Small companies — at least in the CRM and social software related world — abound. There are thousands of companies out there that are possibly innovative, possibly commercially viable in a big way and possibly the next big thing. But, as we said, there are thousands of them. And, no matter how great your product is, if no one knows about it, well, then, oops.
Not a good thing.
These small companies are all making efforts to get into an ecosystem that could benefit them — one which includes investors, influencers, technology/strategic partners, media connections, etc. While getting support from this powerful ecosystem is by no means a guarantee of success, it can be enormously helpful in getting well down the road there. But, those small companies are often thwarted in that effort by either really bad PR people, or just the incredible amount of companies out there trying to reach into the ecosystem who are pummeling the small amount of influencers, etc. every week with requests to demo or talk.
Now, to be fair to the influencers, they are human beings with lives that aren't built around supporting this one company that really thinks they are it. All they know is that each of them is getting between 10-50 requests a week to take a demo or conversation with someone who owns or represents a company they've never heard of and never talked to yet. That’s in addition to those that they know. Often enough, they are pitched by a public relations person who is either inexperienced or not really good at their job who makes no effort to find anything out about the person that they are pitching to. So the influencer, journalist, venture capitalist gets a generic curve thrown at them that doesn't even break over the plate — guaranteeing that the email is going to be discarded as a matter of course before the first paragraph is even read. Or it could be that on a particular day the influencer got 10 pitches and had a headache and didn't want to see any of them.
As unfair as generic pitches and high volumes of noise are to the influencers in the highly desirable ecosystem we are chatting about here, it is a problem because what are probably a lot of good companies are never given a chance to move ahead because of the difficulties inherent in the process and the vagaries of bad luck on any given day.
Which is why CRM Idol exists.
The concept is simple, small CRMish companies out there. If you meet the submission criteria, outlined in the rules, you will be given the opportunity to secure a time slot on a specific day that will put you in front of some of the most influential people in the CRM/customer engagement world. They will spend 45 minutes with you in a demo to hear about your technology product — software only — and they will write a jointly signed review of what they saw of you — that will be published in multiple venues as soon as it's written. It can be a good review, a bad one, a mix or indifferent. There's risk on your part to be taken here. But it is something that you need to be aware of. The reviews will go up as soon as the reviewing judges sign off on the final content. They won't be exhaustive reviews but they will be opinionated and fair.
What makes this even more interesting is the process leading up to the demo. As a contestant, you have the option of choosing to be mentored who will be assigned from the list of extended judges. This is a great opportunity to not only learn how to demo to influencers, but, if you and the mentor are agreeable, to get a take on the market, or advice on a business model – a true learning experience unlike any other.
Twenty five companies from around the world will be chosen as the contestants. This year for the first time, it will be an honor (we hope) to be chosen even as a contestant – and a lot more difficult than in past years, which is why we are limiting it to 25 contestants. After a semi-final round, 5 finalists will be chosen to compete in the last round. Each of the finalists will be REQUIRED to do a five-minute or less video about their company and the product. Not a repeat of the demo but a video. Note we used the word REQUIRED here. Let me put it this way. If you make the finals and don't do the video, we will publicly skewer your company. Know why? Because our judges are giving up what little free time they actually have in a summer and into the fall to do this and it will take us 4 hours a day for several months to do it. So if you can't or won't put in the effort to do the video, don't bother to apply. Seriously. We're trying to help out here and we want you guys all to succeed, but it's a two way street.
Okay, with that rant out of the way; once the finalists are chosen and the videos done, they will be posted online in multiple media outlets. They will be voted on in two ways:
- Popular vote — see, crowdsourcing is important. All the votes for the one winner from the Americas and the one winner from elsewhere in the world will be tallied from the public sites — in aggregate. That's 50% of the vote.
- Extended Judges Panels — as you can see below, we may have assembled the greatest panels of judges — leading vendors, media, CRM practitioner leaders and influencers ever assembled in the history of CRM — not to be hyperbolic or anything. Each judge will select a specific winner in each of the Americas, and elsewhere from the 7 finalists. That's the other 50% of the vote. The original judges will be voting as panel members.
The winners in each will get a major array of prizes, some of which are below, and be declared "CRM Idol Winner" and get a cool badge for display on their site.
There's more to the rules, and details are in the Rules section, but you get the gist of it.
Not too shabby is it? You get vast amounts of media attention even if you don't make the finals. If you make the finals at all, some prizes to you. The winners get everything that the ecosystem can offer but guaranteed success. But they do get all the accouterments they need to support their increased likelihood of it.
That way, you small companies out there who have been unable to be seen or just circumstance have the opportunity to bypass invisibility and make something happen. It's up to you to take the reins in hand but once you do, you have at least a serious chance at making yourself successful.
And that, my friends, is what CRM Idol is all about.