Google Apps As A CRM Or Not

We have been asked many times if Google Apps can be used as a CRM system. Customer Relationship Management or Contact Management can be managed to a certain extent within Google Apps. We will share how the workflow can be useful in certain situations and the limitations therein.

Context With Contacts

Let’s say that you received a call from someone and you are at a loss for who she is and and how you know each other.  The entire Google Apps system is built on search.  The easiest thing to do from  your browser or your mobile device is to Google the person’s name within Gmail.  The search results create an on-demand view of all the relevant email conversations.  You can further refine the search by changing the search keywords.

This is quick and expedient, often times much faster than looking up a contact and looking at conversation or activity records in a traditional CRM.  Your email is a natural and habitual tool that you live out of to get your work done every day.  With Google’s storage, you can save everything and know that you are carrying an archive of all correspondence.

Using Labels For Managing Projects or Pipeline

With email so readily available, you can email yourself notes of conversations to keep this as part of your archive.  As you search, context will quickly appear.  Gmail acts as an extension of your memory.

Labeling your emails can also be used for quick filtering.  For instance, you can apply a label to a deal like “Deals” to keep a ready filter of all emails, conversations and notes related to a sales deal for the respective company.

In the Gmail Settings menu, there is a powerful rules engine which allows you to create Filters.  The filters are programmed based on logic you can set up.  You can append tags to your email address such as  Note the text used after the “+” which is a tag.  Tags in your email allow you to automatically filter any inbound emails from yourself or others.  You can store these in your Contacts list for quick note taking as you email yourself.

Google Apps Is Not A CRM

If you are a solo salesperson, then using Google Apps can be powerful for managing your relationships and deals.  It has the least friction from traditional CRM systems.  The organization of information is intrinsic to the search platform.

However, once sales information needs to be collaborated upon by others, the platform does not readily share Contact and activity information.  This is what a CRM system is designed for.  Multiple users can track past and future activities and communications from a common record.  When context is needed, then you can search and see how your team has been touching the customer or vendor.

Furthermore, there is not a pipeline management system.  You might use Google Spreadsheets to track deals and share these out, however, the disparity in data between your activities kept in Gmail with your pipeline in Google Docs is not the most elegant solution.  A CRM has an integrated approach to the data which makes management and execution much easier.

The Practical Side Of Using Google Apps

If you do not need to collaborate on sales information, then you can stay quick and pragmatic within your Google Apps environment.  This may be the case for many entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, consultants, speakers and professionals only needing to track the ongoing conversations with their business contacts.

If you have a team which relies on collaborative information and a management of the information, then a CRM which integrates with your Google Apps system is best.

Tools have trade-offs.  Speed and execution are what attracts organizations to Google Apps.  More sophisticated process and collaboration requires true CRM to get the job done.

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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