How many people are in your personal contact list? Thanks to contact lists created automatically when you email nearly anyone using services like Gmail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail, this list could amount to hundreds or even thousands of other people. If you work for yourself or run your own small business, you may email even hundreds of these people every day, let alone contact several more people via email. Remembering to follow up on emails can be burdensome, requiring the use of labels, task lists, Post-it notes, or some complicated GTD system. Unfortunately, none of these solutions always work, and you may forget to follow up on an email that’s now dozens of pages back in your inbox. And what happens if you can’t even remember the name of the person you briefly exchanged emails with three weeks ago?
A new startup wants to solve those problems and more for you. Contactually is a Web-based app that allows users of Gmail and other email services to access their contact list and prioritize their contacts on an on-going basis. Contactually bills itself as “a proactive personal assistant for your email contacts,” allowing users to create a comprehensive and searchable Rolodex-style list of contacts that also reminds you to follow up with recent contacts. By safely and securely connecting to your email contacts via oAuth, Contactually then pulls in your contacts. Thereafter, it monitors your email behavior, reminding you to not only follow up with emails after certain time periods, but allowing you to define what type of contacts to follow up by defining people by category. Users can also use tell Contactually more about each person, adding pictures, bio data, and social media profiles for future access. The more data you provide, the more useful Contactually is. It’s essentially a lightweight CRM for individuals and solo business owners who don’t need something as clunky as Salesforce to duplicate and manage contacts.
Contactually solves a problem for a unique group of people — those who need a way to manage contacts but don’t need something as heavy as Salesforce. This was exactly the problem the founders of Contactually had, which led them to develop the app. Contactually was started in part by Tony Cappaert, along with another two team members, after realizing the pain of trying to manage a network of clients while freelancing. (Tony himself used to be an evangelist for Microsoft.) The project was recently accepted into Dave McClure’s recent class of 500 Startups, and it is now in private beta working with about 400 users.
If the app sounds somewhat familiar, you’re not alone in thinking so. There are other services, such as Rapportive and Gist, that offer popular contact management options for email users. Cappaert admits he “actually uses Rapportive every day and loves it,” but explains you can’t do anything with it. The solution that Contactually offers is being able to not only provide ample details about contacts — which users can fill in, such as Twitter and Facebook information, but prompts users to follow up with these contacts after a few days or a few weeks, or after a set time period that they define. Cappaert also points out that Gist is useful as a global address book, but also lacks the ability to do anything with those contacts.
For those of you who work in a large company or organization, you may already use a CRM like Salesforce to manage your contacts, which in most cases is the large-scale solution for what Contactually is looking to solve, but for the individual or small group. Salesforce can be too big and bulky for someone like a real estate agent or a freelance consultant, yet managing the thousands of contacts (like the team who started Contactually) can easily become impossible, even with task management solutions. Though Contactually can sync with CRMs like Salesforce, the app is designed for the individual, and will eventually support groups so that a small team can assign tasks such as following up with a contact when the reminder appears that it is time to do so. The group version of Contactually will look more like other lightweight collaboration tools, Cappaert explained.
Whether individuals or groups end up using Contactually, the idea is for the app to be a hub that can create a call to action for users and help remind them to reconnect on a continuing basis. And for those who are afraid of installing yet another extension or plug-in to their browser, don’t worry; Contactually is entirely Web-based, so it won’t crash your browser, and you can access it anytime, anywhere. Right now Contactually is also free, though it will likely evolve into a freemium model as more features — such as the group feature — are developed.
If you work for yourself or just have a hard time remembering to follow up emails, you can try out Contactually for free. The first 100 LockerGnome readers to sign up for the beta at Contactually.com using the code lockergnome will have instant access to the private beta of Contactually. If you try try it out, be sure to come back and let us know what you think. Will Contactually make your life easier? Share your thoughts in the comments below.