Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Organizing your Contacts for Networking

Imagine you are nominated chair of a fundraising event for an organization you are passionate about. Your goal is to raise awareness about the organization as well as raise a set dollar amount. You are ready to share the news about this event with your contacts, but you realize one thing. Pulling all of the pertinent contact information and notifying them will take a little longer than expected.

Communicating with individuals in your network today, may not always be as easy as it seems. If you’re like most people, you have contacts stored in your cell phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), several email accounts (work and personal), traditional phone book or rolodex. If you use one or all, it can be a challenge when you want to contact or even share news with your network.

Information that is typically valuable:

- Contact name
- Title
- Phone number
- Place of employment
- Primary address
- Email address
- Fax number
- Notes section to write brief comments about your contact

There is more than one way to manage your contact’s information without it being an extensive process. Let’s get started organizing your contacts and formalizing your network!

Step 1: Identify all your sources of business contacts. To create a solid contact network, identify all the sources where your contacts can be located. This will not be an effortless process, but be sure to verify all of your online email accounts, social networking sites, black book, rolodex, business cards, etc.

Step 2: Start categorizing your contacts. Now that you have identified all of your contacts, put them in some type of category. The main categories are business, professional and personal, but create something so you can easily search and find them when you need them. In your process, make sure there is a notes section and capture information from prior conversations.

Step 3: Pull it all together. Which system works best for you? Here are some possible solutions:

Solution (1) - Microsoft Excel, Access or Outlook

Pros: The ability to sort data.
Cons: User must manually input data.

Solution (2) - Social network (LinkedIn, Plaxo, Facebook)

- Contacts are responsible for updating their own information which saves you time.
- You can access this information with an internet connection.
- You act as a connector for your contacts to be introduced to others on that networking site.

- Not all contacts can be found on the site you are using.
- Contacts do not update their contact information or access the site as often.

Solution (3) - PDA (Palm Treo, BlackBerry, iPhone)

- The ability to place contacts in categories and sort.
- Can quickly contact individuals if device has an internet connection.

- Must have a computer to extract contact data from application.

Solution (4) - Yahoo, AOL, Google

Pros: You can access this information with an internet connection.
Cons: Can only email a maximum number of contacts at one time.

Solution (5) - Business card scanner

Pros: Program captures all of the information from the business cards you scan.

- Cost associated with the purchase of the program and the need for a computer.
- If your contact does not have a business card, you have to manually input the information.

Solution (6) - Traditional rolodex

- No internet connection needed.
- All information is in one location

- User must manually maintain and information needs to be inputted into an email or letter each time.

*Note: There are several other solutions available that were not listed.

Choose 2-3 solutions. Create an easy process for you to maintain contact information, so that when you need to contact your network you can do so.

Step 4: Actively use your contact list. Now that you pulled it all together, make sure you actively utilize your newly consolidated networking list. Make time to review your contact list either, once a quarter, once a year or a time that might be best for you to review especially if you have a long list.

Managing contacts in your network does not have to be a long and drawn out process. Don’t wait until you need to use your network to determine if their contact information is current. If you follow the steps provided above, you will find that maintaining your network will be much easier going forward.


Reggie Waller is the president of RWJ Consulting Group a provider of business and personal coaching, consulting and training services to individuals and businesses. For additional information call 267-254-6800 or visit
RWJ Consulting Group

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