The Top 20 CRM Blogs of 2014, Part 1

The field of CRM bloggers is like the start of a marathon: There may be thousands of entrants, but there are only a few elite runners. Identifying them from the rest of the pack is not always easy — especially as their enthusiasm for blogging waxes and wanes, or as they move into other formats, like becoming regular columnists in publications. However, there are a few things that identify the elite.

First, they’re consistent. The criteria for making this list is at least five posts a year. This year, we’ve added number of posts to the listings, and you’ll notice that the best are frequent posters. You’ll also notice a relative lack of new names this year — few of last year’s winning bloggers burned out, turned their attention to other applications, or simply disappeared. Consistency wins.

Second, they’re passionate. You have to be to write about CRM for any amount of time, since themes (and, often, the factors for success and failure) remain largely the same. Without passion, you can’t find new aspects of CRM to write about.

Third, they understand their subject and they know it does not exist in a vacuum. Concerns from other parts of the business, including back-office functions like IT and finance, can help or hinder CRM.

With that understanding in mind, I’ve compiled our list of the top 20 CRM blogs of 2014, something I’ve done since 2007, starting at InsideCRM, progressing to the now-defunct Forecasting Clouds, and continuing to the CRM Outsiders blog before moving to CRM Buyer.

For our purposes, we’re not including developer-oriented blogs, or corporate blogs (which, for the most part, weren’t done well enough in 2014 to crack the top 20, anyway).

For historical perspective, take a look at the lists for 2011, 2012, and 2013 (Part 1 and Part 2.)

Enough about the distant past. Who did the best job of blogging about CRM in the recent past?

1. Paul Greenberg – Social CRM: The Conversation

Defending his title is Paul Greenberg, who, unlike his beloved Yankees, had a stronger year in 2014 than 2013. Paul is a busy, busy man — he’s constantly traveling, highly in demand, exceptionally personable, and committed to his friendships. That makes it astonishing that he’s able to tend to his blogs so attentively year after year. PGreenblog, his original CRM blog, slid off the list this year because it didn’t reach the minimum post criteria; that tells you how busy Paul is.

His ZDNet-based Social CRM: The Conversation, however, is still going strong. That’s in part because of some programmatic things Paul doe. His CRM Watchlist project, for example, is a massive undertaking that yields several posts full of valuable vendor analysis. CRM Idol, the annual demo derby for smaller CRM companies, also provides some handy content.

However, the real secret to his ongoing success — blog-wise and in real life — is that Paul truly enjoys talking and writing about CRM. It comes across in the way he roots for successes, suffers when CRM efforts fail, and gets angry when CRM is done badly. He feels it, maybe more than anyone else in the space. That’s Paul’s secret weapon, and his blog benefits from it.

Total posts in 2014: 29

Recommended post: “Random Thoughts: Disruption, Customer Engagement and Thee”

2. Denis Pombriant – Beagle Research Group, CRM Buyer

CRM does not exist in a vacuum — what it does and what it’s able to do are shaped by the business structure in which it exists. Similarly, each business’ ability to do things is shaped by the bigger world in which it exists. For a big-picture view of CRM (and related technologies) that includes looks at the external factors that can influence it, catch Denis’s blog posts at the Beagle Research Group website or here on CRM Buyer.

Every so often, he’ll explore a topic not always viewed as a core CRM subject — but, when you stop and consider the ripples caused by data security issues or changes in corporate strategy, they do have a direct impact on how CRM must operate.

Denis also explores a lot of other areas that aren’t CRM but push and pull on it — the subscription economy, big data, social media and the Dunbar number, and on and on. He also provides great coverage of major CRM events. You never know what you’ll find on Denis’ blog, but it’s always worth your time.

Total posts in 2014: 77

Recomended Post: “Evolving CRM”

3. Esteban Kolsky – ThinkJar

Esteban made a lot of waves with his January post on thinkJar, “The Foundational Components for Digital Transformation.” That might sound dry, but it really is not, because it’s one Esteban has some passionate views about, and he applied his wit and humor to the subject.

It might be the single most important post of the entire year — but it’s not the only note that Esteban plays. He did a study on customer service, and published the results late in the year. He took on vendors for their business moves — see “Oracle’s Approach Makes Sense (But it Sucks),” for example. He explored customer feedback, mobility and customer engagement, among other topics.

He makes all of these subjects entertaining; as anyone who’s read anything about these topics will agree, in the hands of the wrong people they can be deadly dull. Luckily, Esteban has the right hands. Never afraid to confront what he sees as the follies of vendors and certain CRM users, Esteban may be the space’s biggest provocateur, but he provokes from a smart point of view.

Total posts in 2014: 15

Recommended post: “The Foundational Components for Digital Transformation”

4. Chuck Schaeffer – CRM Search Blog

The best CRM analyst who isn’t actually an analyst, Chuck has spent years in the trenches developing CRM applications AND running companies, which has allowed him to look through both ends of the telescope. The results are apparent in his CRM Search Blog — he writes with clarity, authority and insight on very specific CRM topics. While he may not hit every topic, the ones he does hit each year are covered decisively and in greater detail than almost any other blog.

This year, he’s had a couple of themes — CRM in retail and Microsoft’s efforts to claim a leadership position in CRM — but his posts are wide-ranging and can drill down to specific products from specific vendors (see his analysis of CallidusCloud’s marketing automation, for example) or zoom out to how-to’s on technical or sales processes (as in “Lead Transfer Best Practices to Decrease Lead Leakage and Increase Top Line Revenues”).

While a lot of blogs are a summary of thoughts, Chuck’s posts are a summary of his analyses. They are the kinds of things you’d expect to read from major market research firms — only his are better written than most. This is the blog I’d most recommend to seasoned CRM veterans, although newcomers to the discipline will benefit from it as well.

