Personal Relationship Manager History & Apps Available Today [UPDATED 2023]
12 min read

Personal Relationship Manager History & Apps Available Today [UPDATED 2023]

Personal Relationship Manager History & Apps Available Today [UPDATED 2023]

Update from the author: we’ve updated the product information, software details and history to be current for 2023

To be successful in your professional or personal life, maintaining good relationships with people around you is essential. However, with an ever-expanding network and busy schedule, it can be difficult to remember important events such as birthdays, anniversaries, etc. If you are in a similar predicament, using personal relationship management software might be the solution for you.

Personal relationship management software, also known as personal CRM, helps individuals maintain their relationships and connections. This is usually used in businesses to maintain good relationships with customers or stakeholders. However, these days they are also used in families or to stay connected to coworkers and other work-related friends and connections.

Due to social media and the availability of technology, people’s social and personal networks have become quite large – it’s hard to keep track of it all. That is why personal relationship management apps are becoming more and more popular by the day. If you are curious about what personal CRM is and how to use it, keep reading because this article will provide all the answers.

What Is Personal Relationship Management?

To understand personal relationship management, we must first understand CRM, which stands for customer relationship management. As the name suggests, CRM software allows businesses to collect data and maintain healthy relationships with their customers. In the past, relationship management software was only used for maintaining professional connections. However, as the nature of professional relationships changed, the use of CRM has changed as well.

The word we must grapple with in current relationship management apps is the word "customer". In the past using CRM was mainly about making sales. These relationships were focused on customers and clients.Though many CRM solutions are still used in this way, the development of personal CRM apps also emerged to help people maintain relationships they have a greater personal stake in.

By the time you start a professional career, you’ll likely have many different types of contacts and relationships: high school friends, college friends, coworkers, close clients, professors, distant relatives, etc. Though each of these relationships are important, remembering every important detail from all of your relationships is not feasible.

What is Personal CRM?

A personal CRM helps individuals manage their personal and professional network through  notes, reminders, and integrations.  Personal CRMs organize important information, consolidate contact data, and remind users to reach out on special occasions like birthdays.

Key features of many personal CRMs include the ability to present all relevant information about a person in one place.  For example, a personal CRM may remind you to contact someone on their special day like wedding anniversaries.  They may also allow you to look back on your contact history with someone before meeting them. In this way, personal CRM apps can strengthen relationships and save you from awkward or embarrassing conversations.

Personal CRM: A Quick History

CRM software is a relatively new invention. However, the practice of noting down information to maintain relationships has existed for many years. We’ve divided the history of CRM and the later development of Personal CRM into the following stages.

CRM In the Beginning

CRM as a business product did not emerge until the 20th century. However, CRM as an unnamed concept has existed for as long as trade itself. Centuries back, merchants and salesmen knew they had to be personable to grow their businesses. Thus remembering facts about people, what they bought and for how much, has always been a common business practice.

Experienced merchants would have particular markets where they knew they'd make a profit. Through trial and error, merchants would also be aware of which products were popular in which regions. This encouraged them to personalize their business strategy depending on where they were. The use of accounting (to keep track of records for transactions)dates back all the way to ancient Mesopotamian civilizations.  Even in its earliest days, managing your customer relationships was a  practice that was necessary for business.

The historical roots of CRM can also be found in the form of data storage. Whenever money is exchanged, it is important to document the transaction by keeping records. Maintaining accounting information became a way for merchants to build a customer database. Eventually, record-keeping grew from just being about money to also noting down the interests, names, and other information businesses needed to know about their customers.

CRM Before The Internet

The importance of customer management as a part of business strategy emerged in the 1950s. However, at this time, people did not widely use  technology to store this data on a computer or hard drives. Thus all customer information had to be stored and updated manually. A device called the Rolodex was used to help people gather customer information.

Popularized by Zephyr American and Arnold Neustadter in 1938, a Rolodex was a small metal device that people kept on their desks. You would put all of your business cards or scraps of paper in such a device. A Rolodex also has a rotating feature that lets you turn over business cards like flipping the pages of a notebook. This was a fast and convenient way for people to flip through different cards or pages until they found the one they needed.

Rolodexes usually carried information in a compact form. More specific details of customer information were usually stored elsewhere. In the 1960s and 70s as the price of computers decreased, customer databases for most organizations were transferred to digital formats and computer hard drives. However, individuals still used Rolodexes to manage relationships.  However, the relationships that were managed by Rolodexes were no longer part of the business process – these were relationships that were personally important to the owners of Rolodex.

