Paul Greenberg is the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light and President of The 56 Group, LLC, a consulting firm focused on CRM and Social CRM strategic services. He is a founding partner of BPT Partners, a training and consulting venture composed of a number of CRM luminaries. Paul is the Executive Vice President of the CRM Association. He currently is the Chairman of the Board of Advisors of the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management CRM Centre of Excellence. He has been a Board of Advisors member of the Baylor University MBA Program for CRM majors, and the co-chairman of Rutgers University’s CRM Research Center. He has also developed strategies and helped define CRM and social CRM products for all the major vendors in CRM and in social media. Paul is considered a thought leader in CRM, having been published in numerous industry and business publications over the years. He was elected to CRM magazine’s CRM Hall of Fame in 2010 – the first non-vendor related thought leader in its history.
He’s the inventor and primary judge of the CRM Idol international competition.
Welcome to Paul Greenberg 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?
Actually, it was kind of difficult to do that given the categories that were there for qualification. CRM or CRMish meant thousands of features to think about. But since this was more a contest about the company than the products, it became manageable, because even if one company was focused on hardcore traditional CRM and another on enterprise feedback management, we were judging the likelihood of success of the company in the markets that they targeted and that meant the features of the product were just a marker for the likelihood of success of the company as opposed to something we compared company by company. So we could handle the categories a lot easier, since this was about the company not just the product and companies have a lot in common they have to consider regardless of products they provide.
Tell us about your experience with this amazing panel of experts and colleagues.
Well, I had the pleasure of working with three people, Silvana Buljan, Mark Tamis and Laurence Buchanan, who I consider not only three of the leading CRM experts in the world, but also three friends. It made for one of the most rewarding experiences I”ve had in a long time. I learned a significant amount from the three and just had a great time with three friends besides. How much better could something get?
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?
Their strengths were the strengths that I found in both segments of the contest – both EMEA and the Americas. Some of the participants had powerful products with deep functionality and they were well engineered products – in fact one or two of the EMEA contestants products, i would say, were among the best I’ve seen even when taking more established and some larger vendors into consideration.
And what about their overall weakness?
Again, the weakness we saw in all the contestants throughout the both segments. Because their resources/finances were scarce, most of the companies had spent the bulk of their money on development and either completely ignored or for the most part did little marketing. The reason that this is a weakness is that regardless of how great your product is, you’re competing with other potentially great products and you have to have the presence to be noticed as something different than your competitors and known to the customers. Without marketing, that won’t happen.
Which aspects have driven you to make the final choice?
Those that we can say publicly have to do with the overall balance of the company – meaning the quality of their product, their vision, their mission, their experience, their road maps, their ideas on the markets they want to address, their maturity in terms of dealing with the marketplace, their corporate culture, their long term outlook, etc. That’s the ones that we can reveal. it was a rigorous process. As I said early on in the overall competition – it was easy to enter but hard to win.
Working on the two sides of the project (America and EMEA), which are the main differences resulting from a comparison with american participants?
As you can tell from the responses above, the differences weren’t all that manifest. When it gets down to it, the only differences were the differences that you would see in things other than this competition too. The cultures of the companies were appropriate to the countries that they were founded in.
Geographically (and frankly) speaking, which are the more promising countries and which the ones that disappointed you?
This is not really a good or fair question. First, the entries were first come first serve so which countries were represented had nothing to do with the geographies but more with the speed to entry of the companies that got the slots. Second, its never a matter of a country. Countries are the places where the companies exist and there might be some cultural impact on the staff of the companies, but geography has nothing to do with the quality of the company – good or bad. That has to do more with the factors I mentioned above in how we determined who were moving on to other places in the competition.
Can you give some suggestions for the CRM and Social CRM vendors that will try to participate to the next year CRM Idol contest?
Make sure that you sign up early and get your slot. We had a waiting list of almost 40 this year globally. Make sure that you respond exactly as you’re asked to in the submission form including the references that you offer. Make them solid. Make sure that you conduct yourself as a member of the CRM Idol community rather than a jealous suitor in the contest. This is very important. Keep in mind there are other factors than the demo that matter though I’m not going to reveal what they are or how much weight they carry. Finally, make sure that you are WELL prepared on the demo. I won’t say more than that. But don’t mess up.
Thanks again to Paul for his kindness and time.