Free CRM Inside Your GMail

When I managed a company instead of managing myself, I was a “systems” guy. I prided myself in creating order from chaos. Since I worked in the performing arts and foodservice industries, I was never without a challenge. It was a Sisyphean task, but isn’t that what managers do?

One of the biggest boulders I rolled up the hill was ensuring department heads kept detailed and consistent records of every touch point we had with clients, potential donors, suppliers and members.

This was before cloud computing, so we invested in CRM software like Sage ACT. Though excellent, it was expensive.

Because we couldn’t afford multiple licences, syncing data was an ongoing challenge.

Since working on my own, I’ve noticed that my GMail account had built in CRM features that, combined with free third party apps, gives me a way to manage, organize and build my networks. (did I mention “free”.)



Gmail comes with a contact database that will automatically store information on anyone you add or correspond with. You can add lots of information beyond email and name and upload contact information from other systems and files.

Using Google+ Circles in your Contact Manager
If you’re a Google+ user, your circles will be displayed below your custom contact groups.

You can easily see who’s in your circles from within the Contact Manager as well as any email notifications you’ve received from them.

One of the keys to using the Gmail contact database as a mini CRM tool is to use the contact groups function.

By creating groups in your contacts page for things like customers, prospects, vendors and collaborators, you can sort your contact list by function.

Since Google+ circles is integrated with GMail you can also organize your circles as “groups”.

Rapportive CRM GmailRapportive

I’ve used Rapportive for a couple of years but it’s only lately that I understood its benefits.

The biggest advantage is when you open an email, the sender’s details are displayed on the right side.

Take a look at this screencapture of fellow SteamFeed author, Keri Jaehnig.

When I open an email from Keri, I can see her Twitter bio with a few latest tweets, Facebook updates and links to other social networks where I can connect with her.

I can check my email history and add notes.


This app is a good compliment to Rapportive.
While in Rapportive you can check email history, in Boomerang you can manage those emails by:

  • scheduling them
  • having them returned to your inbox if they haven’t been read within a time frame you set
  • receiving notification of their receipt and click throughs. (If allowed by receiver).
  • and setting an email to go away for awhile and come back at a more convenient time for you.

Boomerang GMail CRM


With “circles”, keyword rich profiles and Brand Pages, you can find details, track exchanges and manage your sales funnel all within Google+.

At the bottom of every “about” Tab, there’s a place to fill contact details about the owner of that Profile.

Note: You can only see this as your personal Profile account, not as your Brand Page.

The field is only visible to you.

Gmail Google Plus

So let’s say you just met me on a Hangout and want to put me in a “Consultants to Consider” circle. (Just sayin’ :-))

You can connect with me on any of the links that I’ve included on my page PLUS fill in more contact details by expanding this window.

Once you’ve circled a few promising people and interacted with them through HangOuts and post comments, you can create a “prospect circle”.

This way, they’re easily tracked and the more engagement you have with them, the higher they move in your circle “funnel”.

Remember: Only you can see these notes. It’s not visible to the owner of the profile.

Have you discovered other CRM tricks in Gmail?

If you’d like to learn more about Google plus, subscribe to my Weekly Google+ Tips Newsletter.

Ray Hiltz
Ray Hiltz is a Google Plus specialist and Social Media Strategist with management roots in restaurant, hotel and performing arts. Ray writes about social media, social business and Google Plus on his blog: His clients include hotels, restaurants, consulting firms, entrepreneurs, writers and freelancers. Ray is a popular speaker on Social Media, Social Business and Google+.
Ray Hiltz
Ray Hiltz

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