Posts Tagged ‘Paul Greenberg’

bullpen_mediumFour talented front office analysts join forces in a unique model to deliver market research.

Contact: Denis Pombriant                                                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


(Boston) December 13, 2012 – Denis Pombriant, President of Beagle Research announced the creation of The Bullpen Group this morning. The Bullpen Group, a new research and analysis firm in the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) market, includes such CRM industry luminaries as Paul Greenberg, Brent Leary, Esteban Kolsky and Mr. Pombriant.  The group’s purpose is to provide an ad hoc model for senior analysts collaborating on important market research projects that concentrate on some of the most important trends and topics from front office, CRM, social business, collaboration, to cloud computing and mobile computing.

Pombriant, the managing principal of Bullpen Group said, “In bringing together four of the best analysts in the front office market we plan to leverage both conventional research modalities and social approaches to provide vendors and end users with some of the most in-depth and actionable research in the market.”

According to the group’s business model, the four principals will continue their individual practices while coming together under the aegis of the Bullpen Group to perform research that requires the talents of more than a single researcher at a time.  Paul Greenberg, the group’s director of research said, “We know what the trends and practices that need to be investigated are. Our mission is to bring together the right resources to make sure that the research is of the caliber needed.”

Esteban Kolsky, founder of ThinkJar, LLC and co-founder of Bullpen Group, said, “This is the way primary research should be done – aggregated knowledge from experts shared across channels and time.  I am very happy to be part of this new endeavor.”

“Things are happening faster than ever before, and it still feels like we’re in the early innings.  While individually we are able to dig into a few areas, working together on projects allows us to cover more ground, provide deeper analysis and add more value to the industry,” said Brent Leary also a co-founder of the group.

The Bullpen Group can be reached at



I Already Voted — Did You?

Posted: November 26, 2012 in CRM
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All year, it seems like, we’ve been running CRM Idol, the contest started by Paul Greenberg to identify hot emerging companies in the greater CRM space.  We are now down to voting for finalists and this is where you finally get the chance to make your ideas known.  Time to vote.

This year’s crop of contestants, and especially the finalists, was exceptionally strong.  These companies are all well deserving of the venture capital that they’ve already raised as well as what will be showered on them after the voting is over.  We could tell right away that this year’s crop was a cut above last year’s — and they were pretty special, too.  But the companies in this year’s contest really, really get it.  They are laser focused on social and its many tentacles into CRM.

But social is not the only thing on the menu.  We’ve seen an impressive array of automation that goes from various forms of analysis to clever virtual agents.  So, when you vote think about all that and also think about how three of the seven finalists come from parts outside of Norte America.  That’s right, this is a global event these days.

So let’s get to it.  To vote go to the CRM Idol site here and please, s’il vous plait, por favor, puhleeze! watch the video that each company made to describe to you the business problem they solve, how they do it and what customers think of it.  Then read our judges reviews of each company.  Figure you need to spend about 30 minutes to do this job right and we need you to be conscientious about it.

Don’t worry if you can’t get it all done in one sitting, we know what it’s like to live in these distracted times.  But come back if you need to, make some notes to yourself.  Rule some out before making your final selection if it helps (just like taking the SATs).

So, go vote, it will do you some good.  It will show you where the market is moving.  It will also help some very talented emerging companies to sharpen their ideas and offers.  Most importantly, I’ve come to see Idol as the premiere community building activity in the front office.  You don’t see ERP vendors doing this, or HCM or any other branch of software (OK, maybe gamers have something equivalent but that’s not business, it’s entertainment).  It’s one of those things — like Dreamforce — that makes CRM such a hip and vibrant place to hang your hat.  Click here to get going. 

Thanks! Gracias! Prego! Much obliged, pardner.

CRM Idol Is Here

Posted: April 25, 2011 in CRM
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This is a good idea.

A bunch of independent analysts led by ring leader Paul Greenberg have launched a competition of sorts aimed at the front office market.  Paulie launched an effort that plays a riff on American Idol, which he calls, appropriately enough, CRM Idol.

The object of the competition like the show is to identify one smoking hot emerging company and to give it the kind of guidance and exposure that you’d have to pay a VC’s ransom to get any other way.  Check it out here.

Now, if you are in an emerging company or happen to know one check out the link and see if you want to follow the rules to CRM stardom.  And it could really be stardom of a sort but if you crash and burn the whole CRM community will be watching so this is definitely for serious adults who want to take the whole process seriously.

The rules and format are simple but they take a bit of explanation so rather than telling you about them here, you’d be best served to checkout the links.

