If you’re a solopreneur, startup, or medium sized business without the need for a full blown CRM with all the bells and whistles, Airtable fits in nicely as a low-tech, low-cost solution.
In this article I’ll show you how we use Airtable in our organization as a CRM for outreach and relationship management.
Using Airtable as an all-purpose CRM
A CRM itself is all about visibility on your deals.
The client interaction pipeline helps you see the value of deals, what stage they’re in, and which people are involved in the deals.
In a very basic sense we can split any CRM into two components:
- Contact list
- Interactions tracker
If you’re new to Airtable it’s super easy to create a contacts list and enrich it with all kinds of metadata.
If you’re already a power user, you probably already have a ton of contacts stored in your Control Center.
For example, in my previous article on consolidating your Airtable base I showed you how to create a table that incorporates ALL of your team members, customers and partners into a single tab called “People”.
Now I’m going to build on that lesson and show you how to use your contacts data to power your lightweight CRM.
Set up a contacts list
For the purposes of this tutorial I’ll be referencing our “MemberFix Control Center”.
(This is what call our main Airtable Base that we use to run our business.
Let’s take a look at our People table in the Partners view :
In our particular case, we’re mostly interested in doing outreach for links, guest posts and partnership deals with various companies in our market.
For example, we have a relationship with the team over at MemberMouse (a very popular membership plugin).
This relationship has brought a lot of mutual value in the forms of podcast interviews, guest posts, links, listings in services directories, reviews, etc.
Since this relationship has been such a huge win for us, we now try to actively cultivate similar relationships in our industry.
Actually, this was the original inspiration for building this CRM in the first place!
However, you might want to build your CRM around some other function like:
– cold outreach
– affiliate / JV partners
– podcast interviews
HOW you implement your CRM is limited only by your imagination.
But you need to understand the way Airtable works to make it real.
A quick reminder of the fields we’re using in this table:
- Name (single line text) – a Company’s name
- Entity (single select) – an entity type, in our case: Team/Customer/Partner
- Status (single select) – current status of the deal
- Notes (long text) – any relevant notes regarding the deal
- Listing URL (URL) – a URL where we plan to have us listed
- Contact (sinle line text) – a name of contact from another side (if any)
- Email (email field) – an email of the contact/company (if any)
- CRM is a related field that system will generate automatically once we done with part II
In simple words you have a Contact list set already, so let’s move onto the next step:
Tracking interactions (touches) with your Airtable CRM
Create a new table in your base, name it whatever you want, I’ll use ‘CRM‘ as an example:
This table that will be your tracker doesn’t need to have many fields, in our example they are:
- Date (date) – It is an interaction date
- Prospect (partners) – a linked record to the People table with a limit records selection to ‘Partners’ view
- Touch (integer number) – a serial number for interaction cycle
- Stage (single select) – you deal’s stage, the exact titles will be higly dependent on your business
- Notes (long text) – any relevant notes for this particular communication round
- Reconnect Date (date) – a planned date for next communication round
- Customer – linked record to the People table with a limit records selection to ‘Customers’ view
- Owner – linked record to the People table with a limit records selection to ‘Team’ view
Now when you have a raw view created it is time to add more visibility to your tracker.
Since you have 2 separate type of entities let’s go ahead and create 2 different views.
Setting up a Partners view
Step 1 – Create a new View and name it as you want to.
Step 2 – Apply Filter Where ‘Prospect (partner)’ is not empty in order to show on this view only Partner’s deals.
Step 3 – Add Group by ‘Prospect (partners)’ from A to Z.
Step 4 – Enable sorting by ‘Prospect (partners) from A to Z and by Touch from 1 to 9.
You would get the following result once done steps above:
For Drip we had 4 touches in our pipeline and “lost” the deal by 4th cycle.
For Elegant Themes, on the other hand, we “won” the deal at a very first round of communication.
Winning or losing a deal means whatever you want it to mean. It can mean that you got a link (you “won” the link), or you got accepted as a guest poster (you “won” the guest post).
Losing a deal just means that—for now—whatever goal you were looking to achieve didn’t work out.
And obviously you’re not confined to using the conventional sales terminology; you can call deal stages whatever you want. And for that matter, you can call “deals” whatever you want too!
Setting up a Customers view
To build this one just repeat above 4 steps for another view:
(You’ll want to apply a filter where ‘Customer’ is not empty.)
Case Study: PLBoost.com
Our founder Vic did a strategy call with his friend Marley from PLBoost.com.
The goal of the call…?
To help Marley transition away from Google Sheets as his CRM to Airtable.
Here’s a recording of the session that shows you how to conceptualize this process:
Bonus: Airtable CRM Case Study
In this video I got on Zoom with my good friend Marley and I guided him through using Airtable as a CRM for his business, PLBoost.
We also talked about using Airtable instead of Google Sheets, and the pros and cons of that. Enjoy!
We’ve only skimmed the surface of how to set up and implement a CRM in Airtable.
I’m also convinced that there are better ways to do it than how we’re doing it!
But the point to remember is that you can get Airtable to do just about anything you want.
And you don’t need to learn a new app, spend money on new subscriptions, and add distractions for yourself and your team.
Instead, you have created a lightweight CRM for your needs in less than 30 minutes.
Now play around to get it “just so.” 🙂
And if you questions, comments or suggestions, leave your comment below!
Using data you already have in your base, no need to export/import it
Free of charges
Whole setup lasts less than half an hour
No additional software needed
Posesses only basic functionality
Suitable for simple deals
No built-in automation, will require an external help (for example using Zapier)
Need Pro version to add color to pipeline stages
Now let’s hear from you!
Are you using any CRM in your business?
Tell us which ones in the comments section below!
What do you think of this tutorial?
Article Title: How we use Airtable as a lightweight CRM
Short Description: Looking for a simple and reliable CRM solution? Click here to know how we did this using Airtable!
Author: Viktor Nadein
Publisher - Orgnization: MemberFix
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My name is Viktor, I’m a MemberFix Operations Manager with more than 10 years of experience in IT industry. Along with providing world class customer service I like to ride one of that old indestructible Toyota pickups in places where nobody likely ever been and enjoy hiking in the mountains on my free days.