CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s a software tool that helps you look for and add new users, nurture them more effectively, push them down the funnel faster, and look after them better once they have become customers. More generally, it’s an ever-evolving business management tool. The boundaries of CRM features are constantly expanding, and it’s impossible to attach one definition to it. Still, expect your business to benefit from a CRM system in three ways…

  • Organisation
  • Automation
  • Growth

In this article, we look at two software-based methods of managing your business: Spreadsheet CRM vs. Small Business CRM.

Let’s get organising, automating, and growing!


For organisation.

The Spreadsheet was built for data management.

Cell by cell, of course a spreadsheet is going to help you manage your data - that’s literally what it’s built for. In its modular nature, you’re able to make your spreadsheet as fancy as you want. With 17,179,869,184 cells in which you can enter data, you can fit quite a lot in there. You can make it colourful, make it bold, but whatever you do - follow these spreadsheet best practices...

  • The top row should be headers with labels.
  • Each row under that is a single record.
  • Each column is a single variable.
  • Don't leave cells empty.
  • Put notes in a separate file.
  • Double check your dates, numeric fields, and names.

All those cells sound like messy work. One workaround for this is to use Google Contacts to create your contact database.There are dozens of different fields that you can fill out multiple times, and there are even custom fields for extra industry-specific information. When you do need your contact list in spreadsheet form, it’s easy to export! Importing is a little more difficult.

Here’s how to export Google Contacts to a spreadsheet...

  1. The Export button is found on the left-hand sidebar
  2. Select the file format. It’ll be Google .CSV if you’re importing to Google Sheets.
  3. Export.
  4. Head to Google Sheets.
  5. File > Import > Upload from your device. Choose your .CSV file and then hit Import data.
  6. On the next menu, the pre-set variables are the cleanest.
  7. Clean your data up.
Yeah looks... messy.

Step 7 is a big one. Upon importing your data from Google Contacts, you’re going to have a lot of empty, irrelevant columns and cells of data. As a result, you won’t be able to comfortably maintain a spreadsheet database by entering data within Google Contacts. Each time you need to import new contacts to your spreadsheet, you’ll need to do a lot of data clearing and maintenance.

It’s called data entry, and we hate it.

We don’t hate you, though; we quite like you, actually, and we like giving you stuff. If you really want to have a bash at managing a contact database as a spreadsheet, you can. I wrote this article some time back, outlining exactly how to create a spreadsheet CRM. There’s a lovely little template in there that you can download.

Simply hit the link and scroll until you find it - another big, fat NetHunt freeby!

The Spreadsheet wasn’t built for pipelines, but it can work.

A sales pipeline is a visual snapshot of the different deal stages a lead goes through before they become a buyer. It’s a simple tool to help businesses get organised, prevent any leads from falling through gaps, and maximise your business’s customer retention and revenue.

This is my pipeline spreadsheet CRM.

Spreadsheet pipelines are possible, and they can work. Spreadsheets are a collaborative tool, so you can update a spreadsheet pipeline in real time and make sure everybody has access to the same data. Another helpful tool is adding notes to each data cell in your spreadsheet - again, this ensures everybody is on the same page. I’ll tentatively say that the final cool thing you can do with a spreadsheet pipeline is to have it interact with the same data in your contacts spreadsheet.

Spreadsheet CRM: The Basics
We, the nice guys at NetHunt, have put together a complete guide for exactly what you need. It gives you a no-strings-attached lowdown on building your own CRM system on a spreadsheet.

Alas, I don’t have the time to sit here and think of a clever way to present the downsides that come with a spreadsheet pipeline CRM. So, here comes a classic bullet point list...

  • Manual data entry sucks hard.
  • The chances of a human mistake are high with so much data entry.
  • You need to move a deal into the next stage manually.
  • Sales activities are likely to be repeated.
  • Limited reporting opportunities.
  • So much data is difficult to maintain in a clean, minimal way in a spreadsheet.

Data management, the NetHunt Way.

If you’re looking for a Small Business CRM to replace your Google Contacts or spreadsheet database, look no further than NetHunt Small Business CRM.

You’ve got all your partners, leads, and clients; your mum, your dad, and even your poor grandma, who you haven’t called for six months in Google Contacts. We don’t blame you, it’s a flipping good address book, and you don’t want to switch to another one; we get it.

The thing is, NetHunt small business CRM has this thing called Google Contact sync - you can bring all your lovely contacts in from Google Contacts automatically. Even if you still want to enter all your new contacts through Contacts, automatically via Gmail or whatever, our nifty system does it at regular intervals without disrupting your workflow.

Our nifty platform doesn’t just maintain all your old business data; it helps you generate new, high-value business data through lead generation features. We’re a Gmail CRM. That means the system beautifully integrates with Gmail functionality to bring you the best of both worlds. You can add new records to your database, from incoming emails, at the click of a button. Easy.

