Top CRM Blogs of 2016: Countdown, Part 2

There’s something to be said for consistency. Baseball Hall-of-Famer Tony Gwynn hit over .300 19 years in a row. The swallows have returned to Mission San Juan Capistrano every year since 1812 (although the numbers have fallen in recent years). Richard Belzer played Detective John Munch in nine different television series over 23 years.

Doing things well for a long time should earn you some attention for your efforts. This year, the Top 10 CRM blogs are all repeat visitors from last year’s list. Positions have changed, but the players remain consistent.

In an era when the blog is a form of communication that’s being challenged by other formats — social media posts, Twitter, and even visual channels like Pinterest — these experts have taken the time to present longer, more reasoned and more logical takes on CRM than is possible in a tweet or pin. That takes time — and it’s time that should be appreciated by all CRM practitioners, vendors, and others who study and apply the discipline.

Remember the criteria: Each blog must have 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.

Here, then, is our countdown of the Top 10 CRM blogs of 2016:

10. Michael Fauscette

After moving from IDC to G2 Crowd, Michael Fauscette continued to write in-depth articles that are of great use to people looking to invest in CRM and marketing automation, as well as to vendors looking for the best ways to set themselves up as choices for those buyers.

His posts on topics such as artificial intelligence and digital content management are meaty and place the technologies in the context of sales very nicely.

His succinct (but substantial) coverage of Dreamforce cut through the information fog to get right to the vital news coming out of that massive event.

Mike also put on his battered old analyst’s hat to examine a few mergers/acquisitions and to wring out the real significance of those deals.

This blog can be a bit of a grab bag, but it provides an insightful window into the subjects that catch Mike’s attention.

Total Posts in 2016: 17

Recommended Post: “Data-Driven Software Buying Decisions”

9. B2B Roundtable

Brian Carroll wrote all but five of this year’s posts on B2B Roundtable, and he nailed just about every one of them. The blog walks a line between two sides of the same coin: marketing as a process that’s being constantly re-invented by technology; and marketing as an activity that is profoundly human.

For every time terms like “sales opportunity” or “pipeline growth” or the inevitable “account-based marketing” crop up, you’ll also see words like “empathy” and “relationship.”

One piece of advice from the post recommended below is a great example of how Carroll reconciles the two sides: He advises marketers that in order to stand out, they need to “do things that don’t scale.”

That is great advice, since so much of sales and marketing automation is all about scaling. Coming back to the basics, even as you consider how the technology of today can help with productivity, is still the way to reach potential customers in meaningful ways.

To quote another great line from the blog: “Marketing isn’t something you do to people — it’s something you do for people.”

Author: Brian Carroll

Total Posts in 2016: 34

Recommended Post: “4 Ways You can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships” 8. Destination CRM BlogThe Destination CRM Blog is a group project from reporters including Oren Smilansky, Leonard Kile and Sam Del Rowe. Its posts have gotten shorter and more news-focused over the years as the writers have moved away from think-pieces and more toward riffing off nuggets in the news — and that’s OK.

The sheer volume of posts means that the Destination CRM team surfaces a lot of interesting material that otherwise would be forgotten in the daily hullabaloo of covering the space, and the application of a little journalistic rigor (attributed sources, actual quotes, etc.) infuses the blog with a greater degree of authoritativeness than many other blogs.

The coverage areas are very broad, ranging from cybersecurity (a valid thing — CRM houses a lot of personal customer data) to marketing automation to analyst reports on market size, always with a punchy presentation of the facts and a bit of analysis.

Like your CRM concepts teed up for you so you can think about them for yourself? This blog gives you the information and the opportunity to be your own analyst.

Total Posts in 2016: 112

Recommended Post: “CMOs Must Take Charge of Disruptive Growth”

7. Forrester Blog

Narrowing the field down in the case of the Forrester Blog was pretty tough. Forrester herds all its analysts into the same pen, so it’s tough to isolate on the CRM part — but singling out four analysts yields plenty of great analysis and stays close to the topic of CRM.

Kate Leggett is on top of the core CRM coverage, plus customer support; Harley Manning and Samuel Stern take the helm on customer experience subjects (although, as everywhere else, CX bleeds into other analysts’ posts as well); and newcomer John Bruno picks up other sales automation technologies.

