Free CRM? Yes. For Lawyer? Maybe.

Etelos has debuted its CRM solution for Google – announcement here, features overview here. How does it work? Simple – as a series of add-ons to your Google personalized homepage. (If you haven’t taken advantage of the Google Homepage feature, you really need to explore it. It’s incredibly scalable and capable of extreme degrees of personalization. You add in the features you want to see – both from Google and from other providers, and there are hundreds, and the result is a personalized home page with function.)

Etelos’s CRMforGoogle (anyone want to place a bet on how long it will take Google’s lawyers to respond to that one?) works by inserting your choice of a series of add-ons to the Google homepage:

  • Contact Management: entries for each contact, plus management capabilities for all types of contacts (messages, tasks, sales, calls, appointments)
  • Notes
  • Marketing Toolkit: create and manage standard messages, drip message campaigns (timed release, so you don’t overwhelm potential clients with too much information all at once), articles, custom email styles (templates and designs to use for different message campaigns)
  • Tasks Management: includes call logs and much more
  • Sales Prospects Management: however you define “sales”
  • And more.

The way it works: you sign up for an account. Etelos gets back to you within a few days (interesting choice – it took them less than 24 hours to send my notice but it went straight to spam). You download the modules you want to see on your home page. Once they’re installed on your Google homepage, you can reorder and arrange them anyway you like (as you can with any Google homepage add-on). You interact with each of the modules directly from that page.

I’m not even 24 hours into tinkering with this set of tools but already I see vast potential for Inspired Solos. First of all, the basic personal subscription is free. This is a must for bootstrapping solos  (CRM and case management tools on the market specifically designed for lawyers run upwards of $400 – some up to $1000.) Second, if you can get past the sales-model language, you’ll find that the underlying infrastructure is common to most if not all businesses, and can be adapted to law firms. “Sales” is easy – that’s signing up clients. Contacts can be PCs, opposing counsel, competitors, expert witnesses, outsource vendors, etc. You can upgrade your membership for a price and gain the ability to share tasks, contacts, etc. among employees – so when you start adding staff and associates down the road, you won’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just upgrade, and add those accounts to your own setup. (Seems you can also tell the system which notes, for example, to share and which to keep private, so you don’t lose that all-important confidentiality and control.)

So, is it ready for primetime? I’m not sure yet. The “sales” concept, while at its essence similar to what lawyers do to sign clients, does distract. In the days ahead, I’m going to work on creating an approach for lawyers to use with CRMforGoogle, for my own use. If it’s as robust as it appears to be, and truly does offer all that solos need in a CRM solution, I’m more than willing to put up with the “sales” language.  I’ll test it out and report back here on Inspired Solo in upcoming posts.

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