contacts

Five Tips For Organizing Your Contacts

When’s your grandmother’s birthday? What’s your neighbor’s cell phone number? What’s your college roommate’s mailing address?

I only know one of these pieces of information by heart and, like most people, I have to rely on my contacts list for the other two.

Unless you’re my mom (who is the most organized person I can think of), you probably don’t have this information as ‘at hand’ as you want to have it. If so, this post is for you.

Tip 1: Determine every place you keep contact information, then pick ‘the one’.

Let me use my case as the example:

  1. I rip corners off envelopes when people send me stuff so I have their mailing address. These are in a pile on my desk (if I got them at work) or my dresser (if I got them at home). They are in the same piles as business cards people give me.
  2. I have all email going into one Gmail interface.
  3. I text people/meet people in real life and put them into my phone contacts.
  4. I use a CRM for work and have people in there who I’ve classified by relationship (business contact, family, etc.) that syncs with my phone and email to track what information/contact has been made and when. (Note: not as creepy as it sounds.)
  5. I have a Rolodex on my desk which, besides being something everyone can laugh at and revealer of my middle aged-ness, has business cards in it and is full.
  6. I rely very heavily on Facebook for birthday reminders and those people not on Facebook, my mom is kind enough to text me about.

Clearly I have some decisions to make but one thing is true: I will never feel organized until everything is in one place, whether it’s a paper system or digital one. I’d love to know, say, my client’s birthdays, but before getting ambitious I have to pull everything into one system. You do, too.

If you decide on paper, it’s time to find a nice address book or Rolodex and start going through your lists in all your digital places.

If you decide on digital, you need to pick one system that is the main system (ex: Gmail) and then merge/import your data from the other systems in. Most programs will let you export to a .csv file (comma separated value, like a text file with commas where lines of a table would be) that can be imported in. Googling something like ‘merge Hotmail contacts into contacts on iPhone’ should give you some options, or hire a nerd to do this once you understand what all the moving pieces are.

Tip 2: Clean duplicates or people who shouldn’t be there.

Once everything is in one system, it’ll be very easy to clean duplicates (since the system will either automatically do it or make it easier to spot because alphabetically, they’ll be right next to each other).

The one thing technology can’t do is delete those people who shouldn’t be there, like ex-boyfriends or deceased relatives (I have other places for both but I don’t need ‘David OKCupid’ to appear every time I look for my colleague Dave’s number). Lost time, people.

Tip 3: Make it work everywhere.

Let’s say you picked Gmail contacts and have cleaned them out. It won’t do much good until you put them on your iPhone too. Or the Mail application on your phone. And anywhere else you need to regularly access them.

Tip 4: Create process when you add a new contact.

Yay, you met a new friend when you went out for drinks. Now what?

Well, ideally you have a system for adding her into your contacts. Yes, maybe it takes an extra two minutes to look up her birthday on Facebook and type in her mailing address as you put her into your Gmail contacts but the first time you need to look up her email address and it’s actually there, you’ll be grateful.

If this sounds tedious to you, you can use a website like Upwork and hire someone who does this periodic data entry/finding for you, then you can email them and say ‘Add so and so to my contacts.’

Tip 5: Periodically clean out.

Just because you met that cool Australian guy at the youth hostel and traveled Rome when you were 20 does not mean he needs to be in your contacts. (Bye, Chris.) By periodically cleaning out people you aren’t planning to stay in touch with you will make your list a lot more manageable. Fun fact: Australian Chris I’m sure continues to exist despite the fact I deleted him the other day.

If you want to remember these people, maybe write a short story about them or make a fun ‘Random People I Once Knew’ Google Doc and stick them there. Your contacts list is a living document and your past, while an important part of you life, shouldn’t exist there.

Having an organized contacts list will make you feel in control of your entire life and who knows, maybe I’ll be texting people to let them know about birthdays one day soon, impressing my friends and family with my organization.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Five Tips For Organizing Your Phone

We just wrote a blog post about a week ago about organizing computer files. You may wonder, if your phone is basically like a pocket computer, why would we treat this differently?

In reality, we use our phones a lot differently than our computers… and we have a few specific tips for your phone in particular:

Tip 1: Find ways to get stuff off it automatically. 

When was the last time you plugged your phone into your computer and backed it up? Oh, never? Yeah, me either.

What you need is an insurance policy for what’s on your phone that should come off your phone very regularly that you want to keep. For me, it’s photos and document scans. Once downloaded, I can delete and know 1) I’ll have more space on my phone and 2) if my phone dies a sudden death, I can still get at everything I need.

If you record lots of voice memos or edit lots of iMoives or have other kinds of stuff you do often, it may be worth figuring out how to get it off your phone easily and (ideally) automatically. (PS if your texts have some sentimental value like mine do, get those off for sure. No judgement here.)

