CRM software – keeping your brain free for art.

A huge benefit of getting wholeheartedly involved in the art world is the people I am now connected to. From deep face to face friendships, through enduring email-pals and classmates to more professional encounters with gallery owners or editors. Then there are the indirect associations with people whose blogs I read and Facebook posts I follow. I am pretty good at remembering names. But then I get a wee bit fuzzy on exactly where they all live and what time zone they are in. And I am positively blurry on remembering who is on Facebook but not Instagram or who thought a good Twitter account name was @562hjy& Its time to get my contacts organised. Really seriously usefully organised with bells and whistles. You know me. What more excuse did I need for going off on an Internet frolic to see what free software goodies I could find this time? And you are going to like what I have for you. If not what its called. CRM Software. I know. Blah. Switch off. But wait! If I said its like a personal assistant who will stand with you as the sort-of-familiar-face of a smiling woman bears down on you at the gallery opening and who will whisper quickly in your ear: Sally Jones. Owns the mobile art shop. You met her at the conference in Brisbane. Held that workshop with Margaret Bloggins. She emailed and asked if you would consider a guest post for her blog and you said you'd think about it after you moved house. You jotted down some ideas and filed them. Recommended her daughter Millie contact you and she bought the eight inch waterfall canvas. Hmm, yeah. Thats what I have for you folks. Free. A digital PA to take all that clutter from your brain and leave you fee to make art. No need to thank me. I had enough fun finding it. What is CRM Software and what does it do? CRM stands for customer relationship management, which is surely one of the worst names for a type of software. Really, its a smart contacts book. Smart like Stephen Hawkins smart. It starts with storing names, numbers and  addresses. Then when it has the email addresses it automatically searches and gives you all the social media contacts for that person. You can then add notes about that person - maybe where you met them or which piece of your art they bought.
Insightly screen shot 1 CRM Software
Insightly screen shot
You can search your contacts by filters - say you want to email everyone in your locality about an open studio - filter by county/state maybe. You can add custom tags to your contacts so you can search for everyone who you met in a class at Committed to Cloth or everyone who bought a piece of work in your Connections series. Whatever tags you create. Links between contacts can be made. I might link Ann Grasso and Jennifer Borek  as being fellow students in a class I took so I know they know each other too.  People can be added to organisations, so I have my exhibiting group Etcetera as one and the various Masterclasses I have been in as individual organisations.
CapsuleCRM screenshot CRM software
CapsuleCRM screenshot
The software then links to your email so you can filter your contents by any piece of stored information and draft one email to go to all of them. And it gets better. You can save important emails in the CRM software behind your contact so that should you wish to find a chain of emails relating to them you need not trawl an overflowing inbox. So maybe you are communicating with a gallery about your new show. Add the owner and the assistant in as contacts, link them and save the emails with the contact. You can link to files as well so you can store a link to the contract and the marketing PDF right there. The files are not stored on the CRM but there is a downloadable link created to your computer or Dropbox, One Drive or wherever you have them. Or - because readers, it gets better yet -  you can have projects in the CRM with tasks and a calendar should you so wish so you can plan out your show right there with all your correspondence and files collated together. The systems are aimed at businesses so there are also functions for creating sales leads and bids for business which might be useful to some artists. Where can I get free CRM software? There are many options out in the market at varying levels of prices. On the assumption that you are a solo user or have maybe one assistant, that you wish to keep cost to a minimum ( i.e nothing at least to start)  and do not have vast numbers of contacts may I recommend the best two I found in my extensive search. My favourite is Insightly. You can see all the features here but basically you get 2 users,  2500 contacts and 200MB of storage and can add 2 custom fields per record ( but can have a maximum of ten to chose from) in the free account.  The next account up costs US$12 per month ( billed annually or US$15 billed monthly) and you then get  25,000 contacts and 1 GB of storage. But for that price you also also get integration with the newsletter software Mailchimp, Google Calendars and a mobile app for quick checking at gallery openings!  You can see all the pricing options here. My second choice is CapsuleCRM. It does much the same but I slightly prefer the design for this. That is matter of preference of course. Capsule is more attractive, Insightly less cluttered in my view. It comes in second though because its free offering is much less although maybe enough for many artists. The free account gives 250 contacts and 10MB of storage. The cost to upgrade is pretty similar to Insightly though at £8 per month (which I reckon to be $11.82 at the time of writing.) That gives you 2G storage, and 50,000 contacts and that useful Mailchimp integration. Both offer a free trial so it looks like if you had a big Mailchimp list already you could import existing contacts and then downgrade to the free account. Thereafter your Mailchimp contacts would not automatically add to contacts unless you upgraded the account. However ( come on, you knew I'd have to look for a however didn't you?!) Zapier allows you to create a zap that will automatically add new Mailchimp contacts into both Insightly and Capsule. For free, unless you already used your free Zapier allowance of 5 zaps used up to 100 times a month. So, what do you think? Can you see the benefit for your studio practice? How would you use it?  

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