A DIY Guide to Creating a Contact Management System

Contacts and relationships are the lifeblood of any business. They also come in all shapes and sizes–from supporters, partners, and media to customers and evangelists. With more businesses operating online and on social media, your ability to reach out to and connect with these people has increased exponentially. Imagine yourself on any given day, talking to 50 customers, replying to the 100 emails in your inbox, and interacting with thousands of Twitter followers.

This reality has changed the way you manage and build your relationships. There are too many contacts who are on too many different channels.

Luckily, a simple contact management system will help to streamline all the relationships in your business. A contact manager is a program that enables you to store, track, and manage all your interactions with contacts.

In six easy steps, I’ll show you how to create your own contact management system that will identify the most important contacts and qualified prospects for your business. Let’s get started.

Setting Up Your Contact Management System

You will need three tools:

  • Google Docs for your contact manager.
  • IFTTT, a tool that will automatically create lists of contacts with whom you interact.
  • HootSuite, a social media management dashboard.

Next, follow these steps:

1. Define Key Attributes for Your Contacts

When do you consider a contact a lead? How do you differentiate between a customer and an evangelist? Identify the key characteristics that you look for and group them. This will help you frame the contexts of your interactions. To start, use the following categories:

  • Customers
  • Leads and prospects
  • Evangelist
  • Partners
  • Media
  • Supporters

These categories will be the “tag” that you assign to contacts in step 2.

2. Set Up Your Contact Management Database

Create a Google Docs spreadsheet with the column headings shown in the image below to record important contact information.

3. Start Tracking Contacts Who Interact With You

Set up IFTTT to record each contact who interacts with you on Twitter into a list. For example, when someone new follows you on Twitter, they will be placed into your “followers” list. In addition to the categories earlier, create lists on IFTTT to segment your contacts:

  • Followers
  • Mentions

4. Use a Social Media Dashboard to Manage Interactions Online

Next, set up HootSuite’s social media dashboard to quickly browse and interact with your contacts. Follow these steps:

  • Sign up for HootSuite.
  • Connect your Twitter account.
  • Create a stream. A stream is a column in the HootSuite app which we will use to display your various Twitter lists.
  • Create six lists for your different contact categories. The lists will already be available from when you created them in IFTTT. Just select the appropriate lists and click “Create Stream.”
  • Create three search queries to track and engage new leads on Twitter.

Twitter search allows you to set up searches specific keywords relevant to your business and industry. From inside HootSuite, you can set up each search to be its own stream. To decide which keywords you should be searching for, pay close attention to the type of words customers use when talking about your industry. Explore how they describe their problems and the solutions they are looking for.

You can also use search to find leads who are conducting research and inquiring about your competition—through searches for their brand name.

For example, you could find a lead who is asking if anyone has any experience with a certain competitor, or is unhappy with their current solution. Set up searches for the following:

  • People who tweet keywords relevant to your business/industry.
  • People who tweet about your competition.
  • Industry leaders you would like to build relationships with.

5. Create a Dashboard to Visualize Your Relationships

A dashboard helps you to quickly analyze and understand the type of relationships you have in your business. Each week, you will be able to track your efforts and see how they have affected those relationships. By using a simple formula, Google Docs will automatically calculate the number of contacts in the different “categories” in your contact management system and update those numbers for you.

6. Interact and Grow Your Relationships

Relationships can go stale and lose touch if you don’t continually interact with your contacts. The only difference is that you are now tracking what you do and can see how you affect those relationships. After a lead has turned into a customer or a customer has turned into an evangelist, you can log that into your contact manager and see a tangible return on your efforts.

Tweet your prospects, answer their questions, offer them advice, and when the time comes, they will remember you. Maybe they will tweet you back, or they’ll sign up for and evangelize your product/service. Either way, you’ll know when you reach those 100 contacts.

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