Contact management means storing, organizing, securing and tracking contact information about your prospects and customers, sales leads, vendors, partners, stakeholders, employees, (the list goes on) and making them easily available for all the members of your organization.
So, basically everyone your company is in contact with.
In its simplest form, contact management can be done with anything (like an Excel sheet), but many companies decide to use specific software like a CRM for this purpose just to make things smoother and more efficient.
Contact management concerns all businesses, organizations and even individuals who need, for some reason or another, to keep track and use of a large or ever-growing number of contacts.
It’s also crucial to ensure that all personal data you’re collecting is safe and sound, and that’s why you have to have proper tools in place.
In this article, we will go through all things contact management, from the why to the practical how.
There are multiple reasons, but the most important one from a business perspective is: Having your contacts stored in a centralized (preferably cloud-based system) makes your whole organization run more efficiently.
Why? Well, for starters, your team doesn’t need to waste time searching for the right location to find the contact information they need or handle contacts that are already handled by other members of their organization, which results to having each team member detaining partial information about a single contacts. For instance one will have the mobile number of the contact, another one will have the land line, and yet another one will have precious notes about the contact, but no one in the organization will have all this information altogether.
When an organization manages contacts, all the contacts — and their information — are centralized and available for everyone on your team to see and update.
Contact details about a specific person will always be up-to-date, and they can continuously be updated in real-time by authorized users.
When contact information is disseminated across users, the organization can easily lose control of this data and subsequently be stolen or lost. Centralizing information with a reliable backup system helps you make sure that you know exactly where the data is stored, and who can access it.
Due to this, it makes managing GDPR and other privacy regulations easier. By having all data in one centralized location where you know exactly who can access it, you can make sure it stays safe. For example, if someone wants their information removed, you simply remove it from one place without having to go through ten individual address books and repositories.
You’ll also end up understanding your customers better.
By storing some data about your customers, such as demographic data and their past interactions with you, you can better understand your customers’ behavior through each step of the sales funnel.
On the other hand, it’s also a big responsibility for your organization to store all that information and ensure it’s safe.
Having information about your customers will, however, also help you improve your overall customer experience. You can easily add a personalized touch to all interactions when you know how a customer has interacted with you in the past.
Not to mention that contact management can really save your team both time and money.
If you put in place the right synchronization tools, it makes your entire team more productive by accessing contact information and updating it, from any software or device.
This way, you don’t have to copy-paste contact information or spend time updating information in multiple different places.
When all contacts, and their information, is safely in one place, your team can easily be aligned and collaborate on the contacts without a hassle.
Let’s just say it: Contact management is essential to any organization.
From small businesses to Fortune 500, everyone needs to manage and organize contacts. Especially if you want to ensure your teams’ great performance and keep your data safe.
It isn’t only for large organizations or businesses. It is actually an integral part of a large number of different fields, including:
As already mentioned, contact management can easily be done with a shared spreadsheet like Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel. This is especially useful if your organization doesn’t have a lot of contacts in your database.
You can easily add the relevant information to the relevant slots in your spreadsheet and update it as you go, ensuring everyone can access the document when needed.
However, with more contacts and different contact lists and address books, you might need something more.
Let’s go through a couple of the most common ways companies and organizations are managing their contacts.
This refers mostly to an Active Directory, LDAP, or a Google Workspace domain directory.
The IT department of the organization generally maintains this type of company directory, and it typically contains the employees’ information, mailing lists and some external contacts.
These contacts are generally accessible in emails and intranets but rarely on mobile contact apps or other applications.
They are also typically not available when the user is offline.
Another important limitation is that they can only be created, edited and updated by admins or IT staff.
In this scenario, such a rigid system can get quite complicated, and implementing external contact sharing can be costly. And when several domains or branches/locations are involved, it gets even more difficult.
You can make contact management easier with a CRM because they are designed for contact management. Thus, they offer many functional features to help you.
You can, for example:
However, it’s not all sunshine and flowers.
What makes CRMs slightly more complex is their stronger focus on marketing and sales operations.
First of all, you need to onboard your whole team to use new software, and sometimes the onboarding and training process can become quite costly as most CRMs have hundreds of features to learn about — not to mention the cost of each individual CRM seat you’re buying.
Also, CRMs typically aren’t synchronized with all other apps you’re using, such as your email system, WhatsApp, your mobile phone contacts, and so on.
Different kinds of CRMs are designed for different kinds of organizations. For example, HubSpot can be used for smaller teams that want to grow, and Salesforce is a good option for large organizations with big teams and bigger-scale needs for contact management.
Another solution many organizations go for is a contact management system or a shared contact manager specifically designed for this purpose.
With these types of systems, you can:
And typically, some of them are integrated with many of the tools your team is already using, so they don’t require any training or an organizational transformation.
With this type of tool, you can get the benefits of a CRM for your whole organization without having to pay a lot of money for CRM seats.
A tool like Shared Contacts for Gmail® is a simple way to centralize, share and manage Google contacts with your entire team.
Everyone can access these contacts in tools they already use, like Google contacts, Gmail, their mobile contact book, Google Drive or Docs, WhatsApp, their VoIP system, and so on. This way, your team can skip acquiring new tools or onboarding your entire team to use a new system.
Next, let’s go through a couple of best practices. These are an integral part of the process of storing and managing your contacts properly.
❤️ Collect the same relevant information from all your contacts. These could be things like name, location, title, email, and so on.
