In a year when it seemed that CRM continued to blur into other technologies — artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, analytics and predictive tools, plus a host of other older technologies — there was no shortage of things to blog about.
However, only a few bloggers really captured what was going on in CRM in 2016 and reflected the evolution of the technology in their own unique ways. Doing that is a great way to land on our list of the 20 Best CRM Blogs of the last year.
Perhaps next January, predictive technology will allow us to project which will be the best blogs of 2018. For now, we’ll look back on a year of writing on the subject of CRM — not just CRM, the technology, but CRM, the discipline. That’s why there are no blogs targeted at developers and a precious few that are from vendors.
Our criteria for inclusion are fairly simple: A top blog must have published at least eight posts in the previous year; it can’t be from a vendor, unless it’s written in such a way as to be virtually vendor-agnostic; and it must show a grasp of both the human and technological elements of CRM. That narrows the field only slightly. From there, judgment is based solely on the quality of the content.
As with any new year-related countdown, we’re starting with No. 20 and we’ll take you to No. 11 in this installment. Next week, we’ll reveal the top 10. Get ready to get your reading in!
20. Inside CRM/Toolbox.com
If “quantity has a quality all its own,” then this blog meets that standard; its post totals doubled over last year. There are some frustrating things about Inside CRM/Toolbox.com. It’s virtually invisible on the InsideCRM homepage, and too many posts have no byline, or have a tinge of salesy-ness to them when they do. Once in a while, a thinly disguised press release weasels its way in. Several posts include interesting statistics but lack attribution (a sticking point for skeptics like me).
Still, when you winnow out the chaff, there’s a lot of wheat here. The trick becomes sorting it so that it meets your needs. The focus goes from the very basic to the advanced, so it’s worth scanning the blog main page for topics that stand out for your interests.
Clearly, the site’s owners (Ziff-Davis) have access to a lot of sources. This blog could stand an editor with an iron fist who can enforce some standards and impose some focus. (Disclaimer: As the person who started this blog back in 2007, that fist used to be mine.)
Total posts in 2016: 636
Recommended Post: “5 CRM Features that Companies Must Continue Demanding”
19. CRM Simplified
If your blog conscientiously avoids talking about your company, you can make this top blog list. This blog qualifies under that caveat. The folks from WalkMe are committed to concepts onCRM Simplified, not to pitching the company.
This year, the post total fell, and the content became a bit lighter. That said, one person’s “lighter” is another’s “digestible,” and the plethora of tip lists and infographics make it a nifty quick snack of CRM information rather than a sit-down meal.
Editor Michael Taylor curates some good stuff, including a few items from other bloggers who appear higher on this list, and he sketches out some basic concepts effectively in his own short original posts.
The pace of posting fell off mid-2016 — hopefully, that merely means the company’s busy, not that it’s lost interest in this worthwhile blog.
Editor: Michael Taylor
Total posts in 2016: 32
Our favorite post: “Skyrocket Your CRM User Adoption with These 5 Tips”
18. CX Journey
Remember that this list is not about CRM as software but CRM as a discipline — a set of practices that help businesses find, keep and strengthen customer relationships. In other words, it fosters a journey, which is the whole point of CX Journey.
Annette gets that it isn’t the data in CRM that helps your business — it’s what you do with it. Her blog often tackles fundamental issues that make or break customer experience. Employee retention and engagement is a favorite topic — and rightly so, because a business’ CRM processes meet the customer through its employees.
With a new post every four days or so, there’s a lot here to digest. Annette keeps the blog buzzing with a few guest posts and several of her own posts that also had appeared on other sites.
We often get too caught up in data, analytics, personas and demographics as we try to increase our business’s performance. If you want to keep the emphasis on the human part of the equation — the part that really pays off — use Annette’s blog to set your mind straight.
Author: Annette Franz Glenecki
Posts in 2016: 83
Our favorite post: “Customer Experience Fuels Innovation”
17. Epikonic Blog
From the other side of the globe comes Epikonic, an entry from perhaps an unlikely source: a New Zealand-based vendor selling a mobile application designed to enhance customer engagement.
From a seemingly limited area of focus comes this blog, written primarily by CEO Thomas Wieberneit, who is unique among executives in being able to engage in deep and detailed discussion of CRM concepts while also resisting the urge to talk about his company and products.
A veteran of SAP’s CRM development efforts and an ANZAC-area CRM consulting practice, he’s also unique among CEOs in the level of curiosity he has for the subject. He doesn’t assert that he knows it all, and that makes for some great blogs as he muses over things he’s not yet formed a complete opinion on.
At times, he brings in additional expert voices to clarify issues or open new areas of interest. From AI to CX, and from chatbots to vendor strategies, this wide-ranging blog invites you to think along with its author.
Author: Thomas Wieberneit
Posts in 2016: 31
Our favorite post: “Customer Experience: It Is All in the Data. Really?”
16. Duct Tape Marketing
By harnessing a small army of guest bloggers, John Jantsch not only maintained a relentless pace of posts but continued to elevate the quality and depth of the content on Duct Tape Marketing.
Every aspect of marketing is here in depth, and while it’s targeted at the small business, it would be a mistake to think that it deals with basic, beginner-level material. There’s advice here about implementing and profiting from techniques that even large companies haven’t gotten around to yet.
