The Return of WizKids

I made a decision this week that pleased me and will drive some of my thinking about the CRM business well into next year. I opened up a contest called the WizKids Award. That might not seem like much and it might seem self-serving for me to write about it but maybe there’s more.

WizKids is an informal competition I have held most years for emerging companies, and its purpose is to help me to identify a few cool new ideas that are invading the front office. The focus of the competition is the end customer because that’s whom I interview to get an understanding of a product’s real value.

An Unusual Competition

There’s no scoring, little opinion, no fudge factor, the product has to work and add value and the vendor has to have its head in the game. And to make sure nothing is left out, I don’t even award a first place.

WizKids is a plural because multiple companies win the award — it could be as many as 10, and they’re all different. This isn’t a process that looks only at social for example or some other stovepiped idea. Some previous winners include Eloqua, Lithium, NetSuite, Cast Iron Systems, Zuora, Xactly and RightNow. Of course there are other names that have been forgotten, but that’s the nature of emerging companies and this kind of award — everyone doesn’t go on to fame and fortune, but for one moment they’re tops.

Looking for Fresh Solutions

I started writing this report in 2005, and coming out of the recession it seemed like there were lots of deserving companies that were delivering something new and fresh to the market. Most importantly, to me at least, they usually offered a solution that could help customers kick-start their businesses by lowering the cost of doing business or propelling them into new markets.

A couple of years ago, I quit doing WizKids because it became difficult to find companies that I thought deserved an award. Now you might disagree with me, but from my perspective it wasn’t worth the effort. It’s easily possible that I missed some good ones because the world didn’t exactly stand still during that time.

But for whatever reason, the number and quality of emerging companies has in my humble opinion increased significantly lately, and I am ready to get back into the game.

So there it is, WizKids 2013 — the award will be announced in the first calendar quarter of next year — will be the first of its kind in a little while. I am glad to be doing this again and really happy to be able to say that WizKids is back because there are so many interesting companies out there. Maybe, as in 2005, there are a lot of exciting new companies emerging at the end of a recession. That would be good news on multiple fronts.

If you think you are part of a WizKids kind of company or if you know of one, drop me a note and I will be happy to send you a registration form.

Denis Pombriant

Denis Pombriant is the managing principal of the Beagle Research Group, a CRM market research firm and consultancy. Pombriant's research concentrates on evolving product ideas and emerging companies in the sales, marketing and call center disciplines. His research is freely distributed through a blog and website. He is the author of Hello, Ladies! Dispatches from the Social CRM Frontier and can be reached at [email protected].

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