Why Every CRM Company Ought to Build a Community

It’s surprising to me that most enterprise CRM companies are still living in the dark ages à la Web 1.0. Little do they realize that web 2.0 is here and how companies do business has drastically changed.

On demand CRM was nothing more than an idea back in 1998 before Siebel Systems was the first to spin off a company called sales.com. Their business model was the same as their core product but the delivery method was on demand (meaning accessible via a web browser anywhere in the world and hosted by Siebel systems). For one reason or another, the product failed and they hung up their shoes in the on-demand space.

1999 — enter salesforce.com — who is now not only a trailblazer but the new leader in CRM and the on-demand space.

Salesforce.com took the idea of sales.com’s business model and made it a success. Not only that, but they continue to innovate and adapt to Web 2.0 technologies. For example, salesforce.com started up their own blog to allow their customers and potential customers an easy way to provide feedback (good or bad) about their products. This is the first step in creating an online community instead of the traditional ways of rolling out a product and then relying on phone call feedback (usually complaints) after a product has launched. Siebel Systems just did not get this concept and it’s one of the reasons why they eventually failed and were acquired by Oracle.

So let’s talk more about online communities. They obviously are successful with such sites as myspace.com or friendster.com so why can’t they be utilized for businesses? They can.

Take for example, salesforce.com’s Idea Exchange which is a forum where salesforce.com customers can suggest new product concepts, promote favorite enhancements, interact with product managers and other customers, and preview what they are planning to deliver.

They in essence are reaching out to continually create a dialog with their community and provide an open and direct channel of communication for customers. Do you see other companies in a CRM arena making use of these Web 2.0 technologies? Can you ever see Oracle and Larry Ellison having their own blog? If you’ve ever worked at Oracle, you know it’s just not in their culture to do such a thing.

In the long run, it’s going to hurt companies that are not taking advantage of this new communication channel. Creating a corporate blog or online community is a powerful yet easy way to allow feedback from your actual customers making them feel involved. All companies should take advantage of this especially CRM companies. Those that are stuck in the information dark age like Oracle and others makes it kind of ironic because these are supposed to be CRM companies. Go figure.