Want some more? We’ve got a heap of different lead generation tools, through both inbound and outbound lead generation channels.

For inbound lead generation...

Web forms are the way to go. Let’s say… you’re launching a new feature in your CRM system. It’s called Workflows, and it automates annoying, daily processes. You’re hosting a webinar with your gorgeous Customer Success Team to tell excited leads all about your new feature. You’d create a landing page, like this, with a webform for visitors to fill in to receive their email invite to the event. Like this.

Our web form for a the Workflows Webinar

That’s not to say we’ve not got other forms of inbound lead generation features for your business. Our Intercom integration brings all your Intercom chats into the NetHunt dashboard, centralising your data and offering one more channel of lead generation. Our Facebook Messenger integration does the same thing for Messenger. Everything stays in one place, just how we like it.

For outbound lead generation...

LinkedIn is where the leads of the world hang out. As a professional social network, you won’t find a better place for like-minded professionals who need business services. It’s a B2B marketplace, and once you’ve optimised your profile, got involved in the conversations, and made some connections, use NetHunt’s LinkedIn integration to scrape their data to your CRM. Go here to find out how to implement that LinkedIn integration.

How to Use LinkedIn for Sales: Walkthrough from Finding a Lead to Closing a Deal
LinkedIn is a goldmine of sales leads. And if you don’t know where to start, read this article - we’ll take you through all the essential steps of LinkedIn sales, from finding a lead to closing a deal.

For automation.

There is one way of mail merging your way to email automation in Sheets.

Email personalisation is pretty much a given these days. I won’t say your name is the most powerful word in your vocabulary and will make people open your emails - it’s not, and it won’t. Instead, including a recipient’s name in an email is a professional but personal detail. Everybody else is doing it, and so should you. The question is… how?

Well, have you ever wondered which poor intern’s job is to sit behind every email in an email campaign and type out every single recipient’s name after Dear? If you have, we’ve got news for you. No intern is doing that. Instead, clever marketers are using a tool called Mail Merge. Mail Merge allows users to personalise mass email campaigns simply.

There’s one non-native way of mail merging email campaigns.

  1. Download a copy of the Gmail Sheets Mail Merge spreadsheet; it’s available here.
  2. Update the column labelled Recipients with all the email addresses you want to target with your bulk email campaign, as well as their first name, last name, and any other data you need to include. As your contact list grows, you might find it helpful to add their name to this list as you go along.
  3. Open Gmail and create a draft of your bulk email. Make sure you include a subject line that is specific to your email. If you need some inspiration, we’ve got loads of templates here. As you draft the body, use macro commands such as {{first-name}} to merge the data columns you need. Make sure those forms match the column names in the merge Sheet. The more columns you have with different data, the more precisely you can personalise your bulk campaign.
  4. Head back to the Sheet, and hit the Mail Merge button on the top toolbar. Then, Send Emails. When prompted, copy and paste the subject line you drafted in your message and hit OK. The {{macro-commands}} have now been populated.
  5. The email should have been sent. If you’re not sure, check the Email Sent column, and it should have updated from blank to sent.

Sounds like hard work? It is. Let’s try The NetHunt Way.

The NetHunt Way takes email automation further.

Email automation in NetHunt goes way further than that. Instead of simply automating the input of personal details with roundabout macros, NetHunt automates every single step of your bulk email processes. If you don’t believe that’s possible, let us talk you through how we do it.

Segment your audience database

Use NetHunt Gmail CRM to filter, sort, and segment your contacts and subscribers whichever ways you need. Create multiple segments and have them automatically updated with new contacts that match your filters. This means you can send targeted email campaigns to different sectors of your audience - be they sectored by demographics, psychographics, engagement, buyer journey, or whatever else.
It’s a lot to take in; read the tutorial for audience segmentation here!

Create fresh email campaigns and save them as templates.

With NetHunt CRM, you can import, save, share HTML templates or create new ones with native Gmail formatting. Personalise emails with subscriber list membership, lifecycle stage, or any other information in their contact record. Automatically deliver the most relevant and engaging subject lines, content, and CTAs to segmented audiences.
Find out how to build HTML templates here!

Send automated drip campaigns with the Workflows builder.

In fact, you can even automate when emails are sent to your segmented users. Workflows by NetHunt CRM helps you nurture your leads with email campaigns. Email sequence lead nurturing doesn’t just work in terms of sales, but it also… increases email open rates, keeps you fresh in a prospect’s mind, provides instant results for prospects, opens up an opportunity to inform and entertain leads.Segment your audience, create a template, and send it when you want, based on triggers or time, with NetHunt CRM.
Find out how to use email sequences with NetHunt CRM!

In fact, let’s talk more about NetHunt’s sales automation.

