was great to attend so many sessions including yours this morning on managing Generation Y.

BLandau: Thanks Brent. Let’s look at the focus of your keynote happening in a few moments. Can you tell our readers what it is to deliver on Social CRM’s promise?

BLeary: The issue here is customers need vendors to listen to them. That’s a promise from the customer side. A promise from the employee side is to make sure the company gives the employee everything they need to have real communication -- the authority to engage them in the way they need to be engaged. From a company perspective they want a longer customer experience. They need to expand the relationship. Create that loyalty. There are different perspectives.

BLandau: Can you describe the social selling case study from Mazda you talked about on your panel yesterday with regard to selling with the help of emerging technologies?

BLeary: Mazda rolled out this program around late June -- this was an application aimed to Mazda car dealerships that helped their employees at the point of sale.

As you mentioned in your own talk today, younger generations will often walk into a Mazda prepared with a lot of information on the car. They understand and embrace technology to help inform their buying decision on the car lot. Mazda has a young audience of car buyers…they come in -- and they’ve done their research.

When they come to the store, they want to meet with an employee who knows what he/she is talking about. As a result, Mazda provides their salespeople with iPads. That way, salespeople don’t have to run back and forth.

It helps with the sales process. They are finding it helps customers continually flow with the buying process. The iPad addition cuts down on the amount of people walking out of the store. This helps the salesperson immensely.

His Advice for SMBs, Thoughts on Cultural Issues

BLandau: What advice do you have for SMBs today who are looking to improve their relationship management?

BLeary: SMBs are leading the pact. They are willing to try things. They are more agile, and they are willing to put themselves out there. SMBs have much more to gain than they have to use.

I look at SMBs as folks who you want to keep an eye on -- a proving ground for the rest of the business world. SMBs can ask themselves how you engage and build an audience. How do you create a true voice? Smaller organizations don’t have the cultural baggage.

You are hearing this throughout the whole event. The technology is there -- if you have a culture that is not as social as the technology -- you are rushing an old message through a faster technology.

BLandau: Can you talk about the idea of culture and why it’s relevant today?

BLeary: The culture issue is getting a lot of attention. This is hard to change. It’s hard for big companies to change things that have been in organizations for years. The thing that does change business is a big group of employees with a different mindset. It takes time to change things from the bottom-up.

His Observations on CRM, Mobile, Music Streaming Platforms

BLandau: What is exciting to you about CRM today?

BLeary: The change is exciting. The way technology is changing is exciting. Additionally, the change in behaviors, expectations have changed. However, customer philosophy remains the same.

Customers want to be valued for more than the financial transaction. Tools change behavior and amplify the same philosophy. It’s cool to see how technology, social and mobile are changing behavior, activities and expectations. It’s forcing companies to change philosophy and approach.

BLandau: You mention mobile -- can you talk about a significant trend you are seeing with regard to CRM and mobile?

BLeary: I recently had a conversation with the folks at Intuit. A project manager in mobile payments described to me how more customers are coming to them today via mobile devices.

In the past, it was search on the laptop. Now you find people come to them via mobile. Near field communications allows cell phones to essentially exchange information just by physical proximity to each other. NFC chips are driving this innovation.

For example, if you have a phone with an NFC chip, and you are passing a movie poster, you can hold up your phone to a smart tag. You are then able to preview a video, find background information about the movie and more just from holding the phone up.

This is not one-way communication. It’s bi-directional.

People live out of their mobile devices. NFC will allow people to have information in their phone. It’s automating the whole experience.

BLandau: I know you are a big music fan and DJ. Can you tell me what you think about the new music streaming platforms such as Spotify, Turntable, Pandora?

BLeary: Spotify is more hype than required. I’ve been using Grooveshark for years. Any time you make music and sharing more social, people will be interested. It’s an interesting way for people to stay on the path of richer collaboration and communication.

His 2012 Goals

BLandau: You have a solid following online with regard to your content. What are your goals looking forward to 2012?

BLeary: I’m interested in getting more involved in research with people like Laurie McCabe, partner at the SMB Group. I want to focus on how are SMBs using social media from an overall business perspective. Additionally how are SMBs using collaboration and collaborative services. I like the writing and speaking and doing stuff with Paul Greenberg, such as the CRM Playaz.

You can find Brent Leary on Twitter at @Brentleary.

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