After several years of instability on this list, 2018 saw things settle down a bit. In past years, blogs would make the list for a flurry of great posts one year, then fizzle the next. Sometimes, bloggers would change careers and their CRM content would dry up. Once in a while, a great blogger would get hired by a major vendor and see his or her output bent to fit the corporate line.
That didn’t happen much in 2018. Much like the core CRM world, the CRM blog world settled down. The major players stayed major; cracking the top 20 became tough — only two new entries made it in 2018. Regular, disciplined blogging leads to thoughtful, informed posts, which is how the 10 blogs below found their way to this year’s list.
Our criteria remain unchanged after 10 years of ranking blogs: You may not be a vendor (though there are good vendor blogs out there), and if you work for one your blog must be vendor-agnostic. You must have posted at least seven times in the last calendar year, and your primary focus must be on CRM, or at least be what CRM analyst Brent Leary describes as “CRM-ish.”
Some rose on the list, some fell. How did your go-to blog fare? Take a look at the list, starting with number 20.
20. Toolbox Tech CRM Blog
The volume of CRM content of the Toolbox Tech CRM Blog dropped by almost 75 percent in 2018, which left a mere 72 posts about CRM. That number of points suggests that the blog would be something of a grab bag, and it is. Reporter’s notebook-style posts, opinion pieces and news analysis elbow for position within the blog.
There’s no distinct identity here; authors range from freelance journalists and tech industry execs to the cryptic “CRM Desk,” which sounds like a well-informed piece of furniture.
However, the sheer volume of content means that almost any topic of value is covered here. Don’t expect it to be in-depth or particularly timely — its post about SAP’s acquisition of CallidusCloud, which was announced in January and finalized in April, ran in November — but do expect posts that will provide a firm foundation and help in learning the basics of the rapidly evolving CRM world.
Posts in 2018: 72
19. Kerry Bodine & Co.
People in business are all about acting, doing, going and moving. Kerry Bodine & Co. (coauthored by Amelia Sizemore) is like a big stop sign for businesses. I don’t mean that it’s a destroyer of momentum, but that it’s a reminder to pause and think about what you’re doing and where you’re going before you take off, or you could be motoring into trouble.
An expert on the process of journey mapping and measuring customer sentiment, Kerry also is a major advocate for the concept of businesses honestly examining what they really hope to gain from their customer experience initiatives, and whether those objectives properly sync with what the customer wants.
For example, one post makes the simple but incredibly profound and frequently overlooked point that a customer journey and a customer lifecycle are two entirely different things. Treat them that way, and the customer’s going to feel it. Another post riffs off an older post about customer support and reaches a new conclusion about its impact on CX.
The blog has some self-promotion for the business — maybe too much this year — but it offsets that with a very helpful perpetual listing of CX events that’s a really useful practical tool. If you care about CX, this blog needs to be on your reading list.
Posts in 2018: 23
Favorite Post: Jobs to be Done: a Lens to Keep Journeys Customer-Focused
18. Lynn Hunsaker
In a world where facts are fighting a constant, uphill battle against noise, Lynn Hunsaker’s blog speaks forcefully and effectively. She stakes out her idea, makes an assertion, and then applies some jiu jitsu to her skeptics: “You don’t believe me? Well, here’s what a bunch of other experts, analysts and researchers have to say about it.”
Her posts aren’t essays, or musings or meditations — they’re logical arguments with supporting evidence.
She doesn’t come right out and say it in her Customer Think blog posts, but her underlying theme is one of business coherence and balance — getting the proportions correct so that any one aspect of your efforts doesn’t cannibalize your other efforts.
An example of that was her great post “Acquisition Addiction’s Impact on Customer Experience ROI,” which points out that there are three opposing forces at work within marketing departments: maximizing profits, maximizing revenue, and creating and keeping customers.
If CX is so important, why is acquisition prioritized, lauded and rewarded? This isn’t an easy thing for a C-level executive to admit, so Lynn lays down the numbers and makes it hard to argue against her.
She used this formula repeatedly in 2018, and if you pay attention you should be able to detect why companies say CX is important even while customers say CX is getting worse. Let her give you a dose of reality, then square up your CX efforts.