For the well-networked, a large and detailed Rolodex was synonymous with power and influence.  David Rockefeller, Jefferey Epstein, and Bill Clinton all have notable examples of large rolodexes (Rockefeller’s in particular was 5-ft tall and included over 100,00 people!)

CRM In the 1980s, 90s and 2000s

By the 1980s, customer databases for businesses were fully digitalized. However, these databases were no longer just about keeping records. Robert and Kate Kestnbaum in collaboration with Robert Shaw created database marketing methods that allowed businesses to analyze their customers. By analyzing customer data, businesses could work out what customers would be interested in which products.

However, in the 80s the process of analyzing customer data was still a strenuous manual process. It wasn't until the 1990's that everything became automated. Automating database marketing lets marketers simply use an algorithm rather than directly analyze customer data themselves. This new automation made database marketing more efficient and fast.

From the 1990s into the 2000s, CRM as a category became a well-known concept and a product of its own. Companies started developing CRM software (including Cardfile, Salesforce, and Act!) that incorporated new technology and AI features.

Development Of Personal CRM

As you can see, originally CRM was mostly about maintaining relationships with customers to increase sales and profit. Companies still use CRM for this purpose, but relationship management CRMs have also grown in popularity in recent years.

Much like companies that have customers, we as individuals have connections we want to maintain. For a long time, people had burdened themselves with the responsibility of remembering every birthday or special occasion of people they know. However, as our lives become busier, it is time we accept that maintaining personal relationships is just as difficult as maintaining a large customer database.

If corporations can use CRM software to better handle their relationships, why can't we do the same? As social media platforms started becoming more popular in the 2010s, so did personal CRM software. By the mid to late 2010s many companies started working on software that would collect information from various social platforms and organize relationships in a single place.  For individuals, the personal CRM market was created to make managing personal connections easier.

How Does Personal CRM Work?

Personal CRM works in a similar way to regular CRM.  Each product is different, but generally these solutions collect and deduplicates data from all of your social media accounts and presents information in an accessible manner. All personal CRM apps support different information sources and work in different ways. However, the goal of each personal CRM app is to function like a digital Rolodex that lets you see all your contacts and relevant information in one platform.

Without a personal CRM, you would have to manage up to five different platforms (LinkedIn, Facebook, Email, SMS, WhatsApp) to stay connected to your friends or family. Personal CRMs reduce this hassle by bringing all of that information in one place. However, rather than clutter your feed with irrelevant information, personal CRMs only present you with information that you need to know.

Personal CRMs often include functions that prompt you to reach out to people on significant occasions and dates. While it may seem basic, this capability can significantly impact how considerate you come across and how others perceive your presence in their lives.

personal relationship management

How do you use Personal CRM Software?

The basic premise of using personal CRM software isn't too complicated. All you have to do is create an account with whatever personal CRM you’re trying out.  After linking your personal CRM to your social media profiles such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, you may also need to give your personal CRM app access to your contacts, emails, and calendar for optimal user experience.

To figure out what works with you, we suggest trying many different personal CRMs (Dex is a good place to start). After basic setup and account linking, here are some other things you should consider to make the most out of your experience:

Prioritize and Categorize Connections

Most apps will have a feature allowing you to categorize your connections by different labels. For instance, you can have all of your college friends under one label, family members in another label, and coworkers in another. Doing this allows your personal CRM to note down the type of your relationship with different people.  This allows you to understand your network more generally, as well as know who to reach out to when you need help.

Furthermore, you can also note down your connections based on priority, or how often you’d like to keep-in-touch. To save contacts according to priority does not mean listing people as important or unimportant. Rather it is like organizing the types of people you want the app to remind you about. You probably have birthdays and special updates of close friends and family already memorized, so it would be better to list acquaintances as a top priority since they are the people you need notifications about to stay up-to-date.  

Write Down Relationship History

Imagine the following scenario. You are at a college reunion. An old classmate of yours approaches you and says, "Hey I sent you a present a few weeks ago. Did you like it?" Best case scenario, you say you did like it and say thank you. However, in the worst-case scenario, you have no idea what your classmate is talking about!

With a personal CRM app, you would never face an awkward situation like this. First, you would have received a reminder from the app to thank your classmate for their gift. Second, you can look up your last interaction with your classmate before going to the reunion. You’d already remember the present and already bring it up in conversation before they do.

