The old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” still rings true today. Without a network of “trust agents,” influencers, or simply good contacts, it’s hard to get anything accomplished. Getting a new job, making sales, or simply finding a good accountant requires a network of people you know, like, and trust to make a recommendation so you won’t get fleeced.
So how do you manage your contacts? How do you stay in touch and up-to-date with relevant names, addresses, and phone numbers? Many people still use a notepad, others use a subscription service or software such as ACT!, and even more use Outlook. More and more people are using cloud-based contact managers today than ever before. Some are free, while others cost as little as $5 or up to hundreds per month.
I’ve tried them all and can tell you there are a variety of options. The goals of any contact management system are ease of use, portability, accessibility, customization, and backup. If the contact manager you choose is in the cloud, then security is also an important consideration.
Social media: Many people are now using cloud solutions such as Facebook and LinkedIn to manage contacts, which can also be made available on your smartphone, but lack customization, calendars, or note functions. Check out LinkedIn’s Profile Organizer and Gist.
Cloud-based email: Yahoo and Gmail both offer contact managers. Gmail’s is the most comprehensive and includes a section for notes. Gmail contacts can also sync with an iPhone and Android in real time portability. If Gmail could link your calendar with your contacts, it would be a perfect contact manager.
Customer relationship managers (CRMs): These are full-blown contact managers that make contacts, calendars, and notes accessible from smartphones and computers. CRMs are generally used by businesspeople that need to manage clients.
A true CRM keeps track of emails and calls, along with calendar notifications. Some will make a phone call via Skype or a landline with the click of a button.
There are many to choose from and most cost upwards of $300 per year or much more. Check out Zoho CRM, Free CRM, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Highrise, and the most popular, Salesforce.com, which I still find cumbersome and clunky.
What do I use? I use ACT! locally, and I use Gmail’s contacts and calendar in the cloud. The hybrid works for me and is either cheap or free, with no annual fee.