Know your purpose with contact information you collect through business cards and networking, as well as the questions to ask when setting up your contact management system. Understand the habits that will ensure your system will be efficient and accurate, and learn how to protect your contact information.
- [Voiceover] I don't know about you, but I have over 3,000 contacts in my address book. That's a lot of information to manage. When considering how to manage all of your contact data, it pays to have some basic concepts, habits, and ground rules in place first. Here are a few things to consider before you begin to organize your contacts. Know your purpose. Before you can organize anything, you first need to know how you'll access it again. This is especially true with contact information.
To eliminate time wasted gathering unnecessary data, or managing an inadequate system, consider these questions. I've included a worksheet with these questions and common answers in the exercise files of this course. How do you receive information most often? For example, with physical business cards, verbally, or in email signatures? How do you plan to enter your data? By scanning, manually entering, or another way? How do you need to be able to search your data? Such as by keyword or location.
How do you plan to use your data, now, and in the foreseeable future? This could be through email marketing, as social media connections, or passing on as referrals. And, what information do you need access to? This could include company name and position, business card images, or notes. These answers will help you determine what system will work best for you. Once you've answered each of these questions, use them to compare potential software and apps to your needs. If the software does not meet all of your absolutely necessary requirements, then it's not for you.
Decision-making, in business we connect with so many people it would be difficult to maintain information and form relationships with all of them. We wouldn't have time to run our businesses. In order to make sure you aren't wasting time on contacts that aren't moving you towards your business goals, ask yourself some decision-making questions when you receive the new contact. A few questions to ask would be, is this person very likely to become an ideal client for my business? Are they likely to refer a decent amount of business to me? Or, are they a center of influence in one of the communities or networks I want to connect with more? And, would I enjoy forming a relationship with this person? If you answered yes to any of the first three, plus the last question, this person is likely a good contact for you.
If not, they're not an ideal contact. If they are ideal, take the time to enter all of their contact information, include keywords, notes, images, and connect socially. If they're not ideal, decide if you want to keep their information or not. It's okay to let go of information for people who don't move you closer to your goals. If you would refer them to people you know, or you would like to keep minimally in contact with them, enter only the basic data necessary. Don't spend extra time uploading images, adding long notes, or even entering all of their information.
A name, company, phone, email and keywords may be sufficient. If you find the need for more information in the future, you can always contact them to obtain it. Habits, creating habits to keep your contact information accurate and complete is essential in your system. Here are a few habits to create. Decide how often you'll update your contact information. This likely depends on your schedule, and how soon you need the information. Once a month, once a week, or as soon as you receive it.
Who will enter the information? Do you have an assistant, or can you outsource it? What's the information flow? For example, when you receive a business card, where do you keep it until it's entered? And always follow-through. Whatever your follow-up system is when meeting new contacts, don't put off connecting and using the data. Decide ahead of time how you plan to follow-up and do so quickly after receiving the contact information, otherwise you're spending a lot of time to store cold data with no real relationship attached.
Backups, always make a backup of your contact information before performing any bulk action on the data, and understand privacy. Whenever you're working with virtual contact storage, whether on a desktop computer, tablet, or a smartphone, make sure you understand what data the software or app saves to their servers, and how they use it. Always read the privacy policies, terms, and agreements. These basic concepts will help you focus on a system that will work best for your needs.
For more information about how to connect with your contacts and build useful business relationships, check out the course Building Your Professional Network. Now that you've decided the foundation of your system, you're ready to start putting together all the pieces.