For up-to-the-minute coverage of the CRM Idol competition, visit the official website.
The CRM Idol judges panel from the Americas – Paul Greenberg, Esteban Kolsky, Denis Pombriant, Jesus Hoyos and Brent Leary – are viewing and reviewing contestants for the quality of their product, the vision of their company, the presentation that they are making and a variety of other factors. Each of the reviews has been reviewed and modified if need be by all the primary judges. This is a joint review signed off by all the judges.
It’s a common story with emerging companies almost bordering on a cliché. The founders have a bright idea, maybe get some funding and try to bring their idea to the world. Often the world ignores the idea or, if the innovator is lucky, some early adopters pick it up and run with it though they will likely change the idea considerably along the way.
Connected has all of the elements of a typical startup story plus one. Founded in 2010 the company launched its social CRM product in early 2011 with the help of angel investors Trinity, Ignition and 500 Startups. Founders Sachin Rekhl and Ada Chen Rekhl envisioned “SocialCRM Without the Work” and that is where the wheels could (but don’t) fall off.
The plus one referenced above goes like this: Connected is not a very useful CRM. The Rekhls envisioned a solution to the CRM adoption problem last seen in an off the cuff comment by an analyst many years ago that still lives in mythology. The Rekhls contend that the problem with CRM adoption is that CRM requires a great deal of data input before it can be useful and that many users balk at the data entry.
True enough, but the same can be said of ERP in spades but you never hear of anyone tiring of plugging in those dollars and cents. It says something about our respect for existing money and our imperfect understanding of future money that CRM is supposed to help us get. At any rate, you can’t have CRM without data and it isn’t all going to come in via osmosis, especially when you consider deal and other transaction data.
But, all those shortcomings in Connected can easily be ignored if we simply ignore the founders’ initial positioning. Connected has no conventional CRM back end and isn’t really a CRM but it is a superb contact manager. In fact, to call Connected a contact manager is to redefine the category. If Connected manages contacts, other products merely warehouse them.
The heart of Connected is a Universal Address Book that Hoovers (as in a vacuum) in social and other relevant data from a growing list of social sources that includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Email, blogs and much more. Connected keeps you abreast of all the social meanderings of all your contacts and reminds you of things you need to know in business. Someone was promoted or changed jobs or that already old chestnut, somebody has a birthday today — Connected tells you without you having to search so that you can presumably do the right thing.
Connected has what the company calls “Comprehensive Profiles” so if there is something on the Net about one of your contacts you can reasonably expect it will show up in your Connected account. Same goes for companies you want to follow.
If think there’s too much data and not enough information. The company has already reached the same conclusion and built a prescient Daily Agenda function — a daily email about your meetings and their context, recent status updates, reminder of all previous meetings. It’s the equivalent of your personal daily briefing. This is significantly valuable for sales people who are, for instance, preparing for a busy day or commuting to a meeting. Just don’t try to drive while you’re digesting it all. Daily Engage Events goes deeper to inform you about what’s happening in the lives of people around you, i.e. the birthdays etc.
So, ignoring the positioning, the founders have delivered on most of what they set out to do. They’ve built a tool that collects and presents a great deal of social information about your contacts without imposing the data capture on the user.
Of course, capturing and using transaction data is still an issue and it will be solved as Connected gets connected to conventional CRM products in the months ahead. More likely this company is well positioned (in San Francisco of all places) to be scooped up by some smart and more well established CRM company that understands the value of social media in CRM and the overarching requirement to seamlessly integrate social and CRM. Who might that be?
Brent Leary is a crm industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award winning blogger. He is co-founder and Partner of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. He is Recognized by InsideCRM as one of the 25 most influential industry leaders, Leary also is a past recipient of CRM Magazine's Most Influential Leader Award. There's lots more to know about Brent...check out his web site.