Posts in 2018: 10
Favorite Post: Acquisition Addiction’s Impact on Customer Experience ROI
17. Dr. Natalie Petouhoff
It takes some kind of skill to jump wildly from topic to topic and still seem like you’re discussing the same theme in a coherent way. That sums up Dr. Natalie Petouhoff’s blog in 2018 — all over the map, yes, but headed somewhere with a purpose.
Ranging from flying cars to customer acquisition to the flagging power of blogs (ahem!), she covers a ton of ground, can talk tech as easily as she can outline business concepts, and seems like she’s having a lot of fun sharing things she’s learning.
With fewer guest bloggers than in 2017, there’s more Dr. Natalie in the blog in 2018 — which is a good thing. A Salesforce VP (and program executive in the Innovation and Transformation Center), she keeps the blog mostly vendor-agnostic (hey, Dreamforce is so enormous that it demands CRM blog space the way a black hole demands matter).
She also offers smart takes on key issues without getting mired in the perspective of customer, business or employee — she has them in mind, but she’s able to consider all their perspectives.
Easy to read, brimming with information and totally unpredictable, Dr. Natalie’s blog is a grab-bag of thought-inducing viewpoints.
Posts in 2018: 17
Favorite post: Why Artificial Intelligence is an Agent’s Best Friend
An eastern European software development company, ScienceSoft’s team finds the time to write posts that outline the basics of CRM very concisely, providing a useful introductory-level foundation of knowledge about the technology.
While there’s an emphasis on areas that the company wants to stress — Salesforce gets a lot of nuts-and-bolts attention, as does the worthy topic of customer support — the blog doesn’t feel forced or laser-focused on driving leads.
That’s because the writing is clear, relaxed and readable, and best of all, well-organized. The structure is well thought out, and as a result the thoughts are well-structured.
If you’re objective is to look over the horizon and imagine the next big thing, this isn’t your blog. If you want to make sure your CRM knowledge foundation is strong before expanding your capabilities, it is.
Posts in 2018: 11
Favorite post: Sales Automation: Why, What, How
15. Customer Experience Matrix
Don’t be confused by the confusing name of David Raab’s extremely insightful (and never really confusing) blog, Customer Experience Matrix.
Customer experience is just one part of the coverage area, which spans marketing, analytics, and the category of technology that’s been dubbed “customer data platforms” (CDP).
David explains how to screen CDP vendors in this helpful post. David has a knack for getting deep into the technology and providing a spreadsheet’s worth of supporting numbers, while at the same time maintaining a sense of humor and readability.
For example, a post about the collapse of public faith in U.S. institutions affects trust, and the ability of companies to speak to their customers has the wry headline, Collapse of Civilization Makes Marketers’ Jobs Harder.
Raab also examined Salesforce’s efforts to pull customer data together via its Mulesoft acquisition (and subsequent announcements at Dreamforce), and Adobe’s moves in the CX and commerce spaces, and turned a skeptical eye toward hot technologies like blockchain.
If you’re a CIO who works closely with sales and marketing, you need to read this blog. Raab includes detail that an IT junkie will love, and he weaves it into a business narrative that puts the technology into context — something no other blogger does so well.
Posts in 2018: 37
14. Nick Baggott’s CRM and Digital Marketing Blog
This year, Nick Baggott’s CRM and Digital Marketing Blog got down in the weeds, focusing almost entirely on the digital marketing side of things. Nick talked about engagement — a fascinating and ever-changing topic when it comes to social media — and the use of tools like WhatsApp for reaching the right customer segments with the right messages.
Nick squeezed in some high-quality content about the right ways to do search engine optimization. He also penned a very good piece about influencing the influencers — something many companies try to do in a half-hearted or haphazard way, but which he says is crucial to the success of a company’s social media marketing.
This year, Nick’s biggest contribution was to highlight the outstanding work of others, then offer his own extra expertise on top of it. It’s a workmanlike blog, from a hard-working advocate for changing the way businesses market themselves.
