Defining the “Personal CRM” with FollowUp -- By Cody Halff, CEO FollowUp
For the past decade, FollowUp.cc has helped people keep conversations and tasks from slipping through the cracks. By CCing a specific time @followup.cc, you can create an email reminder to make sure you don't drop the ball.

We've come a long way since then. Last year alone, 3,000,000 reminders were set. But more importantly, we've gone beyond just reminders  -- FollowUp.cc has evolved into a complete productivity suite, providing email open tracking, auto-followups, and a host of other features that increase email efficiency.

In the crowded productivity space, the willingness to experiment and go out of our comfort zone has enabled us to be successful. Today, we hope to continue that trend by launching a Personal CRM to help you manage professional relationships.

Like many before us, our team built this tool to solve a problem we faced. We'd meet new people every day but didn't have a way to stay in touch and remember important things about them. Spreadsheets and sticky notes were tedious, but more capable tools like CRMs were sales focused and overkill.

After a closed beta early this year, it was evident we weren't the only ones struggling to find an effective method to stay on top of our contacts.

Over the past 12 months, hundreds of CEOs, executives, entrepreneurs, and others whose careers rely on their network have given us amazing feedback. I want to thank all of our testers and those who've been depending on us while we continued to build out the rest of the personal CRM. Your patience and and willingness to help us along this journey has been instrumental to the creation of our latest product.

Today, FollowUp is ready to help everyone get the most out of their contacts, whether you're an executive or just starting your career.

These are the pillars that have we've built our personal CRM on.

Email First

Consistency is the most important aspect of relationship management. If you don't keep up with it, you're wasting your time. So above all else, our goal was to create a way to manage contacts that was both simple and sustainable. These two go hand in hand  --  the easier it is to understand a product, the more likely people will stick with it.

From the various methods we'd tried in the past, we knew that forcing users into a new workflow wouldn't work. We have a strong tendency to revert to what we're familiar with. It's in our nature. And if there's one thing FollowUp.cc has showed us, it's that adapting to someone's workflow is the easiest way to become sticky. This made living in email our plan from the start. It's the #1 location for professional communication (and where we spend 3 - 4 hours each day).

FollowUp takes the form of a sidebar in your Gmail so you can manage relationships as you communicate with them in real-time. It's also contextual, meaning that when you click on an email thread, it will display the contacts involved.

A lot of relationship management tools have email extension to give you a taste of the product from email. For us, that extension is the product. We don't want you to have to go to a web app to use our tool, you should be able to do nearly everything from right where you're at.

Always FollowUp

The fundamental way to stay in touch with people is by always following up. It strengthens relationships by keeping them active and puts you at the top of your contacts' minds, leading to more touch points in the future. But the sheer amount of people we know makes it difficult to remember who to connect with. And not all contacts are equal  --  some require greater attention than others.

With FollowUp, you can organize and prioritize people based on how often you need to communicate with them by setting "followups" on contacts, which are intervals for how often you want to stay in touch. If you don't email the contact for that period of time, we'll send you an email letting you know to reach out.

Then there's also the one-off situations everyone has, say to send someone a proposal or follow up on your most recent meeting. For these, you can set reminders on contacts. Users can select what they want to remember, which day, and the exact time they want it to trigger.

To close the loop and take action, schedule events directly from Gmail. These events can be scheduled from an email thread with multiple people, and will automatically include the entire group. While this may not seem like a huge timesaver, once you do it say… 12 times a day, you've saved a lot of the time and focus lost bouncing back and forth between your calendar and email.

Deeper Context

Our relationships are built on deeper context, and you need that context available when you're interacting with your contacts  --  that information will never be more pertinent. So we surface those details by showing you things like the recent conversations you've had with someone, the last time you've spoken, and notes you've written on them.

Speaking of notes, Google Contacts gives you a single note per person, which doesn't exactly tell the full story. With FollowUp, users can write unlimited notes per person, which display the date they were written so you can highlight and remember important interactions. It provides you with a functional relationship timeline you’ll always have at your fingertips.

Any scheduled events and reminders also show on your contact profiles to jog your memory of what’s on the horizon. For a complete look at all future events and reminders you can check the Upcoming view.

Still Learning

This is just the beginning for our personal CRM. Having context and following up are the first steps  -- but we want to tell you more about your relationships. Contact insights revealing their state, which way they’re trending, and even ways to strengthen them are all currently in development.

We want you to know that this doesn't mean we're leaving FollowUp.cc and email productivity behind. Rather, we're tackling a different problem that requires a new solution. It's not going to be easy. In a relationship management space dominated by sales and the customer, not everyone gives contacts the attention they require. What we're betting is that more and more professionals will recognize the need to invest in relationships, and value a simple method that’s native to their workflow.

Sure beats a spreadsheet :)

-Cody Halff, CEO FollowUp