The CRM Watchlist 2019: Welcome to the show

Changes in the CRM world have led to major changes in the CRM Watchlist and the new Emergence Maturity Index Awards. See how the customer-facing technology market correlates to these changes, and how you can register and submit to these.
Written by Paul Greenberg, Contributor

If you are interested in registering for either award competition, please email a request for the registration form for the one you are interested in.

It is time to announce the newly revamped 2019 CRM Watchlist and -- probably one of the biggest parts of the revamping -- the shiny new 2019 Emergence Maturity Index Awards competition. This post will cover the Watchlist, and the next one will cover the Emergence Maturity Index Awards, and it will be much shorter.

Read also: Companies on the verge: Introducing the Emergence Maturity Index

CRM Watchlist 2019: Time for a change

The reason I suspended the Watchlist last year -- besides, in all candor, that working on my customer engagement book was driving me crazy -- was that I realized that, after more than a decade of the Watchlist, it was time for a change. I don't know how many of you remember this, knew this, or give a crap one way or the other, but the Watchlist itself started out in CRM at the Speed of Light as what I then-called "The Steppin' Out Awards." ( Here's an example of what it was like with this 2007 Zoho Press release.) The idea was to pick a company that represented a category of CRM technology and stood out as the market leader or the emerging one to watch.

But, over time, that evolved to the CRM Watchlist, which had a different purpose: Companies that had impact in the market as a whole or in a particular market.

The idea was simple: Companies, when they are producing valuable services and goods that are aimed at providing productive outcomes, still have a lot of other things they need to do before they can be called successful companies. They need a public presence, they have to be socially and environmentally responsible, they have to be able to execute against a plan, and they have to invest in things that might have a non-tangible return, but at the same time, will benefit them and their customers. They need a culture that is responsive to the employees and customers -- not because it benefits shareholders, but because it benefits all stakeholders, which include the customers and employees and business partners and the world at large. This has to be embedded at the level of their DNA. They have to understand the greater markets and their own specific markets so that they can be responsive to the changes in those markets. They need to have messages and positions that resonate with their targeted audiences. They need to be able to reach out on a regular basis to those third parties that influence the markets the company wants to play in. I can go on, but you get the idea.

If you were able to do all that successfully, then the likelihood that you were a company that mattered increased a great deal. You would be very likely to have an impact in the market or specific markets that mattered. The Watchlist was the recognition of that. (Here is the latest of the CRM Watchlist announced winners (CRM Watchlist 2017) from January 2017.) The Watchlist was and is recognition of a company in the customer-facing technology world that did itself proud with well-rounded efforts, which drove the success of the company, ranging from its culture to its products/services offering to its ecosystem to its outreach program to... ad infinitum.

Its been going on successfully for more than a decade, and I am honored that so many companies seem so interested in submitting their questionnaires for the possibility of a watchlist award.

Yet, as happily successful as its been, things have been changing in the marketplace, in the world, and even in the nature of the structure of companies. Those changes created the need for me to make changes to the Watchlist, which I now have done.

But, why? I owe you this one especially if you are going to be a submitting company, so you can at least have a framework to understand what I'm looking for now.

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CRM Watchlist 2019: Trends that led to the change

When I started the Watchlist, the trend was traditional CRM, and it was pretty baseline stuff. The only kind of value add was some talk about analytics at the back-end and an expanded offering for marketing automation. Web self-service was coming into play and was classified more as knowledge management than customer service. As time marched on, mobile became a subject of interest, analytics became standard, and social CRM emerged as a new "form" of CRM that in 2008 to 2011 had to be distinguished from "traditional" CRM. Social media was growing so quickly that companies -- beginning with Pivotal's Social CRM offering -- were integrating social communication, listening, and interaction directly into CRM suites and applications, and at the same time, companies were capturing the social data and storing it in the system of record in individual customer files. But, by 2011, there was no reason to distinguish between "social" and "traditional" CRM, because all CRM offerings came standard with social integration.

