• February 27, 2017
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

How Far We’ve Come in 20 Years

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This month, CRM magazine marks its 20-year anniversary, though the publication wasn’t called CRM when the first issue debuted in March 1997. It was called Sales and Field Force Automation for the first two years. Field Force Automation spun off as its own title a little while later, while this magazine retained the Sales Force Automation moniker. For four issues between November 1999 and March 2000 it was called Sales and Marketing Automation. The publication wasn’t called CRM until the April 2000 issue, though the logo at the time looked a little different.
CRM magazine has also been through several ownership changes during its 20-year history. Curtco Freedom Group, Freedom Technology Media Group, and Line 56 all owned the title at one time prior to its purchase by current parent company Information Today, Inc., in 2002.
The past two decades have been transformative for the magazine in many other ways. Several recessions and other outside forces—perhaps the most significant of which has been digital disruption—have impacted not just CRM magazine but the publishing industry as a whole. In response we’ve launched new products, including the DestinationCRM.com and closely related SmartCustomerService.com websites, e-weekly newsletters, blogs, and a presence on social media, and found new ways to grow our digital and events revenue. We were one of the first media properties to offer webinars, starting in 1999. We’ve launched two growing industry conferences, CRM Evolution, which is now in its 10th year, and Customer Service Experience, now in its sixth year. Both events will be collocated, along with the SpeechTEK conference, in Washington, D.C., April 24–26. 
While the magazine has certainly changed over the years, the industry that it serves has seen even greater upheaval. What started out as a nice-to-have technology mostly for salespeople has become a must-have not only for sales but also marketing and customer service teams. New and exciting technologies—including predictive and prescriptive analytics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, social selling, wearables, and the Internet of Things—are now empowering professionals in these three disciplines in ways unimaginable 20 years ago.
The CRM industry has also seen its share of consolidation, as larger companies have swallowed up a significant number of smaller competitors and niche players that could get them into new market segments. Luckily, the industry continues to sustain itself with a steady flow of new start-ups that constantly break new ground with cutting-edge innovations that expand what CRM can do.
Just as we did 20 years ago, CRM magazine will continue to report on the companies both big and small that make up the CRM landscape, and the technological innovations they bring about. We will also continue to highlight the successes that CRM technologies bring about over time.
But none of this would be possible without all of the previous and current staff members, columnists, and analysts and consultants frequently called upon as sources. We also owe our success to the many advertisers, sponsors, and industry and association partners that have supported us over the years. But most of all, thanks to you, our readers. CRM magazine could not exist without you.
The CRM industry is just as vibrant today as it was in 1997—and probably even more so. In fact, research firm Gartner expects the industry to reach a value of $37 billion this year, creating lots of opportunities for all of us. Hopefully, we’ll all be able to make the most of them and continue to profit from them. 
Leonard Klie is the editor of CRM magazine. He can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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