CRM

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.

Six Phone Apps Worth Paying For (For Your Business)

So I was sitting in an airport when I downloaded Osmos without even a second thought of paying for it. It was a fun game (and totally mesmerizing if you never have played… your objective as a bubble is to get bigger by absorbing other bubbles. It’s like more fluid Tetris).

And yet, I totally hesitate when it comes to spending money on apps for functional things like my business. I get that it’s probably because business apps seem more expensive (or maybe your phone is supposed to be your destination for fun). I will say, I’ve been glad to have paid for some of these features because they are handy, have saved me money, or simply made me look good to the professional people I have the pleasure of dealing with. Here are six apps I have paid for and, looking back, I’m glad I’ve done so:

Split Screen Multitasking ($3.99)

How many times have you wanted to watch a Youtube video while checking your Facebook messages? I used to like how my phone made me do one thing at a time but now that I know this exists, I am not sure what I did before.

Cloze ($159.99 annually)

Hope you’ve picked yourself off the floor from reading that price but here’s my thing: I have A LOT of contacts to manage and sometimes, I need to be prodded to contact them. I also want to classify people (Customer, Family, etc) and add notes about them (birthday, kids’ names)… and have things like phone number and email addresses automatically synced. For all that $160/year doesn’t seem so nuts. Plus you can try it for two weeks free and see if it’s you’re thing before buying.

Quickbooks Online (Monthly fee)

So many people have tried to tell me that I should install their free Quickbooks on ONE COMPUTER. This terrifies me for many reasons which is why I use Quickbooks Online. But the best thing I wasn’t expecting about Quickbooks Online is being with a customer and having them say “I think I owe you a check, can you remind me of how much that was?” I’m able to tell them in about thirty seconds and send them a receipt, right from my phone. If it costs a few bucks to get paid faster, in the long run it is worth it for you not having to chase people. Trust me, I resisted forever and now I am a total convert.

Genius Scan+ ($6.99)

So the free version of this app served me for years. You can scan PDFs and email them to yourself or other people. It was great for collating, say, all my physical receipts together every year… until I realized that since I don’t have automated backups on my phone (I know, I know) it could all go poof. The pro version automatically syncs things into whatever Dropbox folder I want and I personally appreciate the backup. The scanning is great on this; I’ve had some people come into Anchorspace looking for a scanner and when they see the results of me scanning with this app, they are blown away. If you need a historical photo scanned to retouch, by all means go to a real and high quality scanner, but if you just need to get a lease to your lawyer, this is more than adequate, doing things like straightening out the document and finding the edges of scanned items automatically for crisp edges.

It looks like they have a cool app called Genius Sign too, which allows you to sign and annotate documents (how many times have you printed something only to sign it and rescan it?)

MileIQ ($59.99 annually)

I resisted this for years thinking I could keep track of own driving. I downloaded this app as a free trial and within the first month, I saw how many business meetings I drove to I wasn’t counting. I got more mileage tax credit than I paid for the annual subscription. Also, classifying drives is something I can do while sitting waiting, say, for a doctor’s appointment where I can check off a business to-do rather than just waste time on my phone. Generating my spreadsheet of driven miles every year for my accountant made me crazy but this year, it’s going to be a one click thing.

Note: This is an affiliate link where you save 20% and I get a $25 kick back if you sign up.

iMovie ($4.99)

You know when you take a video and think ‘Gosh, only ten seconds of this is actually funny’. Having iMovie on your phone lets you lop off those too-long videos. So you can just send the part where your dog runs toward you in the snow without the part where she stops and pees a little. Remember that some light video editing before uploading a video is something 99% of people don’t do so by even trying to do this before uploading to Facebook, your customers will take notice and appreciate (plus you can add your website URL at the end or something similarly useful in case it ‘goes viral’).

Point is, our phones are less the music players/gaming devices they started out as and more like computers that help us run our businesses. As such, investing in them can be a no brainer for your business or productivity.

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.