Okay, everyone. Sit down and listen close....C'mon. Sit already. God, this is like herding cats. Shhhhhhh. I have a big announcement...or should I say WE have a big announcement. You'll understand what I mean in a minute if you just sit down and shut up.
Starting now, we are opening the doors for the first annual CRM Idol: The Open Season. YES! CRM Idol the Open Season launches today and it is something that will be here every year from here on. Something that....well let me tell you the story.
Why the Hell?
Because there are so many companies coming into the "CRMish" market, the market for customer facing programs and activities, there is little chance for smaller players to get much visibility among thought leaders, analysts, journalists, venture capitalists and even the general public. One company seems like another and they are all vying for attention. They either do their own public relations or hire public relations firms that are often, lets just say, until Brent Leary and my next public skewering of them, deficient in their public relations skills, sending ill considered emails that indicate no research done - and thus, the influencer, analyst, journalist, doesn't give it the time of day.
Know why not? Because each of us gets some 30-50 of these emails per week and because we want to have a life, we can't read or even respond to all of them. Consequently, it takes something special to get through to an individual who may be able to help the small company. The irony is that this small company may have a great product, but no one will ever know, because of the bad PR work or simply the overwhelming amount of possible competitors vying for attention.
There is another thing that makes it tough on all of these companies too. Many of them, rather than try to be smarter, get whiny. For example, when I issued my CRM Watchlist 2011 and placed SugarCRM on it, one SugarCRM competitor wrote this incredibly waah waah comment on the blog post that said something to the effect "why is it that when SugarCRM changes a palette color, they get coverage, but we add a workflow and business rules engine and no one covers us." This is a paraphrase. I can't do justice to the childish, petulant nature of the commment, but incidences like these turn off the switch when it comes to coverage too.
So all in all, partially due to the inability to provide something attention capturing, partially due to the complaining, but mostly due to the high volume of requests for demos and briefs which limit the influencers in making a choice, the small companies are not able to get the traction or visibility that they need to solidify their market position and make themselves known.
What's going to be different? CRM Idol The Open Season.
The thinking behind what you are going to hear in just a few is simple. These small companies should have a chance. It isn't their fault that there are a million other companies out there trying to reach the same 100 plus people they are. It isn't their fault that the ability to penetrate the influencer's nearly impenetrable walls due to email/etc. volume, is beyond the skills of a goodly percentage of public relations professionals. And it isn't their fault that some of their colleagues/competitors are sucking their own thumbs.
Thus CRM Idol: The Open Season 2011 is born
What in Hell is It?
This is a competition that is easy to enter but difficult to win. But as long as you enter, you'll get something out of it. Its time to let the small companies who are out there, fighting for that visibility every day, have a chance at some of it, with some of the top thought leaders/influencers in the industry. It's also time for the thought leaders to be more available and do something to support those small companies out there. So here's the game plan. First, the format. Then the rules.
There will be two versions of this competition/show. One based in the Americas - which will encompass the United States Canada, Central and South America - and one based in EMEA - which will encompass Europe, Australia and Asia for now.
The Americas Version
From August 15 through August 19 (Monday thru Friday) and then again, August 22 through August 26 (Monday through Friday), (thanks LuxorCRM
for finding my date booboo) each day, from the hours of Noon to 2pm ET (thus, 9am to 11am PT) and then again 4pm to 6pm ET (1pm to 3pm PT), a panel of three judges will hear, each day, 4 companies who will provide 1 hour demos of their products. That will mean 40 slots in total - all in the month of August. The only criteria for getting the slot (the criteria for entry will be seen below) is that you ask for it first in a period that starts April 18.
After each demo is over, the judges will score/analyze the company and its product(s) and, this is the kicker, will jointly publish in all their venues and in media sponsor venues, a review of the company -giving each of the 40 companies the widest possible exposure. But be on your game. Because I'm not saying the judges will publish a good review. It will be fair, it will be honest, but it could be great or bad or in between. That's up to you as a company.
