On the MyLinkedInPowerForum e-mail list there was a question posed by someone that I have a lot of respect for (based on his previous posts, even though we’ve had no interaction at all :)):
I keep hearing about Facebook and many other business networking tools. I’m comfortable with these three (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Skype). Should I add one or two others to complement these three. I rather think these three cover the waterfront. I am persuadable and am willing to add others even thought it would mean extra time put towards these other applications. Can you give me arguments on adding (or subtracting) from my list of tools. Thanks.
I responded with this:
I would add a CRM tool… of course, I’ve dedicated the last 18 months to this type of thing… but as far as I know Plaxo doesn’t allow you to do CRM stuff that I need to do to manage my business prospects, clients, and personal relationships.
JibberJobber is one alternative, as is Salesforce, ACT, Goldmine, Contact Manager… geesh, there are hundreds, and they all have their strengths and weaknesses.
And he asked, “what is CRM?“
I think it would be good to break down the landscape here, at least as far as I understand it. Remember that the main goal is to have meaningful, rich relationships. There are different categories of tools… and the categories actually complement each other. I’m not even going to pretend to be a real reporter or researcher here – if you know something I don’t write here, please post a comment.
Social Networks: There are
hundreds tens of thousands of social networks. To keep abreast on all the *cool* news you can follow Mashable.com. I don’t follow it much and find it rather confusing. In fact, I’ve said over the last year that I’m quite social-networked-out…. However, I strongly recommend a LinkedIn account and a Facebook account, for different reasons. Aside from that, perhaps you can find another social network were it makes A LOT of sense to have an account elsewhere.
Contact Management Synchronization: I’m not sure who is in this space other than Plaxo. Remember the company from a few years ago that introduced the idea that we can all spam one another? Well, they are still around. I have a Plaxo account, and have downloaded the Outlook toolbar. Every once in a while I see an e-mail come through from another Plaxo person trying to get my updated information, which I guess is cool (not that I ever got a birthday card out of it). I think the coolest aspect of Plaxo is that it takes this big-picture look at “my network” and tries to keep it all in synch. Keeping it all in synch – that’s the goal with Plaxo. I can’t really recommend it because I don’t use it (I might one day). Bonus: Plaxo just came out with their own social network, further muddying the water.
Phone System: In the original question he asks about Skype. I don’t consider it to be a networking tool, although, I guess it really is. In addition to Skype, you can add any landline or cell phone. I consider Skype to be a way to, um … call people. I should note that other responses to his question say “don’t forget about Jaxtr.com,” which is a voip offering from LinkedIn founder Konstantin Guericke. I have Skype, even using it to get inbound phone calls (it’s my direct office number, and has voice mail). I can’t say “don’t use the phone to network,” there are a lot of options. Skype is my personal favorite, but I’ve asked a programmer who is vacationing in Argentina to get a Jaxtr account so I don’t have to pay $2+/minute to talk with him.
A CRM tool: Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software gives salespeople the ability to track all kinds of data about prospects and customers. Wouldn’t it be useful, as a salesperson builds relationships, to know things like spouse’s name, birthdates, major events (kids going to college, etc.), and stuff like that? This is a tough task, considering salespeople could be building relationships all day long and have to track this kind of information for thousands of people. The idea is that they should manage the data, but still make YOU feel like you are the only thing that’s important to them.
They use CRM tools to manage information. When they are on the phone with you and you mention that you are taking Friday off to celebrate little Jonny’s birthday, they make a note of that. Next year they might bring it up! Sorry for taking the magic out of it but that’s how it usually works.
I am a strong believer that we need something to manage our professional relationships, espeically in a way that is not dependent on the other person (in other words, with the other systems mentioned above, if my contact disconnects then I lose everything about our relationship!). If it’s true that networking is how we get promotions or new jobs, why don’t we take this more serious? A CRM tool will allow you to do things that the other tools mentioned above won’t. You can read an old post here, where I talk about the things that a CRM tool will do. I use JibberJobber as my CRM tool daily and it’s been a lifesaver.
What other categories of tools am I missing here (there are two categories that I’m leaving out of this post that I use every hour)? What specific tools do you use?