These analysts are very good at uncovering new ideas, and — I know this will sound kind of like a slam but it isn’t meant that way — they are really good at telling old stories about CRM and CX in new ways.

Face it — not everyone is as up-to-date on their CRM concepts as you are, you genius of a reader, you. It’s important that an authoritative voice like Forrester’s deliver this information in fresh ways to an audience that needs it.

Plus, there’s always an opportunity for fresh commentary — I especially like Kate’s “It’s About Time That Salesforce Fixed Its Gaping Commerce Hole,” a generally positive post that still had a hint of frustration to it.

John Bruno’s arrival is very welcome — he wrote great posts about Microsoft and Salesforce in 2016.

Navigating the Forrester Blog can be a little more arduous than it should be, but these four bloggers only seem to be getting better.

Total Posts in 2016: 20

Recommended Post: “The Demand for Industry-Specific CRM Explodes”

6. Michael Maoz, Gartner

Only one CRM blogger this year dropped references to the Daoist Zhuangzi and his edict of wuwei, Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors, Joni Mitchell, and Hungarian physician Ignaz Semmelweis. That was Gartner’s Michael Maoz. His blog focuses a great deal on customer service, the CIO’s role in delivering CRM, and the various ways companies creatively sabotage their relationships with customers.

The use of obscure references doesn’t turn Michael into the Dennis Miller of CRM analysts — the big difference is that Michael explains why he’s mentioning a metaphorical reference and uses it as a clear illustration of the points he’s making (and, I don’t believe he’s ever called anyone “Cha-cha”).

This year, the concept of empathy came up a lot (it was in three headlines, plus several other posts), showcasing Michael’s pushback against the often-overemphasized trend of seeing every sales, marketing and support problem as a technology challenge.

You also have to enjoy a blog from a Gartner analyst who devotes a whole post to the folly of vendors working specifically to move their dot on the Gartner Magic Quadrant reports, which is a little like hearing Colonel Sanders arguing that a good diet also includes fish and maybe a vegetable wouldn’t kill you. A refreshing, challenging and on-target industry voice, Michael’s blog is also a fun read.

Total Posts in 2016: 16

Recommended Post: “Bad Customer Service as a Tool to Distract from Bad Business”

5. Think Customers: the 1-to-1 Media Blog

Although a quartet of writers anchored Think Customers: the 1-to-1 Media Blog (Mila D’Antonio, Tom Hoffman, Anna Papachristos and Judith Aquino), they had some great contacts helping out with guest posts in 2016.

Contributors included Brent Leary, Ray Wang, Lior Arussy, Don Peppers and more. Their posts are short takes — usually a couple hundred words — and they span the entire spectrum of CRM, with the emphasis on marketing and customer experience. Sometimes they’re thought pieces, sometimes they riff off the news, and sometimes they’re interviews with thought leaders, but they’re almost always interesting and worthwhile.

Think of the blog as a reporters’ notebook in which the sources themselves often scribbled notes. I use the past tense here because, sadly, the blog and the entire 1to1 Media site ceased regular operations last year, so its placement on this Top 20 list is somewhat bittersweet. Here’s hoping the talented team turns up on the list in a new venue or venues in 2017!

Total Posts in 2016: 171

Recommended Post: “Fans and Customers Agree: Mobility is the Key to Loyalty”

4. ThinkJar! The Blog

Last year was a year of re-invention for Esteban Kolsky, and his ThinkJar! The Blog reflects that. The pace slowed a little, and the topics moved farther away from core CRM ideas and more toward experience and customer service. Still, some things never change.

For example, Esteban’s long been a skeptic of social media-driven customer service, so it was almost comforting to see a post entitled “Vindication (of) my Position: Social Customer Service Sucks.”

The blog is also fun to read as Esteban analyzes mergers, or postulates on mergers that may or may not happen, bringing an informed and pragmatic take to these articles and puncturing the hype, in many cases.

When a technology captures his attention, it’s really a rare thing — a lot of factors need to line up before he’s excited about writing on the subject — and that was on display late in the year when he wrote about chatbots, a technology he’s been researching for more than 15 years.

Whether he’s waxing eloquent about a technology whose time has come or unleashing venom from his poison pen about an overhyped or overstretched idea, Esteban is always provocative while remaining very informative.

