Top 25 CRM Influencers You Should Be Following

At Zoho we’re constantly talking with and presenting to consultants, journalists, and analysts in the CRM and customer space. We do our best to read their blogs and follow them on Twitter, and we thought that our readers would want to as well. So we decided to compile a list of the top 25 CRM influencers you should be following.

We looked for people who had a valuable and popular social media channel (e.g., blogging, tweeting) about CRM and customer engagement. If you’re building your customer-driven environment, you should be following these influencers. We made it easy for you to do so. By each influencer is their blog and Twitter handle. To quickly follow everyone on our list, make sure to subscribe to @Zoho’s Twitter list of Top 25 CRM influencers.

Did we pick correctly? Are there some people we missed that we should have added? If so, please let us know in the comments. We’ve listed the influencers in alphabetical order.

1) Prem Kumar Aparanji @prem_k

Blog: SFH Blog

Prem Kumar Aparanji is a leading authority on Social CRM. He views SCRM as a combination of useful technology to engage in combination with the human element as to what motivates people. While he admits to not feeling comfortable with his business title of “Evangelist – Social CRM” at Cognizant, his writings would prove otherwise.

Aparanji’s CRM tip for 2012:
“Companies with CRM systems on-premises and considering cloud, chances are you might want to keep your existing system and only go cloud for newer use cases, BUs or geographies. Meaning you might want to have a hybrid setup.

Companies with toes dipped into social media, or may be even knee deep in it, you have not yet gone waist deep if you have not integrated it with CRM. You could try to swim in knee deep water, but not as much fun or effective.

And in general, if you want to survive the digital age, of which social and mobile are mere touch points, your business needs reorganization. Silos had their advantage, still have, but vastly reduced. This might be a very good year to start thinking so that you can avoid being the despotic rulers of the Middle East who were once heroes when they came in, but with age became the villains and got shot down.”

2) William Band @waband

Blog: William Band’s Blog for Business Process Professionals

Forrester researcher William Band analyzes CRM most often as it fits into an organization’s workflow. His varied analyses of “CRM meets BPM (Business Process Management)” have been some of his most popular musings, especially his “Top Thirteen Customer Management Trends for 2012.” If you’re wrestling with process, you need to be reading and following Band.

Band’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Turn your intent to deliver an outstanding customer experience from a mere aspiration into a strategy. More organizations are moving beyond empty goals like becoming ‘customer-obsessed’ and defining clear and actionable customer experience strategies. The strategy must meet three tests: 1) It defines the intended experience; 2) it directs employee activities and decision-making; and 3) it guides funding decisions and project prioritization. The intended experience specifies the target customers, describes the desired emotional response, and offers unique value. Directing decision-making means spelling out customer experience guiding principles for employees. Steering resources to the right projects means filtering funding requests using guidelines that includes customer criteria.”

3) Tristan Bishop @knowledgebishop

Blog: KnowledgeBishop

Tristan Bishop is a passionate customer service advocate running Social CRM strategy at Symantec. He loves his job and Twittering where he’s far more active than he is on his blog. Microblogging more fits Bishop’s style as he shoots out dozens of pithy maxims every week. If you’re looking for a pick me up, following Bishop on Twitter will definitely help.

Bishop’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Momentum = Mass X Velocity: If you have a customer-centric vision, amass some allies and get MOVING!”

4) Richard Boardman @CRMAdvisor

Blog: The CRM Consultant

Boardman’s blog is chock full of good advice on how to actually implement CRM, not just from which technology to choose, but how to roll it out to your office and get people to actually use it. If you’re looking for a way to start, read Boardman’s eBook and his many “how to” articles.

Boardman’s CRM top for 2012:

“Remember while technology is important, so are people and process. It’s a three legged stool. If you don’t get all three legs right, then it won’t be a very stable system.”

5) Mike Boysen @MikeBoysen

Blog: Effective CRM

Like many CRM consultants Boysen’s charge is to deal with the human factor of integrating CRM solutions. Far too often we see technology purchased but meekly implemented. While Boysen posts only once a month on his blog, your best bet is to follow him on Twitter and Google+ where he’s most engaged.

