I recently got the chance to demo a product in development called Ecquire. It’s a quick follow-up tool for meetings that I think it has some promise.

Keep in mind that this thing is still in development and is a little hairy in parts. But if you wish you’d read about Gist back in January or maybe Foursquare in July 2009, then now’s your chance to try something new while it’s not quite fully shined.

Ecquire is a tool to help you respond quickly after having a meeting with someone. It’s especially useful if you have standard documents that you send to everyone after your first meeting (general working agreement, standard contracts, whatever).

You can use Ecquire to get your contact info and a payload of documents to someone quickly, via the web, your iPhone, your BlackBerry or even your standard mobile phone.

The basic model (what us geeks call a "use case") for how this thing works is this:

1. You have have a meeting with someone.

2. You’ll be sending that person your contact info and maybe some standard documents.

3. After the meeting you send a text message to Ecquire, which then forwards your info and documents to your prospect’s e-mail.

4. You can track whether that person opened your message, clicked your links or downloaded your files via Ecquire’s Web interface.

5. You can send additional follow-up e-mails, which will be tracked similarly, via Ecquire’s Web interface.

So this is really a tool for the "last mile" of your sales process. The people you’ll be using this tool with are likely people you’ve met or spoken with on the phone.

Using the analytics features of Ecquire, you’ll know which of your recipients is responding quickest or deepest to your message. Did they open the e-mail, click the links, download the attachments? And it will tell you when they performed any of these actions.

Setting it up

Ecquire accounts have several things to configure in order to make it work smoothly. First is the contact info you will be sending. Ecquire calls these "cards" just like business cards. You fill out your business information, including logo upload and picture. This feels more or less like any social network profile.

This section of the software could probably use a little more love from a user-interface designer, so be prepared to be a little bit frustrated. The buttons are a little scattered all over the page, so just take a deep breath and then dive into it.

One especially annoying bug is that when you go to add additional Web addresses, for example, the software will delete all the previous items you entered. So plan ahead: if you’re going to enter three Web addresses, click the "add" button three times before you start entering data.

The developer seems quite responsive, so hopefully by the time you play with this software this will work a little better. But for now, be warned that you might get a little frustrated in the configuration. It’s the price of playing with early-stage software.

The upshot of playing with early-stage software is that the developer will probably listen to your recommendations a little more closely than when there are thousands of users.

Each card you set up can have up to three attachments. If you need more than three attachments, I recommend you create a ZIP document archive. …CONTINUED

You could just set up one card, a sort of generic all-purpose business contact info and brochure delivery. Or you could set up a few. For example, one for post-listing presentations, one for business development meetings, one for agent recruitment follow-up, and so on.

If you can segment the kinds of meetings you have by audience needs, then you can probably figure out what cards you need to set up.

Once you’ve finished setting up your different business cards, Ecquire assigns an SMS key code to each card you’ve made. When you send your cards via SMS (text-messaging), you can select which card is sent by using the matching SMS key.

This is really straightforward as long as you remember which key is which (you can change them if you like).

Wish list for Ecquire

This is nice, straightforward software that fits in an important spot in the customer acquisition process. Getting a follow-up out the door quickly after a meeting is a big help in future client satisfaction. Ecquire can help you do this right now.

That said, there’s a few things that might need a little work. The user interface of card configuration is a big one to start with. Even if the tool is great, the time spent fiddling with setup is a massive barrier to entry for most people. Also, in terms of difficulty to implement improvements, it’s fairly easy.

Ecquire is also working on a way to grab social media information about a contact, based on the e-mail address you’re sending to. This didn’t work for me when I tried it, and the developer said it was working to get it stable.

I’m much more likely to use something like Gist for this anyway, but if it would be nice to get this straightened out.

More data portability would also be nice. Given that the only people I’m going to be putting into Ecquire are very important to me, I’m going to want to get the data out. Ecquire is not currently robust enough to replace my internal customer relationship management methods.

Ecquire does let you export each contact individually, as a vCard. It’d be nice to have a bulk export option. Even if I may not ever use it, I’ll be happier knowing it’s there.

The e-mail it sends is generally attractive and gets the job done. But it could use a little love from the CSS jockey as well. It’s not as bad as the card configuration, though.

I’m also certain that users will be clamoring for custom template capabilities here, as well as the ability to remove the "try free" badge at the bottom of the e-mail.

I expect it to improve considerably in the next few months (they just got a pile of feedback from their rollout at REtechSouth).

Even if it doesn’t, I can think of enough uses for Ecquire that I’ll continue to play with it.

Gahlord Dewald is the president and janitor of Thoughtfaucet, a strategic creative services company in Burlington, Vt. He’s a frequent speaker on applying analytics and data to creative marketing endeavors.


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