When I discovered that the 2010 Market Awards were going to appear in the August issue, a month earlier than last year, my first thought was relief—relief that the vetting process for these awards (and their Service Awards siblings in the springtime) is someone else’s responsibility. The process is long and frustrating, and the idea of having to do it on an even shorter schedule than usual was enough to give me the willies. So if you’re coming to this page of the issue first, remember to take a look at the rest of the magazine. Some people worked very hard to bring you the material on those pages.
My second thought, at least as far as you know, was that expert-driven awards such as these can be tricky. On the one hand, a lot of experience is being brought to bear on a very difficult topic—assessing which complex software products are best suited to tackle equally complex sets of tasks. Industry analysts (and the CRM editors who love them) provide an unparalleled objective view, a composite snapshot of the vendor marketplace that nobody can match. (Wow, I sound like a commercial for The New York Times.)
On the other hand, that high-level view might have limited value to you reader types. Best-in-biz bragging rights are great for the vendors, but your subjective view is what matters to you most directly—the question you need answered is, “Which provider can do the best job for my business?” Basing an implementation choice solely on what you read here is like using the Billboard Top 40 to decide which song you like most. Wouldn’t it make more sense to get your advice from users just like yourself?
Well, here’s the clever bit: These awards do in fact come from users like you, just not directly. The ratings and quotes come from industry experts surveyed by CRM. How do you think the experts get their information? Yes, we take briefings and attend informational events, but that’s only part of it. We also ask the users—people like you. We ask you what your experiences are. The judging criteria for the CRM Market Leader Awards are about vendors’ reputations for depth of function, customer satisfaction, and company direction. You guys make those reputations, not us.
As with any rating system, the CRM Market Leader Awards produce winners and…well, let’s just call them “nonwinners.” From time to time, there’ll be a complaint from a nonwinner that thinks it got a raw deal or was represented unfairly. Maybe the call comes from a vendor executive, or a public relations manager, or a sock puppet for one or the other. You have no idea how glad I am that those calls are no longer my problem. Sometimes it gets ugly, but there’s a solid defense when that happens: CRM is simply reporting what the experts are saying. If a vendor doesn’t like the message, it ain’t the messenger’s fault.
Since the editors rely on the experts, and the experts rely on the customers, any vendor that doesn’t like what it reads has nobody to blame but itself. Either its steak didn’t have enough sizzle, or there wasn’t enough meat on the bone in the first place. The trick is to keep talking: Talk to customers to make them vocal promoters or even advocates, talk to analysts and experts to engage them, talk to the media to get those stories out there. The analysts and media exist to serve the industry—the buyers and the sellers—in achieving good business results, and we can’t do it in a vacuum.
Marshall Lager is the founder and managing principal of Third Idea Consulting, and a former award-winning (and -giving) senior editor with CRM magazine. Tell him what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.twitter.com/Lager.