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A Word Or Two About Evolution

If you thought this was going to be some kind of Darwinian rant, you'll probably want to stop reading right here. This is about the CRM Evolution '09 conference that took place last week in NYC, sorry...

I expected to get a little R&R from this year's conference - no not rest and relaxation. Too much to do and see for that to happen. The R&R I was seeking was relationships and replenishment. With all the great people and information-filled sessions packed into unbelievably short days, I definitely received more than my fair share of both. In fact there was so much going on I could only take in a fraction of it, but what I did manage to see was top-notch all the way around.

The conference was put organized by the fine folks that bring you CRM magazine - folks like David Myron, Josh Weinberger, Lauren McKay, Christopher Musico and many others. And of all the great decisions made in order to make this the best CRM conference I've been to in years, the best one was signing up Paul Greenberg to be the event chairmen (if being The Godfather of CRM wasn't enough of a cool nickname, now he's also The Chairmen of CRM). Paul and the CRM magazine folks put together a list of the some the best minds in the industry to speak, including Denis Pombriant, Ray Wang, Michael Krigsman, Marshall Lager, Michael Thomas and Bruce Culbert. I could go on and on with names of great presenters, but I guess I better stop there. And although I wasn't in town to hear Paul's opening keynote, I heard about it, which is to say he did what he always does - bring it!

Getting back to my R&R theme....

Relationships

Although I look forward to learning a great deal when I come to this event, the thing I enjoy the most is the chance to catch up with old friends, while striking up relationships with new folks. But social networking has blurred that line completely, as I met people for the first time who already feel like old friends thanks to Facebook and Twitter - especially the accidental Twitter community that is the #scrm group. So in addition to catching up with familiar faces like Paul, Michael (did a quick head nod in his session), Marshall, Denis, Ginger Conlon (who I barely got a chance to talk to), Ed Sullivan (from Radian6, not 1950s television) and many others, I met these #scrm expert friends for the first time - Jesus Hoyos, Mitch Lieberman, Esteban Kolsky (who started giving me grief before we even officially met at the conference), Michael Krigsman, CRM Outsider Colin Beasty and Natalie Petouhoff. All that was missing from the group was Prem Kumar Aparanji, John Moore, Brian Vellmure and the rest of the #scrm crew. And I can't leave out another Twitter friend, Oracle's Susie Penner, who always treats us blogger/analyst types like real people. And it was also great to finally meet Paul's brother Bob Greenberg and hear his take on social CRM in the public sector.

Hanging out with those folks would have made the trip more than worthwhile right there, but I also had the opportunity to meet expert presenters like Brian Komar from the Center for American Progress, Sales 2.0 co-author Anneke Seley, and Lithium CMO Sanjay Dholakia. Once again I must apologize, because I know I'm leaving some people out. But I think you're getting the point, that, as Brian Komar said to me - this was the influential CRM crowd. And not only were all these people influential, they were also a cool crowd of folks.

Replenishment

The good thing about hanging out with this kind of crowd is that you will also learn some stuff... a lot of stuff. And naming this conference CRM Evolution made a lot of sense, because every year things change in this industry. And this year it's hard to escape the exponentially growing interest in the area of Social CRM. Having been preoccupied with this subject for the better part of two years now, it's kind of hard for me to get used to all the attention that is now being paid to this subject - but I am very happy to see it. In fact the whole conference was infused with social crm sessions, panels and discussions. It would have been even more social, if the internet access would have been better in the hotel...

I also saw some really interesting applications of Social CRM by traditional vendors like SAP and Sage. SAP's Twitter integration looks to be very robust. But what really caught my attention was a demo Facebook app that allowed you to create new records in your SAP CRM instance, as well as edit existing records. Another interesting development with SAP is its partnership with SimplyBox, which allows you to highlight information on a web page and create collaborative boxes to be shared among team members. These information boxes can be easily associated with SAP CRM objects, like contacts and opportunities. I'm looking forward to learning more about SimplyBox from it's CEO Mario Mario Cavagnari, another person I had a chance to connect with at the event.

Sage EVP Larry Ritter gave me a sneak peek at ACT! 2010 - the latest incarnation of the venerable contact management app. The good thing about 2010 is that it doesn't look venerable, in fact it looks very fresh and modern. In addition to a much cleaner, easier-to-navigate interface, ACT 2010! also has added "that social touch". You can track your contact's tweets and view their LinkedIn profile right from within the app. This is all good stuff, but the other thing that caught my attention is the new email marketing and drip marketing capabilities. Email marketing may not be the most sexy thing out there, but small businsses still struggle with this, so these additions may have more immediate impact than the social stuff. I expect to get more hands on with ACT! 2010 and will have more to say afterward. But I am looking forward to seeing ACT! 2010 on the mobile devices. Be on the lookout for a TFBS conversation with Larry coming up shortly.

I also spent time with Sanjay Dholokia of Lithium, whose approaching Social CRM from the enterprise social network platform development side. Lithium has developed a series of applications aimed at facilitating collaboration between community members, turning the community itself into a service channel as well as an organic sales/marketing voice - a voice more likely to be listened to by other customers and prospects. The more I think about it the customer community's role in Social CRM development may be the single most important indicator of how successful a company will be in this area. I'll be keeping an eye on how Lithium progresses in this area, and hope to have Sanjay join me on TFBS to explore this further. Also, be on the lookout for Lithium's Social CRM Virtual Summit taking place in November, of which Paul Greenberg and myself are participating.

All in all I thought CRM Evolution was great. Hats off to the whole CRM magazine staff for pulling this one off. My hat also goes off to The Chairman of CRM - Paul G. - for bringing this awesome group of CRM minds together. Hats off to all the great presenters and attendees I had a chance to talk with. And a big thanks to all of those folks who caught my presentation (CRM and the Socially Empowered Customer) as well as me and Paul doing a live episode of The CRM Playaz. I had a great time doing both of them.

Here are a few links to more CRM Evolution posts you may want to check out:

Destination CRM - All the CRM Evolution Links You Need

Marshall Lager - After-Action Report 1: CRM Evolution '09

Anneke Seley - Can a Kinder, Gentler Sales 2.0 Rep Still Make Quota

Jessica Tsai - Not Your Kids' Phone (featuring Michael Thomas' presentation on mobile marketing)

Lauren McKay - The Social Customer Want's You! (thanks Lauren for covering my presentation here.)

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