CRM Idol finalists announced

Some of the most successful alumni of American Idol never won the big prize. Think Jennifer Hudson.

Such is the case with its namesake competition CRM Idol, which announced the finalists of its 2012 competition this week. Four semifinalists from 2011’s inaugural contest (won by Get Satisfaction) wound up with acquisition deals based on the exposure CRM Idol gave them. Assistly was acquired by, Social Dynmx by Lithium, ConnectedHQ by LinkedIn, and Crowd Factory by Marketo.

“If you make it to the semifinals, you’re the real deal,” says CRM Idol’s founder and noted CRM expert Paul Greenberg. Forty companies in the U.S. and 20 companies from Europe, Asia, and Australia make it to that level, and this week seven finalists from that group were announced.

U.S. finalists are:

Awareness – Offers Social Marketing Hub, a collector of actionable social media data for salespeople and marketers

Compendium – Offers a content marketing platform for mid-market to enterprise customers with products that are intangible or that are fighting commoditization

Crowdtap – Identifies social media participants most likely to act as brand advocates and provides its clients with tools to empower and motivate them to advocate on a large scale

VirtuOz – Provides a virtual agent platform that creates branded digital personas that emulate marketing, sales, and support professionals

 International finalists:

Artesian Solutions – Provides information for B2B sales, marketing, and account managers to support their customer-centric selling and service efforts

Self-Service Company – Offers what it claims is the “single” right answer when a customer asks a question on a brand’s website – Consolidates data in a single platform for sales and marketing, customer support, and finance and administration  

The ultimate winner can pick from a number of “prizes” – essentially golden tickets to success in the CRM world. They range from free consulting services from the likes of Greenberg to an opportunity to make a presentation to Bain Capital for investment.

Greenberg’s aim in launching the competition was to give a chance and some schooling to innovative CRM startups that have a hard time getting noticed in an overcrowded field. Scores of other influential CRM practitioners joined him in the pursuit, and each semifinalist is assigned one as a mentor to help prepare it for the competition.

“Once an applicant meets our criteria to enter, there is a huge program waiting to offer them counsel, visibility, and opportunity,” Greenberg says. “Our mantra is, ‘Once an applicant, always a member.’”

Entrants that display little or no interest in selling themselves, however, are tacitly shown the door. “We judge them on some criteria they have no idea about,” Greenberg says. “A lot of these companies are started by gearheads who don’t necessarily have people skills, so if they’re obnoxious, we’ll remember it.”

Finalists must produce videos and submit to intensive interrogation by “Extended Judges” to win the big prize, which will be announced in December. These judges include University of Toronto marketing professor Dilip Soman, CRM Mastery CEO Jim Berkowitz, Forrester Research CRM Analyst Kate Leggett, Infocloud Principal Thomas Vander Wal, and Asuret CEO Michael Krigsman.

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