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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Creating a Mail Merge from Contacts in Highrise

I've started using Highrise from 37 Signals to manage sales prospects for the SQIP Patent Sequence Database. My requirements for a CRM system are pretty basic. Highrise fits the bill for now, but it's OK - not great.

One glaring problem for me is that I want to create a file of all contacts and their addresses for a physical mailing. In Highrise I record the address for each Company and then just record the company for each Person. When you dump your contacts out as a CSV file 'Person' records do not inherit the address of the linked Company... really, it doesn't...

So I wrote a Ruby script to create what I want from the CSV file. You can find that here: http://gist.github.com/258950

1. Dump your contacts from Highrise
2. Run the script on that file
$ ./merge_highrise_contacts.rb contacts.csv > mail_merge.csv
3. Load the output file into Excel or Numbers (09)
4. Save as a Worksheet
5. Follow the regular Mail Merge instructions for MS Word/Excel or Apple Pages/Numbers

You need the '09 version of Pages/Numbers to do a proper Mail Merge. I prefer Numbers to Excel for this as it handles international characters properly, which I need.

In Numbers you need to designate the Header line as such by selecting 'Convert to Header Row' from the pull down menu on the row 1 label.

I'm all for the 37 Signals 'Keep things simple' approach but there are features that are just too widely used to ignore. Not being able to build a mailing list is one. Not having Prefix and Suffix for Person records is another.

Many of my contacts have doctorates and I want to record the prefix 'Dr.' for those that do. The only way I can do that in Highrise is to include it in the First Name. This is a pain.

6 comments:

eric g said...

Robert,

These are some good points and we will consider adding them to our simple CRM, Lead Zeppelin.
I'll ping you back once they're available!

eric g said...

Robert,

How do you see the CRM handling multiple instances of 'work' addresses? Say you tag a person with ABC Inc, but they put in a different (or slightly) different address in the person's profile, tagged as a 'work' address?

I'm assuming the export would crank out the entered Work address as well as the associated ABC Inc address. So you'd need to scrub or dedupe any multiple output addresses?

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Aaron said...

What about an email list? Is there away to do that?

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