Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is just a fancy name for a customer data management system. CRM systems don’t do anything for most people as a customer. Now it’s time for CRM to get social.
Remember 8 years ago every VCs were pouring money into CRM (Customer Relationship Management), I never liked that word. It is a fancy name for some overbuilt customer data management system. What does it do for me as a customer? Nothing. AMEX is the worst. When you talk to their call centers, I can predict what they are about to say. I might as well do a chat online. But what do I care? Siebel built a $5 billion company (and making a few people rich along the way), its market share peaked around 45% in 02. And in 05, it was sold to Oracle for $5.8 billion. Siebel is now a brand name owned by Oracle Corporation.
Then came Salesforce.com, an on-demand CRM Company that came as a disruption for all CRM players. A very smart company whose value proposition is you don’t need big software, just pay a few hundred dollars a month. They killed all the mid-market players which shouldn’t be funded in the first place. Salesforce.com is the first SaaS provider to hit $1 billion in annual revenues. They didn’t stop there, this month they rolled out private beta of Chatter, which is basically “Facebook for the Enterprise” or whatever it means. I think this is a big winner.
Chatter has integrated a lot of Facebook’s elements into its layout and configuration so Facebook users will find it very familiar. There are user profiles, status messages (where you can leave your status on a current project or make a request for information), groups and individualized streams that you can customize to feed information. But is is not a social network, it is probably fair instead to call it an enterprise knowledge collaboration tool. Is it Lotus Notes all over again?
What about CRM for social networks? One start-up got it right. What four-year-old FanBridge does is pretty simple: help musicians connect with their fans. It connects tens of thousands of artists with more than 50 million registered fans, sending out close to a million emails per day (and adding nearly a million fans per week). You can collect mobile info from fans and send last-minute show reminders or live updates from backstage with our mobile text messaging platform. You can even schedule text messages to automatically send in the future, so you can always stay connected with fans.
They serve 200 garage bands or two million fans of up-and-coming rock bands. This is a very smart idea when my friend mentioned this to me over dinner in NYC a few weeks ago. His son Spencer Richardson started this company four years ago and it is flourishing. And there is a reason.
The second smart thing is in order to compete big guys such as ReverbNation, FanBridge borrowed a page from Nordstrom and Zappos, service is the key competitive advantage. Typically an artist will convert after four months, to plans that start at $7/month and run all the way up to $250. Very stable revenue model and they are getting angel funding in March from Dave McClure at the Founders Fund, Jeff Clavier and Chris Sacca.
I think this idea has legs, imagine going beyond musicians to include motivational speakers, cosmetic surgeons, celebrity chefs, social enterprises, fashion designers, interior designers, architects, published authors? The value proposition is strong and clear, technology is generally pretty easy to implement and pricing structure is very friendly. The latest feature that they launched SocialStats, a new feature that will allow you to easily monitor your key social network statistics. With Social Stats, you will get a clean dashboard of the total number and weekly change of your fans, friends, followers, plays and pageviews on the most popular social networks (Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, Last.fm, PureVolume, iLike). Watch this one.
Idris Mootee is the CEO of idea couture, a strategic innovation and experience design firm. He is the author of four books, tens of published articles, and a frequent speaker at business conferences and executive retreats.