Ian HendryWeCanDo.BIZ is an online network which helps SMEs find sales leads and business referrals, and it also offers a sales lead service for Twitter.

I’ve been talking to CEO Ian Hendry about the company, the potential of Twitter for finding leads, and the effects of social media on Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Tell me about Wecando.biz, what is your business model? 

The site helps businesses engage with potential new customers. We use social networking methods to broker introductions between people with a need and those who offer a solution; and provide Social CRM tools to help progress those new relationships into customers.

Most of our site services are free, but we have premium level membership for those who want to more effectively profile and market to their network of contacts.

What is your target audience?

Typically senior staff in SME businesses, of which we have over 13,000 registered on the site.

How does your Twitter Sales Leads service work?

Our users tell us the Biz Needs lead matching tool on our website is invaluable in helping find new customers. But you can never have enough sales leads of course, so we now trawl the 27 million ‘tweets’ every day to find Twitter users posting a specific need which matches your business offering.

This is not just keyword searching, as we only return tweets that show a stated need or asking for a business to be recommended — real people with real needs which we put our users in touch with.

We provide the details behind the user and you can even reply from the page. The most promising leads can be saved into the integrated Social CRM system with a single click.

How effective is Twitter for generating sales leads?

Very. With Google you pay money to be at the top of listings on keywords. This gets you clicks. But you can’t bank clicks and probably only 2% of the people who make it to your website then fill out an enquiry form to tell you who they are and what they need. 

With the social web and sites like Twitter, users are tweeting details of what they need and asking for recommendations of businesses all day long; using the power of crowd sourcing; getting considered responses with recommendations attached that are impossible to mine from Google. 

Find and respond to these requests and you’re in immediate dialogue with the customer AND engaged in the sales cycle. Remember, that person has invited a response so they’ll welcome contact. 

Companies spend a fortune on Google advertising and yet many requests for contact on Twitter go unanswered. Our Twitter Sales Leads tool makes these opportunities easier to find and respond to.

You mentioned that Facebook won’t work for all businesses. Which kinds of business are doing well on Facebook? Why?

It works well for consumer brands but not for B2B. Most people sign up to Facebook to share and communicate with friends and family; they don’t use Facebook with a suit on. 

Many are reluctant to confirm work “friends” other than colleagues, because they don’t want to have to worry about what they post or what’s posted about them. You may well get them following your fan page if you have a brand like Audi, Apple or even McDonald’s, brands people are happy to be associated with.  But they’re unlikely to start high fiving their accountant or sporting a badge for their telecoms provider.

Does online networking offer a genuine alternative to face to face networking for businesses?

Our recent survey shows that face to face networking continues to be an important method of lead generation for business people, but many busy professionals struggle to find the time to attend breakfast meetings. 

Being able to network online whenever you have time is a much more appealing option for a great number of people. Our site has almost as many users as the membership of the largest breakfast networking organisation in the country, BNI.

What are the limitations?

We offer an easy way to get introduced to people who have a need for what you do, but it’s likely you’ll need to meet them so they can see the whites of your eyes before you do business. We make the process of locating potential customers easier and much cheaper, but it’s up to you to close the sale!

The Business Networking survey mentions that LinkedIn and Xing ‘offer few tools to broker real business’ – what should they be doing to improve on this?

I have been on LinkedIn for seven years. In that time it has grown from a few million users to 55 million. Of that community, a large number of business professionals are buying products and services every day; a larger number still are offering products and services. 

And yet the site does very little to broker introductions between those with an urgent need and those who can supply. Both LinkedIn and Xing, its German equivalent, focus on career development and business advice, yet our survey shows that these are the least interesting aspects of networking for business professionals. 

They’re never short of advice, but are always hungry for more customers! LinkedIn and Xing could offer so much more to business professionals in this area.

How do you think social media will change Customer Relationship Management?

Significantly.  I’ve stated that combining the social web with CRM systems makes for the perfect business application. Imagine your CRM system today, but with each of your customer contact records being updated with the latest contact details by those customers maintain themselves through the profiles they update on social networks. 

Then imagine that all the other information they are happy to share publicly on those networks but would never hand to you if you asked for it is also something you can attach to their record. Before you communicate with them you get a much richer view of what they think, what they’re interested in and who they’re working with. 

That information is all there on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and others, but Social CRM systems provide the link between the proprietary data record you hold and the corresponding public profiles.

Companies also need to consider that more and more customer conversations are happening away from traditional media. You may send a direct mail to a contact, but they may ask for thoughts about your company on Twitter before picking up the phone to you. Unless you can track ALL forms of contact with customers you can’t measure the success of your marketing or how well you’re perceived by your customers and market. Social CRM will change CRM forever.

What trends do you predict over the next couple of years?

More and more people accessing the Social Web through mobile devices, from iPhones to iPads, will mean more location based services. This not only means being able to find out, as a mobile user, where there are other users and businesses in the vicinity, but as a business being made aware of local sales leads.

We’re working on adding it to our Twitter Sales Leads tool so you can find, for example, people tweeting a need for accounting software within a 20 mile radius of one of your sales team.

And whether you’re sold on Facebook and Twitter or not, the Social Web is here to stay. We’ll never return to a point where we don’t have instant access to our full network of contacts with a mouse click. We might not be talking about Twitter in five years time, but the web as a network of people rather than purely servers is the only way forward. Businesses need to be ready