Hype drives us all: we cheer for our products and later duck the jeers from market pundits and customers. 2012 saw plenty of hype in CRM. Let's separate the substance from the hype and see where CRM is headed in 2013.  

Some of the most notable hype was around “social CRM,” “mobile CRM” and a continuation of touts of the benefits of the cloud. Were any of these of benefit to customers in 2012? Of course.

However, the benefits were (as expected) more modest than the claims. And perhaps after all these years, we should all expect that real live customers will help figure out what product features are great and what are mere hype.

Some of the Wins in 2012

Social CRM

Nimble led the charge with its Social CRM service allowing customers to scour social networks to quickly populate an account. Further, it also allows users to “listen” to those channels while online or with email notifications.

Salesforce, the market leader, also assaulted the market with a number of features. It’s core “Sales Cloud” brought social information related to contacts directly into contact profiles including information from Twitter, Facebook, Klout and LinkedIn. Salesforce also launched Chatter, allowing companies to collaborate internally and externally aiding the creation of a social enterprise.

The biggest complaint about these social tools has been the overwhelming amount of information the bring to a sales rep or business owner focused on making a quarterly quota. Lots of data, no information.

Mobile CRM

2012 also saw a real move towards mobile CRM. While a number of vendors have launched mobile applications, these are mostly just adjunct to their web offerings. In fact, the biggest complaint has been that the mobile apps don’t allow for everything you can do on the web.

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It seems that fingers and eyes aren’t getting smaller to match the 4.5 inch by 2.5 inch real-estate found on an iPhone 4S. And many of the newcomers to smartphones think they’ll be able to ditch that 15 inch laptop and do it all on an iPhone.

This just isn’t going to happen with current offerings. At best, mobile apps will extend CRM contacts and sales opportunities lists to a mobile environment. If you want power, you’ll have to go back to a laptop.

Vendors with offerings include 37 Signals (Highrise) and Zoho. The mobile offerings today are focused on phones and less so on tablets. And tablets are the minimum real estate needed for what sales managers need their reps to see and interact with.