Dennis Howlett has had a couple of interesting things to say (well, more than a couple, really) about how "Web2.0" applications could be used by small businesses, and one thing that came up was the use of blogs as a CRM tool. Dennis had just seen what Sig Rinde’s Thingamy could do, and saw a possibility for a mashup between that and blogs for content management to create CRM.
Alan Gutierrez picked up the discussion, and pointed out that "Blogging is a conversation, and conversations produce relationships", and that some of those conversations will be with customers, and ergo "that puts blogging in customer relationship management" (yes Alan, I AM watching!).
It could be argued that as a two-way street blogs are MORE likely to create useful and meaningful relationships with customers/prospects than most CRM systems kicking around at the moment (or as JP Rangaswami calls them, "Customer Exploitation Management" systems). An effective, "real" blog will attempt to create a relationship WITHOUT the expectation of making a sale – it’s a long-term view that works on the idea that if we know each other well then trust builds alongside a deeper understanding of each other’s requirements that MAY result in a commercial transaction or two. Is it a slower process? Absolutely. Is it likely to be sustainable? More so than a quick "I know what you bought last time, so I’ll just sell you the same again" analytics exercise.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the end of CRM apps as we know them (but THAT would be interesting …) – there is probably still a requirement to gather, store and analyse some facts about existing and prospective customers – that’s where Dennis saw Thingamy fitting in. That’s the "management" part – the "relationship" part, I think, could be well served by blogs; and the "customer" part would be the welcome result of the process!