Almost a decade ago, the first edition of this list was tough to compile. There simply weren’t that many CRM blogs that were consistent (we set the annual minimum number of posts at a mere eight), vendor-agnostic and — most important of all — high quality.
That number has increased over the years, but one interesting phenomenon has been that the people at the top of the list have been expert at holding onto their spots. Time demands, fatigue and the difficulty in finding new things to write about can cause blogs to fall silent, or at least cause posts to become less frequent.
The top 10 have eluded those pitfalls, and that’s an impressive feat by itself. They also continue to deliver sharp insights, valuable analysis and thought-provoking ideas on a regular basis.
Who made the top 10? Read on.
10. Destination CRM Blog
Written by a small cadre of reporters — Oren Smilansky, Leonard Klie, Sam Del Rowe, and Maria Minsker, primarily — this old standby delivers a large number of short, punchy posts dealing with a vast range of CRM topics.
Sometimes something like a reporter’s notebook (event and speech coverage is well-done), sometimes a forum to vent about customer experience nightmares, the blog has a free-form feel that works well sometimes and not so well other times. A little more strategic planning would help it seem less off the cuff, but the material the blog covers is valuable — and often linked to the day’s news events, helping put CRM concepts in a current context.
Total posts in 2015: 91
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9. Value Creator
In November, Brian Vellmure assumed the title of strategic innovation executive at Salesforce.com. I hope that doesn’t mean the end of his blog, which reliably delivers up somewhere between eight and 15 posts a year that attempt to connect a lot of dots as they relate to the creation of customer experiences, communications and systems of contact.
That means that many posts are genuinely far-ranging — and it means that you need to pay attention or else the ideas will fly right over your head. If you view CRM as the foundation for a potentially transformative new way of running the business — and becoming more profitable in the process — Brian’s essays point the ways. Not “the way,” but the multiplicity of ways businesses can be successful given the evolution of the customers and the evolution of business technology and processes in response.
If you’re paying attention, you’ll catch some rather funny metaphors and references for good measure.
Total posts in 2015: 10
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8. Forrester Blog
Large analyst firms make things a little tough for bloggers: They ask for regular posts, but they don’t want bloggers to spill everything, or else what do they have to sell? In Forrester’s case, there’s plenty of material to go around.
Kate Leggett is a very keen observer of the CRM space; Harley Manning and Samuel Stern are equally skilled at explaining what’s going on in customer experience.
Leggett really distinguished herself in 2015, covering a wide range of disparate topics, ranging from business trends to specific advice about knowledge management and back to some good “how to choose” articles. She’s really flexing her muscles in the blog, and it’s much stronger because of it.
By way of explanation: We’re only including posts by CRM and Customer Experience analysts, which are part of the bigger blog. You can search by analyst, but doing so leaves out other voices, so we suggest looking at the whole blog and culling out the posts that touch your CRM issues.
Total posts in 2015: 28
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7. Michael Maoz, Gartner
Michael Maoz’s typical posts are short in word count, but they are certainly pithy and almost always come equipped with an apt and unexpected metaphor: Napoleon at Austerlitz, the poet Rumi, the Venus flytrap, and on and on. Instead of forming the start of shaggy dog tales — as they could, easily — they instead lead Michael to specific conclusions or observations about aspects of CRM.
That aspect may be precise, or it may general or idealistic — his descriptions of the real value of CRM to the customer and, ultimately, to the business are rooted in the idea that building rewarding relationships with customers is a two-way street and achieves more for the participants than to add dollars to the bottom line.
You may think that to be a bit squishy, but it’s the sort of commitment to the discipline of CRM that can position you to handle unusual events and unexpected bumps in relationships with grace and keep delivering customer experiences that leave customers happy and loyal. Come for the expertise, stay for the inspiration.
Total posts in 2015: 25
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6. Think Customers: the 1to1 Media Blog
With authorship shared between Mila D’Antonio, Tom Hoffman, Anna Papachristos and Judith Aquino, this blog has settled into a nice groove. Don’t expect a nuts-and-bolts examination of software products or intense discussions of data management — it’s all about marketing, messaging, customer relationships and service. It’s nearly a daily publication.
With the exception of a few guest posts, the four writers each take their turn in the rotation, like ace pitchers on a baseball team, and they usually throw strikes. It reflects the concerns of its business audience; customer experience and engagement take center stage in many posts.
The 1to1 team also gets access to some very interesting influencers and, as good journalists do, uses them to add authority and color to their posts.
