Tired of carrying around -- and trying to organize -- hundreds of accumulated business cards? Gabe Zichermann wants to get in touch with you. The chief executive officer of New York-based digital contact exchange provider rmbrME cites heavy customer participation requesting new functionality as the driving force behind creating a professional version of beamME, beamME Pro.
"In my 15 years of working in software, I've never worked in an environment this connected and vocal to a product," Zichermann admits. "In fact, we had a user who actually sketched a product flow he wanted to see and sent it to me."
Originally making its debut in Apple's iPhone AppStore in late October 2008, beamME was free for iPhone users and allowed individuals to send a personal or business card to any desktop Mac or PC, as well as to any other mobile device, including a BlackBerry, Android phone, or Palm Treo. In listening to his product's user base, Zichermann says he looked at segmenting the features he felt were premium and which ones were better suited for the mass market, free product.
New features in beamME Pro include:
- contact mapping, which automatically tags every new contact with the place the two individuals met via the iPhone's geo-location system, and gives a view of contacts on a map;
- sending any card, for example, sending your director of sales' contact information to a contact forged at a networking event;
- contact feeds, which show a complete beamME history inside the application; and
- updated user interface, with minimal beamME branding so the message and contact information are front-and-center.
Zichermann is quick to point out that the professional version still has the same functionality found in the original free version, including the ability to beam to any device and send cards via email or SMS in more than 140 countries, and use your preexisting address book so there is no synchronization with additional applications. For him, the new functionality must pass a three-fold litmus test:
- the sender must not need to know anything about the recipient's device;
- the recipient doesn't need special hardware, software, or log-in to anything; and
- it is social network, device, and carrier independent.
"Our main differentiation continues to be adherence to that philosophy," Zichermann says. "That is important."
Those three criteria are essential to the growth of the electronic business card exchange space, says Martin Zagorsek, executive vice president of Menlo Park, Calif.-based research firm Knowledge Networks. He maintains the exchange must be seamless, and while many companies are doing an adequate job on the initiation part of the exchange, "they need to ratchet up the quality on the receiving end."
Users can download beamME Pro today for $4.99. Zagorsek says the jury is still out regarding monetization. "Is there room to make this a paid service, or will it only have value as a feature within a larger relationship management solution?" he asks. "It's an open question."
He stresses, though, that rmbrME continues to differentiate from other competitors due to its cross-platform capability. This is something Zichermann stresses he wants to maintain in both the free and paid versions of his company's applications. "Our job is to facilitate improvement of that last mile between you and your contacts," he says. "That will continue to be the key with our professional version."
Looking ahead, Zichermann says we can expect more additions to the product in the next few months. "We need to keep innovating ... that is the bottom line," he says.
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