The Watchlist adjusted to that. Each year, the weights changed, the criteria were tweaked, additions were made, subtractions done, and the bar was set higher and higher.

Now, the world of customers has changed dramatically. Our customers are digital, tech savvy, and empowered. They can communicate with each other and -- more often than not -- the companies that they are interested in as frequently as they want via any channel and in real time. Their expectations have changed. Their demands are more strident. They are willing to go public with their upset and (not as frequently, but frequently enough) their happiness with the brands that they are communicating with, which means that what it takes for a company to impact the market it serves -- as well as satisfy the customers and potential customers it has or will have, retain a true sense of independent identity as a company, and manage the cost of doing all that -- has been dramatically altered.

The things that are impacting the market are significantly different than they were when all this started, too. Back when I started, and all the way through 2011, check out this sampling of terms that were either buzzworthy and/or discussion worthy.

  1. Web. 2.0
  2. Enterprise 2.0
  3. User created content
  4. Social networks
  5. Social customer
  6. Social media
  7. Software as a Service
  8. Transparency/Authenticity
  9. Cloud
  10. Revenue Performance Management (Marketing)

Now look at the 2018 list:

  1. Customer engagement
  2. Customer experience
  3. Blockchain
  4. Internet of Things
  5. Mobile Platforms
  6. Artificial Intelligence
  7. Machine Learning
  8. Personalization
  9. Digital Transformation
  10. Engagement Marketing (or Content Marketing)

See what I mean? Some of what we are talking about now existed then, such as artificial intelligence, which has been around since the 1950s, but the market/world/people in the world hadn't caught up to it so that it had significant impact or perceived value. Now it does. Not only are all of these ideas conversation grabbers, but many of them are ideas driving what businesses think they need to do. They are real and -- while at various levels of hype versus that of reality -- are all part of the C-level discussions, mid-management discussions, field discussions, and, in many cases, executions these days.

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CRM Watchlist 2019: Separating the EMI

All this has created an incredible number of companies that are vying for a piece of the action. These are technology companies that are emerging by the literal thousands from not just Silicon Valley, but multiple locations around the globe. Most of them, as has been pointed out in spades by multiple writers and pundits, are going to fail. Some are going to succeed, but they will take years to do so or have to pivot a few times before they hit on the right approach. Many of them will be acquired either for their technology (Recast.ai) or for the impact that their company has had on the markets they serve (Marketo, Smart Communications, Gigya, Callidus Cloud) and their technology.

The one thing that all the companies needed to be successful, either at the beginning of their journey or continue to be successful as their journeys progressed, was that they had to be companies, not just technology with an institution wrapped around it.

That's why the biggest move I've made is to separate the CRM Watchlist from the Emergence Maturity Index. The former is for those companies that are operating as companies and have potentially had a real impact in the market. That means they do all the things that I mention above to be companies. They have been around for awhile and proven themselves to be a fully functioning business that has what it needs to continue to succeed and hopefully continue its impact.

The EMI is for those institutions that have not yet had an impact, but they are getting to the point that they need to be to be considered a true breakout candidate in the market -- one on the verge of an impact in a short enough period to be noticeable. They are not just building great stuff, but they are learning how to tell the world about it, and they are smart enough to understand that engineering at the core -- except in a rare case or two (Zoho being one) -- is not a sufficient business model to guarantee success. Cool technology without much else going on means a cold market. But these young organizations are fluid entities consisting of real people who make decisions every day as to its direction. That means that those decisions are going to make or break the company and its future. The EMIs are designed to identify the breakout companies, and how close to breakout they are now. Not in a time frame (because that would be a forecast, and remember how stupid I think forecasts are), but, instead, how I identify the elements of a business that are in place beyond the R&D and engineering (though including that) and the signs of future impact that the company is making, meaning they are talk and action. The actions, as small as they may be by comparison to the Watchlist, matter a great deal.

