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Becoming a CRM influencer is an idea-driven thing—it's not so much about where you have worked or what titles you've held as much as it is about the ideas you've had, and, more importantly, how effectively you've communicated those ideas.

That's why Brent Leary is so prominent in CRM and social CRM circles. Not only does he have audacious ideas about how CRM should be used – especially by small businesses – but he does a great job of articulating them through a variety of channels. An in-demand speaker, he also talks about CRM on his blog, Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels—in other words, he walks the walk that goes along with his talk.

"I started blogging back in 2005 about things I was seeing in the industry, and about what I thought would be helpful for small businesses turning to CRM to help grow their businesses," he says. "The biggest challenge these companies were having centered around finding new customers. Traditional CRM was good for managing customer information, but not really for creating opportunities to connect with prospects searching for help they could provide. The idea that leveraging online content to attract the attention of those using Google to find help struck a nerve for me, as an important extension of the "Find, Catch & Keep" motto I used in describing CRM. And over the past couple years that very basic idea about leveraging content to drive customer/prospect interaction has really matured to more aspects of the customer-vendor relationship."

The common perception of a social CRM effort is one in which a marketing department at a large business develops an all-encompassing strategy and tackles a variety of online channels. But Leary sees something different emerging.

"Smaller businesses, in many ways, have been leading the way with respect to integrating social tools and strategies with traditional CRM," he says. "They had fewer cultural changes to make, and have been way more flexible – and willing to experiment – than larger companies. And it has been that willingness to try new ideas and strategies that has really accelerated the transition to social media for business, and more richer customer relationships. It's been easier for them to make adjustments because they have fewer organizational, technological and integration challenges to deal with than larger enterprises."

Leary began looking at small business only after he had extensive experience with large businesses—and heavy travel commitments. "I had spent the first 10 years of my career working on CRM projects at major corporations like Merck, Zeneca (now Astra Zeneca), Compaq and a few others," he says. "I was working at PricewaterhouseCoopers and had spent 2 1/2 years on the road and was ready to stay put for a while here in Atlanta. I still wanted to stay involved with CRM, but wanted to stay home more. So in 2003 I started CRM Essentials with Michael Thomas, who I had met while at PwC. He was at Oracle at the time, and we were both on a joint-company project. With us both being CRM guys based in Atlanta – and tired of the weekly travel – we thought we'd focus on CRM, but at the SMB level where we could work on more manageable projects."

Thomas has since moved on to Microsoft, but Leary still runs CRM Essentials, and squeezes in plenty of articles, webinars, speaking appearances and podcasts, delivered in a friendly style that immediately makes social CRM less scary. Leary says he's an unlikely media star – "Actually I'm an introvert by nature. But I felt comfortable sharing my thoughts on the industry, and engaging experts and practitioners in order to learn more about what was moving the industry. It's been great being able to use these tools to connect with folks I may never have been able to any other way. So if an introverted guy like me was able to comfortably leverage social tools to meaningfully interact with movers and shakers - as well as prospects and customers - pretty much anybody should be able to."

About Brent Leary

Brent Leary is a CRM industry analyst, advisor, author, speaker and award-winning blogger. He is co-founder and partner of CRM Essentials LLC, an Atlanta-based CRM advisory firm covering strategies and software solutions for improving business relationships. Brent has been recognized by InsideCRM as one of the 25 most influential industry leaders and by CRM Magazine with its Most Influential Leader Award. He serves on the national board of the CRM Association, and as a subject matter expert for the Small Business Technology Task Force. In 2009, Leary coauthored "Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Business." He has written regular columns for Inc., Black Enterprise and Atlanta Tribune magazines, and hosts and produces the popular "Technology For Business $ake" Internet radio program.

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Key Considerations for Social CRM Strategies and Deployments
Brent Leary Social CRM Thought Leader Brent Leary provides practical advice for SMBs planning or implementing a social CRM strategy and program—including goals, benefits, challenges, fluid customer behaviors, critical success factors, common reasons for failed programs, and why SMBs are leading the charge in social CRM adoption and success. More ...

The most powerful tactics – where CRM is at its best – is when it helps you respond quickly and accurately to requests, access the right information at the right time, and efficiently execute good decisions and actions based on solid information. It seems basic, but doing these things will help turn prospects into customers, and customers into long-term partners."




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