Tip 2: If you don’t know what the app is for, delete it.

Your iTunes App account (or Google Play account I’m sure) saves records of what you download so worst case scenario, you can download it again later if you decide you need it after all.

I have a similar rule for songs on my iTunes: if I play the first ten seconds and a) I don’t know what it is or b) really like it, off it goes.

It seems silly but every time you scroll by that app and wonder what it is, that’s another ten seconds of your life wasted. A lot of apps mean a lot of periodically wasted ten seconds, which adds up.

Tip 3: Turn off notifications you don’t need.

Nothing makes me feel overwhelmed more than looking down at my phone and seeing all the red notification dots (let alone the numbers inside them).

Usually when you install an app, the notifications come turned on. But do I really need to know my friend Shane just saved $1 use the Ibotta app? Nope. Take the time and turn off notifications that annoy you (which you can do in your phone settings and/or the app settings).

Tip 4: Organize your contacts (with a better system than what came with your phone).

If you are like me and have lots of duplicate contacts, finding a system to manage them (even paying a few bucks for a good app) is going to save you time and headaches.

I know, your phone came with a contacts management system… but your Windows computer came with Internet Explorer and did that stop you from using another (better) browser? No way. Organizing your contacts means when you are ready to throw a party or simply do your part in the calling tree, the task takes less time and all that saved up time you can do something way more fun with.

Tip 5: Regularly look at your ‘storage’ and ways you can cut down on it.

Just like anything, running your phone with some storage space to spare is going to make it run better. If I can keep 4-5G free on my phone, that not only makes sure my phone runs better but that I don’t run out of storage as I’m trying to film, say, my niece’s concert. How many times have you had to quickly delete stuff off your device only to miss a moment?

My culprits for heavy storage usage are music (currently 21G), Messages (6 G) and Podcasts (5G) so it makes the most sense to start deleting there in my case.

By keeping your phone clean, you can use it more effectively, like a tool in your business and life, versus some junk drawer you have to dig through. 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Online Systems: People and Relationships

Ah people. Chances are, you know a lot of them. Apparently 15ish years in the workforce and 35ish years in the world has translated into roughly 6,000 email addresses in my ‘Contacts’.

A pile of email addresses does not a system make. What to do with those email addresses? How do you use them?

You may also have physical addresses, phone numbers, birthdays, and other information about the people in your life you want to track or organize.

To CRM Or Not To CRM

If you just want to make sure you don’t forget your college roommate’s birthday, a CRM might be an overkill solution. CRM stands for ‘customer (or contact) relationship management’. Most CRMs integrate with your social media, cell phone, etc. and track how often you talk to certain people, what they are up to, and otherwise help you understand patterns that could increase your sales and otherwise help achieve goals.

A CRM may be right for you if:

  • you want automatic syncing/integrations.
  • if you want to cultivate some of your relationships intentionally.
  • if you are kind of scatterbrained and need occasional reminders.
  • if you don’t mind paying a little something to get any of these things to happen.

If you want to see what your options are, this is a good place to start.

Managing Your Contacts

Now that you have a list of contacts, if you have decided to use a CRM, you can kind of skip this section since most CRMs have some kind of system to do everything below.

If you are DIYing (ex: using an online address book of some sort), this section is for you. Here’s what’s next:

  1. Get them all in one system. Maybe you want to make Facebook and LinkedIn contacts go to your phone then import into Gmail. Whatever you decide, figuring out where you want your contacts to end up and making a list of all places where you have contacts will dictate how you do this. My CRM syncs everything together and updates information when it notices, say, a new phone number for someone or an address change. The price of a CRM may be worth it for this function alone but you can totally bring everything together without one if you put in some thought.
  2. Decide what is worth knowing or tracking. If you want to know peoples’ birthdays but not their wedding anniversaries, that’s ok. The more information you are tracking, the deeper your relationship can get… but it’s also more of a PITA to stay on top of. Draw whatever lines you want, I won’t judge you.
  3. Delete duplicates/update. You may need to combine some people together (ex: your friend got married and changed her last name on Facebook but not in Gmail so it’s treating her as two different people). A lot of times, the easiest way to do this is on a spreadsheet that you either work on online or print off. I had one client who DREADED this task so she literally made an appointment with me to make her go over her 2,000 contact spreadsheet. Guess what? It took her less than an hour once she sat down and committed to the task. I only tell you this story in case you feel similar pain. Like most things, it won’t be as bad as you think.
  4. Decide on a system to regularly check things. One idea is to check in quarterly you make sure new contacts are added into your system. Another is to set up some auto-syncing tool on your computer where you are dumping everything right off the bat. Whatever you do, you don’t want to make something awesome then have it not be maintained. Every system needs maintenance, especially systems you use often, so schedule some time to do this. It won’t take much but it’ll work so much longer (and better) if you do.

