Hello, reader of my blog!
I meet lots of people.
I can't keep track of everyone.
This is costing me all sorts of bad things. I'm missing opportunities to connect with good people, and since 90% of interesting things in life are the result of connecting with good people, I think this is really a big leak of good things from my life.
I've decided to get a CRM-like system. CRM stands for "customer relationship management" - it's commonly used in sales to track what communication you've had with a prospect/client/etc in the past. Have they gotten a brochure? Have you talked with them on the phone? Did you followup after they bought? How happy were they? Did they fill out a testimonial? Did they refer anyone? Did you send them a gift for referring someone? What's their birthday? Etc, etc.
As you can imagine, CRM systems can be super powerful if you build it right.
Now, a traditional CRM is built and based much more around the sales process and followup from that. Unfortunately, I don't have any such rigid process with my life. Some people I communicate with solely by email, swapping science articles and book recommendations. Some people I'm in very close touch with, covering tons of ground. Some people I'm friends with but only in touch 1-2 times per year, but they're business owners and I really should keep track to make sure I send them anything particularly relevant to their business I find.
And I don't do this, because I'm not organized with any sort of CRM-like system.
Stepping back a moment, "CRM" is the technical term used for sales. What I'm actually looking for is just a kind of "relational database" - what's that? It's a bunch of information you can sort by different fields.
It's actually a relatively simple concept on the surface, but built correctly for a given purpose, it can be very very useful.
So, I want one. I kept trying to build my own (with Filemaker Pro mostly) or research the tons of options that are out there, but I'm conceding defeat on this one and giving a nod to... well, all of my readers, but hopefully you.
If you're knowledgeable about CRM or relational databases or know someone who is, you can be a huge help to me.
Here's my basic minimal viable use case:
I'm going through my email. Someone I don't know writes me. I add their info to the system - name, location, occupation, whatever I know. Later that day, I talk on the phone with a friend of mine. I pull open the database in front of me and add some notes on a book recommendation he gave me. Later, I buy someone a copy of a book. I note down that I bought that book for the person. I get given a pair of boots as a gift. I mark down that the person gave me a pair of boots.
I'm planning a trip to Beijing. I search "Beijing" and everyone who lives in Beijing or is connected with the city comes up. I'm working on a job that would be really exciting and well-paying for a talented photographer. I search "photography" and all the photographers in the database come up. I finish reading "The Invisible Gorilla" and I do a search on that title to see who recommended it to me, so I can follow up with them and say thanks for the recommendation.
That's all I need for this thing to be super valuable for me. I can input data easily and search it easily. Sure, there's a million fancy features I'd like, but that plus a good interface is all I need to make this super useful.
I'd like to track fields like -
*Current relationship with them
*Most recent contact/etc
*Their life goals
*Their travel history
*Their desired future travels
*Hobbies they wish to do in the future
*Things they wish to own
*Gifts I've bought them
*Employment background/business background
*Deals we've done
*Jobs I've done for them
*Jobs they've done for me
*Things they've recommended to me/instructed me to do
*People they've introduced me to
*Do I want them on one of my counsels?
*Next thing I'd like to have happen with them
*Contact info: Phone numbers/mailing addresses/email/Skype/etc
And here's an example of the options to have in a field -
*They're not aware of me
*They're aware of me/no contact
*Blog reader/on my email list/etc
*We've made light contact (email/phone/etc)
*Acquaintances and we've haven't met in person
*Acquaintances and we have met in person
*Friends - we've hung out and can hang out
*On one of my counsels
*I'm on one of their counsels
*My client - I work for them
*Customer of a company I have a stake in
*Business associates - affiliates, other business partners
*Works for me - employee at one of my companies
*Works for me - personal staff
*Works for me - professional staff (accountant, lawyer, etc)
Other requirements: Needs to work offline (Windows). Needs to either be easy to extend/modify later OR easy to export data from it to import into a future system.
That's all I need. There's probably a million other potentially useful features, but just the above would be super amazingly useful to me.