Boysen’s CRM tip for 2012:

“The new year will bring us many new shiny packages to open. But once the wrappers are off we will find that nothing has really changed. Your job is to create shareholder value by creating value for and with your customers. Understand what drives value and build the organizational capabilities to manage it effectively.”

6) Laurence Buchanan @buchanla

Blog: The Customer Evolution

Having worked as both the VP of CRM at SAP and currently an executive consultant on CRM and SCRM at Capgemini, Laurence Buchanan is deeply entrenched in enterprise CRM issues. As for other’s obsession of chasing down the next fad, Buchanan asks, “How can we build stronger customer relationships based on true value co-creation that will be less susceptible to cannibalisation by passing fads?”

Buchanan’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Through 2012 I would advise organizations to simplify. Technology may have changed a great deal over the last few years but some of the key principles of CRM such as focusing on mutually beneficial relationships have not.”

7) Becky Carroll @bcarroll7

Blog: Customers ROCK!

You won’t find Becky Carroll gazing longingly at CRM statistics. She’d rather get deep in the trenches with customers and deal with them on the front line. Her company and blog “Customer’s ROCK!” speak to the value customers can bring to a company, not the expected resource drain that most organizations fear. For more on Becky, read her new book “The Hidden Power of Customers” or find her nose-to-nose with Verizon’s customers in their online forums, blogs, and idea exchange.

Carroll’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Customer experience needs to be a primary focus this year for both B2B and B2C companies. As customer service becomes more and more public via social media, it will also highlight inconsistencies in the way that customers are treated across the entire experience. Take a close look at your experience, from the eyes of your customers, and make sure your CRM initiatives are tied into what your customers are doing in social media. Remember – social media is not a campaign, it is a strategy to build relationships.”

8 ) Ginger Conlon @customeralchemy

Blog: Think Customers: The 1to1 Blog

Ginger Conlon is one of the strongest editorial voices in CRM. She was formerly the editor-in-chief of CRM magazine and now is the editorial director of 1to1 Media, which is responsible for a series of customer-related editorial publications. With a team of writers, Conlon’s “Think Customers” blog is probably the most active of the CRM blogs.

Conlon’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Remember, CRM may be a business strategy, but it starts with people. Organizations that want to engage customers to build loyalty and advocacy must first have a culture that fosters employee engagement and loyalty—among all employees, not just those who are customer-facing. You can’t have the former without the latter.”

9) Barry Dalton @bsdalton

Blog: Customer Service Stories…and Other Thoughts

Barry Dalton does deliver customer service stories and admits when he’s delighted and extremely disappointed by customer service systems. Dalton’s service concern is not focused on the technology, but the actual interaction between vendor and customer. It’s up to the vendor to determine which technology to use.

Dalton’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Integrate. Integrate customer experience business processes, sales, marking, support strategies, and multichannel platforms to move towards a unified experience design and a cross-channel business model. Simple. Right?”

10) Michael Fauscette @mfauscette

Blog: Michael Fauscette

Running IDC’s Software Business Solutions Group, Michael Fauscette’s interest in CRM is highly focused with enterprise software and collaboration tools. While Fauscette also has an interest in open source software, we’re more interested in his openness to look back at his predictions and grade his own success. Something we’d like to see a lot more of from analysts like Fauscette. Make sure to check out our interview with Fauscette and Brian Vellmure from the 2011 CRM Evolution Conference.

Fauscette’s CRM tip for 2012:

“You hear a lot about the social customer and how companies should engage more effectively. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in the idea of meeting your customer ‘when, where, and how’ the customer chooses but I’m afraid all of this external focus misses some key issues. If a business plans to open up new channels of communication to its customers it had better spend some time assessing its own culture. Is that culture built on collaborative approaches to work and are your internal policies built to align to company goals AND incent collaborative behavior? How do you expect to talk to your customer more effectively if your employees can’t talk to each other? Connecting the inside to the outside is part of it, but you also have to connect the inside to itself.”