Total posts in 2015: 50-plus (full count difficult due to website limitations)
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5. CRM Search Blog
Penned for the most part by Chuck Schaeffer, one of the most erudite executives ever to have helmed a CRM company, CRM Search’s blog adheres to the site’s devotion to scholarly, in-depth and clear-headed analysis, delivering it in many cases better than most analyst firms.
Chuck takes a dispassionate approach to things like customer experience, user experience, and the value of CRM integration with other business software systems — not because he’s not excited by those things, but because he respects the reader enough to present the facts and some analysis backed by real-world experience. The result is a hype-free, crystal-clear view of CRM and its associated disciplines.
A further benefit is that Chuck is enthusiastic about responding to comments, which results in some of the most enlightening conversations anywhere about CRM technology and process.
The only downside is a somewhat clunky interface that makes it hard to scan past posts — which is more reason to check CRM Search frequently to catch the latest thinking and analysis.
Total posts in 2015: Many (accurate count difficult due to website limitations)
Recommended post: Designing CRM for the User Experience
4. CRM Consultant
There are blogs aimed at the thinking person, and then there are blogs aimed at people who think and then do. This blog is for that latter audience, as British CRM consultant Richard Boardman dispenses practical advice backed by sound, thorough and experience-based advice.
Practical thinking is shot through his writing, whether he’s reviewing a new version of a popular CRM solution or explaining why gathering requirements before implementation is vital for CRM success (the failure to so is Richard’s perennial peeve).
He’s also equally focused on continued operation of a CRM application as he is on implementation or on the introduction of new concepts — his post “The Zombie CRM Apocalypse and Ways to Avoid It” is a warning to all who mistakenly believe CRM is anything but a work that’s constantly in progress. CRM is work, and Richard is expert at pointing out the best ways to do that work to ensure your CRM investment pays off.
Total posts in 2015: 14
3. Beagle Research
If you are narrowly focused on CRM — to the irrational exclusion of all other subjects — Denis Pombriant’s blog is going to drive you insane. If you want a nuanced take on the world of sellers and buyers, and customers of all styles and sizes, Denis’s all-encompassing overview of the many things that have an impact on CRM will make fascinating reading.
The author of last year’s book Solve for the Customer, Denis is great at illustrating the connections among technology, global political and economic events and the evolution of the buyer-seller dynamic.
Before you start thinking the blog is too much in the clouds, read his reasoned takes on things like the speculated sale of Salesforce.com or his exploration of the news out of Oracle Open World. Denis pays close attention to what happens today because he knows what’s coming tomorrow will be directly affected by it — which is a smart take on an ever-changing world that all CRM practitioners should embrace.
Total posts in 2015: Many (accurate count difficult because of website limitations)
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2. ThinkJar The Blog
Esteban Kolsky inches up the listings this year because he became a more prolific blogger while maintaining the same combination of authority and attitude that have always characterized his writing.
The best kind of iconoclast, Esteban is not afraid to plant his flag on a topic, and he sticks to his guns unless someone can use reason and facts to change his mind — which, unlike some experts, he’ll actually do. He doesn’t have to do it often, however, because his analysis of trends and technologies is nearly always on target.
Esteban is also a beacon for people baffled by marketing misuse of terminology — read his ruthless takes on the term “private cloud” to get a feel for what vendors should really be saying when they use that term.
He’s been on a roll this year exploring customer experience, knowledge management, customer service and other topics that directly go to CRM, the discipline and the technology, and in most cases his posts work back to an increasingly pertinent phenomena: the customers’ control of the relationship means that sellers face an ever more unpredictable world and expanding challenges that are at once fascinating and frustrating. Esteban’s blog embodies this anxious and optimistic atmosphere perfectly.
Total posts in 2015: 37
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1. Social CRM: the Conversation
With blogs two through five nipping at his heels, Paul Greenberg retained the top spot this year by developing a winning formula. The blog featured 13 installments exploring Paul’s Watchlist awards, with very detailed evaluations of crucial vendors in CRM and related fields, and another seven posts were in-depth accounts of the major industry events Paul attended.
That left 10 posts for his (and a couple of good guest posters’) commentary on broader topics — giving the blog perhaps the most balance and focus it’s had since Paul took it to ZDNet.
“Only 30 posts?” you ask. Yes — 30 posts that were very long, very detailed and very insightful, written in an often playful and always frank way. They’d be fun to read even if Paul didn’t load them with valuable information.
Think about it: how much skill does it take to write about seven industry events and make each post unique, entertaining, and informative? Only someone with a real love for CRM could pull this off. That obvious enthusiasm, combined with his expert views, allows Paul to cling to the No. 1 spot for another year.
Total posts in 2015: 30
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