Should You Use a Free Personal CRM or a Bespoke Tool?

Managing relationships in today’s fast-paced and multifaceted world can prove to be challenging, without the right tools. Just as organizations use customer relationship management (CRM) tools to cultivate their relationships with clients and partners, individuals are using personal contact relationship management (pCRM) tools to cultivate their networks.

Remembering dates that are important to people in professional and personal circles, following up, and organizing contact lists can be overwhelming. The core function of pCRM tools is to help users navigate relationships by organizing interactions through scheduling and automating reminders, and much more. Specialized tools such as Covve are preferred by people who prioritize their network and relationships, both personal and professional, as they also help in nurturing significant networking habits.

Solid networking habits can lead to landing new jobs, gaining referrals, and gaining key industry insights, all of which could be missed opportunities without the right system. According to Zippia research, 70% of professionals attained their current roles thanks to their networking efforts. 

To add clarity on the value of relationship building and networks, business development expert Mo Bunnell believes that “a great deal might make your year, but a great relationship can make your entire career,” emphasizing that opportunities are boundless through a well-cultivated network.

Considering the value of a well-cultivated network, it is critical to employ the right tools. There are several ways to approach a personal CRM system. Some elect to build their own personal CRM through spreadsheets or tools, leveraging simple yet limited platforms such as Outlook or Excel. An alternative is using a specially designed platform that is constantly evolving and can elevate relationship management within both personal and private networks.

Free Personal CRM Alternatives

Options for free CRM software for personal use vary. From Microsoft’s Excel and Google Sheets, and Outlook, to tools like Airtable and open-source CRMs, and utilizing existing features embedded in a smartphone, there is a plethora of choices to select from.

Google Sheets and Excel as CRMs for Personal Use

For the simplest and most straightforward contact management needs, professionals use Excel or Google Sheets as a free CRM for personal use. Professionals who struggle to find a fitting pCRM look to build their own, typically using spreadsheets. 

As a data visualization and analysis tool, spreadsheets are great at storing and organizing data sets, but they do not give users the extra nudge they sometimes need to stay in touch with contacts, and overall lacks various automated features found in bespoke personal CRM tools. 

It is arguably a great tool for storing contacts, their interests, and a few key elements about each individual contact, depending on a user’s ability to stay organized. One of the youngest Managing Directors at Blackrock, Khe Hy, shares his process for setting up his own pCRM on Excel to help users get a better grasp on managing their contacts.

Airtable and Outlook as Free Personal CRMs

More sophisticated options such as Airtable may be a good fit for professionals looking to keep a more in-depth view of their network. Akin to Excel, Airtable makes use of grids and tables with cells. It enables users to more clearly organize their relations to contacts, such as where they met, what their role is, how they connected, what their interests are, and more. Users can integrate Excel tables and systems such as those of Zapier to automate information updates.

The challenge with tools like Airtable are that they can be very tedious in finding and filling in the information a user wants to include, as well as in tinkering with the various fields included in tables. These processes, with bespoke CRMs for personal use, are automated, easier, and faster, allowing users to focus on the real sauce – relationships. Rick Klau, Chief Technology Officer at California Department of Technology offers a detailed step-by-step guide on how to set up a personal CRM using Airtable

Taking contact management tools and organization a step further, Microsoft Outlook serves as a strong free personal CRM alternative. It offers features such as reminders on tasks, labeling contacts for better contact management, and emails and calendars are merged for easier meetings management. 

However, it requires people to be habitual about setting reminders, taking notes on every interaction, and being proactive about setting meetings and calls. For a detailed walkthrough on utilizing Outlook as a CRM, Randy Dean, author of bestselling book titled Taming the Email Beast, guides viewers on best practices, tips and tricks.

Open-source CRM Alternative

For those more technologically inclined, there are also open-source CRMs for personal use. These however, require at least a basic understanding of coding and programming. The reward is essentially an extensively customizable personal CRM tailored to an individual’s needs and preferences. 

Open-source CRMs can help in storing and maintaining a record of contacts, notes on interactions, however they entail ample manual input, as opposed to specially designed personal CRMs for personal use which seamlessly integrate and sync with address books and calendars.

The various ways to build a free personal CRM through tools such as Excel, Airtable, open-source CRMs, and Outlook, are all alternatives that require extensive effort, which can often be tedious. These free alternatives to personal CRMs offer features that help store and organize contacts. However, they do not have key features that alleviate people from elements of relationship building that are important, yet small, such as remembering particular dates to reach out to contacts and news that are relevant to their interests.

How Covve Packs-a-Punch

Personal CRMs come with various, versatile tools at users’ finger tips. These bespoke tools are focused solely on helping users build relationships, making them uniquely advantageous for the purposes of networking. They can integrate seamlessly with address books to import contacts, they offer contact organization features such as tags, note-taking features, and more importantly, gentle nudges to follow-up and connect.

As a personal CRM, Covve does not focus on sales funnels, but instead, it excels at helping users build relationships. The artificial intelligence (AI) assistant can help identify topics of interest for individual contacts, helping make the follow-up or the long awaited invitation to reconnect less awkward and more engaging. Covve’s note-taking feature has in fact helped various professionals across sectors manage their relationship building efforts in a more streamlined and effective way.

Renowned career strategist and business coach to alumni from Ivy League schools and executives at Fortune 100 companies, Doug Lester discusses how Covve was the right fit for him. He found that spreadsheets are too messy, and traditional CRMs are not focused enough on actually building relationships. 

He explicitly expresses appreciation for Covve’s note-taking feature, which helps him record critical information about his contacts individually, making every interaction with them meaningful. “So, where do I keep my notes? Definitely not in post-its scattered around my office or in some paper or digital notebook, never to be seen again. I use an app called Covve… I’ve been using Covve for a few years now, and it’s been the place that I capture the bits of personal information that help me make networking a friendlier, more human activity.”

Whether you are just starting your career, or an accomplished professional, your network will always be an integral part of life. Your relationships deserve, and require, the time and effort to cultivate them in a way that helps both you and your contacts. To achieve that, you need the right tool that fits you. 

If you are keen on building your own personal CRM for free we hope that this article answers your questions on how exactly you can do that. If you are seeking for more bespoke, sophisticated options, Covve is here to help you demystify networking and create value for, and from your network.

Start your free trial with Covve today. Alternatively, we would be thrilled if you shared your tips and tricks in building your own personal CRM through free personal CRM tools.

Updated on 02 Oct 2023.

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