CRM Idol Will Soon Have Its First Winners

CRM Idol, a new contest that is giving small CRM-related companies a chance to shine, is reaching the finishing line. Starting with an initial group of 60 companies–40 from the Americas and 20 from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia (EMEA)–a panel of judges has whittled the number of competitors down to seven finalists. The prize: an opportunity to select consultations with leading firms and analysts, among other benefits.

Numerous competitors say the true prize however, is the added exposure that their companies have received simply by participating in CRM Idol.

"The amount of attention we've gotten has definitely been the biggest surprise," says Amanda Roberts, CEO and co-founder of Stone Cobra. "Since we've been competing, we've received phone calls from investors and interested parties that we would never have had the time to reach out to."

Alex Bard, the CEO of Assistly, agrees. "Being able to build relationships with the judges has been invaluable," he says. "Having the brand of being the winner would be terrific, but the process [of the competition] is just as valuable."

CRM Idol is the brainchild of Paul Greenberg, managing principal of The 56 Group and author of CRM at the Speed of Light. The whole thing started, Greenberg says, because he was looking for a way for small companies to gain more attention from venture capitalists, analysts, journalists, etc.

"In a given week I get between 20 and 50 requests for demos from companies of all sizes, and the smaller companies often don't get much exposure because they don't have the resources or expertise on how to get it," Greenberg says. "I thought, 'Why don't we try to give them some exposure by providing an open season? I'll give up my summer for a few weeks for demos.' I tweeted about this, and Charlie Issacs, [chief customer officer at KANA] joked that it would be CRM Idol."

CRM Idol 2011 was launched on April 25, and Greenberg says there was an immediate response from potential contestants, vendors, and the media.

The first hurdle that participants had to clear was the easiest: they had to meet certain criteria. Among the requirements, their annual revenue couldn’t exceed $12 million; they had to provide three customer references; and their software had to be commercially available.

"Two things quickly became apparent," Greenberg says. "One is that there were many companies who were eager and smart and had a lot to offer. The second is that a lot of them were also inexperienced in doing certain things. Part of our mission was to help them get better at presenting themselves to other judges like ourselves."

Forty slots were available for the Americas-based companies and 20 slots were available for EMEA-based companies to give a one-hour demo in August. Mentors were randomly assigned to each of the 60 companies to coach them on their presentations.

When the big day arrived in August, the contestants presented their demos to a panel of judges virtually via GoToMeeting sessions scheduled over a two-week period. The judging panel for the Americas consisted of Greenberg; Jesus Hoyos, managing partner of JesusHoyos.com; Esteban Kolsky, principal and founder of Thinkjar; Denis Pombriant, CEO of Beagle Research Group, and Brent Leary, managing partner of CRM Essentials. Silvana Buljan, founder and managing director of Buljan & Partners Consulting; Mark Tamis, a social business strategist from NET-7; Laurence Buchanan, a vice president from Capgemini; and Greenberg reviewed the 20 EMEA contestants.

The demos were so impressive that judges asked for an opportunity to further critique the participants.

"Originally we planned to go straight to picking the finalists, but we realized we had to narrow it down to semi-finalists first," Greenberg explains.

Twelve semi-finalists in the Americas and six from EMEA were each interviewed for an additional hour after the demo presentations. 

The seven finalists were revealed in September and have until October 21 to submit 10-minute videos about their companies. The finalists are the following:

  • BPMonline CRM—Founded in 2010 and based in London, BPMonline CRM provides enhanced business process management features that help businesses of any size automate sales, marketing and service processes.
  • Workbooks.com—Founded in 2007 and based in Berkshire, England, the Workbooks CRM Edition enables its customers to link sales, marketing, and customer service with tools that manage campaigns, leads, opportunities, and support cases for one consistent view of their customer engagement.
  • Zestia—Founded in 2008 and based in Manchester, England, Zestia builds cloud-based solutions for businesses. Its flagship product, Capsule, is a Web-based CRM solution for small businesses and sales teams.
  • Assistly—Founded in 2009 and based in San Francisco, Assistly provides cloud-based CRM tools that connect directly to support channels like Facebook, Twitter, and email and collects requests into a single, collaborative desktop. It was recently acquired by Salesforce.com.
  • Crowd Factory—Also founded in 2009 and based in San Francisco, Crowd Factory's Social Marketing Suite is a set of enterprise-grade social marketing applications that allow companies to embed social elements from sweepstakes to group deals to contests and more into marketing campaigns. It also includes built-in analytics to track, measure and optimize these programs in real-time.
  • Get Satisfaction—Founded in 2007 and based in San Francisco, Get Satisfaction provides an online community that allows a client's customers to ask questions, report problems, give product ideas, and other suggestions.
  • Stone Cobra—Founded in 2001 and based in Roseville, Calif., Stone Cobra offers CRM solutions that include its Apps for the Service Cloud, BlackCRM, and PIIT Viper.

One winner from each of the two groups (EMEA and the Americas) will be announced on Monday, November 7. Each winner will get to select six prizes from a list that includes consultations with analysts, meetings with venture capitalists, and free software.

Whether it's a consultation meeting, or other prizes, the goal to make sure everyone gets something out of CRM Idol, says Greenberg, who is already planning next year's competition.

"The contest may be over by November 7, but the contestants will have editor rights to their content on our Web site forever, as well as the chance to interact with us. We want this to be an ongoing community for startups and small businesses," Greenberg says. "We have two sayings: CRM Idol is easy to enter but hard to win, and once a contestant, always a member."

For more information about CRM Idol, please visit www.crmidol.com.

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