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29 Using Gmail as a Simple CRM Tool

CRM systems are great and powerful marketing workhorses capable of funneling leads into campaigns, automating nurturing routines, tracking conversion metrics and interfacing with ordering and accounting systems to create a complete sales machine, but sometimes you just need to keep track of who you contacted and when.

Using Google’s free suite of tools you can create a nice lightweight CRM system with just a few tweak along the way. Since email has become one of the primary forms of contact, and particularly if you’re already using Gmail, exploring options that allow you expand on the tool you use the most might be the fastest route to creating a useable CRM like option.

Contacts

Gmail comes with a contact database that will automatically store information on anyone you add or correspond with. You can add lots of information beyond email and name and upload contact information from other systems and files.

This isn’t the prettiest interface, but it has just enough functionality to work. Once you add a contact your email exchanges will be searchable and you can add them to a task or appointment in Google Calendar to create even more searchable data for the record.

Groups

One of the keys to using the Gmail contact database as a mini CRM tool is to use the contact groups function. By creating groups in your contacts page for things like customers, prospects, journalists, vendors and strategic partners you can effectively sort your contact list by function and even create mail campaigns to these groups.

Nested Folders

Another way to keep track of key information in Gmail is to use email folders for your key contact groups and add the nested folders function found in labs to create subfolders. So, if you have a client folder, then you can create a folder specifically for each key client underneath the client folder.

Then when you have email come in from a client you can use the move to function to store the email in the appropriate folder so you can access it more easily. You can also pull up any contact record and see recent emails to and from the contact.

Rapportive

Free 3rd party add-ons can also help beef up your new CRM system. Browser plugin Rapportive is a tool that adds social media data to your contact records. With this plugin added you automatically see LinkedIn or Facebook information on you contacts or anyone that sends you an email in the right sidebar of the Gmail screen.

You can also follow and connect with contacts on Twitter or LinkedIn directly from the Gmail interface. This is a great way to get a bigger picture of what your contacts are doing and have instant information on people that send you emails.

Boomerang

Another 3rd party plugin you might consider adding is Boomerang. This handy plugin gives your emails some smarts. When you send an email, for example, you set it remind you if you don’t hear back from the recipient in a set number of days. Or you set an email in your inbox to go away and put itself back in on a certain day.

Many of the functions in Boomerang allow you to set-up and operate your own little tickler file system based entirely on emails sent and received.

App Marketplace

Of course there are lots of additional apps that integrate with Gmail and the entire suite Google Apps found in the App Marketplace. For example, the Mavenlink app turns the system described here into a full collaboration and project and task management suite.

Full-featured tools are great, but sometimes a simple solution you can master and use in the way you’re already working is just the ticket.

2 Hidden Challenges Lurking in Global Business

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

international

Image: See-ming Lee via Flickr

The Internet has certainly made expanding into all corners of the world an appealing reality. For very little extra expenditure businesses can set-up a virtual shop in any country within a matter of hours. Attracting and hiring the best talent available on the globe may only be an email away.

For this post I asked two entrepreneurs that have experienced what it takes to do business or enable other businesses to do business globally to share some of the pitfalls and best practices they’ve encountered.

First up is Ryan Carson, founder of UK based Carsonified.

1) Tell us about your current business environment – companies, virtual workforce, markets served, etc

Carsonified hosts conferences for web designers and developers like Future of Web Apps and Future of Web Design in NYC, London, Las Vegas and Miami.

We also run a video training site for web designers and developers called Think Vitamin Membership where members pay an affordable monthly subscription and get unlimited access to our large video training library. Our customers are truly global, spanning all the way from Japan to Russia and everywhere in between.

We’ve got nine people in our office in Bath UK, three in our office in Orlando and one working from home in Greenville South Carolina.

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4 Engaging Your Collaboration Universe

UPSThe International Business Series is brought to you by UPS. Discover the new logistics. It levels playing fields and lets you act locally or globally. It’s for the individual entrepreneur, the small business, or the large company. Put the new logistics to work for you.

universe

Image credit: Argonne National Laboratory via Flickr

In my view one of the most positive things the Internet and its host of associated web applications has fostered is our ability to collaborate over space and time.

Many organizations have tapped the power of online meetings, shared virtual workspace and file sharing, but few take a holistic view of the new social strategic reality of the collaboration universe.

Since we now have the ability to collaborate with anyone, anywhere, we need to start looking at the various groups or segments present in our businesses with an eye on developing business processes that take full advantage of our innate need and ability to collaborate.

This view of collaboration is partly tool based and partly systems thinking based. It is more than an efficient way to get work done; it’s an entirely new way to think about engaging your markets, building connection and community, and empowering your staff to more effectively deliver on your marketing promise.

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3 Weekend Favs September Twenty Five

My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.

I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr.

summer
Image credit: Lollomelo

Good stuff I found this week:

Zmags – software that turns your collateral materials into a digital magazine. Great way to create richly engaging marketing materials for online consumption.

Mavenlink – Another nice looking project management tool with lots of time and productivity features

2010 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends – Awesome free report from MarketingProfs, BMA and Junta42 – anyone selling B2B should have a close look.