Now since I’m lazy/sporadic/business oriented, my CRM does this stuff. And I am thankful it does every day, though I do want to figure out how I can get it to track birthdays automatically (I see it has ‘birthdays’ as an information field but no way for them to automatically get pulled in according to the documentation).

Managing How Often You Communicate With Those Contacts

OK so you have your contacts in a central location with useful information associated. Now the only thing to decide is how often you communicate.

Some people may be ‘happy holidays’ only, while some may be people you want to check in on more frequently. You may want to create groups for your use only ‘Acquaintances’ (the kind of happy holidays only types), ‘Contacts’ (happy holidays and birthdays), ‘Friends’ (happy holidays, birthdays, and quarterly hellos), or ‘BFFs’ (happy holidays, birthdays, and monthly check-ins).

Now you can name these groups (and add people to these groups) however you want, the point is you’re being intentional about how and when you contact people. 

If you have a CRM (not to keep coming back to this), you can ‘set the pace’.

If you are DIYing, you may want to use something like http://www.miniwebtool.com/random-picker/ and put your list in there and have it pick someone random (or several random people) every day. If you said you’d contact someone at a specific time, make sure it goes in your calendar so you can keep your word.

Your network is a powerful thing, whether you want to throw the best holiday party ever or upsell your favorite clients on your new service. Making sure you have a centralized, organized system to keep their information at hand and your relationship a priority is a great investment of your time. 

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Building a Press List

So, we’ve covered the dos and don’ts of press releases in our two previous posts. Now that you know how to write a press release, you’ve got to know who to send it to. You could scramble for a bunch of local media contacts in the days before your event or product launch. Or you could have all that information stored nice and neat in a spreadsheet and in the contacts on your email client.

Compiling your first list will require an investment of time and patience upfront, but will payoff when you’ve got to send your press release to multiple outlets quickly, and the right contacts are there at the click of a mouse.

Break out Excel; you’ve got a spreadsheet to make.

Who goes on your press list?

If you’re a small business and organization, I recommend you keep several types of lists. They include:

• Media

— Newspapers (local, regional and state)
— Blogs and aggregators
— Broadcast — TV and radio (Learn who your local TV affiliates are — those who carry network programs such as NBC, CBS, ABC, CW and FOX — and find out if they have a local newscast.)

• Trade publications

— Industry-specific regional, national or international trade magazines and newsletters

• Chambers and business organizations

— Local, state and regional chambers of commerce
— Local business development associations
— If applicable, other non-profits and anyone else who distributes community news, such as local access cable stations

What to include:

Your spreadsheet should include names, direct phone numbers and extensions as well as email addresses.

Many news outlets have a general email address for you to submit your news to. Others have an online form. These methods are often convenient for both your organization and the media outlet. But it also makes it easier your information to get lost in the daily deluge of information media outlets deal with.

There’s a workaround, but it’ll take some time and effort on your part: Getting specific.

If you’re a business, know who the business editors are at your local news outlets; if you’re a theater or gallery, know who the A&E editor is.

Also, get a list of reporters and their beats. Let’s say your TV station covers the communities of Bedrock, Springfield and South Park. If your business is based in Springfield, you’ll want to make sure your press release gets to the Springfield reporter directly from you, in addition to being sent to the business editor.

If you’re sending to business development associations or chambers of commerce, make sure you keep up-to-date with whoever is in charge of marketing.

Maintenance

Your contact list should be updated once a year. Call the paper, TV station, chamber, etc. directly and make sure your information is current. Fair warning — this project is often time consuming, but is great if you have an intern.

A couple of things to remember:

• When you write, write to capture as broad an audience as possible.

• Don’t ever assume that local media won’t want to run your press release. If you’re a local business, you’re part of the fabric of the community. Well-written press releases about local businesses are more welcome than not.

In other words: When in doubt, send it out.

This Week In Business: Oh Wait, There’s More Edition

Remember last week when I had the brilliant idea of offering a workshop with my friend Matt? Well turns out planning events takes, um, planning.

This week, I learned there’s always a little more to something than we expect there to be. Here’s what happened so far this week:

The workshop had multiple details to iron out.
First of all, Matt and I realized that neither of us have a projector. With this realization came more questions: Which projector do we buy? Are there any on CraigsList? What about people we know who might have one? Which one of us should buy it? You can see what I mean.

Then there was the whole “How are we going to accept payments?” issue. Which one of us is talking about what? What if people don’t have laptops? What’s the internet connection like at our venue? Oh, and what are we going to call this workshop anyway?

+ Read More

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.