Importing contacts to Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online

CRM MVP and guest blogger Julie Yack, MBA is one of the founding partners of Colorado Technology Consultants, Inc ( and currently serves as the company’s Chief Operations Officer.

I am importing just over 15,000 contacts for an established organization into a new instance of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online. The import is a very flat file, no history, no relationships. About as basic as you can get.  However, as I said it is an established organization and they have several different email lists, marketing lists. 

CRM has a concept of importing new contacts and assigning to a list, but with that the concept is 1 new contact will reside on 1 new list. With this organization a single contact might already reside on more than a single list. That’s a lot of hunting and pecking for me, this org has about a dozen lists, and some contacts reside on 5 or 6 or 10 of these lists.

Here’s my work-around.

1. Create the lists in CRM.  Nothing special about them, easy peasy, like normal.

2. Create new bit (yes/no) attributes on the Contact record, no need to put them on the form, just create them, default to “no”.  We are just using these as disposable attributes for assigning of list placements.   (don’t forget to publish)

3. Make sure the source csv file has the proper columns identifying each contact as a member (or not) of each list.

csv preview

4. Do the whole mapping thing, make sure each list from the source is mapped to the corresponding new attribute.  Then import just as you would normally.

5. Once the import is done go to each marketing list and manage members and add based on an advanced find, where the bit for that specific list equals “Yes”.

evaluate members

6. Then add to list.

add to list

Do this for each list and tadah, 15,000 records organized into a dozen overlapping marketing lists in a semi-automatic way. You can go clean up (delete) the disposable attributes or not, up to you.  I would suggest leaving them in case you wind up with a large import again.


Julie Yack

Comments (4)

  1. maryRRR says:

    Thanks, Julie, for making it simple!  Met you at Convergence 2010 and am working my way through David's xRM book.  Best to you….

  2. Eli Yaron says:

    Microsoft CRM (Both local and on line) provides a tool that is called Data Migration Manager – DMM.  The DMM takes inpout of ASCII file, and allows field mapping for both system and custom entities and attributes.  In addition it allows field mapping to other input files, so one can take advantage of lookup fields and relationships (Contacts to accounts and so on).

    I have used the tool for large size imports and it worked fine.  Please reach me at for more information.



  3. Jerry says:

    What if any of the imported contacts already exists in CRM. How to add them to list without creating a duplicate?

  4. Julie Yack says:

    maryRRR- thanks for the kind words!

    Eli- DMM is a good tool, but in this case would have been overkill.  The data was so basic my goal was to not over-think it and just make it simple.

    Jerry, tell me more?  Email me if you want, it's on the contact form of my blog, linked above.

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