Do you need a Customer Relationship Management or Contact Management Solution?

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution is software platform that lets you perform a host of activities to manage, nurture, and grow relationships with leads, prospects, and customers. There’s an abundance of options out there, but if you’re not planning on using the many functions and features associated with a typical CRM, it may be an overkill and actually become a burden.

So what can you do in case you don’t really need a fully fledged CRM solution for your particular purposes? What if you only need a simple system that keeps your business records consolidated and organized so you can use them to send out an occasional personalized email for example?

In most cases we’ve come across, what our clients really needed were “Contact Management” solutions. Those are trimmed-down versions of a CRM and focus entirely on managing contact details of people an organization deals with day in day out in the course of normal business conduct. If this is good enough for you and you don’t really need a CRM, here are some Contact Management solutions that are easy to install and maintain, will do the job, and don’t cost all that much (if not available for free).

Microsoft Outlook

You most likely have Outlook already running on your computer, whether you use Windows or Mac. Outlook is an integral part of the widely used Microsoft Office suite and is probably the most used email client people have been using for many years.

Outlook is not the greatest option if you need customized fields, although it’s entirely possible if you have some advanced computing skills. Yet, if your needs are limited to keeping all your business contacts in one place, synchronizing those with mobile phones, tablets, or across several computers, it’s a great solution. This is especially the case if you happen to have an Exchange server or are using Microsoft’s 365 online service.

And if you can’t be enticed to go through the trouble of figuring out how to customize additional fields, there are plenty of built-in “custom fields” and you always have the option of using “categories” to group your business contacts in various ways.

Business Contacts Manager for Outlook (BCM)

Business Contact Manager for Outlook is an add-on to Outlook, so small business owners can use Outlook more effectively to run their enterprises. It’s not only super efficient and easy to use, it can also be downloaded and installed for absolutely free.

Although BCM offers some great additional features such as sales funnel management which in essence makes it a CRM, what we like most about BCM is the ease by which you can share address books across your company network so all team members have their address books updated in real-time mode.

Another great feature we love about BCM is the fact that – unlike Outlook itself – adding custom fields is extremely easy to do. You can add drop-down fields, check boxes, phones, and the list goes on and on. You can even customize the way your default contact cards looks like, so field “home phone” won’t show by default.

If you’re looking for a free tool to keep meticulous records about your business contacts that are shared across the entire network, BCM is the way to go. Well, that’s of course assuming you’re working in a Microsoft Windows environment as there isn’t a Mac version available.

act! by sw!ftpage

This is probably one of the oldest solutions out there. We’ve been actually using it since 1991 and witnessed some phenomenal evolutions as this product was bought and developed further by one company after another.

Although their installed version is more of a fully fledged CRM solution, act! now offers a light online (cloud) option that does the job and goes for a mere $10 per month per user.

But this not where the real power of act! really lies; if you invest in their Pro version, you get an unbelievably great contact management application that lets you create and customize field in any way you need. It costs a bit more, but you can give it a try and download or test-drive a free evaluation for two weeks or so.

Zoho CRM

This is another great solution we’ve also been using for years. Zoho CRM is a complete and comprehensive CRM solution, but if you go for the free version (good for up to ten users), you’ll end up with a solid contact management solutions and then some more. You can then – depending on your particular needs – upgrade to one of the paid subscriptions which offer an increasing magnitude and variety of functions and features.

Google Contacts

If you’re a Google Business Apps user, you may want to consider using the built-in address book that comes withe each Gmail account. You can customize the fields quite a bit, and it comes with a great and easy way to group your business contact by interests, categories, and so forth. And if you’re an Apple or Android user, your Gmail address book will synchronize seamlessly with the built-in address books so you have your contact records readily available at all times.

Finally, here’s what really important; no matter which solution you choose, it’s an absolute must that all team members in your organization use the same system, keep it updated, and abide by the rules. Business contacts are company property, and a very valuable asset to say the least. Leaving record-keeping and storage practices of this vital business intelligence at the discretion of each individual could have disastrous consequences down the line.

And one final (we promise) word of advice, make sure that whatever system you end up choosing lets you export your data at will. There’s a good chance you may want to migrate to a different system down the line, and being held hostage by any service provider – simply because the data you’ve accumulated over the years is not exportable – is definitely not good business practice.

About the Author

Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.

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