Prototyping a Personal CRM: Lessons Learned So Far

I just discovered this week that I didn’t have product/market fit with my own prototype. How do I know? After using it every day from April 22nd – June 29th I just randomly stopped for over 2 weeks. But let’s backtrack a bit, what is this prototype anyway? It’s a series of Google Docs and Google Sheets chronicling my backlog of personal life crap, recurring stuff like the dentist and habits I’m trying to establish, trip planning (often shared with others), a long list of dates to plan with Kevin, family members with big stuff going on and reminders to send notes or flowers, and a jumble of other personal activities, aspirations and ideas that come up throughout any given day of stuff I’d like to do if I were a more organized woman, wife, sister, daughter, businesswoman, human being. It has some goals for each month across the top, mostly to do with budget adherence and planning ahead for big stuff like our 11th wedding anniversary next month. It’s actually too personal for me to share (!!) unlike Facebook. It’s got a running list of birthdays, and I started transcribing fitness goals that I normally track in Apple Health apps.

Basically, the data entry of my own prototype started to kick my ass. It is looking more like a personal assistant to guide me through my days, like Google Assistant perhaps (I haven’t used it) without any UI. The best part about using it is looking out into the future and thinking ahead to things I want to plan, organize, prioritize etc. and feeling a sense of greater foresight and control in my life. I did this frequently for my business, but applying it to my personal life is new. Since I’m on sabbatical and have a dearth of hours for personal life stuff, this might be a bit of an artificial environment.

And yet with all this, I stopped using it for 2.5 weeks. If I wasn’t working on it as a gentle prototyping activity for one of my more compelling startup ideas I might not have even come back to it.

In part, I was pushed away from using it as my life became less structured with my break and I started to settle into a less planned existence. Yay! But the other side of it is that it became too much work, and we’ve all heard this complaint about CRMs before. The sales manager asked the reps why they’re not updating the records, taking notes, logging calls, and really only putting in closed won deals and the answer is usually “I don’t have time” or “there are too many fields to fill in that don’t mean anything to me” or some other flavor.

My mind jumps from here to integrations. If this wasn’t a Google Doc could it be software with all the integrations needed to automatically generate the same thing I have wanted (basically a bulleted day planner connected to goals and deeper context than one usually puts into calendar events)? So I’m back on the wagon, and using some crazy color coding to highlight the integration types that would be required. This is leading me down the path toward what RelateIQ was great at: extracting valuable information needed to update the CRM from email. What I really need is integration with email, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, etc… and this starts me thinking about how to leverage a unified inbox like Front to do the heavy lifting. A quick search reveals they do have an API https://frontapp.com/api

Building that inbox from scratch is really not the point of this personal CRM, so I wonder if I could bootstrap something simple… but I see my thoughts are running toward software implementation. It’s not time for that yet… I need to prove out the value of the integrations with my duct tap and bubble gum version first.

I won’t lie, it’s fun building something just for myself. Many, many, MANY people have followed up from my tweets asking if I have something they can use yet. I’m really sorry, I don’t and even sharing with you what I have is just too personal. Which is the true victory so far… I am really using this for my real life, but only when I remember to log in.

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