When all forty demos are done and each of the articles/posts have been published, there will be four winners announced. The winners are obligated (yes, obligated. Don't join the competition if you are unwilling to do this) to put together a 10 minute video that highlights what their company does and how their products work - it can be clever, funny, somber, boring or whatever, but it has to highlight what the company is like and how the product works. This video will go up on multiple venues (including a YouTube channel for this) and there will be an expanded set of judges. The 4 winners will be judged by the public - and a much expanded panel of influencers (between 10 and 15). The publics vote will count for 50 percent and the expanded panel of judges will count for 50 percent. Out of those four finalists will come one winner who will be the CRM Idol 2011. Not only will this be published widely in all venues, but the winner will get a choice of several prizes which will be announced at the time that the four finalists are announced. They could range from a significant speaking slot at a conference to a meeting with a venture capitalist/angel who might be willing to fund the company to a meeting with a key potential vendor partner. More to come on that later. The combination of the prize with the publicity and the exposure to a significant group of thought leaders all with an easy entry point if you meet the criteria should be worth any small CRMish company's time. Take a chance.
This is pretty much the same rules (three judges, final video, etc.) but there are a couple of differences. First, it will be only 20 slots. Second, the dates for this as of now are TBD. But watch these venues over the next week or two.
The Entry Criteria
Because many of us are giving up a good chunk of the little free time we have in the summer to do this, this is going to be a hardnosed set of criteria - and woe to you if you take up a slot and don't qualify - seriously. I don't want to get self-righteous, but none of the judges have much time to do non-work related things in a given year and we're giving up two weeks of that to do this, so please do me a favor, only bother if you meet ALL the criteria.
Here they are:
- The products you show must be commercially available when you show them. No betas. No alphas. No incompletes.
- You must have 4 referenceable customers. We will most likely send them notes or call them to check, so again, please make sure that they know they are referenceable customers who may get contacted by us.
- If you are a finalist, you must do the 10 minute video describing your product. Its your call how you do it. It has to be able to be posted on YouTube though. This isn't optional for a finalist. This is a mandatory rule. Otherwise, we can't pick a winner.
- You must be in an area related to CRM somehow. This could be marketing, sales, customer service, enterprise feedback management, social software, analytics, knowledge management, community platforms, social media monitoring, etc. Customer facing or something that captures customer data. There's a wide range. However, the judges have the final say as to whether or not they think you meet the criteria.
- Finally, your revenues need to be $12 million U.S. or under.
How to Enter
On April 18, we all will announce through multiple venues the opening of the slots. That means that anyone who meets the criteria who wants to compete should send an email to the email address that will be announced the date we open. In that, please send company name, information about the company and products, the names of the 4 referenceable customers and a contact at your company. Additionally, identify two slot times. If one is taken by the time you send it, then you will get the backup slot. If both are taken, then you're out of luck unless there are slots still available at the end of the slot availability period (roughly 10 days). It is first come first serve then for those who missed - meaning the judges will look at when the emails were sent and if you're early enough, you'll be offered remaining available time slots. If you don't want any of them, then you're out of luck.
Finally, the esteemed panels of judges for each event. (click on their hyperlinks for their bios)
In the Americas
Even More Judges....
As I mentioned before there will be an expanded panel of judges for the finals. But I was dissembling a bit. There will actually be two
expanded panels of judges for the finals. First, a panel that will consist of roughly 10-15 key influencers which also may (this is still under final discussion) include a venture capitalist or two; and second, a panel that will consist of a like amount of appropriate larger and well established technology vendors and large systems integrators/consulting firms. In other words, those companies that the small companies would love to get in front of anyway. Sitting on these panels, especially the latter, are potential partners and investors.
These will be responsible for 50 percent of the decision on the winner of the competition.
But it doesn't stop there. Wide exposure is going to be the minimum benefit (unless something bad is written, then its not much of a benefit) and so we are bringing in media partners who will non-exclusively carry the entire competition from beginning to end and will be sites from which the popular vote is tallied.
The first media property in is MyCustomer.com, a wildly successful CRM related online digital media outlet in both Europe and the U.S. with, all in all hundreds of thousands of readers.
The 3 full panels - influencers, vendors/consulting and the sponsoring media properties will be announced on April 18 when the "first come first serve" slots open up. The final prizes which will involve, among other things, companies and individuals who are willing to give the winner a crack at getting invested in, will be announced in the midsummer before the Open Season....well, opens on August 14.
That about does it. I'm all written out. So be prepared for this. This could be a big deal. Hopefully this will be both the break that some of you are waiting for and also will show us some of the companies that we should have been watching but weren't. We can close the historic gap and have a great time along the way. Watch for the "sound of the opening bell" coming soon. Remember, first come first served.