New Pearls in a CRM Classic

Finally, Paul Greenberg’s new edition of CRM at the Speed of Light hit the streets last week, and with it, my description of him as our Walt Whitman remains intact. To promote the continuing franchise, the fourth edition’s cover has the same design as the third edition but with a different color scheme. But that’s about the only similarity between editions; everything between the covers of edition four is new.

This time, Greenberg’s subtitle tells us he’s focusing on “Social CRM Strategies, Tools and Technologies for Engaging Your Customers.” That’s a mouthful worthy of the more than 600 pages he dedicates to the task — and that doesn’t even count the chapters that are available only online.

Before we go on, let’s have a moment with the truth squad. Paul Greenberg is a friend, and he graciously invited me to make a few very small contributions to the book, so my discussion here might look to some like self-promotion. If that’s how you think, then you might want to go rearrange your sock drawer. If you read on, just know that that there is a good deal of agreement between Paul and me as well as many of the analysts who follow the market. That’s not to say we all think so much alike that if you sent 99 out of 100 of us to a Maoist re-education camp it wouldn’t matter. It would.

A CRM Reference Point

CRM at the Speed of Light has always occupied an important niche in our world. It continues to be the source for authoritative definitions and explanations of what CRM is and where it is going. If you are within the CRM inner circle, you might want to conclude that definitions and categorization are no longer needed. But if you talk to real people trying to make sense of the world through a CRM lens, you quickly discover the great service this book provides.

The centrality of the customer and the importance of “relationship” over “management” — two criticisms from CRM’s past — are noted and form the motive force of this book. Greenberg’s gift to us is to take a four-dot-oh look at a two-dot-oh market and to help us see where it’s all going. Paul covers ideas like Social CRM and customer experience with equal ease. And while we might disagree on some of the specifics of how these things relate to the CRM market at large (see, I can be independent), it all coheres.

One of the greatest assets of the book is Greenberg’s style, which is intelligent and conversational. In fact, conversational is a poor word choice because Paul’s natural chattiness comes through the page and into your mind so that at times you forget you are reading rather than listening to a smart and entertaining monologue.

CRM 101

CRM has become a big topic. It’s roughly a $14 billion market, and the nuances in even what companies call it and how vendors address the market can be significant. Nonetheless, Paul does a good job of building categories and running down the differences until they make sense.

A good example is chapter nine on user communities. We think we know what communities are, and in a folklorish way we do, but Greenberg does a great job of teasing apart the differences as well as the pros and cons of managed and unmanaged communities, outcome-based social networks and a lot more. But even more importantly, he then dives in and advises us about managing communities and offers important do’s and don’t’s.

In trying to categorize this book, I was left with the feeling that it most resembles a text from medical school that details the causes and cures of diseases one after another. Few people read those books straight through; rather, they use them as reference guides, for example, when a young doc might be trying to nail down a diagnosis. I expect that it will end up on the book shelves of many mid-level executives and even their bosses who want a good reference to enlighten them about the technologies that can help them run their businesses.

But CRM at the Speed of Light, fourth edition, is also a book that you’ll want to read every page of if you have an abiding interest in the subject.

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 Web site. He is working on a book and can be reached at [email protected].

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