One overriding difference is that the EMI after a time will become an actual monitored, ever-changing Index, meaning it will be an ongoing assessment of the burgeoning young company, and as the elements are put into place and the signs of future impact appear, it will impact the individual company's placement in the Index. However, the Award is based, as is the Watchlist, on what the company has done over the immediate year. (In other words, the EMIs 2019 are for what happened in 2018.)

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CRM Watchlist 2019: How to submit

This is where I must begin to distinguish between the CRM Watchlist and the EMIs. Because, in the past, all companies that provided customer-facing technologies -- or services that were related to that -- were eligible. No longer.

I would say that roughly 50 to 60 percent of the submissions that I received every year were from very small to small companies that may have had great products -- and many did -- but hadn't done even the basic blocking and tackling that companies have to do to impact a market. That means no real marketing or outreach or even sales training. They had their technology offering and wrapped a legal entity around it. But there was no way that they were going to win the Watchlist, because its an impact award that depends on what you do as a company, and not what products or services you offer, per se. Your products and services matter, but they are one part of a much bigger total. Yet, every now and then, one of the companies break out and win the Watchlist. They may be small, but they were able to seriously impact a market, because they were mindful of what it took to run a company.

That said, it was so rare an occurrence, I realized that rather than judge these little 'uns the same way I judged, say, Oracle or Salesforce, I needed to do something else that also had a different outcome as the result. So, the Emergence Maturity Index (EMI) seceded from the CRM Watchlist and established its own state. I explained the EMI in this post in late November 2017. So, I won't make this post any longer than it is by explaining that again. Read the post from November.

Email your request for the registration form

If you are interested in registering for either award competition, please email me at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com with a request for the registration form for the one you are interested in.

Read also: Where's the ROI in your CRM? It's in the process

CRM Watchlist 2019: Eligible categories

A lot of what you see below are the same criteria as they were in the past. But there are some new criteria due to, especially, the creation of the EMIs for the younger, not yet fully established companies that no longer qualify for the CRM Watchlist. So, what it takes to qualify for the Watchlist is very important for you to note, because I don't want to waste either your time or my time telling you that "no you can't request the registration form because you don't qualify." I'm too old for having the patience for organizations that don't read what I wrote.

So, first, let's start with the eligible categories, which have been expanded. The CRM Watchlist may be keeping its name, but what qualifies a company to register is customer-facing technologies or customer-facing technology services. Not just traditional or contemporary CRM pillars.

Here's the current list of categories. If you produce any technology that supports even one of these, you can potentially qualify.


  1. CRM Suite - Enterprise
  2. CRM Suite - Small Business
  3. CRM Suite - Midsized Business
  4. Social CRM
  5. Mobile CRM
  6. Integrated Marketing Management
  7. Marketing Resource Management
  8. Marketing Automation (a.k.a. Revenue Marketing, Engagement Marketing)
  9. Digital Marketing
  10. Other Marketing (Database Marketing, Content Marketing, Influencer Marketing)
  11. Sales Force Automation
  12. Sales Intelligence
  13. Sales Enablement
  14. Sales Optimization
  15. Sales Operations
  16. Sales Performance Management
  17. Sales Acceleration
  18. Customer Service
  19. Customer Experience Management (CEM or CXM)/Platforms
  20. Customer Engagement Applications/Platforms
  21. Web Self Service
  22. Customer Success Management
  23. Customer Identity Management
  24. Customer Lifecycle Management
  25. Customer Journey Management (Orchestration)
  26. Customer Communications Management
  27. Knowledge Management
  28. Intelligent Search
  29. Insight Platforms/Solutions
  30. Content creation, distribution, consumption and analysis
  31. Gamification
  32. Social Listening (must be integrated w/at least one CRM package)
  33. Customer Analytics (including text/sentiment analytics; voice-based analytics; social media analytics, influencer scoring, customer engagement analytics etc.
  34. Enterprise Feedback Management
  35. Reputation Management/Engine
  36. Innovation Management
  37. Community Platforms
  38. Collaboration Applications/Platforms
  39. Conversational Interface

