Starting from scratch is an opportunity to select the best tools out there for any issues, problems or tasks you face. One of the problems i had, was how to organize my contact information, now that i am preparing for my trip to the US.
I needed to map out the people and companies i want to get in contact with. The relations they have with each other and any other piece of information i can find out.
My past experience as a sales executive helped me know what kind of features i need. I also had the luck to work on Microsoft Dynamics CRM. It is a fantastic tool for any company, but as any CRM, requires dedicated people for feeding it with data. So i decided to follow a typical CRM’s flow. Start with a lead, which converts to an opportunity (phone-call, cold-email, date), which converts to a sale.
Put your favorite objective as ‘sale‘. Either it be networking, funding or recruiting. So, following the CRM path, another requirement for me was to be able to distinct between people and companies, and be able to draw the relations between them.
Now when you add the social web into the equation things get even more demanding. I want to store the twitter account of each person, his/ her blog, flickr and all the web 2.0 apps out there… It just doesn’t feel right to add all of them as multiple ‘websites‘ for the contact.
Cloud or Desktop?
What i Tried
Naturally i started with Gmail‘s contacts. I also have a google apps account (paid gmail), there is no functional difference between the two, i’d only note that free gmail has a better UI than the paid (!).
Gmail has a nice and straightforward contacts management service. Categories are quite pretty and we all use them to create mailing lists. However there is no distinction between companies and people. Big issue for me, so i looked forward.
I then created a trial account on salesforce. Had anything i needed, at a great cost. Time. As any CRM software for a company should be, it is large and complex. Requiring a dedicated team to make it work for you. So salesforce was simply not practical for me.
I then remember i had opened an account with Gist some time ago. At first glance it seemed like a cool social aggregator. I revisited the site more determined to test drive it. Revelation. I was able to do anything i wanted and even more i didn’t think of.
For starters, i didn’t have to type a single name. I linked my twitter, gmail and other services i use, and Gist created a list of contacts and companies automagically for me! It merged all the contacts which were cross-referenced between my various sources and would also calculate their importance, based on my interaction with them.
The key to create the relations between people, was discovered in the tagging feature. I started tagging people based on my ‘sale‘ objective, and who they relate to. Now when i want to lay out my ‘lead-hunt’ plan, i can type the tags for each target person or company.
In my humble opinion the tagging feature should be more visible and apparent in the Gist UI. Personally i prefer a combination of nested categories and tags…
Discovering how Gist’s dashboard works is a nice treat. Now i can see a single stream with the people i am interested in the most! And this stream includes every source linked to a person, twitter, rss feeds, blogs, and on and on.
So kudos to Gist for their great product, i am recommending it to anyone around me who is having similar problems. i will test it on real life situations and get back with a follow-up post on how much Gist helped me.