Archive for September 5th, 2012

Dear Danielle: What Contact Management Service Do You Recommend?

Dear Danielle:

I wonder if you’ve any experience or recommendations for contact management services, something that could be used online collaboratively with clients to help them manage their contacts. I’m thinking in general terms of keeping track of folks that one might meet at networking events where they exchange business cards and want a central place to access them later. Ideally, there would be a way to tag them to sort them later (i.e., potential client, supplier, colleague, etc.). I know Salesforce offers this service. I just wondered if you were aware of anything else out there. Thanks in advance! —BL

This is always a tough kind of question for me answer because I don’t keep track of that kind of thing as I don’t do that work for clients per se. Stuff like this, without reason or intention,  too often falls into the category of mindless busy work that I don’t want my business or my day bogged down with. I have to save my energies and focus for the more substantive work that I do for clients.

It’s one of those topics that is hard to answer generally because to give more useful direction, it depends on your own target market, how the information will be used, what are they storing it for (what do they want to do with it later), and whether there is truly a useful, purposeful reason to keep track of that kind of info.

The reason I say that is, just collecting business cards and contact info is not good networking. It’s also against CAN-SPAM laws (and just plain old marketing etiquette period) to harvest emails like that. If the intention is to use the information for marketing purposes, it’s really a form of cold-calling which people absolutely detest. It’s poor, ineffective methodology that creates wasteful effort.

I am aware of Saleforce and the people I hear from who use it think it’s pretty darn nifty. I do think it’s a tad more suited to sales types of businesses (hence the name, lol), but it is built for systemization and automation which is useful for all kinds of scenarios. I don’t work with sales types at all so I don’t have any personal experience with it beyond that.

If you’re just looking for a place to enter business card/miscellaneous contact info, most all of the online collaboration suites have shared contacts. I use this function in Airset to store commonly used contact info. For example, I work with attorneys, so it’s useful to enter their clients’ contact info into the shared contacts database on matters we are working on as well as the contact info of the courts, court services and vendors, opposing counsel, etc.

There are also card readers that can be purchased where the biz cards can be fed into it and it scans the info and transfers/stores it into a database that you specify. As I mentioned before, personally, I wouldn’t ever do that work for clients, and if they were intent on mindlessly storing their biz cards just for GPs, I would tell them to get one of those.

But for marketing and networking purposes, I steer clients toward using a list builder, management and dissemination service like Aweber, and get them to start building an opt-in list. The idea/methodology is that they offer their site visitors and contacts something of useful, meaningful interest and value—for free—that they can obtain by signing up with their email address.

This way, it’s voluntary and fully compliant with CAN-SPAM laws. And by them opting in, you already have an indication of their interest and consent to continue to keep in touch with them after that, which is not only better, more effective marketing etiquette, it also establishes who the client’s warm/hot prospects are so that their best efforts can be more focused.

So, I don’t really have any services I can recommend in answer to your specific question (maybe others will chime in), but I hope some of the business thinking is useful to you. All my best!