Category Archives: CRM

Support and Customer Development

I spoke to a group of entrepreneurs recently regarding the connection between Support and Customer Development. This has been a favorite subject of mine for some time, but this was the first time I tried to do a comprehensive presentation on the topic. As I put together the presentation, I realized that there was really so much more I could say. Nevertheless, I’m happy with the result, and I’ve uploaded the presentation to SlideShare.

Support as Customer Development
View more presentations from Darius Dunlap

I’d love to hear any thoughts or questions. I think there is much more I could say, so maybe I’ll make this a series.

A platform powerhouse at

Dreamforce 2010, the annual show, has already been interesting after just the first day. There have been interesting product introductions, and lots of announcements from partners and developers that continue to build on the platform ecosystem.

Because of my interest in startups and small, fast growing companies, the new integration announced by Zendesk is particularly interesting. I’m looking forward to playing with that and understanding it in detail.

Also important is the continuing development of the capabilities of Chatter, the internal communications platform. Today Salesforce announced that Chatter will be free to everyone in a client company, instead of that being an extra option. ReadWriteWeb did a great job covering this on their Cloud coverage section a couple weeks ago: CEO Marc Benioff reportedly told analysts today that the company will announce a free version of its enterprise activity stream product Chatter at the annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco next month. The revelation came in a conference call with financial analysts to discuss the company’s third quarter financial results, according to CRN. Benioff confirmed the story via Twitter this evening. currently offers Chatter for free to users or for $15 a month per user for users. Benioff described the free, stripped down version of Chatter as a “virally based product.”

Excerpt from:’s Chatter to Go Freemium (Updated) – ReadWriteCloud

But most interesting in my mind is the holistic direction of all of this. continues to develop a strong platform that extends beyond the salesforce automation market. Even where people can point out deficiencies in the current offering, talking to the Salesforce people you see good thought going into the ongoing development, and overall strategy.

I’ll be watching closely. Even if you’re not a customer, so should you.

Go where the conversation is happening

Customers have always talked about your brand. Those conversations have gone on in the bleachers of the little league game, at weekend parties, over lunch, and of course, at the water cooler. Those conversations were happening, but you had no way of knowing it. There was no way you could find them and listen in, no way to gain insight from what people said to one another while talking about your brand.

But now conversations are happening online – on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, and on blogs and forum websites. That means you can find them, you can search them, and you can listen in.

Of course, people know you are listening. So what you hear is not always unaffected. Sometimes they are hoping you are listening, and that corrupts what they say, at least a little. It helps, of course, to look for those conversation that are happening between and among customers and their friends. Here they may have little regard for whether or not you are listening, and so you may hear a more straight message.

Even when people are talking among themselves about your brand or product, the message may still be tainted. People are jockeying for positions of respect, hoping to seem an authority, or playing some other role that changes their comments in ways that may be subtle but important.

Social Media monitoring tools attempt to make some sense of all the chaos in the social web. They try to assess the aggregate sentiment and provide you methods of gleaning the useful grains from the pile of straw (or even manure).

Sometimes, you can even corroborate what people are saying with what they are actually doing.

Still, this unstructured feedback is still better than any focus group. You may still be tempted to put it all in a box with a neat label on it, and you can still pollute the stream with your own notions of  your branding and your product positioning.

So just as with any other listening, it takes more than just hearing the words. You have to hear what’s between the words, what is not being said, but still exists. You have to listen for the real essence of what people think. Out there, you may find it.

But you have to go where the conversation is happening.