  40. Chatbots (customer-facing services)
  41. Mobile Platforms
  42. Artificial Intelligence
  43. Internet of Things/Industrial Internet
  44. Digital Transformation
  45. Vendor Relationship Management
  46. Partner Relationship Management/Partnering Automation
  47. Other

By the way, if you can suggest any other categories that I might be missing by the end of February, I'm happy to consider them and add them. Also, to be clear, for the purposes of qualifying for the CRM Watchlist, I don't care about the distinction between B2B and B2C, but I will care about those distinctions in your submission.

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CRM Watchlist 2019: Criteria for entering

There are a couple of general points to be made: Some of the criteria for the specifics of submission are not outlined here for space considerations, but they will be outlined on the questionnaire when you receive it. The first one here is the most important -- it now frames and limits who can enter the Watchlist.

  1. Existence and revenue: You must be able to, if asked, show a legal corporate existence for a minimum of four years to be a participant in the Watchlist, though the likelihood of me asking is very small. You also must have more than $2,000,000 USD (or the equivalent) in revenue (not a run rate) in your immediate prior fiscal year and have a minimum of 75 employees to participate.
  2. Ask for an exception: You can, if you are close but don't meet the submission criteria for the Watchlist, ask for an exception, but be prepared to say exactly what you think qualifies you for the exception. So, for example: "We had $55 million in revenue in 2016, but in early 2017, we sold a division of the company that was responsible for $53.5 million of that, and thus, our revenue in 2017 fell of, but our impact didn't." OK, I'll take that under advisement, and other possible reasons that you can concoct. If you want the exception, email me, and I'll send you a short email asking you a few questions (two to three, probably) that needs to be returned in 24 hours. If not, no exception. I'll respond "yes" or "no" in 24 hours after that.
  3. Two weeks to return: Once you request the registration form, you have two weeks (14 days) from the day I send it to you to return it to me. That means, if you receive it on Feb. 19, 2018, then you have until March 5, 2018 to return it. If you have it and don't return it by then, you will not be eligible for the Watchlist for the year. I may or may not send you a reminder if I haven't seen it, but I'm not assuming any obligation whatsoever to do that. I'm honestly tired of chasing down companies that then tell me, "Oh, it got lost in the shuffle" or "Oh, we were busy." So am I, and I don't want to spend my time tracking companies that clearly aren't all that committed to return a simple registration form. There's no longer an unlimited amount of time to return it.

All in all, this is a tough thing to win, and if you do, I think at least you deserve to be honored for it. If you win in any way, you will get a review on ZDNet about why you won and things that you could do to be even better, if I have anything to say about it.

This is going to be strict, but I hope its well worth it to you. Even though I sound prickly, I'm genuinely honored if you do go ahead and participate in the CRM Watchlist 2019. Despite my grumpy exterior, I'm very gooey inside.

Read also: The big 4 tech companies -- my musings on two, Microsoft and Salesforce

CRM Watchlist 2019: Unbreakable Rules

The rules in this section are unbreakable. What that means, to be clear, is that if you break them in any way at all, there will be some form of penalty assessed, ranging from your final score being affected to disqualification and being taken off my radar. The type of penalty will be in parentheses after the rule. In advance, I apologize for being so draconian, but at this stage, there are still too many registrants and submissions that are ignoring what I ask.

