The wagons are circling

Just a few weeks ago a group of software companies made a splash insisting that today’s CRM isn’t built to support the way many buyers purchase software today. They even went so far as to issue a declaration of independence on the premise of liberating data.

crm is not enough pledge


Together we pledge to build:

  • A world of choice, where businesses are free to build a technology stack with the tools that they need, not just the one their CRM suite has chosen for them.
  • A world of flexibility, where data can be sued across every department to exceed customer expectations not just in sales and marketing.
  • A world of opportunity, where every business can have the technology and the ability to be customer-first.

Read the full declaration here


The group, led by Segment CEO, Peter Reinhardt, acknowledged what many of us have been saying and feeling for years. That the data needed to make sound decisions, especially for product-led companies like Zoom, Slack, etc., can’t and shouldn’t be tied up in CRM’s of the past. 


The problem

It’s stunning to me that no CRM with major market share has been created since the 1990s! While working at Formstack, an online form and data management platform, I experienced this firsthand. I led the marketing team and we were responsible for driving traffic with the goal of converting visitors to free trials. We hoped that those trials would find the product useful and convert to paying customers. We did a pretty damn good job too if I do say so myself, but with the right CRM, we could have done better.

The problem we experienced was that we could only go so far with the tools we had. CRM’s weren’t built to easily ingest and act on product usage data.  In addition, tools that provided insights into product data didn’t have all the features of a CRM.  So to understand what product usage and customer attributes made someone successful on our platform we had our work cut out for us. Sure we were able to qualify and score leads based on actions they took on our site, but attempting to marry that data with product engagement data was a herculean task. 


A typical project flow went something like this:

Marketing: We need to see what trials are successful and what features drove conversions

Product: OK, we have that in our database. We can put that data request into one of our upcoming sprints

Four weeks later…

Product: OK we pulled all that data you wanted. Here is a CSV of all the trial data you wanted

Marketing: Sales ops, can you help us sort through this and can we put this into our CRM so we can track what trialers are using what features?

Sales Ops: Sure, I can do that…give me two weeks…


The process was a nightmare and it was not scalable!  It eventually evolved a few years later when we connected the data to Salesforce, but it was far from perfect. We still had to wait for overnight syncs, monitor our API calls and regularly purge data to keep our bills affordable.

The systems designed 20+ years ago simply weren’t built to handle the volume of data companies offering freemium plans are creating. 


What now?

Today, as more and more companies focus on implementing PLG strategies, the data problem is only becoming more acute. Growth teams that include marketing, product, and sales, need end-to-end views of the customer journey. Teams als0 need that data in a way that doesn’t require 5 systems and a developer to get it done. 

I can’t agree more with Peter and the collective, the time for a reimagining of the CRM is here. Saas companies are ready for an intuitive CRM with a singular view, priced to incentivize companies to use all of their data, not just some of it.  Consider this me signing the petition in spirit.