If there's something that's going to work for this well out of the box and you know of it, let me hear your recommendation and you're a saint in my book. If I need to build or customize something, I'm willing to throw some cash at this. If I need something built or customized and you've got the skills to do it, I can throw some cash at you or otherwise make myself of assistance - either professionally or personally. I'm versatile and useful and this system is going to make me much more effective, so definitely get in touch if you can help me with this.
Update, 22 hours after posting: Wow, thanks for all the feedback. I'm going to check out all the options and I'll reply to everyone within 48-72 hours or so at the latest. Thanks again. If you're just seeing this now, I'd still love to hear your take if you're knowledgeable, so shoot me an email or comment :)
You might want to look at Bryan Bishops meetlog for some additional inspiration - http://quantifiedself.com/2011/08/bryan-bishop-on-meetlog/
Sebastian - Have you built/bought this yet? I could use this...
Not sure if you have looked at FileMaker - their Bento product may have been an option if not Mac specific, but their FileMaker offerings (http://www.filemaker.com/ca/products/fmp/) are good, and have been around for a long time so have good knowledge and user base. A couple hundred bucks, but easy to use/implement and robust enough that you can grow with it.
You may also consider Daylight from MarketCircle (http://www.marketcircle.com/daylite/), but again Mac specific.
Check out Jesubi. It is a SaaS CRM solution, easy to use, great reporrting. Automatic follow-ups and customizable fields to capture up 100 variables of information.
I've been playing with this for work/personal note taking and it has been easy to learn and it might meet your requirements. Data is stored offline in regular html files, and I'm pretty sure you could build a basic system for contacts/related info with it that is searchable and easily organized. http://www.tiddlywiki.com/
I read your million dollar article and decided you're on to something. I am a fairly capable developer so if you like, I will build your CRM app to spec. You can be as involved as you like and I will implement whatever features or changes you request. I will charge nothing for my contribution. I will do this because I want to test the theory that this simple app will provide the productivity increase you anticipate. Email me!
Well Basically you need something that can work offline? Install sugarcrm open community version on your locally hosted xampp :)
Well for God sakes, there's actually.... EXCEL!
How relational is excel? Well it depends how many customers there are, then if EXCEL doesn't suffice, a quick look at ACCESS would do the trick :)
i just don't expect you to have too many contacts :) Goodluck.
I have lately been discussing a few ideas with my cofounder about http://neo4j.org/
Pretty sure that might be a very good solution to you other than a relational DB, after all, you can have a graphical view of the data and the relationship between one data and another (basically, who your contacts are connected to or have a relationship with). It is pretty useful for social networks, and I believe it might also fit your need with a bit of coding.
About three years ago, I read the excellent book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. At that time, I made a list of the top 5-10 people in my life that I was to and had similar goals with. I sent out emails to them every once a month with what I was working on.
Eventually, I fell off from this habit. Not sure why - I'd had gotten good advice, stayed in touch with people I like, and it was a positive experience. I started re-thinking building my counsel a little over a year ago.
The challenge is, I've got a diverse set of goals and ideas. I write, I do business, I travel, I create art, I adventure, I'm looking to establish a strong family, and so on. I have friends who are writers or artists that aren't interested in business. I've got friends in business that pretty much always stick to their one city. I know guys who are pretty simple, work a normal job, don't make any art or do any entrepreneurship, but have very strong and good families. I know very successful businessmen who travel and adventure, but aren't interested in having kids.
So I was thinking - how do I balance this all on my counsel?
And eventually, the idea hits me. I need multiple, relevant counsels.
So, a few days ago I decided to drop everything and focus on Life Nomadic. I've done the focusing, now it's time to do the dropping.
I'm hoping that some or all of my businesses can be taken over by readers. As I've met readers over the years I've been really impressed with most of them and would trust them to run my businesses.
For each I'm happy to stay involved in a minimal role, offering advice and strategy, doing interviews to promote things, etc. I just can't be involved in running them or worrying about them. When I've been in this role in previous businesses, things have gone very well.