  1. Deadline: This questionnaire must be completely filled out and submitted by Dec. 31, 2018 by 6pm PST to qualify for the CRM Watchlist 2019. There are no exceptions to the rule. If you would like me to spend several hours to days of my time researching you, then please respect me enough to make sure that this form is submitted in full. That means all the information I need to determine my scoring should be entirely contained on the questionnaire. There can be no links to anything but supplemental material.
  2. Answer everything: I expect you to answer everything I ask -- exactly as it is asked, and not as you feel like responding. In what seems to be a so far endless pattern, I was frustrated last year by several companies that didn't respond to the question as I asked it. For example, if I ask "Who are you in touch with?", then the answer I need to see from you is about those who you are in touch with. Please don't assume I don't mean it literally, because I do. Also, please don't ignore what I'm asking and take shortcuts or assume a greater good that I'm not assuming. This past year, one company, that is significantly influential in its market, submitted a questionnaire that both ignored some of the questions I was asking and interpreted other questions for their own convenience and responded with answers that only partially answered what I asked. It had so many deductions that it didn't win -- and it would have, if it had simply adhered to my request to completely fill out the questionnaire. (Penalties: Deductions from the final score, based on the number of incomplete or ignored answers to questions.)
  3. Acknowledgement: As a corollary of that, please understand that, whether you are my client or someone I have tracked or a past winner of the Watchlist, as far as you are concerned, I am a third party reading your submission. That means that, if I am one of the influencers who you are in touch with, say so, as if I'm reading that for the first time. If you won the Watchlist, mention that. In your mind, I'm independent of the guy reading the submission. (Penalties: Small deduction if you don't acknowledge me or anything associated with me as a third party.)
  4. Notify me if you don't submit: If you get the questionnaire and decide that you don't want to submit, you must let me know before Sept. 30, 2018 at 6pm PST. There will be absolutely no exceptions. The reason is that, once that deadline passes, I do corollary research on each company prior to submission. That means I do research on the companies I am assuming are submitting, because they didn't withdraw. That is several hours per company. I already spend thousands of hours over a year working on tracking the submissions. I read 6,100 pages in 2016 from 136 submissions. I have virtually no holidays or life because of that. Almost needless to say, I am not very happy when I do the research and then the companies don't submit. The penalties for this disrespect for my time and effort (and the rules) is severe. But all you need to do is, if you don't want to submit, notify me by the due date above. That's not too hard, though, apparently, seven companies found it hard in 2016. (Penalties: Suspension for the next year of the contest -- in this case 2020, and you are not on my radar as an analyst/influencer for at least a year.)
  5. One submission: You only get one submission -- and no updates to that submission -- though I will allow what should be an obvious correction, and it's my discretion to allow or disallow. Given that there is only one submission, I would suggest that you send it as close to the Dec. 31, 2018 due date as you are comfortable in doing. For example, if you send it in October, everything that occurs from that day on to the end of the year will not be considered -- even if I see it in my corollary research. So, please be careful about when you submit.

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CRM Watchlist 2019: The EMI criteria

The bulk of the criteria are the same as the Watchlist: You must request a registration form, and then you have two weeks to submit it. The due dates are the same, etc. The fact that your company provides a customer-facing technology or services supporting customer-facing technologies are the same. Here is what's different and thus notable:

  1. Revenue: Has less than $2 million in annual actual revenue (not run rate) the prior fiscal year. (In this case, it will be 2018, even though 2018 will be over when questionnaires are submitted.)
  2. Outside funding: You can be an outside funded company, though you will be asked to talk about it in your questionnaire. (The round you have received is also immaterial.)
  3. Employees: You have under 75 employees. (Exceptions will be considered.)
  4. Existence: You have been in existence less than six years. (Six years exactly doesn't qualify -- i.e., 5 years, 11 months, 364 days or less qualifies.)

So, one and all, this long-winded introduction to the newly revised Watchlist and the emergence of the Emergence Maturity Index Awards leads me to one last thing: Registration is now open for both the CRM Watchlist 2019 and the Emergence Maturity Index Awards.

To reiterate, if you are interested in registering for either award competition, please email me at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com with a request for the registration form for the one you are interested in.

Let the games begin!

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