A couple of things.

Although this sounds like entertainment because it loosely follows the American Idol competition, do not be misled.  This is a serious situation.  You will be required to pitch your product and you will be critiqued by a panel of industry honchos with serious cred.  Then the serious honchos will tell the world what they think of your efforts.  This is definitely a bluebook to cram for.  The winner gets more or less instant attention in the spotlight, the runners up get some free consulting from the serious honchos with…whatever.

So check it our, polish up your product and your presentation.  Keep in mind that you need to be a going concern and CRM Idol is not interested in slideware.

Good luck!

This is an interesting week with three shows on my docket — SAS Users Group in Seattle, SugarCon and NetSuite in San Francisco.  Much flying, too many hotels and lots of blog posts.

I like this part of the job, it’s where I get out to see many people of diverse backgrounds and I always come home with new and improved perspectives on our industry.  Of course, there are company representatives who hope to impress with announcements of new and improved products and services.  But, for my money, the real interesting part is speaking with end users, the people who can answer the difficult and simple question, how does this work for you?  Customers are uniformly nice and happy to answer any question I can think up.

There’s another group that’s just as interesting, the independent analysts.  Watching them you get a distinct impression that our industry is changing rapidly.  Increasingly, I am finding that the established major firms don’t travel in the same circuit with us.  Many of them have their own shows and stick to them.  Nothing wrong with that but it leaves open the question of how they rub elbows with customers, especially small customers who might not have five or six figures to invest in an analyst relationship.

I’m an independent.  I left Aberdeen Group more than six years ago to do what I want and I have never been disappointed and other independents have taken similar paths.  There are many others like me too and while the recession has swelled the ranks of the independents, with ex-analysts and out of work marketing people, it’s pretty easy to spot the quality.  I’ve been happy to get to know people like Estaban Kolsky, Marshall Larger, Brent Leary, and others by just traveling the circuit.  They are uniformly smart and incisive but each brings something different to the party.  We’re all disciples, in a way, of the man himself, Paul Greenberg, who seems to have a sixth sense for picking out the analyst gems.

How do you become an independent analyst?  Well, a prior career in CRM, technology or business research and journalism or previous work for one of the big firms is the usual route.  It takes a long time though.  This is one of the most relationship intensive businesses I know and the relationships we have go back many years on the corporate and PR sides.  If you were lucky enough to grow up in CRM you’ve got a big following on Twitter or Facebook and an even larger database.  People tell us things because they trust us and building that trust takes time.

The analysts I know have solid grounding in business, technology and front office business processes and they’ve been at it a long time.  Longevity and experience are tremendously valuable when you need to advise a client on what will likely work and what won’t.

The guys I’m hanging with have all of this and more.  We read each other’s work and rarely compete for business, instead we support each other, trading ideas and even when we’re kidding around there’s an element of analysis at work.  We were having lunch the other day in Seattle where the city requires restaurants to provide calorie counts for every item on the menu.  We were at a Cheesecake Factory, which has a voluminous menu and a separate booklet with all the calorie estimates each of us took turns analyzing what we would have and joking about it.  Ultimately we all changed our orders too.  You had to be there.

Long story short, if you are into social ideas, and you need to be these days, there’s diversity and decentralization in this crowd of independents and it imparts a certain wisdom to what they do.  It’s a pleasure to be part of the group.

There’s a huge discussion raging on the Internet started by a provocative question from Bob Thompson.  Can you do Social CRM without social media/networks?

The question came to me via Paul Greenberg’s blog and I find it curious that I am not in agreement with much of the discussion or, more to the point, I might agree with the conclusion but not the underpinnings.

The discussion — and there is a lot of it to wade through — and its conclusion falls too quickly, in my estimate, to Paul’s declaration that,

“The business ecosystem is controlled by the customer.  Period.  That means its NOT controlled by the company and its NOT jointly controlled.  The controller of this ecosystem is going to be whatever group drives demand and, currently that is I think, indisputably, the customer (if it isn’t that – meaning you want to dispute it – prove it to me.”

Now I’m feeling like John McEnroe in the rental car commercial, at first screaming “Take any car?  You cannot be serious!”  Then meekly saying “Ok.”

So, Ok!

First, let’s be clear, it is a social and socialized world out there.  Customers do have the upper hand in an economy with a bias to save rather than spend.  Demand is weak.  Customers do speak with one another and share the good, bad and ugly about their vendors.  There’s no use disputing this, there is too much evidence.  However, let’s also be clear on another point, this more defines a retail situation than business to business where vendor-customer partnership is governed by long-term agreements and the idea at least receives lip service these days.

