Can I Borrow a Pen?

In an age where computers and contact management software is prevalent, you’d expect most people to manage their contacts electronically. Then again, maybe not. Turns out, you’re probably not the only SMB that hasn’t jumped on the CRM bandwagon.

According to survey results released this week by contact management company Plaxo, a significant percent of people still use pen and paper to manage their contacts. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company found that 37 percent of respondents claimed that they managed their contacts with Post-It notes or a Rolodex.

In contrast, only 35 percent noted they used Microsoft Outlook to manage personal and business contacts. Seventeen percent reported using their PDAs or cell phones to track addresses and phone numbers of colleagues, friends and family. Two percent indicated that they don’t use any form of contact management at all.

And it’s not as if survey respondents didn’t have a need to manage a good number of contacts. The average number of individual e-mail addresses (both work and personal) survey respondents use is three.

Each of them has also had 11 different home addresses over the course of their lives.

“I think that this just shows that we are still at the beginning of the adoption curve,” said Ben Golub, Plaxo’s CEO. “At the heart of it is a behavioral change. While many seem to know that technology offers a more efficient and effective mode of operation,” he continued, “they are still reluctant to move out of their comfort zone.”

Marcel Nienhuis, an analyst at market research firm Radicati Group, said that he wasn’t surprised by the survey results.

“People are creatures of habit and tend to stick with what they are familiar and comfortable with,” Nienhuis said. “Older generations are especially more likely to stick with the same old pen and paper address book they’ve always used.”

Microsoft, however, believes, of course, that Outlook is a superior solution. “Options and competition are both healthy and beneficial for customers,” a Microsoft spokesperson said “But we firmly believe the Microsoft Office system provides customers with the greatest value based on compatibility, total cost of ownership, productivity and safety of investment as a result of Microsoft’s ongoing commitment to innovation.”

Plaxo doesn’t see the results of the survey as a barrier to people adopting its contact management solution, which integrates with Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail.

“Ten years ago, a large percentage of business people weren’t using e-mail or cell phones. And a large percent of business still occurs using faxes, physical mail and land-line phones,” Plaxo’s Golub said. “We think the same will be true of managing personal information.”

In Golub’s view, people just need to realize the real-world benefits, such as saving time and, most importantly, ensuring that they don’t lose their contacts. Then they’ll switch to a contact solution like Plaxo.

“After all, Post-Its can be misplaced, thrown away and lost in a disaster,” Golub said. “Your Post-It notes don’t follow you around as you move from home, to work and to the road.”

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