Posts in 2018: 10
13. Duct Tape Marketing Blog
Targeted at smaller businesses, John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing Blog continues to generate good advice for people in sales, marketing, and any other part of the buyer-seller experience.
A lot of posts offer personal advice about how to manage a busy work life — not a bad thing for anyone to learn more about, really — while others dig into the details of how to succeed, like The Seven Steps to Marketing Success — How to Build a Marketing System, penned by John himself.
It’s the marketing-oriented posts that keep the blog on this list; they go to the discipline of CRM rather than the technology of CRM. Posts include frequent podcasts with experts like Shep Hyken, Allen Gannett and Jantsch himself, meaning that this blog delivers its messages through more media than most.
This frequent blog is part beginner’s course, part upper-level classes, and part expert advice, all rolled into one.
Posts in 2018: Many (the format precludes an exact count)
Favorite post: Six Ways to Enhance Your Sales Pipeline with a CRM
12. B2B Lead Blog
A word that kept coming up this year on this blog, penned by Brian Carroll and others, was “empathy.” That might have sounded weird a few years ago — after all, this is B2B, not B2C! — but in 2018 it finally started to penetrate businesses’ collective minds that if you want to provide a great customer experience, you need to understand how customers feel. How they react to your business is based on their needs and preferences, not on what the business wants or what it assumes customers desire.
I particularly enjoyed How Sales Hustle and Automation Can Hurt Customer Experience, which nails a truth all people who are sold to know, but which most people selling (or managing salespeople) never seem to internalize while on the job.
The blog always has been exceptionally good at providing solid advice and thoughtful examinations of the current marketing thinking in posts like Transform Your Customer Success and Accelerate Growth, but this year showed that the team at this blog has embraced customer experience fully, and what that means.
It’s not enough anymore to just close deals — you need to close deals in a way that leads to the customer’s next purchase. It’s fun watching this evolution unfold in the posts of this blog.
Posts in 2018: 30 or so (the format makes an exact count difficult)
Favorite post: Why Marketers Fail at Customer Empathy and How to Fix It
11. CX Journey
Annette Franz’ valuable, thought-provoking posts in CX Journey fell a little in quantity in 2018, but the quality increased.
Her musings on CX, corporate culture and employee experience are insightful and full of actionable ideas, but perhaps the greatest value of the blog is to drive home the point that all of these very human considerations are intertwined. Employees suffering through work drudgery can never deliver a great experience, and culture sets the tone for employees.
CRM and loyalty efforts are reflected through this prism. Executives can talk a big game about the importance of CX, but unless they grasp the fact that CX balances on the top of a fairly complex structure, and ensure that structure is sound, the CX talk is just talk.
There are a few guest posts, but most of the time the blog is Annette’s own writing — which simultaneously can be on the long side and concise. That is a clumsy way to say there’s a lot of meat to each post.
Many times, you’ll get a checklist of things to do, or watch for, or measure. Her post on journey mapping should be required reading for anyone new to or confused by the topic.
When you realize that the point of the blog is to drive business for her consulting company, and that there’s very little self-promotion in the posts, it becomes clear she walks her talk: Customer engagement needs to be about the customer first. This is an excellent blog that keeps getting better.
Posts in 2018: 44
Favorite post: What’s in Your CX Budget?
10. Destination CRM
In May, the old reliable blog Destination CRM stopped updating, which was a shame, since for years it had been a helpful reporter’s notebook-style blog that delivered consistent, high-quality content.
It wasn’t flashy, but it was very effective in spotlighting influencers and people working in CRM who should be influential. Since it was written by reporters (this year, exclusively by Sam Del Rowe), there almost always was a link to any studies or research mentioned.
In 2018, the blog focused a lot on customer behavior — how customers want to buy, what they’re doing online, what they like and dislike about customer service, and so on.
The blog didn’t grab onto the customer experience train; it seemed a step behind, talking to the business about how it should react to customers instead of trying to get out in front of experience. This is still valuable information to learn and consider as you try to adjust your CX focus.
Posts in 2018: 10
Favorite post: Majority of Online Shoppers are Multitasking, Study Finds
Stay tuned for Part 2.