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I often hear from people who are confused about a good solution for managing their contacts.  I tell them our conversation needs to begin with identifying the needs for the contacts, and I’ve found that for some people, a combination of tools is the right answer for them.Contact Management Tools

  1. The first use of contact tools is to keep handy the information you need.  For those people you actually call or email with predictability for personal or professional reasons, you need a Personal Contact Manager (PCM). The appropriate tool for storing this information is likely the contact management piece of  whatever PIM (personal information manager) you’re already using, for example, Microsoft Outlook, Apple Address Book, or Google Contacts.  Find out where your email addresses are stored, and this is probably the appropriate place to keep all of the contact details for your personal connections.  If you have some in a computer program and some in your phone, you’ll benefit from getting those synced together. 
  2. There may be people you consider “sales or marketing leads,” but with whom you don’t have a close connection.  If you have a very sophisticated contact plan for these connections, with business tasks assigned to them, and you need detailed tracking about your interaction with them, then you may need a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager.)  Whether or not your PCM is synced with your CRM should depend on how closely connected your personal and professional lives are.  A small business owner may have relationships with all or most of his/her sales leads, and may also socialize with these people, and in that case, a sales tool that syncs with your database of people you actually know and contact regularly may be in order.  Be careful not to overcomplicate things, however.  If you don’t have or need a sophisticated sales or lead generation funnel, then you may not need a CRM.  Refer to this post for more information.
  3. You may have a list of people that includes many you don’t know, but to whom you would like to send email marketing messages.  Most PCMs are not created for email marketing, and it’s best to use a tool specifically designed for this, such as Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, or Vertical Response.  You’ll probably want everyone in your PCM and/or CRM to be in your email marketing list, but not everyone in your email marketing list to be in your PCM.
  4. Lastly, you may have heard of a budding new type of tool called a PRM (Personal Relationship Manager). Consider PRM as an add-on to your existing PCM or CRM. It’s one thing to have someone’s contact information. It’s another thing for them to be a trusted resource when you need them – or they need you. A PRM, such as Promptivate, helps you manage individual relationships by reminding you when to keep in touch and providing timely information, such as LinkedIn or Twitter feeds, on an individual-by-individual basis. Information like that can help you  reconnect to a specific contact, especially if you have lost touch with them.

In summary:

  • Keep the people you actually know and contact regularly in your PCM.
  • Use a CRM only if you have a sophisticated sales or lead generation process where you need to keep detailed notes about each interaction.
  • Use an email marketing tool if you do any email marketing, and put business cards you collect in this list.  Sync your PCM to your email marketing tool but not your email marketing tool to your PCM.
  • Use a PRM if you find you have lost touch with important connections, and you want to do a better job at strengthening your relationships.

How to select and use these tools can be a complicated undertaking, but having a system for it all will impact your success.  I recommend that you talk it out with someone before you make any significant investment of money or time.  I’m here to help, and advice by phone or email is always free.

Thanks for reading!