SpeakerNet News Compilations

Web-Based Contact Management Solutions

Dave Paradi

Page Sponsors
How to sponsor this page

I’d like to move my contact database from my computer to a Web-based service so I can access it and I can have someone else access it as well. I’d also need a copy on my laptop for local access when I am not connected to the Internet. I’ve looked at Salesforce.com’s contact manager service which costs $5/user/month and it looks like it will do what I need. I’d like to know what others have found works in their business for keeping contact records updated and accessible by more than one person.

— Eileen McDargh

Use eSpeakers (espeakers.com). My database is on there. It syncs with my phone and my computer. They will help you bring your contacts into their online server.

— Jim Clemmer

We’ve used Maximizer for 12 years with multiple users and find it works very well. It has a powerful data engine for search and sorting, is very customizable, integrates with Outlook, and with MaxExchange Remote, synchronizations are set up to run a few times per day to keep us all updated.

— Michael Benidt

You might try looking at ZohoCRM — it’s part of the zoho.com family — crm.zoho.com. We’ve played around with it only, but it gets good reviews and 3 users are free. They’ve lasted a long time so they’re not a flash in the pan.

Here’s one article (there are many) from Read Write Web, about ZohoCRM and Salesforce.com.

Doing a Google search using both companies will lead you to a lot of comparison: searching on (Salesforce.com "Zoho crm") nabs 13,000 results on Google.

— Al McCree

We use FileMaker Server. The database sits on an inexpensive server, we use a Mac mini. It is always connected to the Internet. As long as I can access the Internet, I can access the server. Since I own the server, there is no monthly charge. The cost is for the FileMaker Server software and of course for the FileMaker software on my laptop. Unless you have a lot of computers to access the server, you can simply use a copy of FileMaker on the server computer.

— Donna Gunter

Clients of mine use Big Contacts and love it! It syncs with Outlook so that you have access to your contacts if you lose/don’t have an Internet connection, and you can manage your email through it, as well. bigcontacts.com

It’s a bit more expensive than SalesForce, but you can save if you pre-pay for 3, 6, or 12 months. They have great customer service I’m told.

— Karen Harris

We’ve been using Zimbra for over a year and it’s served our needs initially but we are now moving over to SalesForce.com because we’re needing a much better tool to analyze our sales opportunities. Zimbra doesn’t provide that type of sales tracking. But as an online database it operates very well. There is one thing that bothers us...you cannot populate data from one contact to a new one. If you have 2 people working at the same company with the same contact info, that info has to be manually entered for each contact...it’s a pain. However, if you use the Outlook Connector, you can do that there of course.

— Sharon Ellison

I’ve been struggling with database issues and was using Now Contact. I have a possible solution if you are a Mac user. Em Herzstein (em@chameleonsys.net) set me up with a fabulous program, Daylite (marketcircle.com) which does amazing things in terms of calendar, projects, groups, you name it. It can be set up on a server. It is accessible over the internet, but not through a Web browser and also works well offline. If you want more information or need other ideas, Em is a great person to contact.

— Jennifer Winn

I recently started using BatchBook and so far am liking it a lot. In the past I’ve used Goldmine and ACT! and so far this is much better, plus it’s Web-based so it saves a huge amount of software updating hassle. I looked into a lot of other solutions and it seems like nothing is perfect, but so far BatchBook has been the best I’ve found — and for a very reasonable fee. batchbook.com

— Marion Grobb Finkelstein

I recently grappled with this question, moving from ACT! to an automated Aweber’s PremiumAR system (autoresponse and list, PremiumAR.com). You can download your list anytime you want in Excel format, and with your password, anyone can access it from any Web-based computer. Cost is really affordable — 12 months for $179.40 up to 10K leads with each additional 10K being $9.95. Unlimited customer support, auto-responders, follow-ups and broadcasts.

I had also looked at iContact which was excellent ... but did not offer PayPal integration, so opted for the Aweber system instead.

— Laura Leist

I’m assuming you want the power of a true CRM if you’re considering Salesforce. If so, you may also want to look at sugarcrm.com.

If you need just the information contained in Microsoft Outlook, you can get a hosted Exchange account with Comcast and share your contacts that way.

Outlook 2007 has a module called Business Contact Manager — that is Microsoft’s CRM for small businesses. It’s easy to use and customize; the only drawback is, you can’t share this database with others unless you have your own Exchange Server; however they could remote into the computer where the BCM database is stored.

— Comments from Dave Paradi:

I really appreciate all the responses that SNN readers gave me. In reviewing the ideas and my own research, here are a two observations I would pass on when looking at this topic:

  1. There seem to be two major categories of solutions for sharing contacts. First, is the custom application route where you have someone build you a solution. This entails having a server and you are responsible for maintenance and upgrading. The other is using a Web-based solution where you don’t own the solution and it may not be as customized as you want, but you use someone else’s server and they are responsible for maintenance.
  2. When looking at the different solutions, it really depends on what your needs truly are. At the low end (cost-wise) are solutions like the Salesforce.com Contact Manager system which really only moves a contact database online. It doesn’t have full sales cycle tools. At the top end are solutions like Infusion where it integrates online tools to send bulk emails, shopping carts, etc. At this end are also speaker specific tools like eSpeakers where the features are geared primarily to speakers whose business model fits the tool. In the middle are all sorts of CRM solutions that have different features and different costs and are more generic in nature in terms of supporting different business models.

My decision is to start with the Salesforce.com Contact Manager solution. I don’t need extensive CRM features and I already have broadcast email and shopping cart solutions. My business model doesn’t fit a speaker-specific tool. At least this gets me started for a small fee and I can then build from there. I usually prefer to start small in a new area and build up, correcting mistakes along the way, instead of leaping in a large way and dealing with possible major problems.

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions