Laurence Buchanan is a recognised authority and evangelist on CRM, Social CRM and customer experience transformation. He has spent over 12 years working in the CRM market, both as a sales and marketing leader and as a CRM subject matter expert. Laurence heads up CRM and Social CRM within the UK for Capgemini (Technology Services). In his current role Laurence is responsible for Capgemini’s CRM & SCRM go-to-market strategy and business development across all packaged vendors and industries. He is passionate about helping clients articulate their customer-centric vision and strategy, and enabling that through the smart use of technology. He’s one of the EMEA judges’ panel for the CRM Idol international competition conceived by CRM and Social CRM expert Paul Greenberg.
Welcome to Laurence Buchanan and thanks a lot for this interview. Now Round 1 of the CRM Idol contest is just finished and all semi-finalists (America and EMEA) have been chosen for the next step. This means the end of a preliminary phase of hard work for the judges who had participated to all demos, worked out their reviews and finally made their choice. First of all – my curiosity – how did you manage the countless CRMish/SocialCRMish main products’ features to articulate your judgment?
The judges on both sides of the Atlantic had several conference calls to agree a standard set of criteria that we marked the candidates against. Each candidate had a mentor to try and guide them through the process and show their product in the best light. There were a lot of demos packed into a short period of time but it was great fun!
Tell us about your experience with this amazing panel of experts and colleagues.
The competition was the brainchild of Paul Greenberg – I must say his passion and drive are quite incredible. He is one of the very few people in the industry who could pull together such an impressive collection of judges in such a short time. It really was an honour to be included in a group of industry experts I have been following for over a decade.
I think it’d be really interesting to have your overview about this first phase of the contest. In your opinion, which are the European participants’ overall strentghs with regard to their corporate visions and products?
I don’t think I can really generalise by region. What we saw in the EMEA competition was a lot of variety – some vendors focussed on a very narrow market (e.g. Industry or geographical segment), others had global ambitions. What impressed me most was how the majority of the vendors in the competition were punching way above their weight. Most had relatively small development and sales teams but had done an amazing job at building their products and then taking them to market.
And what about their overall weakness?
Again it’s hard to generalise but given the size of companies we were looking at, it’s natural that all of them saw a challenge in getting to the next level. Some were looking for an injection of funding, others were looking to grow organically. Some wanted to stay focussed on their niche, whereas others wanted to break into a new market.
Which aspects have driven you to make the final choice?
We focussed on how well the companies had identified their target market, built a differentiated solution to meet the needs of that target market and then executed on their vision. We also considered their respective strengths and weaknesses in taking their business to the next level.
Working and talking with Paul Greenberg – fully involved in the worldwide project -, which are the main differences resulting from a comparison with american participants?
I would say that the majority of vendors we spoke had global plans to some degree. The European vendors are of course conscious that Europe is a target secondary market for most US-based vendors, equally we came across some European vendors who were driving significant revenue outside Europe.
Geographically (and frankly) speaking, which are the more promising countries and which the ones that disappointed you?
I don’t think we can generalise by country. We saw both innovation and missed opportunity in most of the major European countries we covered. Country did not seem to be a deciding factor in the success of the entrants.
Can you give some suggestions for the CRM and Social CRM vendors that will try to participate to the next year CRM Idol contest?
It’s amazing how much difference a well prepared pitch can make. Have a clear description of the business problem you are trying to solve and show us how you solve that problem better than anyone else for your chosen market. We tended to find that those that worked closely with their mentors found huge value in that relationship and as a result probably landed their pitches a little better!
Thanks again to Laurence for his kindness and time.