Do I need a CRM application?

I was introduced to an HVAC design engineer a few weeks ago who told me, as I passed him my business card with the QR code on it, “I still have a Rolodex.” Yikes! Well, the funny thing is that I am experienced enough know exactly what a Rolodex looks like without having to Google it.

CRM tool of antiquity

As a contractor, I try to keep up with clients, students I teach, and colleagues. I note their business needs and interests, and even their favorite activities. After all, I am trying to form long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships and it’s helpful to know something about the person behind the business card.

So the question is: do I need a CRM application? Well yes, I do and I started by using Microsoft Outlook to store name, address, phone, email and notes about my contacts.

As my electronic Rolodex (MS Outlook Contacts) grew, I decided that I needed to capture more detailed data and categories on my contacts. For example, I wanted to collect the date that I was first introduced to a person, and the mutual contact’s name if applicable. Then I could create email groups by mutual contact or month of introduction, and I could then send update email messages from time to time (you know, to refresh their memories about my existence = relationship building).

Since MS Outlook was limited, I looked to another MS Office applications for a solution. I chose to construct a contacts database using an MS Access template.

MS Access Contacts database

In the Access database, I added the fields I needed by updating the table and then the data entry form. I have been using the database for several years. In addition to the customary contact fields, I am also collecting:

  • Referred by (this the mutual contact, or the person that introduced me, if applicable)
  • Date Contacted
  • Contact Method
  • Direct sales potential (is there a potential project?)
  • Last project that I worked on for the person, if applicable

Now that I am doing new types of work, with the need to capture more sophisticated details, I am considering taking my CRM to the next level. I am looking for an application that has pricing levels for starting out (i.e., cheap or free!), and mid- to upper-tier service levels that will scale with my business. So far, I have only used a trial version of Salesforce.com.

Unfortunately, Salesforce.com does not have a small business/small budget option so I have to keep looking. I am going to check out Mailchimp to see what options are available. Or, perhaps there is a mobile app that might meet my needs. Your recommendations on this topic are welcomed! Let’s share ideas!

I will return to this topic in a future post for an update. For now, I will continue to use my MS Access Contacts database and add the functionality I need. (If it ain’t broke…)

Published by Be better.

Working on social and economic progress.

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