11)Jon Ferrara @Jon_Ferrara

Blog: The Social Business Blog

Back in 1989, Ferrara founded one of the industry’s first CRM standards, Goldmine CRM. He’s tackling CRM again with his newest venture, Nimble, which aims to be the ultimate contact database by integrating all your traditional and social communications.

Ferrara’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Hiring a Community Manager and sticking them in front of your company does not make it Social Business. Everyone in a company needs to Listen and Engage cause the conversation is that vast. Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, Product, and Accounting need to tie their processes and platforms to the contacts that drive the business. Then they need to connect the external engagement and internal collaboration to their business contacts to create a platform that will enable them to become a true and effective Social Business.”

12) Paul Greenberg @pgreenbe

Blogs: The 56 Group and ZDNet’s Social CRM: The Conversation

If CRM has a godfather, it would probably be Paul Greenberg. Not because he’ll leave a severed horse’s head in your bed, but because he keeps updating the industry’s bible, CRM at the Speed of Light, and is welcoming and challenging even the newest competitors, as he did just last year in a head-to-head contest entitled “CRM Idol.” Greenberg is probably the most omnipresent and longest lasting voice driving the entire CRM community.

Greenberg’s tip for 2012:

“Make sure that you incorporate communicating with your customers in social channels part of your CRM strategy when appropriate. A social strategy isn’t something separate from a CRM strategy.” 

13) Graham Hill @grahamhill

Blog: Customer Think

Graham Hill’s charge is two-fold. Increase collaboration within the organization and co-create value for the company, its partners, and the customer. It’s a pretty damn good strategy, if you know how to pull it off. It’s also his CRM advice for this year. He’s a little slow on updating his blog so keep an eye on his Twitter feed.

Hill’s CRM tip for 2012:

“The way to win through CRM is to think about how you use it to co-create more VALUE. More value for customers, more value for delivery partners and thus, more value for YOU. Value is in the eye of the beholder, so go and find out what customers and partners value. You might be surprised.”

14) Jesús Hoyos @jesus_hoyos

Blog: Jesús Hoyos: CRM en Latinoamérica

There are a number of CRM voices in North America, but in Latin America, there is only one that everyone knows, Jesús Hoyos. If you can read Spanish you’ll enjoy all his musings, but not to worry he also has plenty of articles in English (see bottom of page), plus he uses Google Translate (see button on lower right) so you can read his CRM wisdom in English.

Hoyos’ CRM tips for 2012:

“(1) Before thinking on implementing a SocialCRM strategy make sure you fix your CRM problems, not just the technology part of it, but the cultural and organizational aspects as well. 

“(2) Audit your social media and CRM processes to include an integrated Customer Relationship Cycle – it is not just to acquire and retain a customer, but you need to maintain and maximize the relationship, including creating loyalty.

“(3) If you are not using customer analytics today, start by using simple analytics for segmentation – something like RFM – Recency, Frequency and Monetary – it helps identify who your best customers are.”

15) Esteban Kolsky @ekolsky

Blog: thinkJar

As Mr. “All things customer,” Esteban Kolsky looks at every angle of connection, with and without technology, to the customer. His blog is often “ground zero” for discussions on Big Data or what the current hype level of social CRM is. For the latter, Kolsky believes we’ve bypassed the hype and we’re on to see more changes and deeper adoption of SCRM.

Kolsky’s CRM tip for 2012:

“There are too many buzzwords and trends to do in CRM in 2012: voice of the customer, customer experience, social CRM, customer centricity — not to mention plain ole’ CRM! Make sure to stay focused on what matters to your organization, and that it is reflected in your CRM strategy for the next 2-3 years (you do have one, right?).”

16) Dr. Harish Kotadia @hkotadia

Blog: Thoughts on Social CRM, Big Data Analytics and E2.0

Dr. Harish Kotadia is an advocate of social CRM and a strong practitioner as well. We like his case study analysis of social CRM, his staying topical on the issues, and the learnings he provides (e.g., “Have a Social Media Crisis Management Plan”). Kotadia’s blog is a great overall resource on all things social CRM with case studies, tips, and the latest news.