A bonus: He writes the most entertaining disclaimers about his customer companies that you’ll ever read.

Total Posts in 2016: 12

Recommended Post: “Three Questions to Ponder on Salesforce and LinkedIn”

3. CRM Search Blog

Chuck Schaeffer’s CRM Search Blog is the best consulting you’ll ever get for free. A former CRM company CEO and a veteran of decades (i.e., the entire history) of CRM development and consulting experience, his posts are long, detailed and well thought-out, and they tend toward the technical side of the spectrum.

For example, his comparison of Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is thorough and detailed, and his evaluations look like a draw — until you notice he’s told you the strengths of each product, allowing you to choose the solution that meets the needs of your company.

His post on the future of CRM is a great one. He argues eloquently that the only way for CRM to progress as a technology is to abandon the idea that it exists to automate and organize sales and marketing functions for the business.

Instead, it must turn itself inside out to engage customers in conversations, deliver great customer relationships, and switch the emphasis from the objective of selling stuff to the goal of meeting the needs that motivate people to become customers in the first place.

There’s valuable discussion of more basic CRM strategy — consolidation of systems, solution selection, etc. — but Chuck is at his best when he pairs his technical acumen with his vision of what CRM could and should become.

Author: Chuck Schaeffer

Total Posts in 2016: 12

Recommended Post: “The Future of CRM Software”

2. Social CRM: the Conversation

The so-called “Godfather of CRM,” Paul Greenberg’s Social CRM: the Conversation slides out of the top spot for the first time in years into a strong second place.

He didn’t post as often in 2016 as in the past, he had a number of guests (including others on this list!), and much of the first half of 2016 was devoted to his CRM Watchlist columns. Although they provide an extremely informative focus on specific companies, they’re less valuable for people looking for advice about CRM as a discipline.

However, when he Paul sinks his teeth into a good topic and gets wound up, the results are unparalleled: long posts filled with personal asides, anecdotes that support his ideas, and data that drives the point home.

His passionate analysis of what seems on the surface to be a simple acquisition — Demandware, by Salesforce — goes far beyond the specifics and even past the strategic implications of the deal into some vociferous assertions about the way the deal was described (for example: “Let me be clear.”).

His post on CRM in sports (a subject he knows well thanks to his remarkable contacts and the years of experience which have led him to become a trusted advisor to the small group of professional sports CRM practitioners) again shows him at his finest, diving deep into the nature of customers, loyalty, advocacy and what businesses can and can’t do to build lifetime relationships.

Paul is not just a name in the CRM world — he’s a fan and a friend, and no one can match his enthusiasm for the subject.

Author: Paul Greenberg

Total Posts in 2015: 17

Recommended Post: When Customers are Fans: What Sports Teams Can Teach Us About Engagement”

1. Beagle Research

From trade shows to the presidential election, from artificial intelligence to acquisitions, Denis Pombriant’s Beagle Research blog free-associates across the entire spectrum of customer relationships, customer experiences, and their impact on the business world and beyond. (Denis also makes regular contributions to CRM Buyer.)

This year, he examined everything from Salesforce’s Einstein AI technology to the telephone hold music of major brands, weighing their potential to impact the customer experience, then deciding whether that impact was good, bad, or impossible to discern just yet.

His style is intellectual and at times a bit detached, but Denis always knows how to deliver the insight — his year-long riff on customer loyalty is well worth reading, and his posts about individual vendors and their various acquisitions, products and partnerships are almost always the best analyses out there.

He devoted numerous posts to the Brexit vote and pointed out that it opened up an unprecedented opportunity for CRM in government (how better to understand the real will of the people, and to do it before a vote is taken that threatens economic dislocation).

He also riffed on the U.S. political situation with somewhat less optimism. However, when it comes down to it, Denis is a man who believes there are solutions that work to build loyalty, increase responsiveness and create better customer experiences, as long as those pesky humans don’t screw them up.

Author: Denis Pombriant

Total Posts in 2016: 56

Recommended Post: “Can You Accelerate a Sale?”

CRM Buyer columnist Chris Bucholtz is director, content marketing, for CallidusCloud and a speaker, writer and consultant on topics surrounding buyer-seller relationships. He has been a technology journalist for 18 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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