CRM’s Evolving Relationship with the Business Marketplace

Contact management systems (also known as CRMs*) have been around for decades. After accounting and word processing software they were the killer business apps of their time. The computing and business world has changed dramatically since the 90s and the CRMs of that time do not meet the needs of our social media business environment. How will the social CRM (sCRM) of the future address the constantly evolving world of friends, followers, connections and other diverse networks?

First a little bit of background. Around 1989 I was working for a software company selling accounting and equipment management software to heavy construction companies. We were one of the first companies to provide these tools in a PC based environment and business was hot. I needed to keep track of companies and contacts all over North America and I needed to be able to import contact lists from database suppliers. I needed to manage information about all of those contacts and my activities related to the sales process.I needed to schedule new activities and keep notes from meetings. I needed to track the communications that I had with them and what marketing material that I had sent them. I needed to know who the the contacts were in the company and who assisted them. I needed to be able to create reports that I could use in our sales meetings.

I tried using all of the PC based spreadsheets and databases available at the time. I even had our programmer create a database in dBase. It all worked to a certain extent but none of it worked together. I spent far too much time trying to input the data into multiple spreadsheets, databases, word processors and mailing packages.

It was at that time that I came across a new software package called Maximizer. It was a contact management system developed by Richmond Technologies. Maximizer addressed most of what I was looking for and I became committed user. I think I may still have the original box from Version 1.0.

During the 90s I started my own consulting and training company dedicated to helping companies integrate Maximizer’s brand of CRM tools into their business. Eventually we became the Maximizer Training Center, an independent company with close ties to Richmond Technologies. We specialized in helping Realtors come to grip with computer based technology, specifically using a database to keep track of their clients.

The other big players at the time were Act! and Goldmine. There were also several proprietary systems and there were a few good custom systems for Realtors such as Top Producer. Many of these are still around today in one form or another. More recently the big player in the game has been Sales Force.

While Goldmine was popular in larger companies with more sophisticated requirements. Maximiser and Act! captured a huge part of the market back then because they were inexpensive and relatively easy to use. They were relatively complete suites of tools for the small business person in the pre-cloud world.

All of these programs have their strengths but most have not really been able to keep up in the turbulent waters of the present social media phenomenon. Back in the day there was usually a single database and the most important field was for a phone number; today we need to address fields for email, Google Apps, Twitter, Facebook (and Facebook pages), LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, foursquare,, the list goes on, and on, and we haven’t even included webpages yet.

In many ways we are back to the problem I struggled with in 1989 when there was no clear solution that could tie all of the strings related to client management and sales opportunity tracking into one comprehensive package. Today many companies are working hard to deliver the Killer App that will let them become the new gorilla in this patch.

I am convinced that the company that can put together a framework that will address the existing mess of social media and provide a structure that will enable social media integration with cloud based apps will find a huge market, but it will need to be sharply priced to appeal to end users used to $3.99 apps.

* CRM = Customer Relationship Management

Alyson Stone on Mar 8, 2013 11:42 AM posted:
The next gen software by the guy who started Goldmine is -- I think you will find it extremely interesting, based on this post!

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