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Managing Your Contacts: The Business of Personal Relationships

Relationships are the lifeblood of your business. They feed your business, shape your product and make it a success. As your network grows, you can’t remember everything about everyone. Anyone with contact information spread across multiple devices, files, sticky notes and drawers would benefit from contact management systems or full customer relationship management (CRM) software, which can be used to manage the relationships contributing to the growth of their business.

Relationships are growing all over the Internet, thanks to social networking sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. (See BatchBlue’s guide on using social media tools). More relationships are good for your business, but most online social networks only allow you to maintain contacts and converse within that network. You should have the flexibility to manage communications from a variety of sources.

When setting up a contact management system, don’t start by importing thousands of records from multiple sources. Instead, enter a representative sample of people you’re communicating with to get a feel for how you will manage information for different people, such as the 20 people you e-mailed or wrote to on Facebook most recently, anyone you invoiced or paid last month, the first 10 companies returned in a search of your target market or five reporters you would like to write an article about you

Ask, “What do I want to get out of it?” There are many systems available, and they offer everything from storing address information to tracking lead generation efforts. For example, full CRM software differs from basic contact management systems in that it enables you to assign prospective clients to sales staff, monitor progress and determine the results of marketing efforts. List the information you would like to have and prioritize your goals, such as keeping contact information for clients updated in one place, accessing contact information from a mobile device, tracking leads and conversations coming from various sources and creating customized reports

Some resources to consider are SalesTeamTools.com, which maintains a comprehensive list of systems, with reviews of each; Blogtrepreneur’s list of 101 Tools for the Online Entrepreneur includes a section on contact managers; Small business CRM consultant and guru Brent Leary publishes information at BrentLeary.com about what the CRM industry is doing to embrace social media and Search Inside CRM’s directory for small business-focused CRM solutions and ERP companies at insidecrm.com/vendors

You can use technology to keep your contacts neat and tidy, but ultimately the value of the system depends on you and your team taking the time to incorporate it into your routines. Establishing good habits early will help you enjoy the relationships that are so important to the growth of your business

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