This week I took the new Google Contacts for a test drive and I really like what I see. It takes the traditional Gmail contacts to a new and better place. In the title of this article I used the term CRM in relation to Google Contacts and I am sure I will get called out on that since, as it is, the new Google Contacts is not really as CRM (at least not totally). I suppose I am making a projection of what Google Contacts could and very likely will evolve into if people seem to like it.
I think that is something that a vast majority of people do not take into consideration when evaluating Google products; everything is in a state of development. It seems to me that the philosophy at Google is to let the market design the product. Such was the case when making Android an open source platform and I think the philosophy permeates much of Google whether it is publicized or not. They listen to feedback from users and let that feedback be a guide in developing products.
Consider Google+, there are a bunch of writers out there in the tech media who proclaim every change at Google+ as being the downfall of the platform. Those writers seem to be looking forward the failure of Google+ with the single minded fervor of a Jehovah’s Witness waiting for the Second Coming. What they do not see is that Google is just evolving Google+ to better fit the way that people use it.
With Google Contacts I see the potential that exists and I am excited about having a reasonable, full featured CRM platform built right into Gmail or even being specific to Google For Work or Google Apps For Work. Even as it is now I think that many small businesses could pretty much use Google Contacts much the same way as they might use a simple CRM like the free version of Insightly. Many small businesses who aren’t actively engaged in marketing on a day to day basis really just need a contact manager and for that purpose Google Contacts already does a great job.
Obviously, in its present incarnation it does not have all of the functionality of even a simple CRM but it does more already than many CRMs can really do and it has the potential to become for of a full fledged CRM over time and I think that is the direction it will go if enough people start to use it and provide feedback on it so the engineers at Google know what consumers want it to be.
In the screen shot above you see the home screen of the new Google Contacts. It is pretty straightforward. It has a section at the top for frequently contacted people and then the general contacts section below that. It seems to pull profile information from the Google+ profiles of both companies and individuals in your contact list. I think this is a cool feature because it really eliminates a lot of the things that you have to do by hand in many contact systems.
Individual contact listings within the new Google Contacts can draw information from various sources but the big source is Google+. It includes information like a businesses’ phone number, address, contact email, logo photo, website, social networks, etc. Essentially all of the data that can be listed on Google+/Google My Business appears on the company’s contact card in Google Contacts.
The same is true for individual contacts. In the image to the right you see the Google Contacts profile for one of my contacts. In this case Amanda’s details are rather sparse because this is the way she has her Google+ profile filled out. However you can easily add more data by using the “Add private contact details” link.
You can also add contacts to your “most important” group by adding a star. This could be used to indicate an upcoming meeting or need to contact this person. While you cannot yet launch a Google Hangout video call with the person (or company) from within Google Contacts all you have to do is click on “View Google+ profile from within their contact profile to do that. However you can send an email or call them (phone) by clicking on their email address or phone number within their profile.
Some profiles I have seen look like little novellas simply because the person has added exhaustive information about themselves in their Google+ profile. This can be very useful or a big bore depending. It is really useful though in building a contacts database as, by listing current and previous employers, you are automatically associated with that company and searchable by that criteria within Google Contacts.
Speaking of search, I did some experimenting with searching within my Google Contacts and found that indeed you can search within Contacts by many criteria that you might use while searching business contacts for marketing purposes. I tried searching contacts by location (by city name), business type and by zip code and all of these searches returned results from within my contacts on Google Contacts.
It seems that you can add businesses or individuals to your Google Contacts simply by adding them to your circles on Google+ (as well as by manually adding them or sending them an email). If you add contacts by sending an email to them I believe that, where possible, Google adds the contact information from Google+ that is associated with that email. I do not believe that this requires the contact to add you back on Google+. If you are a marketer I am sure you know the value of being able to “mine” contact information for businesses and with Google Contacts that ability is built right in. Just search Google+ for businesses or individuals and then add them to your circles.
I have heard some complaints that the new Google Contacts is not yet enough like a full CRM because it does not allow you to add notes about individual contacts or upcoming events and such (I am comparing to the free version of Insightly right now). Actually you can add notes about individual contacts right now and, as for the rest, I think that is inevitable down the road when there is more of a tie-in with Google Calendar and other Google apps that already exist. At least a more user friendly tie-in as I am sure that developers could already create such tie-ins from the Google Developers platform.
I really like the new Google Contacts right out of the box. I think that it will be a big help to me as a business owner. Obviously it is not a fully functional CRM yet but I do see that as being the logical evolution of the platform as it develops over time. Go ahead and take it for a test drive at this link https://contacts.google.com/preview and see what you think.