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Personal CRMs - is not what I need

I paid a 12-month subscription for a Personal CRM called Clay because I need help “mamaging my personal and professional relationships”. It’s not bad software. BUT…

It turns out what I need is not Clay, or any other “Personal CRM” I’ve found.

It feels like most of these Personal CRMs are made by folks with very different problems to me.

I know a lot of founders, execs, freelancers (and salespeople) who are very good at building and maintaining their personal relationships… it’s a huge part of their job after all. Most of them reach out to people, meet a new people and get/make a lot of useful intros on a daily basis.

For them, Clay’s features are probably pretty useful. I can imagine it’s useful knowing it’s Andy’s birthday today, and when you last spoke 9 months Andy was struggling with X, Y and Z and had a baby due in August. And that Andy’s job on LinedIn changed 3 months ago. Etc. Because all that makes excellent context for a quick email to reopen a conversation.

If you read that and thought “well duuh what’s a CRM for?” you’re one of the founders/execs/freelancers/salesperope I’m talking about 👆. We probably agree that the job of a personal CRM is keeping information about the people you know organised, current and readily available.

Which is exactly what all CRMs are for… sales CRMs were originally designed to help salespeople manage exactly this kind of information in a sane way, making it easier to maintain meaningful contextual relationships with customers & leads.

But that’s not at all what I need from a “Personal CRM”. If it was I’d happiliy be using a janky setup of Hubspot, Zoho, Salesforce (💸) or similar to manage my personal relationships.

What I need is a tool that solves a different set of problems. I need a tool that makes maintaining and growing my personal relationships & network easy and fun. I need a tool for people who are not good at this stuff in the first place.

I need a tool that pings me before I meet someone new and suggests context-aware questions & conversation points. I need a frictionless way to note the important bits down and resurface them appropriately. I need to know when two of my contacts have something non-obvious in common, and an easy way to intro them. I need to be magically reminded that when I last spoke to Anna from Random Startup Ltd she was excited about her family trip to Croatia, and I want that reminder (with context) 3 days after she gets home – or whn I happen to end up in Croatia myself.

When I meet people in real life I invariably have a million great conversations, intro people all over the place and get excited. I am by no means bad at building genuine relationships. I need a tool that helps me feel like that when I’m sat at my desk.

Most of all, I need a “Personal CRM” which solves an unsolved problem for me…

I need a tool that makes managing my network of personal relationships feel like the opposite of what salespeople use CRMs for.

I have a large extended network of people with whom I have potential mutually meaningful relationships. In sales parlance, they’re almost all “very warm”. But for the most part, none of us is trying to sell shit to each other. In common with a lot of other people in that network, I’m crap at maintaining the relationships that constitute it and even craper at cultivating the second-order ralationships that could expand it.

I need tooling to help me with that.

Since we’re discussing Personal CRMs, here’s a not-at-all-work-related take…

My housemate is amazing at maintaining her myriad personal relationships. Nothing to do with her work. She loves buying super-thoughtful presents for people she barely knows. She always remembers to invite randos from the pub to stuff they’d enjoy. She always remembers to message about important stuff in folks’ lives. And very quickly “barely knows” doesn’t apply. This is gernuine relationship building done well.

Meanwhile I’m the opposite (I’d forget my own birthday if said housemate didn’t remind me). Sure, I could learn to behave like her, but it would never be natrual and I’d never get off on it the same way she does.

It feels like every Personal CRM I’ve seen is designed for people like my housemate, or even worse… the I-Am-At-Work equivilent of her. ie. Folks who enjoy and are somewhat good at this stuff.

Perhaps obviously, it also feels like every Personal CRM I’ve seen designed by this kind of person.

And it feels like for this kind of person the core value prop of a “Personal CRM” has already been solved by CRMs in general. (Every good salesperson I know maintains a personal CRM of sorts… none use a speciic Personal CRM tool.)

it feels like at best, a Personal CRM is slightly tweaked UX presented as a skin over an already-solved problem.

Meanwhile the problems I have are mostly unsolved by software. I signed up for Clay because I need help “mamaging my personal and professional relationships”. But what I need is not a tool like Clay. Because everything I said above.

And I’m convinced I’m not alone here. I know too many people like me who are excellent at building deep, meaningful relationships with a few people, but can’t bridge the gap to doing so more widely.

I’m equally convinced that none of us is likeley to found a “Personal CRM” startup to address this.

But my goodness would we throw money at someone who did.

Does this chime with anyone else? 👆

PS. I’d love to see Clay’s churn data, segmented by a yes/no to “Do you enjoy buying gifts & organising birthday parties, and when you have amazing convos with people at conferences, do you message them afterwards?” Then label with potential high-value customer.

EDIT: Practical Example…

I bumped into Chase Warrington a bit ago. I’ve been a fan of Chase’s work for ages, and very mcuch look up to him in a work context. He’s exactly the kind of person that should see me stuffing everything I know about him into my “Personal CRM” so I can extract the maximum value from our relationship.

But that’d be mental because neither of us are arseholes, we’ve got nothing to sell each other and fuck basing any relationship on the extraction of value.

I want a Personal CRM that’s like “Chase just interviewed someone you know on his podcast, you should listen to that one and then maybe WhatsApp them both?” or “Chase is in London right now and he’d definitely like this band you’re going to see tomorrow but FYI he’s here for a funeral”.