Read Through a Privacy Policy

You might grant a personal CRM access to your social media, contact, and email information. Thus when you use them, make sure to read through the privacy policy and terms and conditions. Also, review any warnings or notices before giving the app access to your information. If you do not want a personal CRM to integrate with a specific source, make sure the integrations are disabled in your settings.

Take a look at who’s building the personal CRM you’re working on.  Will they be around in 5 years?  Is the team large enough to have controls to prevent privacy breaches? Is there an engineering team that can fix issues as they come up?

Most CRM apps are very careful about security and privacy. Since these apps have access to your online accounts, they are very careful regarding protecting the privacy of their users.  However, some personal CRMs in the past have been purchased by sales or marketing companies, which made money through selling data.

How You Can Benefit From Personal CRM?

We all want to maintain strong relationships with our family and friends. If you have a broad personal or professional network, using a personal CRM might be the only way you can do that. By maintaining your relationships through a personal CRM app you are bound to see improvements in both your personal and private life. Here are a few reasons you should use a personal CRM app.

Appear More Thoughtful

Personal CRMs are used to send you notifications for the special dates and transitions. For instance, if it's your boss's birthday or your parent's anniversary, your personal CRM can make sure you are notified beforehand. For personal CRM apps that sync with LinkedIn, you can also receive notifications for title changes, which are the perfect opportunity to reach out.

Leverage Your Network

You can also use a personal CRM to understand and leverage your network.  A personal CRM should allow you to categorize and visualize your network.  When you’re needing to meet an important client or stakeholder, you can see who in your network might know them, and who to reach out to for an introduction.

Sometimes you might need to go through your network for a specific task: asking advice, hiring, or fundraising.  If your personal CRM is well maintained, it will be straightforward to reach out to the groups or lists that you’ve already created. Having people you’ve kept in touch with that can support you is a huge advantage when compared to someone who hasn’t maintained their network.

Grow Your Network

A Personal CRM can also help you grow your network. When you have good relationships with people you know and are trusted, they will refer you to people they know. If you are a business owner or freelancer, maintaining and expanding strong connections is integral to succeeding at your job.

If you impress one client, there is a high chance they will recommend you to another potential client as well.  Keeping track of related contacts and interests can help you ask for referrals. As the saying goes, "Your net worth is your network." Having a good network is a sign that you are likable and good at your job. Having a network that’s on your side can also be a source of support whenever you face trouble in your career.

relationship manager app

Top 5 Personal CRM Apps In 2022

Though personal CRM apps are helpful, they are only beneficial if you use the right one. There are many different personal CRM apps out there. However, we’ve found the ones listed below to be the best there is.Take a look at each of them to find the right one for you.


Dex is one of the most well-integrated personal CRM apps in the market. Our app syncs with LinkedIn, email, calendar, and all of your apps in one place. Aside from the web and browser app, you can also install it as a browser extension. Dex is good at managing different types of contacts you have depending on your relationship with them. It is perfect for people who want help balancing their professional and personal relationships.

Cost: Free, with a paid tier of $9.99/month.


Cloze is a personal CRM app that targets small businesses. You can use the app on both your phone and your computer. Cloze is very good at tracking emails and calls. They are able to track SMS messages and also have a team functionality.

Furthermore, they are also good at reminding you to respond to emails or call someone back.

Cost: Paid only, $17-42/month.


Airtable is perfect for people who want to create a personalized interface for managing relationships. The app functions mainly as a superpowered spreadsheet. There are many templates that you can use on the app for managing your contacts or you can create your own.

If you need a very customizable, manual of organizing information, Airtable is the way to go.

Cost: Free up to 1,200 records, with a paid tier of $10-20/month.


Clay is a newer personal CRM app with a slick interface. Clay has a mobile app for iOS (but not Android), and notably integrates with iMessage, something many other personal CRMs do not. Clay also provides a dynamic feed based on Twitter data.

If you want an app that is good at updating you on your social media connections, Clay is a good option.

Cost: Paid only, $20/month.


Mogul is a security focused personal CRM app. The app provides end-to-end encryption for all of your connections. However, due to its extensive security, the app’s function is more limited with this level of encryption.

If you are extra-sensitive about privacy and are looking for a personal CRM with extra protection, you should give Mogul a try.

Cost: Free, with a paid tier of $9.99/month.


We hope this article helped you learn more about personal relationship management. Now that you know the history and benefits of personal CRM, we hope you are now interested in giving one of these apps a try.

If the idea of building stronger relationships sounds good to you, we’d highly recommend you try out Dex. Try it for free now!