Last week I reached the peak of being overwhelmed with how I stayed in touch with people. At first, it was the chaos that comes from people sending messages from whatever social media platform they were on when they thought to reach out. The Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter messages that I would completely forget about or not see at all, made me want to avoid ever going on the platforms again. The many, many groups and business accounts in addition to my personal accounts and of course, all of the emails and texts. I felt like half of my replies began with, ” I’m so sorry, I just saw this”.
So this weekend, I spent an entire day searching for a solution. And I only came up with part of one. The bad news is that I realized that I may have to accept that I will always feel overwhelmed with the communication coming through the many social media channels. But there was also good news. That as I researched more and more, I started to think that I just might be able to get a handle on all of the tasks and various conversations and keep THAT aspect of communication in one place.
When I first began searching, I had no idea what exactly I was looking for or even what I wanted to solve. It was a vague idea of wanting to corral correspondence with contacts. So I began by searching for CRM or for the term contact management. After seeing what was coming up, I was able to quickly define at least the things that I knew I did not want:
- Spreadsheets. In a perfect world, I’d like to be the person who uses spreadsheets better. In reality, I love to set them up, but if I have to enter something in them more than once a week, I tend to not do them. I also tend to be annoyed at having to look things up in them.
- Clunky design. The CRM software that was part of the shopping cart I used with my jewelry business irritated me as it felt clunky and outdated, So I knew that anything that I found along those lines would make me not want to use it, I wanted attractive design and the ability to customize.
- Sales based solutions. When I started looking at CRM apps they are all aggressively sales based and mostly were created for sales teams. I downloaded and signed up for the free trial of 4 of them before I had to accept that although CRM apps have many wonderful uses, they were not what I wanted to use them for. And I absolutely knew that I did not want to set a price on the head of all of my contacts.
- High prices for things I don’t need. Most of these apps also have a monthly fee that ranges from somewhat reasonable to ridiculously expensive. If I’m not using all of the bells and whistles that come with them, it makes little sense to pay for things like team management. I have no problem paying to use things, but not if I am not using 90% of them.
- Incompatible OS. So many of these types of apps are made for apple or Gmail. I have switched to android and use office365. This was an unfortunate hurdle BUT I also didn’t want an email plugin so not necessarily a bad thing.
Once I started to understand what I did not want, it made me see what I did want more clearly. Part of this was that I found myself looking for certain functions and part of it was that I was seeing the problem being solved by some things. For example, I didn’t realize I’d like to have the LinkedIn profile for my contacts synced with their contact info until I began this search. Here are the things I now wanted to have included:
- A way to add notes, both about what we have talked about and action items. What do I mean by this? Since switching to a service-based business, I have become a networking fiend. Most of the people whom I am meeting are not people I would put in a sales funnel. They’re simply people I’m networking with and learning their story. There are still things that I want to follow up on or note as I get to know them better. For example, this is useful if you meet someone and you both have podcasts. Making a note of what their podcast is so you make sure to listen and give them feedback is something I would want to not only remember to do but also had a place to keep that info. Maybe one day I will be a guest on theirs, or I will share their podcast in my weekly newsletter. I found more and more of these little contact notes needing to have a place to go.
- A business card scanner that converts the info on the card to the text as part of the mobile app. And a mobile app. Many still don’t have one.
- A way to remind me to touch the contacts I want to reach out to often; preferably weekly/biweekly, but monthly would do.
- The ability to sync with google, office365, android, and windows.
- A way to see texts, calls, emails from within the app and a place to make notes about what was talked about in all of these.
- Reminders to do tasks associated with contacts.
- Integration with LinkedIn.
- A way to keep contacts but hide them in the app.
As the day progressed and my searches brought me closer to a solution, I realized that there are some great people out there trying to solve this problem. Searching for the term personal contact app brought me a bit closer to what I was actually looking for and finally onto what I decided. As you can tell by all of this, I had pretty specific criteria, so if you are looking for some way to manage your contacts, you may want something completely different. I outlined how I determined what I wanted so you could see how to go through the process for yourself.
I ended up going with Covve and I’m now at the setup and get it going phase…which brings me to the next part. How often do you clean out your contacts? Have you ever? Because you need to give your list a little TLC at least once a year. I know your contacts are sacred, especially if you are in sales or a service industry, but still, I bet some of these tips below will help you feel a bit decluttered.
- Create a master list where you bring in all of your contacts to one place. I use google as it’s cloud-based. I export my contacts from outlook365 (I’m sure there is an easier way to do this, but I am still learning the windows ways after 22 years using only apple products) and upload them into google. Covve auto updates (and merges so don’t delete, but hide contacts you want to have on your list but not in this app) every few seconds with google so it seemed an obvious choice.
- Search for and merge duplicates and multiple entries. Google contacts can do this, apps can do this. It’s easy to do this mostly automatically, but sometimes you have to go in and manually do it if you have entered the names differently.
- Purge. Remove the following: anyone you do not know or do not remember. People like the exes whom you will never contact again. Anyone with outdated info with whom you have no contact (if you suddenly need to contact them, you would have to seek them out anyway) I found this task the most daunting but quickly realized that I started seeing many numbers that I knew had been landlines that no one had any more and the deleting made me inspired to keep going. Also, there were a sad number of deceased contacts on my list that had to be removed. Finally, delete random email only entries.
- Clean up your list. Make sure first and last names are included. Add missing info, format all of your phone numbers the same way. Get into the details to make your contacts shine!
- Add in any notes you need to remember about new acquaintances. If you have just met people, add things like their pets, kids and spouses names, where you met them, why you connected and any interesting tidbits you’d like to remember.
- While you’re at it, connect on the appropriate social channels. Are you connected through work or business? Look them up on LinkedIn and go the extra step to endorse them. Are they a new friend, find them on FB. Are they creative, look up their Instagram. Take advantage of all the ways to connect, but remember that social media likes do not replace real connections, so set reminders to check in and stay in touch.
This last tip is one of the biggest reasons why I wanted to improve how I managed my contacts. Weeks would go by before I realized that I forgot to make a plan to have coffee with someone I had run into or was texting with. Relationships will not maintain themselves, but there are ways to make it easier. The process of updating and cleaning out your contacts may seem like a waste of time, but un the long run it will help you be more productive and efficient with your time.
What are your tips for managing your contacts? Do you use an app or something similar? Share your experiences!