The 2013 CRM Rising Stars

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This year's group of Rising Stars represent some promising young companies, as well as a seasoned large enterprise that has historically avoided the spotlight—until now. The one thing all of them have in common is that over the past year, they have leveraged social media in some capacity to better communicate with customers and prospects. As social media continues to pique the interest of businesses globally, these stars should continue to shine.

SDL: Connecting the Dots in Customer Experience

You could call SDL the largest enterprise technology company you've never heard of. But with 1,500 enterprise customers, 400 partners, 2,700 employees, and 70 offices in 38 countries, the time to shine a spotlight on this London-based, 20-year-old global information-management giant is now.

SDL services 42 of the world's 50 largest brands, according to Interbrand, in industries as wide-ranging as aerospace and defense, retail, media, financial services, and government. In 2012, SDL took top placement in the Favorite New Products category in the worldwide People's Choice Stevie Awards business recognition program, and recently took home a Silver Winner Award in the Quality in Research category for social media advances in insight generation, presented by the Advertising Research Foundation.

SDL continued to add to its solutions portfolio, with its January acquisition of Alterian, a marketing analytics, social media monitoring, and campaign management company, to deepen its roots in customer experience. "Understanding what your customers are interested in by analyzing what they are looking at, and for how long, is key in developing your Web and customer engagement strategy," commented Mark Lancaster, executive chairman of SDL, at the time of the acquisition.

In addition to its increased emphasis on customer experience, SDL has eyed the very way customers are interacting with companies now, and announced an acquisition of mobile Web solutions company bemoko in March. Coupled with Alterian and e-commerce personalization platform SDL Fredhopper, one of the primary drivers of the bemoko acquisition was the desire to power a consistent Web or commerce experience for customers across any device.

This year, the company launched the SDL Customer Commitment Framework, a patented metrics system allowing companies to take a data-driven approach to customer experience management. Assigning business outcome scores such as "product commitment" to predict future purchasing behavior, "brand commitment" to determine likelihood of advocacy, and "customer relevance" to predict the likelihood to "share" content, the framework also takes into account metrics like Net Promoter Score and insights gathered from SDL's SM2 social media monitoring app.

"What we do is help unpack the customer experience, whether it's a shopping journey, a sharing journey, or a journey to advocacy," comments David Clark, vice president of marketing at SDL. "There's a massive amount of data being created today. We have eighty billion posts in our warehouse today. What's important is how you model the right conversations out of that massive data set, and that's part of what we've done here."—Kelly Liyakasa

Nimble: Socially Supercharging CRM

Nimble could be classified as that quintessential company that helps bridge the gap between the world of traditional contact records and the exploding stream of social data. Founded in 2009 by Jon Ferrara, a cofounder of early CRM company GoldMine Software, the platform has amassed such honors as “Best Relationship Management Solution” for 2013 by the Software & Information Industry Association and has joined the ranks of the latest CRM Watchlist, as selected by last year’s CRM Influential Leader and industry analyst Paul Greenberg.

This was an action-packed year for Nimble and one that saw a steady uptick in integrations and forged partnerships for the platform. Among its earlier accomplishments this year was its snagging of $1 million in new financing from Google Ventures and a series of angel investors that include Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank panelist Mark Cuban.

It was also a year of expansion for the California-based company, as it moved into EMEA with the opening of a London office to meet the needs of 9,000 users and 50-plus channel partners in the region. Additionally, Nimble paved paths on virtual ground, and introduced the Nimble Application Programming Interface and App Marketplace to enable any sales, marketing, customer service, or accounting system to integrate directly with Nimble. (At press time, Nimble counted more than 100 integration partners, ranging from Google Contacts to Salesforce.com.)

Soon after, Nimble teamed up with a new integration partner, social media management solution HootSuite, to connect social media profiles to contact data through HootSuite Social Profiles.

“We’re finding that people are starting to integrate Nimble to the core of their business processes, not only by hooking Nimble up to their accounting system[s] and their customer support systems, but also their marketing platforms and their Web sites,” Ferrara tells CRM. “We’re finding that [Nimble is] becoming part of their daily work flow because of these integrations.”

One of Nimble’s newest integrations is with publishing platform WordPress. According to Ferrara, small businesses that use the platform for blog hosting are collecting prospects by way of the blog site, pushing them into Nimble, and then linking the data back to email marketing platforms such as ActiveCampaign and MailChimp.

To Ferrara, what’s personally exciting about Nimble is “pioneering the next-generation relationship manager.” With the recent debut of Nimble 3.0 Simply Insightful Relationship Manager, the platform can now tie together communications from email, calendars, and social networks to dynamically present, filter, and recommend “engagement” opportunities for professionals based on past interactions. —Kelly Liyakasa

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