Lukas Rosenstock posted a write-up of a group discussing their personal CRM routines he organised. A little over a year ago I was impressed with how Rick Klau (an old blogging connection) described his ‘homebrew CRM‘.

Lukas mentioned there were three groups in his conversation, one using specialised tools, one group using no digital tools, and one group using more general tools (“like Roam, Notion or Airtable“). I’m definitely one of the latter.

After reading Rick’s posting a year ago I parked it for a while, but when I adopted Obsidian for note taking, after a while I also started using it for some light weight CRM notes. Unlike Rick I haven’t added any process or automation, but I did start creating CRM notes so that something like it might become possible over time.

What I started with is making notes about people I encounter.

LinkedIn has one glaring hole in its functionality and that is allowing me to add something about the context of when I met someone. After using LinkedIn for 16 years I now sometimes come across a LinkedIn contact and then don’t remember how or why we connected. LinkedIn by now does show when you connected, allowing me to browse through someone’s CV to see what that person did when we connected and try to remember the context of that connection. Xing, mostly used in German speaking countries, had this from the start including a field for a few notes on when / how you met someone. That has proved valuable. [UPDATE In the comments Aad points out such a feature has been present at some point. Online search suggests it was introduced in 2013/4 with LinkedIn Contacts, and became a premium-only feature from 2017. By 2013 I had some 2k contacts, 10 years worth of interaction, where such contextual info was missing, and I use the free version, so the general point stands, even if factually not correct since 2013]

Back when I used a wiki on my laptop for notes, I also kept CRM style notes in it, especially 2004-2008. The useful bit was that I could link to a person’s page in the various notes I made about meetings, events etc. That ‘backlinking’ overview in itself was a great way of adding contextual info.

With Obsidian and the use of simple text files in markdown I have that back, and actually in a better way than in that wiki of old. Because those text files can be approached by a wide variety of software tools, not just Obsidian.
I’m not attempting to be complete in these CRM notes, I grow them the same way as I grow the other type of notes: when I encounter someone new I make note of it. Especially when I don’t know someone yet, or don’t have a strong connection to someone I make those notes. Not so much of people that I’m already connected to like colleagues. I’ve started a few new projects in the past few months, which is always a moment when you encounter a lot of new people in a new context. So those I’ve made notes for, as it helps understand a new client organisation, relevant stakeholders and context. For now backlinking in meeting and project notes is the way for adding a record of interaction.

Maybe in a year or so I can start doing more pro-active things with those notes, like Rick has built into his routines. Another element to me is potentially leaving LinkedIn behind at some point in the future, or at least be somewhat prepared when LinkedIn goes away, as all these platforms do.

Do you have some personal CRM-type routines or automation?

Handshakes and conversations is what I’m interested in, not marketing instruments. Image Handshake by Elisha Project, license CC BY SA

15 reactions on “Personal CRM as a Not-LinkedIn

  1. @ton @lukas LinkedIn used to have a feature for personal notes too. Not sure where it went nor whether they still have the (for me) valuable data I entered there.I now follow a similar technique as you do in org-roam and I’m very glad the data is mine. Because I am in control, the notes are now also more structured and they integrate better in other tools I use within this ecosystem.A connection to a personal (linked data) database could bridge across apps.

  2. I had the exact same problem, I used to take notes in Outlook and add recurring reminders to contact people in my calendar. I did try to create bespoke solutions using existing tools, and then I built a team of like-minded people and we created Covve ( We have designed it to help people stay in touch using smart reminders and giving the right excuse to reach out and coupled it with an easy to use interface. I would love to hear your opinion on what we are building.

  3. @ton Very interesting ideas there. The subject is so broad, the implications of all choices so big, that we are working and thinking hard to get beyond an initial MVP. We want to avoid shipping features that paint us into a corner we can never get out of (a timeline, for example) but also want to offer users enough to be able to actually use the network (maybe people won’t use it if we don’t have a timeline).Feedback as you posted and your blogposts really help with perspective, though.

  4. @flockingbird I’m currently in a beta app called ‘Cooper’ which is based on introductions. But that then leaves you with no place to start from. And the number of times you actually need an introduction, and the times you are open to receiving one are limited in my opinion. Even legitimate requests in my mail are experienced as spammy if they come at the wrong moment e.g., or seem based on misinterpreting my/the recipients role/position.
    Cooper โ€“ The meaningful professional network

  5. Nice post! I came across this from the Obsidian forums, where I was looking for a way to convert or use Obsidian as a personal CRM for tracking interactions with my closest contacts, as well as a tool to remind me to keep in touch.

    What I really want is something like MonicaHQ. I think this is a great purpose-built personal CRM, but the problem is that it’s another app to maintain. Combining it with a personal notes system or something like Nextcloud would be ideal.

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  • ๐Ÿ”– Interdependent Thoughts - Personal CRM as a Not-LinkedIn - P83 by Peter Stuifzand