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, 8 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?

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

Through a posting of Roel I came across Rick Klau again, someone who like me was blogging about knowledge management in the early ’00s. These days his writing is on Medium it seems.

Browsing through his latest posts, I came across this one about homebrew contact management.

Contact management is one area where until now I mostly stayed away from automating anything.
First and foremost because of the by definition poor initial data quality that you use to set it up (I still have 11 yr old contact info on my phone because it is hard to delete, and then gets put back due to some odd feedback loop in syncing).
Second, because of the risk of instrumentalising the relationships to others, instead of interacting for its own sake.
Third, because most systems I encountered depend on letting all your mail etc flow through it, which is a type of centralisation / single point of failure I want to avoid.

There’s much in Rick’s post to like (even though I doubt I’d want to shell out $1k/yr to do the same), and there are things in there I definitely think useful. He’s right when he says that being able to have a better overview of your network in terms of gender, location, diversity, background etc. is valuable. Not just in terms of contacts, but in terms of information filtering when you follow your contacts in several platforms etc.

Bookmarked to come up with an experiment. Timely also because I just decided to create a simple tool for my company as well, to start mapping stakeholders we encounter. In Copenhagen last September I noticed someone using a 4 question page on her phone to quickly capture she met me, the context and my organisation. When I asked she said it was to have an overview of the types of organisations and roles of people she encountered in her work, building a map as it were of the ecosystem. Definitely something I see the use of.

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