Kotadia’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Listen to, learn from, and engage your customers on Social Media channels in 2012.”

17) Marshall Lager @lager

Blog: Third Idea Consulting

Of the influencers on our list, Marshall Lager has some of the most hands-on experience testing and reviewing CRM applications. He believes the failure for many SMBs to jump on the CRM and SCRM bandwagon is they simply “don’t know what they don’t know” and don’t know what is actually out there. Lager hopes to be the one to advise. See our interview with Lager from the CRM Evolutions Conference of 2011.

Lager’s CRM tips for 2012:

(1) Take a little time to reevaluate your CRM needs and whether your current provider is meeting them. Vendors’ offerings are constantly evolving and there may be something out there you need but don’t know about. Migrating to a new system isn’t the headache you think it is.

“(2) If you haven’t looked at what’s happening in the social media world, you are really late to the game. Exploring it will cost you nothing, and will give you insight that you can’t put a dollar value on.

“(3) Think like a customer. You remember how to do that, don’t you?”

18) Brent Leary @brentleary

Blog: Brent’s Social CRM Blog

As one of the foremost authorities on CRM, Brent Leary focuses his advice for small to medium-sized businesses. At the CRM Evolution conference in NYC we spoke with Leary on camera about what SMBs need to deploy true Social CRM, which isn’t just an ad-hoc mishmash of Facebook and Twitter account management.

Leary’s CRM tip for 2012:

“I think this year it’s critically important for businesses to transition from viewing ‘social’ as a set of narrowly aimed marketing/pr activities disconnected from traditional strategy, to it being fully integrated into all aspects of the organization’s culture and strategy for customer engagement.”

19) Mitch Lieberman @mjayliebs

Blog: A title would limit my thoughts

Hyper-prolific blogger, Lieberman is all things CRM with a recent heavy bent on Social CRM. As a companion to Graham Hill’s ideas about co-creating value between vendor, partner, and customer, Lieberman believes the social side of employee management (enterprise 2.0) and customer management (SCRM) are mirror images of each other, and they should be treated that way.

Lieberman’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Buzzwords aside, social has reminded us of one very important facet of relationships. A relationship is something that exists between two people, not a customer to be managed by a company. In order for any CRM initiative to be successful, think about the person on the other side of the equation, not the prospect, the lead, the case – it’s the person.”

20) Michael Maoz @mimaoz

Blog: Michael Maoz Gartner Blog

Michael Maoz’s blog is first and foremost a great read. You don’t usually get that from a Gartner analyst, but with Maoz you do. He begins most of his posts with a personal story that leads into his analysis of the social customer, social CRM, CRM vendors, social networks, and a whole host of customer management related issues.

Maoz’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Analytics can illuminate truths about the health of the customer engagement with your enterprise and debunk common assumptions of what the customer wants. The social business will extend this concept to understand not only the current transactional value a customer has for the business, but the likely ‘social factors’ that should influence decision making. For 85 percent of businesses, the current isolation of marketing from customer-facing functions like Customer Service will continue to get in the way of analytics having the most impact.”

21) Denis Pombriant @DenisPombriant

Blog: Beagle Research Group: Analyzing front office software trends

Denis Pombriant is one of the most prolific CRM bloggers, not just for his own site, but also for CRM Magazine, DestinationCRM, Search CRM, and CRM Buyer. He has been on the forefront of the evolution of cloud computing, covering the issue as far back as 2004. Today his focus has been on how CRM can play a part in sustainable business processes.

22) Wim Rampen @wimrampen

Blog: Wim Rampen’s Blog

Our favorite Wim Rampen articles challenge the status quo of Social CRM and customer engagement. It appears the rest of his readers like them as well because posts such as “Destroying Customer Value,”“The Customer is Always Wrong,” and “The S in Scrm is NOT about Social Media” are some of his most commented posts. Join in on the controversy by following his blog and commenting.