Even if we are simply talking about business to consumer situation (70% of the economy), I think we might be looking through the wrong end of the telescope when we say it’s all in customers’ hands.  Customers frequently are not Social — a minority of them are and catering to a vocal minority without controls on what amounts to market experiments can be dicey.  It’s part of a problem that emanates from over use of the word community to refer to the customer base and I think that’s a mistake precisely because only a minority of customers are Social.

As I have written many times before, membership is not participation.  Numerous studies show that most members simply observe and that’s a long way from active participation.  A Harvard Business School study recently revealed that 90 per cent of Tweets came from ten percent of Twitter members.  The same study showed that the average Twitter member issued one tweet every 74 days.  Be still may heart!  Can the system handle all the input?  Pew Research recently published a big study showing that majorities in the 60 percent range at popular Social networking sites were women.  There’s nothing wrong with any of this, but it does poke a hole in theories about Social customers and efficacy of raw Social media as business tools for gauging customers.

In my mind, we’re using Social CRM as a paradigm extension for conventional CRM.  Translated, that means we use Social media to find less expensive ways to broadcast messages or conduct uncontrolled experiments (a.k.a. surveys) on customers.  The result is a dog’s breakfast.

The result of all this is a system that is badly reactionary when it needs to be proactive.  It is reactive to follow customers around trying to capture a crumb of an idea in the hope of extrapolating it into a full-blown product idea, marketing message or offer.  It’s like playing CSI by following a bad guy around until he spits on the street so that you can swipe up the sample and extract DNA.  The CSI approach tells you what was but doesn’t shed much light on what will be and we really want to know what will be.

The right approach is to ask customers directly what they think and to do it before a crisis hits a la Nestle.  That means having ongoing deep market research into customer attitudes, biases and needs.  This is real proactivity and it provides the necessary insights into customer opinion, motivation and bias that you need today to make rational decisions about product, messaging and interaction.  There’s no sense waiting until you’ve stirred up a hornets’ nest to sample customer opinion because it won’t be reliable.

To do this, forget crowd sourcing.  I know it’s popular, but it is limited.  You can’t learn anything new or gain real insight from sampling the opinion of people who happen to be mad enough to express it.  Research shows that these opinions may only be a small sample and may not be indicative of the larger group.  When we fall into this trap we end up reacting and reacting and reacting.  First to what the minority said when it was mad, then to the mad over-reaction and so forth.

Getting out of this death spiral requires that we form real communities of people we select for their diversity and willingness to participate before anything hits the fan.  Such communities exist and they are very useful but they require discipline and constancy — you can’t gen up a community only when you might want to know something about yesterday, you need to be in the game all the time.

The information we get out of these communities will not be perfect and, in fact, you might want to call it qualitative.  In that case you will at least have a hypothesis to test with a larger group or even the whole population.  But you’ll be proactive in this, not waiting for something to hit you in the face that you will then have to react to.  More importantly you will have real numbers to work with.

So, to the question, can you do Social CRM without technology?  I think, yes, but in a limited way.  Think of it as going from Boston to San Francisco.  People did this long before there were rails and airplanes.  But they did so infrequently simply because of the expense and rigor of the trip.

Paul Greenberg gives some great examples of Social CRM without technology but the thing you have to acknowledge is that it doesn’t scale.  The real question that I think Bob Thompson was asking, or at least the one I would like to respond to, is can it be done today in our civilization to meet the needs of both customers and vendors?  I think, no, it can’t.  You need technology to do something serious like that.


Posted: December 9, 2009 in CRM, Technology
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Finally, Paul Greenberg’s new edition of CRM at the Speed of Light hit the streets last week and with it my description of him as our Walt Whitman remains in tact.  To promote the continuing franchise the fourth edition’s cover has the same design as the third edition but with a different color scheme.  But that’s about the only similarity between editions; everything between the covers of edition four is new.

This time, Greenberg’s sub-title tells us he’s focusing on “Social CRM Strategies, Tools, and Technologies for Engaging Your Customers.”  That’s a mouthful worthy of the more than 600 pages he dedicates to the task — and that doesn’t even count the chapters that are available only online.

Before we go on, let’s have a moment with the truth squad.  Paul Greenberg is a friend and he graciously invited me to make a few very small contributions to the book, so my discussion here might look to some like self-promotion.  If that’s how you think then you might want to go rearrange your sock drawer.  If you read on just know that that there is a good deal of agreement between Paul and me as well as many of the analysts that follow the market.  That’s not to say we all think so much alike that if you sent ninety-nine out of one hundred of us to a Maoist re-education camp it wouldn’t matter.  It would.

