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Customer Relationship Managers/Contact Managers
  Who Needs Contact and Customer Relationship Management Software?
Virtually every type of business needs to manage clients, prospects and other contacts in order to be successful. What better way to do this than with contact and customer relationship management software? Now, that we agree on that, the next step is finding the contact or customer relationship manager that's right for you.

While they may all appear the same on the surface, every contact and customer relationship manager is different. And, while one may appear to excel over another, this may not be true "under the hood". It may be better put by saying that each has it's own philosophy when it comes to contact and customer relationship management.

Contact Manager vs. Personal Information Manager vs. Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) - What's the Difference?
Many folks are confused by the phrases personal information manager (PIM), contact manager, and customer relationship manager (CRM). While personal information managers, contact and customer relationship managers may indeed sound like the same thing, they are completely different animals.

A personal information manager is similar to the time-managing notebooks of yore, known as day planners, like a Day Runner or Day-Timer. In a personal information manager, Day Runner, or Day-Timer, you can store contact names, schedule activities and jot down notes. Isn't that what a contact manager is, too? Well, not exactly. In a personal information manager, Day Runner, or Day-Timer, typically each piece of information, such as a name, activity, or note is stored in separate sections of the notebook. Each type of information is not "linked" together, and rightly so. A personal information manager is specifically designed for you to manage yourself personally, thus each of the items referenced have no need to be related to each other, they're related to you. Examples of personal information managers are Lotus Organizer, Microsoft Outlook and Sidekick. Often confused with contact managers, both Lotus Organizer and Sidekick are used by folks who would be better served by trading in their Lotus Organizer or Sidekick for a true contact manager. Not to say that Lotus Organizer or Sidekick are not good products, on the contrary, they are excellent personal information managers, while Microsoft Outlook is an excellent e-mail program.

Still sounds like semantics, you say? Consider this. A contact manager ties or relates various bits of information to contacts to help make it easier for you to see what you've got scheduled for whom, and when you completed what for whom, thus enabling you to establish and maintain fruitful relationships. A good contact manager also enables you to write letters to your contacts, either through some type of letter writer or via mail merge capabilities with standard word processors. Label and envelope printing should also be included, as should contact history and note pads.

So, what is Customer Relationship Management (CRM)? Nothing more than a high-falutin' term for contact management that someone came up with to try to set their software apart from the rest because they were late to the party when they came out with their product. After all, isn't managing customer relationships what a contact manager is already designed to do? These same folks also figured the new term enabled them to charge you a heck of a lot more money for something that had already been available for well over a decade before they coined the phrase "customer relationship management". So, do yourself a favor, save yourself the headache of trying to wrap your head around the concept, and don't let yourself be fooled by companies touting their software as Customer Relationship Managers. Simply evaluate them for what they really are, contact managers

Should I Be Using a Personal Information Manager, or a Contact Manager?
Admittedly, not everyone needs a contact manager. Some folks, like students, or people who simply run many errands, may not necessarily need to link activities, histories and notes with particular contact names; they just need to keep themselves organized and manage their own schedules. On the other hand, salespeople need to keep all information related to contacts together, so they can quickly and easily accomplish business essentials such as schedule phone calls and meetings with contacts, as well as keep track of everything they need to know about their contacts, which in turn helps them establish and preserve valuable business relationships.

Contact Management Software Differences
That doesn't mean that all contact managers are the same, or serve the same functions. There are many contact managers available on the market to choose from, yet they are all different. ACT! by Sage is much different from products such as LeadCommander, Goldmine, TeleMagic, Maximizer, Ecco Professional and Sharkware. In fact, contact managers themselves fall into several different categories. You might prefer to think of it as different contact management philosophies.