Rampen’s CRM tip for 2012:

“There really is not one Tip for all seeking to improve their CRM efforts in 2012. Each and every situation requires its specific approach to research, ideate, design, prototype, implement, and iterate continuously. And in there lies my top tip for companies in any of the stages of maturity: Continuously assess your CRM capabilities against the evolving needs and desires of your employees, stakeholders, and customers. Define the gap and seek to improve first those capabilities that have a positive contribution to these three and your company will be a guaranteed fourth beneficiary.”

23) Doc Searls @dsearls

Blog: Doc Searls Weblog

Doc Searls is a more unique addition to our list because he writes about VRM, vendor relationship management, which is kind of the reverse of CRM. As Searls explains on his ProjectVRM wiki: “VRM tools provide customers with both independence from vendors and better ways of engaging with vendors.” In addition, at more than 13 years, we believe Searls holds the title for blogging longer than anyone else on this list.

24) Brian Vellmure @brianvellmure

Blog: Value Creator

Every day there are new innovative advances in CRM and while others marvel at the technologies and the data you can collect, Brian Vellmure puts that new knowledge into aggressive business-focused action. CRM is not just knowing the data, but knowing how deep we can deliver service and improve the bottom line now that we have the data.

Vellmure’s CRM tip for 2012:

“Increase the focus on your customer instead of just paying lip service. The trajectory towards the digitization of everything is paving the way for organizations to truly understand their customers better. Instead of just managing based on demographic information, the social web allows for the inclusion of socialgraphic, psychographic, and behavioral data to be included. But here’s my real tip – once you’ve figured out how to capture and make sense of the data, respond with something that resonates  (content, products, services, solutions, recommendations, etc.), and do so at each phase of the customer lifecycle.”

25) R “Ray” Wang @rwang0

Blog: A Software Insider’s Point of View

Not only does R “Ray” Wang aggressively analyze and advise the latest technologies in CRM, but he also uncovers unique and unforeseen uses of said technologies. While he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, you probably won’t find him there as his intense travel schedule sends him all over the world attending and speaking at conferences. Instead of chasing him all around the world, it’s best to just read his blog and follow him on Twitter. Check out our interview with Wang at the 2011 CRM Evolution Conference.

Wang’s CRM tips for 2012:

“(1) Remember that we spent too much time on the ‘M’ management, very little on the ‘C’ customer, and nothing on the ‘R’ relationship in CRM. In order to overcome abysmal adoption, stale campaigns, disgruntled sales teams, and lackluster service, now’s the time to reexamine the customer experience processes and see how disruptive technologies such as mobile, social, gamification, location based services, etc play a role.

“(2) Focus on the moving from transaction to engagement and then experience. The big shift in technology systems is happening. CRM is at the heart of this movement. Start with great design.”


6 Replies to Top 25 CRM Influencers You Should Be Following

  1. Congratulations to everyone mentioned on this list! Particularly excited to see friends, colleagues, my boss, and the Constellation SuperNova Awards judges named as influencers -- you folks definitely deserve this!

  2. Congrats to Tristan for really driving customer centric social media activity at Symantec. It has made a real impact on our @BackupExec and @NetBackup customers who follow on Twitter.

  3. Becky and Tristan you're more than welcome, but it was your presence online and your participation through great 2012 tips is what put you on. I just facilitated it. :)

  4. Congrats to each of you! So great to see our Customer eXpereince Optimization (#CXO) chat guests Tristan and Becky on this list. We'll be sure to follow those we're not already following.

  5. Mr. Spark, I'm absolutely honored to be considered alongside these heroes of mine and thank you for including me. Many of the finest minds around are listed here. I must say, there are some additional names I'd place well above my own in a context like this. Chief among them are Sameer Patel, Mark Fidelman and Dr. Natalie Petouhoff. I appreciate your acknowledgement of the space.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

The comment language code.
By submitting this form, you agree to the processing of personal data according to our Privacy Policy.

Related Posts