Total posts in 2014: 14

Recommended Post: “A 10-Step Framework to Accurate Lead Scores”

5. Richard Boardman – The CRM Consultant

Richard’s not as flashy as some bloggers, but he’s got better credentials than almost all of them. He’s a guy who does CRM instead of just thinking about CRM — and by being elbow-deep in implementations, he’s able to spot trends as they take place at ground level.

That results in a year’s worth of incredibly useful material for The CRM Consultant — from cogitating on the failure of users to seize on capabilities (“CRM and Influencer Management” and “The Under-appreciated Benefits of the Humble CRM Mail-merge Function”) to providing caveats to people in the midst of CRM selection (“Choosing CRM — the Dangers of Recommendations”).

Most useful might be his six-part series on documenting requirements for a CRM system; Richard is a huge proponent of putting in the hours and effort to get requirements right, and this series is evidence of the depth of his commitment to that topic.

Total posts in 2014: 23

Recommended post: “16 Things Your Should be Doing to Maintain the Value of Your CRM System Over Time”

6. Michael Maoz – Gartner

Don’t be freaked out by the fact that every post Michael wrote on his Gartner blog from August on had the word “CIO” in the title — his posts weren’t about the CIO as a “supply specialist,” as a post from early 2015 put it, but the CIO as partner to the people in charge of delivering customer experiences and doing other sales and marketing-oriented things.

We hear about sales and marketing alignment all the time, but Michael took the second part of 2014 to hammer home the importance of internal alignment that goes beyond sales and marketing to the people within the organization who put the technological tools in place to facilitate and maximize the value of that alignment.

Since Michael is still Michael, he points out failures to do this in a tart, seemingly impatient way that is fun to read and can make you impatient for change, too.

Total posts in 2014: 32

Recommended post: “The CIO, a VP Marketing and a Customer Walk Into a Bar…”

7. Mila D’Anotnio, Tom Hoffman, Anna Papachristos, Judith Aquino – Think Customers

For sheer volume of posts, Think Customers by 1to1 Media deserves to be on the list (although site navigation makes it tough to read back more than a few months). The four-writer team also recruits some very good guest bloggers to round out their coverage, which spans every aspect of CRM and delivers thought-provoking material, often in a compact, easily digestible package.

The blog also goes deeper, drawing from 1to1 Media’s articles — including long-form Q&As — and acting as the very best reporter’s notebook you could ever see in blog form.

All four journalists are sharp writers, but Mila D’Antonio stands out for her ability to deftly put CRM tactics into the context of CRM strategy. Tom Hoffman stands out too, for his knack for looking at the world through CRM-tinted glasses, which allows him to turn his own experiences into the basis for insightful looks at customer service and customer experience.

Total posts in 2014: A ton (exact number not available because of website limitations)

Recommended post: “It’s Time to Change the Automotive Customer Satisfaction Survey”

8. Brian Vellmure – Value Creator

Brian is perhaps the most likely person on this list to be described as a futurist. On his Value Creator blog, he not only loves to dwell on the yet-to-come processes and technologies suggested by today’s realities, but also does a good job letting the air out of technologies and approaches once touted as the shape of things to come, which have merely served to reinforce the status quo.

Still, he is sure the future holds two things: an acceleration of everything; and a greater connection between people, technology and each other. We’re already seeing these trends influence the way we live and do business. The real question is this: How will we humans adapt ourselves and our technology, as customers and as sellers, to best handle these changes?

Total posts in 2014: 32

Recommended Post: “Leveraging the Internet of Everything to Create a Better Customer Experience”

9. Forrester Blogs

Forrester’s blogs are collected into an enormous mishmash of a feed, so the best bet is to select key analysts and search for them by name. Since Bill Band’s departure, Kate Leggett has become Forrester’s CRM analyst. Having come from coverage of customer support, Kate is more homed in on the “R” in CRM, and the resulting retention and renewals that come from getting it right than analysts with a more sales-based approach.

She also gets the nuances of adoption. One pointed blog notes that in many cases, a company that can’t get one vendor’s application to work most likely will have the same problem with other vendors’ applications.

Forrester also has a robust customer experience practice, with Harley Manning and Samuel Stern treading that path, and providing many good examples of customer experience done the right way. Manning’s series of interviews with customer experience leaders was particularly insightful.

Total posts in 2014 Leggett 17, Manning 17, Stern 10

Recommended post: “Is Your CRM Not Working for You?”

10. Michael Fauscette

IDC analyst Michael Fauscette followed up a great 2013 with a better 2014, getting even more analytical without losing any personality in the process.

He had two three-part series (and each part itself was long) on his blog in 2014: “Transforming Data Into Action”; and “Disrupting Today’s Workplace.” Both are laden with ideas, details and real-world examples.

The blog also included some not-so-academic thinking — like, what happens to Oracle now that the sign on Larry Ellison’s office door has changed?

All of Mike’s ideas are delivered with his clear, no-nonsense voice, which might best be summed up with a line that started a post last August: “This may sound a bit like a rant, and I suppose it is really, but I’m tired of having this conversation so I thought it would be easier to just point to a post.”

This sets the stage for an essay about the difference between engagement and experience, and why failing to understand that sets the stage for failure. Typical of Mike, his personality never gets in the way of the points he’s trying to make.

Total posts in 2014: 24

Recommended: “The Future of Selling”

The Top 20 CRM Blogs of 2014, Part 2

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is content marketing manager for CallidusCloud and a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 17 years, focusing on CRM since 2006. When he's not wearing his business and technology geek hat, he's wearing his airplane geek hat; he's written three books on World War II aviation.

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