BigContacts CRM Review
I fell in love with BigContacts for its customizability and it’s easy-on-the-eyes displays. BigContacts is a real workhorse of a product for the right customer in a small to medium-sized business.
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- CRM Software
- Reviewed by
- Judy Swann
BigContacts is a web-based contact management system for companies that have outgrown Outlook, Excel, or ACT. From the people who brought you ACT!, it is built to support classic sales and marketing workflows.
Contact Management and Tracking, Calendars, Email — including “drip” emails — Web and Mobile Platforms, Reports, Security, integration with other management apps, API and OAuth access, as well as Product Support.
BigContacts doesn’t tie users to a single PC because it is web-based, not installation-based. In a world of ubiquitous web, BigContacts makes it easy to assign tasks, share calendars, and distribute contacts. BigContacts’ ActiveCampaign component (available via separate subscription) can also be leveraged to build custom web forms and landing pages
I love the BigContacts main dashboard. It is easy to navigate, easy to read, and easy to edit. It contains (or can be customized to contain) everything I want to know about a contact before I meet with, call, or email him or her.
The Contact Record is the heart of the system and it consists of two tabs – personal data on the left with links to their social media persona, Googlemaps, the contact’s photo if you have it, multiple phone number fields, email address fields, physical addresses, and an unlimited number of custom fields. BigContacts only displays fields that have data entered into them. Use the search bar at the top to get another record front and center.
But wait, you may want to view things from another perspective, for example, as a list. To do so, click Contact List in the upper right. Scroll through and select to return to the detailed view:
Adding users is a straightforward process. Users can be added as Administrators or as General Users. When an Administrator adds a user, that user is sent a verification email. Responding to the email logs the new user into a tidy dashboard showing contacts in the system and any upcoming activities. Both General Users and Administrators can change the user’s password.
By selecting Edit Contact under Action Items, a new user can easily add detail to displayed contacts. BigContacts provides Personal, Work, Spouse, and Family tabs. Shown below is part of the Personal tab’s edit screen, with some of the drop-downs open. :
Besides the information that you key into fields, you can also store documents and files relevant to the contact. When adding files to a contact, for example, you are not limited to a file that will serve as the contact’s photo; although it’s easy enough to do just that:
You can also upload reports, invoices, spreadsheets – any file that is less than 25 MB.
To tailor BigContacts to the specific needs of your business, you can go to the Admin tab as Administrator. BigContacts is highly customizable. Ion the Admin tab you can add your product list, task lists that reflect your workflows and processes, custom data fields that you want to collect, marketing email templates, etc.
As Admin, you can require or hide fields as you so choose; and you can create custom fields:
Here’s how a user’s dashboard looks after she has edited the contact she had access to and assigned it to herself:
To populate the right-hand portion of the screen — the Activity lists — click the Action Items menu on the left and select Add History, Schedule a Meeting, Assign Task, Notepad, Add File / Photo, Add Opportunity, or Send Letter. All of these can be written on the fly, except for the letters. To populate the list of available letters, you must first go to Admin -> Manage Templates -> Letter Templates as Administrator and create your templates there.
Scroll down to see history items. To see them in reverse chronological order, click the column header “Date”, as shown below:
All the History list columns are sortable, which may be reason enough to switch to this app. Great information!
For the most part, the Admin interface is intuitive; and customizing the interface is both quick and easy. BigContacts is flexible enough, for example, that you can configure custom tasks, pipelines, and projections. The Sales Manager Report is where you go to see the state of your pipelines and projections:
Use the Admin menu to create custom tasks:
One point to be aware of though is that the error messages are in a low-key, black font; and you might not immediately realize that you have made an input error. Here, for example, is an error I encountered when I created the product record for the pitch I was going to make at the soccer coach meeting I scheduled with my contact Nenad Zigante:
And occasionally, BigContacts will let you put in nonsense…although it’s also easy to delete unwanted entries.
Importing contacts was the only part of my BigContacts trial that was not 100% smooth, and could be quickly solved if BigContacts refreshed the info and instructions on their website. For example, here’s what BigContacts says you’ll see in the Gmail exporter:
But here’s what you actually see in GMail:
Note that for importing into BigContacts, you must choose the ‘Outlook CSV or other application’ format, not the Gmail CSV format.
On the positive side, BigContacts support sent me the following informative email within 5 minutes of my inquiry.
- Is your first row a “header” row? The header row tells the Import wizard which field you would like to map the column to. Contacts should be on a separate row starting with row 2 (the row directly under your Header row)
- Does your spreadsheet contain any blank headers, blank rows, blank columns, or rows/columns you do not need? Blank rows and columns can cause a breakdown in the import process so remove any blank columns and rows as well as any you do not care to import.