For example, ACT!, the contact manager by Sage, focuses its efforts on helping its user maintain one-on-one relationships with clients. Although ACT! is used in a variety of markets, many ACT! users might possibly benefit more from a product like Goldmine. Unlike ACT!, Goldmine caters to companies who employ what is known as workgroup or project contact management. Goldmine's type of contact management is based upon several people at one company working with one or more people at another company on the same project. And, that involves multiple contact schedule coordination, timelines, and other functions that ACT! doesn't provide. On the other hand, someone who needs simple one-on-one contact management should acquire ACT!, and not GoldMine.

Now, if you're in a large enterprise that does a significant amount of telemarketing, utilizes multiple computer platforms, such as Windows and Unix for example, and have the need and resources to develop a customized application based on a generic contact manager, TeleMagic is a product worth taking a look at. Designed to be an open-architecture powerhouse, TeleMagic is great for add-on developers, and those who require routine data exchange among various computer platforms.

Web-based Contact and Customer Relationship Managers
Web-based contact managers typically require that your contact data be housed on a third-party's specially designed remote access server for a monthly fee, and access to your data is gained through an internet web browser on your computer. While the concept of a web-based contact manager initially sounds exciting, you should be definitely be aware that in practical applications it might end up being a limitation. What happens if you don't have internet connectivity for a wide variety of reasons at a given time? Internet routers go down more often than you think, and you have no control if the router is maintained by your internet service provider, telephone, or cable company. There can even be a problem with the server at the company that hosts your database. Any of these issues, and more, means you won't be able to access your system or your data until whatever the problem is has been resolved. And, this can be devastating if connectivity is interrupted at a crucial point, for example, if you require access to contact information during the closing of a deal, or when trying to put a critical issue to bed. It is at times like these that the web-based concept ends up more like the concept of the paperless office, which in all practical aspects has not, and probably never will, come to fruition.

If being able to access your database remotely is an attractive feature, you might want to instead consider a contact or customer relationship management system that enables you to easily host your database yourself at your home or office, and also includes the ability for you to access your database remotely in the event you're away and want to connect to your database. In this type of configuration, you experience the benefits of remote access when you need it, but in the event of a connectivity issue you can call and ask someone at home or the office to look something up for you, or you can go back home or to the office and access your data yourself. In either case, at least you are the one in control of your own data. And, because there is no third-party company with special equipment required, the monthly hosting fee is eliminated altogether.

If, on the other hand, money is not a limiting factor, you can maintain your own hosting server and obtain access to a solid internet connection the likes of a T-1 line through a service provider able to provide alternate connectivity methods should your main conduit to the internet go down, then a web-based contact manager could be a viable option.

Other Contact Manager Considerations
To help you further determine what you need in a contact manager, here are other things you might want to consider.

Where will your contacts come from? Do you actively market your wares? If so, how? Do you advertise in the media, or is your marketing done via targeted mailings, or telemarketing? What do you do to evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns? And, once you do establish contacts, how do you cultivate those relationships? Could your business benefit from referrals? Do you need a contact manager that can interface or share data with other software programs?

The Bottom Line
Along with the standard contact management features like activity scheduling, history and note pads, and mail merge functions, a good contact manager should include lead-generation, prospecting and marketing tools, the ability to search, sort and group contacts any way you want, and be flexible enough to interface with external programs like word processors, spreadsheets, and even other databases. If you settle for less now, you'll be sorry later. After all, many of these functions are what most users need and use most, whether they realize it or not.

DataBasix Technologies' Philosophy
Here at DataBasix Technologies, we believe that lead generation, effective contact management and close customer relationships are the keys to success for any company. After all, without bona fide leads, where are you going to get the contacts to manage? And, once you have the contacts, how can you expect to achieve success if you can't establish and build upon mutually beneficial relationships?

The all-new DataBasix Technologies product line will not only provide you with the solutions to all of these needs, but will also enable you to be accessible to your contacts whenever you want to be, wherever you happen to be. In fact, DataBasix Technologies has combined technologies that no one has ever combined before, to bring you the most effective contact and customer relationship management available today. Additionally, we believe so highly in our products that we actually use them internally in our own day-to-day business. How many companies do you know that can demonstrate a commitment like that?

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