Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Review - Sage ACT! 2012 Cookbook by Karen Fredricks

Copyright © 2011 Packt Publishing
ISBN 978-1-84968-250-3

Twenty-four years after being launched on the world, Sage ACT! software remains the world's most popular contact management and entry level CRM programme on the planet. Currently in its 2012 iteration (version 14) it continues to develop into a formidable sales and marketing toolbox.

Karen Fredricks, who has produced many manuals and guides on the use of ACT! now takes a slightly different approach with the Sage ACT! 2012 Cookbook, subtitled; "Over 90 advanced recipes for power-users of ACT! 2012 for increasing the efficiency of your business".

This book is not just about how to "push the buttons", over the 284 pages Karen reveals many of the techniques that can make Sage ACT! 2012 a key tool for your business.

Over thirteen clearly written chapters Karen takes you by the hand and, with a twinkle in her eye, she gently guides you through all the tools that you either didn't know existed or were just too frightened or confused to use.

From the simple but time-saving changes that can be made on starting ACT! such as modifying the NavBar and making the Welcome screen go away, through to more complicated areas such as Smart Tasks, Queries and Email Marketing, Karen takes each in her stride.

Along the way you will also be introduced to the new tools in the box for the 2012 version of ACT! such as Scratchpad, Google Integration and the new Universal Search facility.

The thirteen chapters are:
Chapter 1: Working with the Welcome Page and Navigation Bar
Chapter 2: Jotting Down your Notes Using Scratchpad
Chapter 3: Using Queries to Find Data
Chapter 4: Relating Contact Records
Chapter 5: Integrating Contact Information with Websites
Chapter 6: Grouping your Contacts
Chapter 7: Working with Companies
Chapter 8: Creating Golden Opportunities
Chapter 9: Integrating with Microsoft Outlook
Chapter 10: Integrating with Google
Chapter 11: Performing Routine Maintenance
Chapter 12: Creating an E-marketing Campaign
Chapter 13: Working Smarter with Smart Tasks

Each chapter is divided into consistent sections, starting with a description of the function that's being discussed and why you might want to use it.

"Getting ready" describes what needs to have been prepared before you can complete the task. For example, in the "Sending an outlook message to a single contact", the Getting ready section reads;
There are two things necessary in order to send an ACT! email message with the help of Outlook:
-Outlook must be open and fully functional. You've completed the E-mail Setup in ACT! and indicated your preference to use Outlook.
-There is an email address in one of the email fields of the current contact record.

Next comes a section on "How to do it" where each key-press or mouse-click required to do the task in hand is methodically described, along with the relevant screen shots to demonstrate the procedure.

Then comes a "How it works" section which explains what's actually going on as you complete the task.

Finally in each topic comes a "There's more…" section which expands on the options available and adds some useful hints and tips and further discussion about each subject.

Practical examples are used throughout so the reader isn’t confused by jargon and nothing is left to chance; every required mouse click is listed. Although this book is described as being for advanced users, with this level of guidance anyone can follow the steps described in their own ACT! databases.

Chapter 13 on Email Marketing is especially useful for anyone wishing to use the add-on Sage Email Marketing for ACT! facility. This "connected service" is provided by the US company, Swiftpage. Although the Swiftpage service does what it says on the tin, the process itself is fairly mind-boggling and far from intuitive. Thankfully, once again Karen breaks down the process into easily digestible pieces so that the process is demystified.

Without having the book in front of you it's difficult to convey just how brilliant it is. Karen's experience in producing training materials shines through on every page.

If you want to use ACT! as more than an address book you need this guide. If you have already been using ACT! for a number of years you will still learn a huge amount by working through this book.

Did you know you can duplicate Secondary Contacts?
No, neither did I.

Jeff Granger
ACT! Trainer in the UK

ACT Training