I always thought customer relationship management software was strictly for salespeople.
Recently, I've been reading a lot about basic CRM tools that seem to make sense for people looking for a better way to organize their contacts. I road-tested two of them, Contactually and Do.com, to see if they could help me get a handle on the thousands of contacts in my Gmail account and social networks.
Contactually, a Web-based service set to launch an iPhone app this month, is free for a basic account and $19.99 a month for the premium subscription I tested. After registering, I synced the service to my Gmail, Twitter, and Facebook accounts. Instantly, it began to analyze my accounts and scrape contact information from e-mail signatures. Within 15 minutes, Contactually had compiled information on some 15,000 contacts in a single online address book. I was amazed. It found 950 duplicate contacts and merged them into single entries. It also noticed when I was not connected to contacts on Facebook or Twitter. I could click a button on my Contactually dashboard to follow them on Twitter or send Facebook friend requests.
Even better, Contactually zeroed in on my top 50 contacts, given thefrequency of our e-mail interactions. I organized them into several "buckets" and set a contact frequency for each one--once a week for editors, once a month for story sources, and so on. When it was time to get in touch, the service reminded me via email and dashboard notifications. As a result, I was doing a better job of following up with important sources and pitching ideas to editors. Another bonus: Contactually lets you share contacts with colleagues and see how many they have followed up with.
Next, I signed up for Do.com, a free Web-based task manager that recently added some basic CRM features. I synced the service, which also has an app for iPhones and Android phones, to my Gmail and Facebook accounts. (Do.com plans to introduce Twitter integration shortly.) In about 20 minutes, it imported the names and email addresses of some 13,000 Gmail contacts and 1,200 Facebook contacts and compiled them into one online address book. It doesn't scrape email signatures or identify top contacts, as Contactually does. But it does have one big advantage for teams: Unlike Contactually, Do.com lets you assign tasks to other people. The service alerts them by email and dashboard notifications. Then, you can log on to see which tasks have been completed.
My recommendation? If you're looking for a more collaborative approach to contact management, Do.com is a good bet. Because I do most of my work solo, Contactually made more sense for me. Now, I'm a much better salesperson for my own brand.