Sales automation is the streamlining of tedious, time-consuming tasks in a company’s sales process. You know the ones: the admin, the checking of accounts to see what’s happening, and all that god-damn data entry. Sales automation saves you time, and most importantly, it makes you money.

Like you can automate every step of your email process, you can automate everything else in the bigger picture. NetHunt is handily built around a sales pipeline. This visualises your sales processes, where your leads are on it, and what needs to be done next. You can also automate every single step of it. Having already told you about how to automate lead generation and nurturing, let’s look at how Workflows by NetHunt CRM can help your sales team stay on top of their stuff.

Let’s say you want to receive a notification in Google Chat whenever a field value changes with a deal. That could be that they have moved to the next stage of a pipeline; it could be that the amount of their particular deal has gone up, and they require special attention. Either way, receive a ping into your Google Chat dashboard to keep up with what’s going on. Nothing gets missed.

  1. Create a new group or choose an existing one. Give it a name, and choose who you want to join and who will be able to join.
  2. Click in the group and click on the title. From the dropdown menu, choose Manage Webhooks.
  3. Define the incoming webhook in Google Chat, provide a name, and optionally an avatar for the bot.
  4. Copy the URL and save it. NetHunt will send messages to this URL.
  5. Time to leave Google Chat and open your NetHunt dashboard.
  6. Head to the Workflows tab and start a new automation.
  7. Create a starting trigger. In this case, we want a notification for when Any field value changes in a folder of our choice. We made a folder and put a particularly important deal there that we want to keep an eye on.
  8. Create a new action: Send a Google Chat Message.
  9. Paste the webhook that we copied from Google Chat.
  10. Next, activate the Workflow and test it. Change any value of your chosen deal, and you should receive a notification in Google Chat. Huzzah!

That’s just an example. Depending on which one you choose, you can set webhooks to send notifications to either Slack or email. You can set those notifications to be sent for whatever - like when a new lead pops into your CRM or when a deal has been won. You can set the workflow not just to send a notification but run several tasks simultaneously. The possibilities are endless.

Staying in the Loop: Automate Sales Team Management with Webhooks
Be alerted when a new a pops up in your CRM, receive status notifications for important accounts, notify your team when the deal is won or lost, or get pinged when a lead responds to your drip campaign.

Believe us; you don’t get that with a small business spreadsheet CRM.

For growth.

Alas, the whole point of implementing a CRM system - of having all that organisation and automation at the heart of your business - is so that your business can grow. As a result, your CRM system needs to have the capabilities to grow alongside you. It should deal with a growing customer database, a more complex sales pipeline, and the higher numbers being forecast and secured.

Do Spreadsheet CRMs have the capacity to grow?

Whether your spreadsheet CRM grows or not is largely down to yourself and the skills you possess and develop to continue maintaining your spreadsheet better. For example, you can learn some new formulas that further automate Spreadsheet CRM processes; some smartypants might make a new macro. You could create a new macro yourself… but that’s all very time-consuming.

The problem with a Spreadsheet CRM is that it’s just that - a spreadsheet. No matter how clever the person who invented the spreadsheet is, it was never designed to run your business out of. It’s a core tool that can be developed, with graft, into a tool that can just help you run your business. You’d have to do it alone, without a provider to show you the ropes.

Like I say, the first spreadsheet was made in 1979… what’s changed!?

In answer to my question, no. No, spreadsheet CRMs literally do not have the capacity to grow. Google Sheets are limited to 5,000,000 cells. It’s a lot, but it’s not infinite. In Numbers by Apple, you’re stuck with an uninfinite column count of 256. Come on; you’re better than that. And Microsoft Excel… well, you’re limited by however much memory your computer has free.

No. Spreadsheet CRMs do not have the capacity to grow.

Small business CRMs have the capacity to grow.

Wait - they were built to grow. These days, the best small business CRMs are cloud-based. You can stick all your data right on NetHunt’s servers and not have to worry about how you can access it. We’ve got mobile apps in both the Apple App Store and the Android App Store, helping you stay on top of your data - adding it, editing it, harnessing it - wherever you are in the world.

We’ve got a gorgeous Customer Success Team who are ready and excited to provide a demo to whoever wants it. They’ll learn your business inside-out to make sure you’re getting the most out of our service, and if you’re not, they’ll listen and try to implement any specific changes you want to see made, so the system works for you. Your success is our success, so let’s get there together.

Finally - we are growing. We are literally growing. This year alone, we’ve released our Intercom, Google Data Studio, and Facebook integrations, so NetHunt works with the tools you already use to cover every aspect of your business’s processes. We’ve put our Web Forms for free with no registration required, and of course, we released the Workflows feature.

Grow Your Business Faster with NetHunt CRM


We’ve got a complete roadmap of integrations and features coming your way. Get involved today.

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