It’s the final day of the eXtremeCRM conference and there’s a lot to share.
But first maybe a little positioning. The brainchild of long-time Microsoft channel advocates Christy Spokely and John Verdon, this community kicked off in 2010 and in only three short years has evolved to become one of the must-attend Dynamics community conferences, particularly if you seek to communicate and collaborate with both Microsoft and some of the most active CRM partners. It’s a unique opportunity to connect with 30+ Microsoft CRM executives and staff, around 400 Dynamics CRM partner attendees, about 30 of the top Dynamics CRM ISVs and some really outstanding speakers.
What separates eXtremeCRM is complete focus on Microsoft CRM partners. There’s no thinning of content required by including customers, or CRM software dilution because four Dynamics ERP solutions also have to be worked in. This conference is squarely focused on Dynamics CRM partners and offers a depth in learning, collaboration and networking that is unmatched.
This was the seventh eXtreme CRM event, and it’s quite evident that each conference builds upon the prior to deliver more of what attendees want. Here’s four take-aways that I think exemplify what this event has to offer.
Dynamics CRM 2013 Launch. After a month long worldwide roll-out, CRM 2013 is now live in 42 global markets, and Microsoft reinforced that fact by holding its global launch from Barcelona, which was simultaneously broadcast to eXtremeCRM in California. Moderating the simulcast on the Anaheim stage was Connor Marsden, US Director for Microsoft CRM, who was absolutely great in coordinating the communication across a high number of time zones, infusing a contagious energy into the crowd and delivering an impromptu Q&A. In fact, his energy and animation reminded me of Steve Ballmer when Ballmer gets particularly worked up and passionate about something.
From the simulcast, Dynamics CRM front man Fred Studer moderated discussions from the normal cadre of executives, including VP Kirill Tatarinov, Microsoft International President Jean-Philippe Courtois, a brief message from Steve Ballmer and some video presentations demonstrating some great customer stories from MetroBank, Servcorp and Pandora Jewelry. If there was a downside to the launch, it was probably that the event was big on theatrics and short on specifics. This was essentially a global coming out party, and not meant to go into product demos or application specifics.
An Expanding Curriculum. The conference was organized along 6 tracks – practice development, marketing, sales, demonstrations (pre-sales), implementation and development. As the CMO of my company, I elected to focus on the marketing sessions, and I wasn’t alone. Several of the best CRM partners in this industry recognize marketing is not always a core competency. While most partners are stellar in professional services delivery and making clients happy, they are often not naturally wired for sales and marketing. The marketing speakers stepped up to the challenge and delivered the type of practical advice you can take back and actually implement. While I can’t comment on all the great speakers, I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight speaker Mark Stuyt of Neural Selling. He’s one of those guys that brings truly new thinking to our profession, and a speaker you should look for at next years event. Dan Kraus and Mike Holland also delivered some really strategic marketing advice in their sessions.
Executive Summit. This break-out session is designed for partner leaders that seek to share their experiences in an effort to learn from others and grow their companies. It’s facilitated by longtime partner advocate Bonnie Robertson and benefited from expert speakers. Again, all the speakers were good, but I particularly enjoyed strategy guru Jim Lally and customer experience maven JC Quintana. Future conference attendees should look for these speakers.
Common Struggles and Uncommon Solutions. Microsoft CRM partners share many of the same challenges — resourcing, many managers but few leaders, challenges in building IP or vertical market depth, and others. This conference was an opportunity to brainstorm with colleagues who share common problems and collectively come up with solutions. Sure, in some ways the partners are competitors. But in reality, and in my humble opinion, the competition perspective is overrated. Any competitive insight potentially lost pales in comparison to the solutions that partners collectively discover and use to grow their businesses.
Despite an impressive event which is reinforcing an exciting Dynamics 2013 roll-out, Microsoft and the partner community were largely silent on some not so hidden challenges. The new Dynamics CRM 2013 three tier pricing model offers more flexibility, but with most customers incurring a jump from USD $44 to USD $65 per user per month, it also comes with a steep price hike that caught many customers by surprise. Customers don’t like pricing surprises. Upgrade paths and efforts are also a concern to customers. While Dynamics CRM is a true multi-tenant CRM app, it doesn’t upgrade like most competitor cloud CRM apps. It’s probably no coincidence that the customer testimonials at the launch event were new customers.
For full disclosure I’m on the eXtremeCRM board of directors and was a presenter at the event, so I am an admittedly biased fan of the organization, the people and the mission. But with all that said, I think any CRM partner considering attending next year’s event would be hard pressed to find conference attendee naysayers. Only good things happen when you bring a mature group of people together with like interests, shared objectives, common challenges and a willingness to collaborate.
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Only good things happen when you bring a mature group of people together with like interests, shared objectives, common challenges and a willingness to collaborate.