Working as a virtual assistant, my clients often ask me about contact management and what my advice is on storing contacts. I think this tends to be a struggle with a lot of people who work in both the offline and online world. I hope that I can help clarify what my recommendations are for contact management in this article.
If you run a business where you are contacting people online as well as offline, your setup needs to have some form of resource for both of these types of contacts.
When choosing your online resource, I highly recommend thinking long-term.
Think about what your needs are going to be down the road because moving your list from one resource to another is not a good idea. In doing so, you often have to have people double opt-in (depending on where you are hosting your contacts) and you will often lose a lot of people. So, think about your needs: are you going to eventually need a shopping cart? What about an affiliate program? If you begin to think this way, you’ll see that your needs go beyond just a place to store contacts and a tool to e-mail them.
The other great thing with an online resource is that you can sort your contacts into various autoresponder lists. These lists can then be e-mailed to as a whole or just individually. This is particularly useful if you want to segregate who gets which e-mail broadcasts. The autoresponder lists allow you to store all sorts of information, including customized fields.
A few examples of online contact management systems include: 1ShoppingCart, Constant Contact, Aweber and Get Response. All of these resources have a variety of available tools so doing some research before settling on one is recommended.
For your offline needs, I want you to think about what sort of information you are keeping on each contact.
I use Microsoft Outlook’s contact section to hold contacts that I e-mail on a regular basis and those contacts that I would approach offline. Some of my clients use ACT! as their offline database. This is a program in which you can store contacts and detailed contact information. ACT! is more of a relationship building software that is geared towards sales professionals but it does work well even if you do not fall within that cateogry.
Whichever contact method you select, make sure you are (1) thinking long-term and (2) choosing something that suits your needs.