The Top 20 CRM Blogs of 2013, Part 2: Rounding Out the List
It's no easy feat keeping a good CRM blog going, but I've been keeping track since 2007 of those that succeed.
In Monday's column I presented the first 10 of this year's top 20 winners. Now, here are the other blogs you should be keeping tabs on.
11. Forrester Blogs
Forrester has an array of bloggers -- I mean, analysts -- who cover aspects of CRM. It can be a bit confusing unless you know who to look for, so look for Bill Band for specific analysis and commentary on core CRM technologies, Kate Leggett for customer service and support topics, and Harley Manning, Kerry Bodine and Sam Stern on customer experience topics.
Band and Leggett are sequestered under "Application Development and Delivery Professionals," while Manning, Bodine, Stern and others are grouped under "Customer Experience Professionals" -- which in itself offers of view of where Forrester thinks customer relationship technologies are headed.
Just the same, all five analysts deliver plenty of insight and detail in their posts and maintain their own personalities while addressing the issues that affect their coverage areas.
This IDC analyst has been a very good blogger for a long time, but in 2013 he became a great one. In addition to posts that draw on his presentations at various events, Mike covered many of the important moves in CRM.
What set him apart this year, though, were his riffs on things like gamification, enterprise social networks and social business, all well-written and deep in content. The post that really caught my attention was about building a customer experience strategy; that post used the two very different bridges across the Forth River in Scotland as a metaphor for an experience built correctly and an experience built badly.
This is what good CRM writing looks like: It takes an idea and makes it concrete through the use of an example that the reader can relate to the business problem that's the real topic of the post.
13. CRM in Latin America -- Jesús Hoyos
Jesús Hoyos is the go-to guy when vendors want to know about the unique qualities and needs of the myriad markets of Latin America. Jesús' knowledge about these markets is impressive, because Latin America is not a homogeneous single market -- it's a set of distinct markets with unique challenges.
That Jesús knows his way around this landscape sets him apart, and his thoughtful assessment of emerging customer management technologies solidifies his importance among CRM bloggers. While his blog is written in Spanish, there's a button on the site to translate it -- do yourself a favor and click it (unless, of course, you can read Spanish!) for a blog that ranges in content from nitty-gritty to highly strategic.
Brian Carroll heads up a small herd of bloggers, all writing about the topic of lead generation and management. That sounds like a narrow field of focus at first, until you realize that finding leads and moving them around the organization in a timely and precise way is a key underpinning of CRM, and when the processes to do so fail there's no technology in the world that can overcome this human failure.
These aren't your typical "sales and marketing really ought to get along" posts; they're articles with suggestions based on data that often challenge the conventional wisdom. For example, one post challenged the idea that sales knows customers and potential customers better than marketing because they talk to those people. To test it, salespeople and marketers at a firm were challenged to suggest the ad words that customers would respond to best. The click-through rates for terms suggested by marketing were significantly higher than those proposed by sales. Bang! An old assumption shattered.
Don't think that the blog beats up its audience, though -- the tone is aggressive at times, but it's aggressively challenging the assumptions that are preventing great salespeople and marketers from being great.
Magazines need a digital presence, so a blog is a natural extension of what they're doing in print. But the blog can't appear secondary in quality to the magazine -- otherwise, your brand is hurt. CRM Magazine's blog avoids this by having a cast of bloggers -- primarily Leonard Kile, Sarah Sluis and Maria Minsker -- who present a steady stream of interesting mini-articles in the blog.
Maria brings a welcome geek factor to the blog, writing often about wearables, emerging analytic trends and other tech topics that scratch a bit deeper below the surface than most CRM writers. There's also a sizable sprinkling of guest bloggers -- the ubiquitous folks from Forrester, notably, and Denis Pombriant on occasion -- that add third-party credibility to the blog. This is one that gets better with each year.
Written by a revolving cast of Indian bloggers (many of whose biographies reveal an unsettling lack of CRM specialization), this one nevertheless does a good job of sketching out many of the basic tenets of CRM and has done some exceptionally good work at examining the CRM requirements of some vertical markets, including insurance and pharmaceuticals.
The blog is not written for Indian consumption, primarily -- a reference to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick suggests more than a passing familiarity with North American culture. As good as the writers are, they're not visionaries, but when you're trying to lock down the nuts and bolts of your CRM deployment, it's often more helpful to keep you eyes on what's in front of you than it is to gaze toward the horizon.
17. A Passion for Research -- Louis Columbus
With a tagline of "Focusing on the Intersection of Technology and Trust," Louis Columbus' blog has a broader focus than just CRM, examining all manner of enterprise software and the cloud. But when you talk trust, you're also talking customer loyalty, and so CRM commands a scad of virtual column inches.
For example, Louis did an exceptional job of analyzing Salesforce's success as a cloud platform, delving deep into how, by catering to developers, Salesforce created its own edge over competitors.
The cloud is really front and center here, as is the presentation of a lot of great data to back up the ideas gleaned from all the major research firms. If you're looking at a SaaS CRM application and your team wants to understand the business and IT issues that delivery method presents, hit this blog and take some notes.
18. Effective CRM -- Mike Boysen
Mike Boysen has a knack for crafting provocative headlines for his posts (see "Customers Don't Want Relationships ... Period!" and "Your Customer Service Should Fail to Scale", posts that landed back to back in the fall of 2013).
He has a more important knack of backing those headlines up with well-written posts that prove the points he's trying to make. Boysen's blog dwells much more on the human organizational and process issues than they do on the technology because he rightly asserts that without having those issues addressed properly, the technology only helps you fail faster.
Still, he can get down in the weeds, talking about workflow and interfaces and how they can make or break adoption and effectiveness. The technology's important, but positioning people to take advantage of the technology is more important, and Boysen gets that.
19. Doc Searls
Doc is one of the framers of the idea of vendor relationship management, or the notion that customers should be able to build the same sort of intelligence about vendors as vendors build about customers. He's also a real believer in that concept, and he's adept at pointing out the shortcomings and oversteps of marketers and salespeople -- the people who use CRM today, for good and for evil.
In one memorable blog, "Let's Destroy the Panopticons," Doc goes off on those who seize upon what the technology permits without realizing how it has also evened the power between buyer and seller.
Using the technology to boost sales and marketing effectiveness while ignoring the buyer's responsibility to the relationship, Doc says, "is now the mission of marketing and advertising in its most psychotic forms. I mean psychotic literally.
"Surveillance-based marketing and advertising are so disconnected from reality that they don't even know how awful they look, running their panopticons," he added.
Before you get too ebullient about what social media technology can do for your bottom line, read Doc's writing and understand how it's changed your role.
20. Nick Baggott's CRM and Digital Marketing Blog
A Brit who works as an independent CRM, data and digital marketing strategy consultant, Baggott has a nifty blog that ranges all over the CRM map, from digital marketing strategy to analytics to social media tools (boy does Nick love Twitter!) to aligning sales and marketing. He's also wise enough to pile on the reference material from third parties to back up his ideas.
Baggott's travels also result in some interesting material -- how many bloggers do you know who can put together a post about marketing in Africa? There's some "how-to," some analysis of events and some discussion of what he's personally up to -- in all, something of a grab bag that has some brains behind it.