CRM at the Speed of Light has always occupied an important niche in our world.  It continues to be the source for authoritative definitions and explanations of what CRM is and where it is going.  If you are within the CRM inner circle you might want to conclude that definitions and categorization are no longer needed.  But if you talk to real people trying to make sense of the world through a CRM lens you quickly discover the great service this book provides.

The centrality of the customer and the importance of “relationship” over “management” — two criticisms from CRM’s past — are noted and form the motive force of this book.  Greenberg’s gift to us is to take a four-dot-oh look at a two-dot-oh market and to help us see where it’s all going.  Paul covers ideas like Social CRM and customer experience with equal ease.  And while we might disagree on some of the specifics of how these things relate to the CRM market at large (see I can be independent) it all coheres.

One of the greatest assets of the book is Greenberg’s style, which is intelligent and conversational.  In fact, conversational is a poor word choice because Paul’s natural chattiness comes through the page and into your mind so that at times you forget you are reading rather than listening to a smart and entertaining monologue.

CRM has become a big topic.  It’s roughly a fourteen billion dollar market and the nuances in even what companies call it and how vendors address the market can be significant.  Nonetheless, Paul does a good job of building categories and running down the differences until they make sense.

A good example is chapter nine on user communities.  We think we know what communities are and in a folklorish way we do but Greenberg does a great job of teasing apart the differences as well as the pros and cons of managed and unmanaged communities, outcome-based social networks and a lot more.  But even more importantly, he then dives in and advises us about managing communities and offers important do’s and don’t’s.

In trying to categorize this book I was left with the feeling that it most resembles a text from medical school that details the causes and cures of diseases one after another.  Few people read those books straight through but use them as reference guides, for example, when a young doc might be trying to nail down a diagnosis.  I expect that it will end up on the book shelves of many mid-level executives and even their bosses who want a good reference to enlighten them about the technologies that can help them run their businesses.

But CRM at the Speed of Light, fourth edition, is also a book that you’ll want to read every page of if you have an abiding interest in the subject.

Get a horse

Posted: January 8, 2009 in CRM, Technology
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Get a horse! That’s what snide carriage riders would say when passing one of those new fangled automobiles broken down by the side of the road. That was many years ago and despite the catcalls it was the buggy whip that was retired as the car became king.

The history of technology is littered with little failures as the technology matured. Edison and Westinghouse had a nasty battle over DC vs. AC current and railroad tycoons refused to standardize on track gauge while overbuilding capacity. Where such problems did not exist there were ruthless moguls and early monopolies like Standard Oil.

Whenever a new technology infrastructure is introduced opportunities for failure are widespread. There are so many moving parts that it’s hard to get everything right and until the little things are perfected you get glitches. My favorite story in this line is the evolution of Standard Time. We take time zones for granted but it took the railroads to standardize the way we measure time.

Until railroads became prominent every town set its clocks by the sun, which made it impossible to publish a schedule. A traveler on a train moving east or west would experience the same time distortion a coast-to-coast air traveler experiences even now. Today, my watch and cell phone reset themselves so the only thing I notice may be a bit of fatigue.

I think we had one of those get-a-horse/new infrastructure moments the other day when went down for 38 minutes. The official reason given was a memory allocation error, whatever that means. For users it was an inconvenience—like being too early for a train because your watch was set to local time.

Let me go way out on a limb and say that this will not be the last time this system has an outage. I don’t care, really. Last time I looked even the phone system has an expected outage—something like 40 seconds per year but I haven’t looked for a while.

The most interesting question for me is what an outage means for the future of the technology. There was a lot of hysteria the other day about the significance of the outage and my friend Paul Greenberg did a good job of putting it into perspective.

To those who worry publicly about the viability of cloud computing and of in particular I might ask if you’ve ever had a flight run late, lost some ice cream due to a brown out or dropped a cell phone call. I know the answer. It’s all part of both modern living and our reliance on infrastructures that are tremendously complex and maybe not that old, as in seasoned.

Through it all Salesforce’s customer site for tracking incidents did a good job of not hiding the problem even if they weren’t phenomenally helpful in explaining it. And I think the point of the exercise is not what happened but how it was handled and rectified. Having procedures in place and a commitment to transparency are the most important things here. They train a customer to believe that, no matter what, a problem will be dealt with effectively. So if you are still hysterical about the outage, get over it. Or get a horse.