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.


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.

Outside of Salesforce Automation

Perhaps the biggest win for customers in the CRM world was in marketing automation. In a tough economy, lead generation wasn’t enough.

Marketing automation platforms from Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot ensured leads were properly managed. Pardot in particular brought CRM integration to small to medium size businesses. However, marketing automation is still very expensive. Pardot, the best-priced product on the market, starts at US$ 1,000 per month (billed quarterly). Others such as Infusionsoft are “all-in-one,” locking you in to some features (and associated pricing) you plan to use, others you won’t.

The big benefit comes when CRM meets marketing automation. Pardot integrates with Salesforce.com, Sugar and Microsoft CRM. However, a number of CRM vendors offer baseline marketing automation, providing smaller customers an easier and cheaper way to get started.

2013 Predictions

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation will continue to see growth, particularly with SMBs. Given that their pricing models today are geared towards larger customers, CRM/SFA vendors will add to their capabilities to fill the void. However, more integrations will be available between marketing automation and CRM apps with pricing models that are more acceptable.

Mobile CRM

The strong demand for Mobile CRM will be greater for the tablet than for the phone. Tablets have more real estate for marketing automation, advanced search and custom integrations.

Telephony Integration

While this is expected on a native phone app, the tablet and desktop environments need telephony love too. Look for more CRM integration with Skype.

Microsoft has left Skype alone to run and grow since acquiring it in 2011. It’s now available on Windows 8 (desktop and tablet), OS X, iOS and Android. Skype will need to behave as it does on those other platforms, allowing outside apps to use it for calling.

More Integrations

Many of the CRM vendors have integrated with products from other vendors. However, there is a great need to support more, especially those that support “lead to cash” efforts. Look for more CRM integration with billing and accounting systems. And as mentioned above, CRM vendors will provide a transparent tie to the popular and powerful marketing automation platforms.

As CRM has become the “database of record” for many large organizations, Salesforce.com, Oracle and SAP have moved from being CRM vendors to more a broad enterprise platform vendors. This trend will also impact smaller companies, driving smaller vendors to provide wider offerings through integration and mobile reach.

Image courtesy Jaros (Shutterstock)

Editor's Note: Interested in reading more by Steve? Check out Marketing Automation: From Lead Generation to Sales Management