Ok, your office is flooding and you’ve got two minutes to get out. What do you take with you? Perhaps, a computer, some files, or your printer? Wrong! You need to preserve your small business’s most valuable asset… your professional contacts.
While you may be thinking “I’m on the 99th floor of an office building in Death Valley, there’s no way I’m getting flooded”, we’ve all had a bout with lost contact information. Whether it’s referral partners, clients, or friends; finding out you don’t have the proper contact information when you need it, is a terrible feeling.
If you’re up on your Mashable then you know there are dozens of online contact management systems and their functionality goes way beyond mere storage. Clearly, storing your contacts online allows you to retrieve them anywhere with an internet connection but not all contact systems offer the same options. Are you using the best one for your needs?
Below, I’ve outlined three of my favorite contact storage methods. While there are third party add-ons and widgets, I will be covering the functionality of the built in contact managers. Yes, there are also dozens of down-loadable software managers and many people may not think of Facebook as a “Contact Manager” but in all actually, if you’re living in the 21-first century, then you might be using Facebook to reach out more so than that bloated CRM System.
What did you expect? I’d be steering you wrong if I didn’t mention the Referral Key contact manager. Referral Key’s contact management is ideal for small business professionals that view their contacts, not just as colleagues, but as a critical source of new business.
Referral Key allows automatic importing from files, Gmail, Yahoo and most webmail services.
This contact manager gives small business owners unprecedented control. You can split your contacts into sub folders, add notes and add other relevant information.
The most unique feature to the Referral Key contact manager is that Gold Key members can seamlessly integrate it with the promotion campaign tool. You can execute various promotional offers within a group. For example, let’s say I want to offer all of my New York based contacts a dinner for two at Peter Luger’s steak house for every new client they send me and I’d also like to send my Boston based contacts to a Red Sox game for every new client they send me. With just a few clicks I can simultaneously run both campaigns, manage the results, and add new participants if necessary.
Because of its focus on network intimacy Referral Key does not currently allow you to check your database against the entire Referral Key network. Also, Referral Key is a relatively new tool so if you’re inviting a contact to exchange referrals with you, you may need to give them a heads-up and explain how it works.
The networking powerhouse’s contact manager can be very useful for navigating the corporate sphere and advancing your career.
Linked In allows automatic importing from files, Gmail, Yahoo and most webmail services.
You can easily see many degrees of separation. You’ll be privy to the connections of contacts as well their contacts and so on… people who do not know you yet. This can be particularly useful for job hunting and resume posting. Also, sales people may find it useful to see three degrees of separation. For example, let’s say you sell an enterprise level IT solution. You may be able to get an introduction to a decision maker through a connection of a connection. Another great feature is the ability to export your contacts back to your desktop.
If you aren’t careful you may just end up inviting your entire contact list to join Linked In. As a default, Linked In invites all of your contacts to Linked In. So, if your intention is to merely manage your contacts and not necessarily promote Linked In, you better go through your entire list and only check those who you’d like to invite to Linked In. It can also be difficult to distinguish between clients, coworkers and colleagues.
Who doesn’t love Facebook? Managing your contacts, or should I say “friends”, can be a lot of fun as well as handy.
Facebook allows automatic importing from files, Gmail, Yahoo and most webmail services.
Facebook is so large that it is likely some of your contacts are already on board. After importing your contacts you can see a thumbnail picture next to each contact if they have a Facebook profile. This is particularly useful if you have a bad memory…um… I mean if you are a visual learner. Having personal information about your contacts at your fingertips can make for good conversation starters and relationship rekindling.
Facebook is not a very professional environment so you are almost certainly going to run into a conflict of interest between what information you share with your family, friends, colleagues and clients respectively.
While Facebook does offer some filtering features, after you’ve added more than a dozen contacts it becomes quite impractical to really control what information each of your contacts will and won’t be able to see. Furthermore, you can’t always control what information will be displayed on your own profile. For example, your buddy Rick has the best intentions but he posts a silly picture of himself passed-out at wedding on your profile. Now you’re left with the tough decision of making it a full time hobby to monitor your profile, upsetting Rick and banning him from your profile or chatting-up a key client with a picture of Rick passed-out in the background.
Also, like Linked In, if you aren’t careful during the importing process you may just accidentally invite all of your contacts to Facebook. This is great for Facebook but your goal may not necessarily be to get your contact list of 500 clients to join your social network