(This article originally appeared in Forbes)
Whenever I discuss CRM systems I always like to say that, regardless of the business or industry you’re in, it’s really just a database of people. And it’s not just customers. It’s everyone who touches a business from prospects and customers to vendors, suppliers and partners. It’s their demographic and corporate information. It’s their activities, emails, opportunities, quotes and incidents. CRM is all about people.
But actually I realize that this is not entirely true. Sometimes — for many companies — it’s more about things. That’s the point of a Munich-based CRM startup called remberg. And the company has just raised €11 million ($12.6 million) to prove it.
“remberg is completely rethinking customer-oriented processes — namely starting from products and things and not parties, such as customers,” Hendrik Brandis, a venture capitalist involved in the Series A financing said in a statement. “This offers completely new possibilities to map complex relationships in different industries, especially with regard to the coming widespread IoT (Internet of Things) connectivity.”
remberg’s software is built around equipment, machines, devices, buildings and vehicles. It’s built to track all information and activities around these assets, including the people connected to them. And it’s built to position its own customers for the Internet of Things.
And when I think of some of my clients, I see their point. We regularly sell CRM systems to companies that need to track equipment. One example is a client of mine near Philadelphia that manufacturers high end pneumatic scales which are used for food processing. When they sell a scale they need to track it. They monitor maintenance, service history and customer interactions related to a specific scale. Sometimes that scale is resold in an aftermarket and my client wants to continue to track its history even if ownership changes hands. Their equipment is built to last for decades and they want to continue a relationship with that piece of equipment as long as it’s still functioning.
And that’s just one example. Think of all the companies that have ongoing relationships with the machines they sell. When there’s a question or problem with such a piece of equipment a company wants to be able to see that equipment’s entire history from the time it was sold to the last time it was serviced and any human interaction around it. As IoT takes hold, companies will want to equip their products with sensors that can send performance and maintenance information back to them for further monitoring and service and help them and their customers with predictive maintenance.
remberg’s CRM is built to do all of that. The company’s CEO, David Hahn says that every day his company already helps its customers manage “several hundreds of thousands” of machines and equipment. “Service cases are solved with it and service technicians no longer fill out their reports on paper, but digitally on tablets,” he says.
How is this being done at my clients now? By us building out and then customizing separate entities to an existing people-based CRM system and then manually entering the data (assuming they’re made aware of an incident). renberg already has that done and is better positioned to accept service reports either from humans or digitally from IoT sensors.
“The rationale behind this approach is extremely forward looking as well as robust,” writes Paul Klemm, an investor in the company. “remberg’s model — which is targeted at small and mid-sized industrial companies — fills a CRM niche that needs to be filled.”