The overarching theme of the blog is that there’s a host of ideas out there waiting for you to adopt — and your job is to understand your business and your customers well enough to make the smart decisions about which ones are right for you.
Jantsch writes a weekly roundup of interesting Web content, and there are plenty of webcasts nestled among the more traditional articles. If you’re in charge of marketing at a small business, this blog should be your daily go-to source for ideas.
Editor: John Jantsch
Total posts in 2015: 253
Recommended Post: “The Clear-Cut Guide to Social Media Engagemen”t
15. Nick Baggot’s CRM and Digital Marketing Blog
“Wide-ranging” is a good term for the 2016 output of Nick Baggot’s CRM and Digital Marketing Blog. The basic themes of sales and marketing were there, but every post explored a distinct and interesting tangent of these topics.
Nick has become a real expert at curation: Most of his posts this year included information (often in the form of graphics) from other sources, but he does a textbook job of including a bit of his own analysis on each one to frame the data, establish some context, and explain why it’s important to his readers.
Some concepts are recurring — personalization in marketing and the changing nature and value of various social media channels for business, most notably — but the overarching idea here is that there are ways marketers can cut through the noise modern customers have to deal with, in order to reach them in an effective way. That’s an area of discussion that will only grow in importance in the future.
Total Posts in 2016: 13
Recommended Post: “How to Humanize Your Brand through Content Marketing”
14. Bob Thompson, CustomerThink
A lot of bloggers write under the CustomerThink umbrella, but CEO Bob Thompson remains its best and most consistent blogger.
In addition to organizing the site and its many talented and knowledgeable bloggers, Bob increased his posting in 2016, continuing last year’s focus of customer experience while examining new technologies, including AI and machine learning.
Bob is one of the best at examining the potential of new technologies and then stepping back to remind readers that the value of those technologies almost always reaches the customer through a face-to-face interaction.
This year’s collection of posts is sprinkled with the odd interviews, looks at customer service, and other topics that aren’t CRM, exactly, but which take the insights generated into CRM and translate them into value for the business and the customer.
Total Posts in 2016: 20
13. CRM Switch
If you have ever seen the Web, you’ve seen list articles. Like this one, for instance. A lot of time, they amount to empty clickbait, but now and again you run across someone who uses this format to anchor some very good information.
Steve Chipman is great at this, using titles like “5 Reasons to Define Your CRM Requirements First” and “8 CRM Administration Practices for Newbies” to organize truly informative articles in CRM Switch.
There’s a host of other, less format-based material, too, aimed at helping people in the planning and adoption phases of CRM and marketing automation purchasing decisions. The blog is produced by a consulting company, but all efforts to pitch its services are kept away from the body of the blog.
If you’re used to the rosy picture painted by most consultants in their quest for customers, you’ll find the realistic view Chipman takes refreshingly bracing. CRM’s success doesn’t depend on who you pay or what you buy, but instead, as the blog makes clear, on how your company approaches it from the initial decision to buy it, to the point where your sales and marketing organizations are depending on it.
Author: Steve Chipman
Total Posts in 2016: 28
Recommended Post: “CRM Strategy vs. CRM Tactics: Some Examples”
12. Effective CRM
Busy Boysen made just nine posts in 2016, but it’s pretty clear that he spent the time between them putting some serious thought into the topics he discusses on Effective CRM.
This was a year where the customer journey took center stage. Mike skewered company-centric approaches to thinking about those journeys and advocated for a more straightforward approach.
He also pointed out that the default for businesses is to slide back toward their own interests and away from customer needs. As he has noted, companies often ask themselves “how are we doing?” instead of asking the real question, which is “how are you (the customer) doing?”
His posts are authoritative but have a bit of snark to them, which is how you know he’s observing customer relationship missteps in real life and not just theorizing about them. As a practitioner, Boysen is eager to share what he knows, and he clearly envisions a world where businesses approach CRM with the emphasis on the first two letters of the acronym.
Author: Mike Boysen
Total Posts in 2016: 9
Recommended Post: “Is Customer-Centricty Dead?”
11. Customer Experience Matrix
David Raab is not only the pre-eminent independent voice covering marketing automation (and one of the first to cover it, starting about 10 years ago), but also a great writer with a willingness to be silly once in a while.
His “personalized Mona Lisa,” referenced in a couple of posts on Customer Experience Matrix, points out the fallacy that people only want content that is specifically relevant to them, when making it “relevant” removes context and makes learning much less of an experience.
He’s also great at weaving analytics, predictive technologies and other emerging trends into his coverage. His series on account-based marketing this summer is a college level course on the concepts and technology applications needed to pull it off.
As an industry insider, he’s also the first stop for commentary on acquisitions, with a distinctly pragmatic outlook.
He’s forward looking — enough so that his last post of the year postulated the challenges marketers would have in a world where augmented reality and virtual reality would be pervasive, to the point where the perceived realities of every customer were customized.
Yikes! If you’re a marketer who needs to keep abreast of marketing technology — and if you want a scare every so often! — bookmark this sucker.
Author: David Raab
Total Posts in 2015: 62
Recommended Post: “#Personalized Mona Lisa #Marketing #Humor #Fail”Stay tuned for Part 2: Top 10 Countdown