Paul Greenberg, Founder of CRM Idol Contest: Become A CRM Superstar

Most, if not all, small business owners have a dream for their small business. Maybe that dream is to be acquired and win big. Or maybe that dream is to find an ideal investor to back you up and propel your business into fame and fortune.   Paul Greenberg, Founder of the CRM Idol Contest, joins Brent Leary to share how small businesses can have a shot at taking a swing in the big game.

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Small Business Trends:  Typically I ask people to give me a little bit of their background, I can almost do this for you but I am still going to let you tell it.

Paul Greenberg:  I came around to CRM in the mid 90’s after a stint doing ERP at a consulting company.  Then I wrote the first edition of CRM at the Speed Of Light in 2001 and it took off from there.  As a result of that, I became pretty well known in the CRM world.

Since that time, I’ve gone on to do a lot of consulting, a lot of speaking around the world, and of course I do as much pro bono stuff as I humanly can among things like CRM Idol.

Small Business Trends:  You just wrote something around the growth and the emergence of the CRM at the small business level.  Can talk a little bit about that?

Paul Greenberg:  Well, I think for a lot of reasons, we have begun to see the emergence of it.  First of all, I think part of it is the pricing is so good for small businesses.  The Cloud has put subscription pricing in a place.  Literally any small business can get something that is actually serviceable from free to 20 bucks a month per user.

Additionally, small business customers are far more demanding and require more attention.  At the same time, they require more active interaction from the company themselves.  The new generation of CRM and software technology actually enables all of that so it becomes a good value proposition for small businesses.

Small Business Trends:  What exactly is CRM Idol?

Paul Greenberg:  This is a big market place – billions and billions of dollars overall. A lot of players in it are extremely large.  But there are thousands of small companies who are, let’s say, CRM-ish. They are not getting any visibility. Some of that is due to the glut of companies in the market, the dominance of the larger ones, and some is due to bad PR from people who stink at their jobs.

So about a year ago we came up with the idea of giving these small emerging companies visibility, mentorship, and some prizes – lots of prizes.  But the key is they have visibility.  There is no way they could have gotten it any other way.

They are in front of key influencers like you, me, Esteban Kolsky, Denis Pombriant, Jesus Hoyos, Mark Tamis, Silvana Buljan, and Laurence Buchanan.  A whole area of people across the world who you cannot buy that kind of visibility from.

They are taught, by an extended group of judges, how to do demos in front of the influencers.  The people that are teaching them are the influencers themselves.  They are guys who are the head of major CRM practices and vendors.  They are key media; they are practitioners who run major CRM efforts at large firms.  There are other influencers out there and they are teaching these guys how to essentially do their business better and how to get in front of people giving them mass mentorship.

In the meantime, every single one of the actual contestants is given a review by the primary judges giving them some direction on where to go next and what to work on.

Small Business Trends: Can you touch on some of the timelines for this year?

Paul Greenberg:  Now through May 25th, 6:00 pm PST, you can go to CRMIDOL.  Fill out a very short registration form which will give you access to application.  Fill out the application.  There will be 40 candidates for the Americas, North and South America.  Twenty candidates for EMEA (Europe, the Middle East and Africa) and then 20 candidates for Asia and Australia.

We will announce them and then the thing really kicks into gear.

There is no guaranty that you will be chosen but you are given a shot.  We really want them to participate.  The prizes alone and exposure alone are worth it.  If you want to take a look at last year’s site you can see all of the things that happened.  Go to 2011 CRMIDOL and it is all there.

Small Business Trends:  Two of last year’s finalists were acquired.  Assistly was acquired by and just recently, Crowd Factory was acquired by Marketo. Another company that did not even make the semi-finals, Connected, was acquired by Linkedin.  You can see the previous winners, Get Satisfaction and BPM Online.  You can see their stories and how this is impacted their business.

Paul Greenberg:  BPM Online was actually this year’s CRM Magazine’s Rising Star Award winner. We are going to be announcing the semi-finalists on August 15th, 2012at the CRM Evolution Conference in New York which is the primary CRM conference.

Small Business Trends:  What are some of the prerequisites that people should be aware of?

Paul Greenberg:  First thing is they must have a commercial.  The second thing is they have to be under 7 years old.  The third thing is you have to have revenues under 12 million dollars.  Those are the three big ones.  Go take a look at all the rules, it’s all there.

But small companies, here is your shot.  One of the prizes is a pitch meeting in front of a tier-one venture capitalist.  You would not get that unless you had some amazing proposition.  If you win CRM Idol you get that.  It does not guarantee money but it will guarantee you an opportunity.

Small Business Trends:  I am really excited about CRM Idol 2012.  Check out the write-ups from last years’ briefings.  A lot of time and effort was put into writing the reviews to provide the kind of information that everybody could draw from the experience of doing briefings in front of analysts.  

This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more interviews in our interview series.

This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series and co-founder of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering tools and strategies for improving business relationships. Brent is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger.