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Key Insights from Judges shared during 9/6 Focus Round table - Listen to the audio.
During the Focus 'CRM Idol: In Search of the Best CRMish Programs You've Never Heard Of' event today, judges Paul Greenberg, Esteban Kolsky, Brent Leary and Brian Vellmure shared some key insights about the contest, and the contestants. If you missed the event, I highly recommend that you listen to the replay here - especially if you are a young, small start up in need of some wise mentoring in any industry:
* The idea for CRM Idol evolved from bad PR. Many influencers are approached frequently by companies trying to pitch their wares, but typically, the pitches are done badly and not in a way that encouraged in depth reviews. Initially, there was talk of an Eminem/Rihanna style parody video along the lines of 'Love the way you Lie' and the idea to have companies compete for face time. Charlie Isaacs quipped that it sounded a lot like American Idol, and CRM Idol gelled into the extraordinary competition and opportunity that it is today.
* Judges were somewhat surprised that many of the companies are still building apps on .NET framework. This was an unexpected result. There didn't seem to be any judgement attached to the statement either way, but it's an interesting statistic that we might learn more about as the judges continue the competition. (@FuzeDigital started a discussion on stacks here in the community - weigh in! http://www.crmidol.com/discussion/how-does-net-stack-stack-alternatives.)
* Some of the competitors did interesting things with java scripting and interfaces.
* Across the board, most of the entrants would benefit from additional focus on marketing. As an example, while most of the orgs had the requisite three references, the fact that many didn't understand the process to provide the references highlighted additional challenges that small businesses face. "The biggest problem contestants in CRM Idol have isn't building great products, it's marketing," said Paul Green berg, which was echoed by the other panelists.
* One of the biggest benefits to participants was the education the panelists provided on raising their visibility, which will continue after the competition. "Once a CRM Idol contestant, always a CRM Idol contact."
* Contestant Salestrackr added via twitter "Gotta say, #CRMIdol provided more reach to people of influence than we've ever experienced." Salestrackr's CEO Steve Youngblood was praised during today's event for setting an example as an active participant in the contest and the Idol community. They took is seriously and recognized the opportunity before them.
* One of the key differentials between semi-finalists and the other entrants was storytelling ability. Esteban Kolsky stressed that participants should, "Know your story." We all forget that our story is as important as our product.
* Paul added, "Don't pitch a ball at their face! Do your homework. It doesn't take much effort to learn a bit about the panel and understand that Influencers are human, get to know them. Swim where they swim, build a connection."
* Brent Leary sang harmony with, "Want to get noticed? Be interesting!" and offered up Hubspot as a poster child example to study. Hubspot excels at presenting their story across multiple channels using many different types of media.
* "Be brief. Tell a story. Have fun!"
* (Note that while Judges were amazed at the prevalence for use of @Prezi, which I happen to think is a really fun storytelling tool, it also made some feel seasick, and others feel old.) ;-P
* Judges were exposed to some negativity, and that did effect potential semi-finalists. "It just doesn't work if you try to make another company look bad." Hard lesson learned by one organization that was right on the edge of making the semi-finals, but lost out due to negativity. Brent encouraged participants, "CRM Idol is a community, Be civil. Support each other."
* And the community is busy. Paul notes that the site is getting between 1,000 - 3,000 hits a day right now.
The companies that did really well told their story extremely well and had a product worth showing.
* It was also evident to the Judges and panelists which companies had taken the guidance Esteban Kolsky shared during his presentation guidance webinar, and which contestants hadn't. It showed during the presentations.
* Esteban: "There's not a single influencer in the world that's beyond the reach of any vendor." (If they do their homework and craft the story well as advised.)
* Late comers @AddressTwo who took the last contest spot when another entrant dropped out provided one jaw-dropping demo to the Judges. Towards the end of their presentation they said, "Oh by the way, we also have Addy," a simple, elegant tool that Esteban expressed would help get work done like an extra employee for a business.
* "Sometimes it wasn't about innovation, but a fresh look at traditional things done in a more useful way." Judges offered up @SalesNexus as an example of a fresh look at marketing and sales, "They were very smart in their approach."
* Esteban Kolskey expressed humble thanks to all of the contestants. Judges learned tons by listening to all the vendors. Additionally, CRM Idol brings visibility to the whole #CRM and #SCRM community.
* Event organizer Paul Greenberg further encourages all small vendors to join the crmidol.com community. "You don't have to be a contestant. It's a venue for discussion. If you get too markety we'll beat you with a bat and pitch you out," but it is an ideal destination spot to engage with others and learn from the influencers. All small CRM companies to talk on CRM Idol.
An all around excellent session, with worthwhile advice and feedback for small tech companies spanning many industries, not just CRM. I can't stress often enough that the reviews are also a must read for small businesses searching for new tools, consultants supporting their customers, and analysts who want to benefit from the hard work of the CRM Idol Judges, all of which was volunteered graciously.