From time to time, Om Malik sends the WWD writers URLs of websites from his vast inbox that we might want to take a look at and write about in Web Worker Daily. A few weeks ago, he pointed out BigContacts.
Contact management falls into 3 basic categories, does it not? You have your address books (Address Book.app, for example) that just lists name, email, phone, address, etc. They may have links in the fields to other functions, but at its heart it’s not much more than a spreadsheet. You have your PIMs (Outlook, Now Up to Date, etc.) where the address books are contained within an application that also tracks calendars, tasks, notes, email, etc. And then you have your CRM (Customer Relationship Management) contact manangement applications which track and relate the contacts through a particular life cycle (sales, donations, support, completing a project, etc.)
CRMs use the power of their relational databases to put the contact at the center, not the user. So you’re not looking at the contact solely as it relates to you, you’re looking at the contact as it relates to your business. Your business might be a company with 10,000 employees, a small business with 30 employees, you as a sole proprietor or even you as a homemaker. Same concept. Your looking at Jane Doe and getting information on where she is in your business and what your businesses’ history is with her. I get tired of applications that call themselves CRM or “contact managers” when they’re really not. They may be address book managers, but unless you can pull up an activity history that includes everything…phone, email, fax, face-to-face meetings, packages sent, etc. and then you can pull up the record of that phone call and relate it back to the project or the person or the opportunity, it’s not a CRM.
BigContacts was the first ‘web 2.0’ contact management application I saw that was aimed at small workgroups or individuals (same space as 37Signals’ offerings) but took the CRM approach.
I was immediately struck by its ease of use. I didn’t think it would be interesting to talk about BigContacts in isolation, so instead I prepared a post about hosted CRM contact management for us little folks, looking at Salesforce.com (duh!), SugarCRM, WebOffice, Solve360 and BigContacts.
My internal requirements to myself when I was looking for CRMs to talk about was that it had to be hosted (even if like SugarCRM you have the option to download it too), have activity history for contacts, cost under $60 per month, and be somewhat intuitive. I’ll leave it to the readers to let me know if I missed any gems.