- Does your spreadsheet have any columns containing DATE fields such as “Date of Birth” or “Creation Date”? If you have a “Creation Date” column, you will want to remove it as the ‘creation date’ is automatically captured for you already. Since Date of Birth is a formatted field, the dates you have in that column should be formatted correctly or it may cause an issue. Example of correct formatting:03/25/2014. Although it isn’t common, sometimes a date field can cause a spreadsheet not to load so try saving a copy of the file WITHOUT the date(s) columns and see if it will upload.
- Is your spreadsheet saved as .CSV (comma separated value) versus Microsoft Excel? The wizard cannot import an Excel file so do a “save-as” and select “CSV”
- Is your spreadsheet large? After you delete all blank columns and rows along with any columns and rows you do not want to import, how many rows and columns do you have left? The Import wizard has typically been able to import files that are approximately 3K rows and 12-15 columns. If your file is not uploading you can break it down into smaller, separate files (make sure each file has a header row).
- Do you know who the contacts will be assigned to (what user on your team should the contact be assigned to)? If you click on the Admin tab and then on “Add/Edit Users” you will see a User ID in each user row. Place a column on your spreadsheet with a header labeled “Assigned to” and then put the User’s ID on the appropriate rows in that column.
- Do you have any combined information in any of the cells? Example, instead of a column for “Address”, “Address 2”, and “Address 3”, do you have just one column with the entire address put into the same cell? What about first and last name? If you do not care about having that data go one field you can proceed, however if you want this data to be in the correct fields you will need to add a column to your spreadsheet so you can place the right data into the right column.
Having chosen the correct format and made the necessary edits to my CSV, mapping was easy and the file imported perfectly. I now had 236 contacts in the app.
You only import contacts once. Any pain you might experience during import – and you might not experience any — is quickly eclipsed by the app’s ability to manage your contacts.
BigContacts hosts live webinars twice a week that presents a high level overview. The fact that they are so regularly scheduled means it is easy to fit one into your own schedule and they are well-done – informative, well-paced, and useful. You can post questions in the chat window for one-on-one Q&A.
You can also write to BigContacts support, and get a timely, informative response, witness the email I transcribed above.
You can send and receive emails from inside your BigContacts account – regardless of the email service provider that you use. Emails you send and emails you receive are all tracked — including their attachments — right in the contact record.
Because you can categorize and tag or otherwise annotate your contacts in whatever way you want, you can also specifically target subsets of your contacts lists for email blasts that are appropriate to that contact’s interests.
Email Drip Campaigns allow you to deliver your message to clients and prospects in a regular, timely way, following a trajectory you design, even without stepping up to the ActiveCampaign add-on. BigContacts allows you to style a variety of templates that keep your email marketing campaigns eye-catching.
Email drop box
By adding a “dropbox” address in the BCC of emails sent from a mail service external to BigContacts, you can be sure that all emails you send are tracked in-app on the contact record.
Because you’ll be having many more productive interactions with clients and prospectives than you ever did in the past, you will end up using BigContacts calendar feature as your first go-to after log-in. You can view your calendar in daily, weekly, monthly views, and you can overlay team members’ calendars with yours so as to better coordinate with them. BigContacts also emails you with reminders about upcoming events on your calendar.
“Over 80% of respondents to a recent CRM survey confirmed they’re using a smartphone of some type. For the CRM industry, it’s clear that the next major battlefront will be mobile CRM adoption.” (http://www.crmswitch.com/mobile-crm/crm-vendors-betting-on-mobile-adoption/). So luckily, BigContacts has a mobile edition. It is not an app that you have to get from your phone’s app store; there is nothing to download. The difference is all in the formatting to fit your mobile screen. What’s not to love?
The app formatted adequately and performed well on all three screen sizes I used it on: a Samsung smartphone, an iPad, and a 14” laptop monitor.
There are two reasons to collect contact data. The first is to act on it and the second is to report on it (which leads back to acting on it). BigContacts has a solid set of canned reports and allows you to customize your own set as well. Here’s what’s included out of the box:
BigContacts has an exciting near-term roadmap that includes the addition of social media monitoring and even more email management capabilities.
Drip email as described above, plus tight integration with ActiveCampaign
Add-Ons, and API
The current pricing structure is $19 per user/per month for BigContacts itself, with additional fees for marketing emails as follows:
GeoTrust SSL, Rackspace, and Amazon Web Services
- Web-based app
- Great support, including a Zendesk Support Library
- Clear useful dashboard
- Easy activity tracking
- Mobile interface
- Potentially tricky contact importing
- Separate pricing structure for next-level marketing emails
If you are prioritizing customer relationship management, BigContacts will give you that focus. I can see both sales and marketing teams getting value from BigContacts in sectors as diverse as commodity sales, services, technology, publishing, real estate, and non-profit. Endorsements on the company website attest to widespread user-enthusiasm for BigContacts.
September 8th, 2014