Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Client Acquisition and Relationship Management

No, not that kind of relationship. I am talking about keeping track of clients and potential clients, not managing my personal life. Back in the Fall I bought Sage ACT! to track potential clients and my interactions with them. While there are plug-ins for the software to interact with other standard applications, such as Microsoft Outlook, I have a number of problems with my version of ACT!. For one thing, the supposed integration with Outlook doesn't work very well and doesn't recognize e-mails sent by other people within the same organization, unless I set each person up as a separate contact. That's quite a task for larger language service providers with many different project managers.

Besides, I have moved away from Outlook and now mostly use Gmail to manage my e-mail. The e-mail address connected to my website domain name forwards to a Gmail account that I can easily access from my phone or any browser. That greatly simplifies negotiating projects when I'm not sitting at my computer - for example while having my morning coffee (at which point it's already early afternoon in Europe).

I am therefore looking again for another customer relationship management (CRM) solution. Samantha Gluck mentioned on Twitter a blog post with a list of some 20 CRM solutions for freelancers, with a brief blurb and links to all of them. This yielded a couple of promising options: Work[etc] and The first one is expensive (at least for a one-person company), but includes a billing solution. The second one has a free version, but no billing module and seems less customizable than Work[etc].

Unfortunately both of them are cloud-based (i.e., hosted on someone else's server). I suppose this is necessary if I want to be able to access this information on the go, for example at a conference, but I'm not sure how I feel about entrusting my client contact information to "the cloud". On the other hand, my gmail contacts are already on Google's servers and all my e-mails are stored on my web hosting company's and/or Google's computers. So this may not make much of a difference.

About client acquisition: a few posts ago, I wrote about creating a second, more client-focused blog and alternating posts between this blog and the other one. In preparation I started to re-write some of the older posts from this blog that might be interesting to potential clients. But while uploading a new photo of myself (courtesy of my daughter and son-in-law who took and cropped/processed the photo, respectively) I realized that most social media sites only let you list one blog URL. So now I am rethinking the entire two-blog concept. Back to the drawing board, then ... (By the way, the new picture is in the bio section to the right of this post.)

Note: I will be at the STC Technical Communication Summit in Chicago next week and may not post next Wednesday, unless I have enough time (and an internet connection) at O'Hare before my flight back.


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