As a solopreneur, your contacts are a very valuable business asset. By contacts, I mean all the people you know and have relevance to your business such as customers, prospects, networking contacts, colleagues and opt-in subscribers to your newsletter. Some of these groups should be handled by specific software such as a newsletter service for your subscribers and a shopping cart or subscriber list for your customers. But what about all the rest of the people you meet? You probably have hundreds of people you’ve met at networking events, trade shows, live training events and just being out and about, but what do you do with them?
For starters, DO NOT add them to your newsletter without their permission. It’s possibly illegal under the SPAM laws, makes you look bad and generally annoys people.
You do need a way to keep track of these people though. You may need to make a referral for a client of yours and you don’t want to be searching scattered piles of business cards trying to remember where and when you met that one guy who might do what that customer needs. You also may want to occasionally touch base with this network of people you’ve worked hard to connect with. Otherwise, they’ll forget about you and you’ll never even have a chance of being the go-to person when they need what you offer. You may need a service yourself, and want to hire that really great person you met if only you could remember who it was.
There are lots of free and paid CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tools, but you may not need one. I’m a fan of using simple, free tools as long as they suit your needs. Unless you have specific requirements that indicate otherwise, I recommend Google contacts. It’s what I use and I’ve been in business for 3+ years. Here’s some of what I love:
- It’s free and syncs with my Google email account, which I use to manage all the email that comes to my domain-specific email address
- It works great with my Android phone
- It’s simple to use, and you can add any fields you need
- There is a generous notes section where you can write freeform notes to help you remember someone, e.g. “Talked with her at the bar at the September networking event. We both have rescue mutts and like kayaking.”
- Your entire contacts database is searchable so if all you can remember is that they had the word “Yellow” in their business name you can search on that
- When you are ready to upgrade to a different contact management or CRM tool, your entire contact database can be exported into several formats with just a few clicks, or add on one of the free or paid tools available