This way, you always have the same information about everyone in your database and don’t need to look for additional information when you need it.
❤️ Share all relevant contact information with your team.
When there is no proper process in place for contact management, things often get siloed.
Your team members might have their individual address books, and when one of their contacts’ phone number changes, only one person updates it to their own address book, leaving the rest of the team with an outdated phone number.
To avoid this, make sure that your team has a system that syncs all contact information (and updates on it), so it’s available for everyone who needs it.
❤️ Make contacts accessible to all teams who need to interact with them.
Don’t restrict contact sharing to your sales team only. Contact sharing is often done through CRM tools, limiting the access of these contacts only to the staff who have a paid license.
CRMs can be costly, and if you don’t want to purchase CRM seats for your whole team, you should consider alternative, integrated tools that allow you to share contacts with your whole team, regardless of if they have a CRM seat or not.
❤️ Choose a contact management solution that integrates with most tools that are used to handle contacts.
Think about things like the most common email systems, mobile phone books, instant messaging apps like Whatsapp or Telegram, or VoIP systems like RingCentral or Twilio.
Implementing solutions that require your users to use only one specific application or software is often not a good idea since they’re not integrated with your other tools.
❤️ Never lose track of your contacts.
Regulations like GDPR make you accountable for the personal data you hold. You must know and understand exactly where this data is stored in your IT infrastructure if an individual wants to have their information removed from the instance.
With duplicate contacts all over different user accounts, it’s impossible to keep all this data under control. This is where a contact management system will help you.
❤️ Control the accesses, permissions, and visibility of different contact lists.
It is essential to make sure the right people access and update the right contacts to avoid data leaks or the abuse of your contacts’ personal information.
❤️ Don’t save contacts on physical devices.
Flashcards, USB keys, mobile devices, or Excel sheets stored on hard drives may feel like great places to store stuff, but what if the devices break or get lost? It also makes it extremely difficult to stay compliant with GDPR and similar regulations.
❤️ And finally, remember to nurture your contacts.
A lot of organizations forget their contacts once they’ve been added to the database. Make sure you’re talking to your contacts and keeping up a good relationship with them.
Here’s a handy checklist for you when you want to start managing your contacts in a structured way.
✅ Figure out how your contacts are used in your organization.
Focus on: Who uses them? Who is storing and which contacts? How are they used? For what purpose? On what type of software and devices?
✅ Understand the major pain points that are slowing down your activities when it comes to contact management.
Focus on: Are different users of your organization creating and updating the same contacts? Do users sometimes add the same contacts to different software? Are there situations in which users are losing contacts?
Are there situations where users cannot access contacts or constantly need to ask for contact information from their colleagues?
Are there situations where users cannot access contacts or constantly need to ask for contact information from their colleagues?
✅ Find out about your current contact management practices.
Focus on: What contact information are you storing about contacts? Do you have a central contact repository? If you do, who manages it, and who can contribute to it? Who can access it? What are its limits? Does it allow access to these contacts everywhere?
How do you categorize your contacts: Customer contacts, vendors, prospects, partners, and so on? Do you know where contact information and personal data are located?
What is the nature of information that you store about your contacts? (basic information, notes, interactions and the likes).
✅ Figure out what the best solution for you is.
Focus on: Do you need to access your contacts on multiple devices and software? Do you need to automate your processes — such as emails, quotes, or invoices — with your contacts? How many users need this?
Who and how many people in your organization need to access shared contacts? Do you need to share Google contacts only (if you are on Google Workspace)? What kind of contacts do you need to share: internal, external, or both?
✅ Make sure to pick a solution that requires minimal to no training. The solution you pick will need to integrate with tools people use every day.
✅ Consider cloud-based solutions — as opposed to on-premises ones — to cover your contact management needs.
Focus on: Do your sales and marketing teams need to automate their processes? Consider installing a CRM —like Salesforce, Zoho, or HubSpot CRM, for instance.
A CRM can help you with many everyday actions, including configurations, creating sales orders and invoices, managing your marketing campaigns, and so on. This means that only the users who need to perform these actions need a CRM license, and the rest can do without.
Other members of your organization may need a simple connector to access all shared contacts — not only customers and prospects, but also other team members, vendors, partners, and so on.
✅ Start small.
A common mistake is trying to build a clean contact database before implementing a contact management system. This is pretty much a lost cause, as a contact database is constantly evolving.
We recommend starting with creating one or two contact lists like “customers” or “team A”, and sharing them with the rest of the organization right away. If the same contact is detected in several places, it will be automatically merged by your Shared Contacts plugin.
✅ Make sure all the relevant data is safely transferred to your new system.
When you’ve picked the tool of your choice, upload a CSV for your CRM, or simply share your Google contact labels from your Google contacts.
✅ Make sure your team is aware of how to access, create or update shared contacts.
This is easily done with a system like Shared Contacts for Gmail®.
For instance, when you’re updating contacts on your mobile device address book and the contact is shared, the Shared Contacts plugin will automatically update it for everyone. You can forget about worrying about updating all contacts separately.
✅ Enjoy the smoothness of having a functioning contact management process in place.
And while you’re at it, make the most of the improved customer experience you’re creating for your customers.
Shared Contacts for Gmail® is a cloud-based contact management and sharing tool designed to make your everyday processes smoother.
You and your team members can share, access, comment, and update centralized contacts easily. If you want your organization to have a clean and organized contact base, you can try Shared Contacts for Gmail® for free.
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