SHARING CONTACTS - THE SOLUTION
So I did a search of products out there. The problem I found is that many solutions aren't designed for sharing; and the ones that are have a per user cost that makes them pretty pricey for what they do.
And then I found ZOHO CRM.
ZOHO CRM is a bit of overkill for contact management, but the free version supports up to 10 users. AND you can conceal the stuff you don't want. And you might decide to use some of the Client Relationship Management features down the road. So I am SOLD.
Here is where you sign up for the free version of ZOHO CRM. Scroll down until you see this graphic. If you aren't careful you will sign up for a free trial to the Enterprise Plan and have some extra work to get back to 'Free Forever'.
Sign up here.
Word of caution about up-selling. There are seamless links to lots of additional apps and modules that are not part of the free plan. Resist the temptation to explore if you want to stay 'Free Forever'.
Once you have signed up and kicked the tires a bit - say manually entering a few "Leads" and seeing what all the menus do; take a moment to export all your contacts and prepare them for import. It will never be as easy to get things the way you want them as it is now. Once you have hundreds of contacts entered, it is a real pain to find and modify records.
The free account is not very customizable, but there are four fields you may want to address. Consider if these four fields are useful to you now: Lead Source, Industry, Lead Status and Rating. ZOHO CRM calls every person a 'Lead' and every client a 'Contact'. You can change that. But for now, if you want to use Lead Source, add that heading to your export table and fill in the records with standardized names for the sources you want to use.
Definitely add the Industry heading to your table. 'Industry' could be used to identify client types like educational, industrial, residential, etc. But I recommend adding non-client identifying names like 'Staff', 'Consultant', 'Vendor', 'Contractor', 'Friend-of-firm', 'Business Acquaintance', and others that you might want to pull out of your list with a click or two. You could lump clients under just one heading, 'Clients', and sort them into groups later. Each record can have just one identifying name.
Lead Status may not be helpful unless you have a home-made CRM system. If so, add the heading and the labels you use on your records.
The Rating heading would be helpful for CRM, and like Lead Status you might want to use it that way. For small architectural firms this might be overkill. In which case, I would re-purpose 'Rating' to track other uses. I would use it for 'Xmas List', 'Newsletter', 'Email campaigns', and other uses that cut across several 'Industry' types.
So here is what I recommend as a pre-import checklist.
- Take one of your exported lists and change the labels in the headings row to match ZOHO CRM's field names.
- Add any other field headings that you plan to use.
- Go through your table one column at a time checking for accuracy and adding any missing data. This will never be easier to do than now.
- If you have more than one export you are working with, copy and paste the heading names to the other tables.
- Check and complete data in those tables.
- Save your tables in CSV format for import.
- Go to the Leads tab in ZOHO CRM and import your tables.
ZOHO CRM does a nice job of importing. It adds your labels to those four fields mentioned above, which all have drop down choices.
Decide if you want to take advantage of CRM right away or not. If you do, then you might want to 'convert' your clients to Contacts (in ZOHO CRM speak). You would do that by filtering your leads for each 'Industry' that contains clients, select them all and click 'Convert'. I am not sure there is much value to the small firm in having to manage this extra complexity. It's not like you don't know what prospects are HOT.
Now that all your data is in ZOHO CRM, I suggest that you customize the module names to your liking, and create some views to access your data easier.
To rename a module, go to settings (1), click Customize (2), click the Modules tab (3). When you hover over any module name a 'Gear' appears to let you modify your selection. Click it and pick 'Edit ...'. While you are here, you can also turn off some modules (4) that you don't want to see. This is also where you can update the list of choices in the four fields (5) mentioned above, say, to delete unwanted choices. One last thing to customize is the 'Campaigns' module (6) to use it to collect Project data for easy reference. A list of team members comes to mind, and perhaps some milestones.
If you don't have a shared Contact Management tool, this one should serve you very well and it has features to grow into a full-blown CRM tool. By the way 'Activities' is used to schedule events (vacation!!, deadlines, etc.). You can see them in a list, or in a calendar view by clicking the Calendar icon in the menu bar. Now you have firm-wide sharing of contacts and calendar.
Thank you ZOHO!
Thank you ZOHO
for providing such a capable tool for free.