How I built a free CRM in Notion

As a small business owner, you always see yourself struggling to decide between investing in products and investing in operations. From my personal experience, I have seen the former taking priority, as a result, the operations have to suffer which does impact the profitability in long run. This personal experience comes from helping my mother with her boutique store in a small town in India.

This is a one of its kind store in that town, we offer clothing and accessories for women. We also offer stitching and alteration service. Though we carry a wide variety of clothing, the majority of our revenue comes from stitching. The nature of this business is, we provide the service first and get paid later. We have to maintain accounts of all of our customers and send periodic reminders for payment. Imagine doing all of this manually, this is, keeping a track of what each customer bought and pending amount. My mom was buried in papers, diaries, and excel files and wanted a better system to manage all of this.

When COVID hit and both of us had time to really think about how to fix this, I started my quest to find a perfect CRM for her. There were a lot of CRM solutions available but none of those solutions were free and I could not find anyone solution that would meet all our requirements. After much deliberation, I decided to build a CRM from scratch for her using Notion.

The initial requirements were very basic. My mom wanted a place to maintain measurements of all her customers in one place that is better than an excel sheet. She has an excel sheet but that sheet was so huge, working with that was becoming a challenge. So, I create a database called it “Customer Database” which had each customer's contact details, and their measurements. Another thing she wanted was, a place to create invoices. So, I created an invoice database and linked it to the customer database. Now we can see the invoices of each customer in the customer database. Linking these two databases also enabled us to calculate the LTV of our customers. With this information, we can now design personalized offers for our customers. The invoice database also enables us to see monthly sales and dues within seconds.

To re-engage our customers my mom wanted to start birthday promotions. With our customer database already in place, it was as simple as adding another field to that database and start collecting that information. We sent out a google form to all our customers to collect that information and added it to our customer database. Then I created a calendar view of the customer database to see all the upcoming birthdays.

Calander view of Customer Database

We keep adding more databases and keep linking them as the need changes. We created a color database, a fabric database. These are commonly used attributes when creating an invoice. Instead of using the label field, we decided to create the database.

Notion has not become a one-stop for us to manage the business. Our entire family now contributes towards generating content for Facebook and Instagram. I created a content calendar using the board view and gave access to this page to my siblings. This makes it very easy to manage our social media campaigns.

Snapshot of content calendar

Right now I am working on linking Customer Database with Google contacts using automate.io

This CRM is more or less perfect for my mom’s needs. However, I feel there is a lot of room for improvement. I wish there was an easy way to connect Notion with WhatsApp which would allow us to automatically send birthday wishes and offers, or send payment reminders.

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