Stop waiting to organize your leads and customers.
There's never going to be a better time than now.
Especially with this post to guide you.
See, the problem with most articles on organizing contacts is that they don't get down to the root of the problem.
They don't acknowledge the different types of people in the world.
Some are made for organizing. Some, well...some just aren't and need a step-by-step guide like this one.
(And a few nudges or reminders to keep their crap in order.)
Whether you know which type of organizer you are or not, that's what this post is for.
Today I'm helping you identify the nature of your organizational crisis.
Once you figure out what will work best for your business, we'll leap into whether you need a CRM, or would be better off saving some mullah and getting my recipe for a simple, awesome spreadsheet.
And I didn't forget the paper-lovers out there. I've got paper systems that you'll love, too.
Now don't scroll down for those links yet.
This article isn't just about pinpointing your organizational sweet spot. I've included some nifty tips on organizing emails, tools, and getting started with organizing your contacts and leads.
Read on, my Friend.
Get a more productive business in 5 days or less.
Grab my 5 super-simple efficiency hacks you can apply in 10 minutes or less. [ Includes the exact list of tools I use to grow + maintain my business with. FREE ]
Who, Where and How: Decide Your Path to Organization
Before you jump into finding what tool you'll use to manage your contacts, you need to decide on a couple of things.
Because the last thing you want to do is either spend money or time on something that you're going to use [effectively] for maybe a month and then totally default.
You need to find the tool you'll be using for the next couple of years. Especially if you're planning for exponential growth.
As you might've already figured, staying organized is tough.
If you're stretching too far out of your organizational comfort zone, you won't stick with it. So let's find the right method for you and your business from the beginning.
Let's start with a few questions to gauge your level of organization:
One | Identify how organized you are right now.
Are you able to get and stay organized relatively well?
Do you have difficulty keeping up with organization?
Is getting and staying organized a difficult task for you? But you're willing to keep working at it?
Is getting and staying organized too much to keep up with? You need a super-simple, all-in-one, almost DI4Y (that's my—I think—just invented "do-it-for-you" acronym) assistant all the time?
Two | Where do you see your business in the next six months? In the next two years? Five years?
Will or do you have employees? Will you remain a solopreneur? Will you be the person handling the organizing or will someone else (an assistant? VA?)?
Three | How much are you willing (or able) to spend each month to maintain your organized business contacts?
what are the distinct parts that make up your client?
Now, we're going to establish what information you need for each client or company that you work with.
By figuring out what all you need to track, it'll get you that much closer to pinpointing exactly what tool you need to use.
For most small businesses, all or some of the following points are necessary to properly care for client needs and acquisitions:
Qualifying level of the lead
Who do you contact to reach the client? (Secretary? Directly?)
Their Return on Investment (ROI) with your business
Business contracts and proposals
Billing and invoicing
Looking at this list now, think about sustaining all the necessary qualities of one customer who works with you. Are your desires, needs, and willingness to organize beginning to align? Or is it a total hot mess?
No worries if it's the latter. We've still got more work to do.
SUGGESTED: Are you trying to sell to the wrong people? (Find your target audience)
Sort the Odds and Ends
Here's your guide to actionable steps.
The first thing to do is go grab all those little scraps of paper, note cards, business cards, jotted on napkins and whatever else you have laying around with client and lead information on it.
Stack them neatly and hold tight. (We're just situating things at this point.)
Now, get your email inbox organized.
There are tools you can use to help organize email contacts such as EverContact. (I'm not affiliated with them—just a mention.)
EverContact updates your existing contacts in Gmail, Google Apps or Outlook and in [some] CRMs either automatically or you can validate it manually.
It'll recover missing contacts from up to five years ago and will build an address book within a few hours with all those "loose ends" for you to check in on.
Using their Google Chrome Plugin you can save any contact you choose from websites and add them to your address book.
There's also Rapportive which connects you to people you exchange email with by converging public information of the contact using LinkedIn and Twitter. You can check out more details at Google Chrome Add-ons.
To manually set up a system using Gmail, take advantage of the Labels (folders) options.
A "Somewhat Important" goal of mine each business day is to properly file, delete, unsubscribe or archive each email in my inbox.
I use Pocket to save articles or posts I'm interested in reading at a later time so I can archive or delete the parent email.
As you can see from my Labels—accessed via the cog emblem drop-down menu, scroll down to Settings, then click on the Labels tab—I keep my categories relatively simple. Even down to keeping online records of payments I received, expense receipts, and more.
With this setup, I schedule at least 30 minutes to an hour midday to go through my inbox and tackle all of the past 24 hours' emails.
Sometimes it's 20 and other times it's 110. It just all depends on the day.
And to add to the previous time management post, I won't check my email again for the rest of the day. It's too much of a distraction from productivity.
I pick through the trash emails first, unsubscribe from anything that's no longer relevant to me or a distraction from productivity, then move onto client emails, form submissions, requests and questions.
TIP: Don't open any emails you can't respond to right then and there.
I found myself missing several emails when I first started my business because I'd open them at an inopportune time and forget about them.
By the time I stop working every Friday afternoon, I try to make it to a "zero inbox". Some weeks are harder than others, but I can tell you that I never get overwhelmed with emails any more.
Now, it's your turn to tackle your inbox.
Have you amassed thousands of read (or unread...) emails? It's time to start Archiving the not-so-important stuff and delete the totally unimportant.
Admittedly I never used to Archive anything until my husband tried to help me find an important email I misplaced using his tech-savvy awesomeness that I've yet to crack, myself.
He shared the wonderment of a zero inbox with me.
That was 2 years ago...I've done a zero inbox before every weekend ever since.
It feels amazing. (And a professional de-stressor.)
If you have trouble keeping up with emails, you can always check out mail client apps like Mailbox which encourage and guide you to that zero mark everyday.
How are you feeling right now?
Maybe a bit of both?
Well, now it's time to find a home for everything.
Right now you could be using a Rolodex, the address book on your phone, or maybe even one of those little paperback address books you bought at the grocery store.
You may have even bought a business card carrier of some kind and felt like you were finally making a difference in organizing.
Or maybe you're currently using a paper, spreadsheet or CRM system that just isn't working for you anymore.
Regardless, it's time to pick the system that you're going to use for the next 2 to 5 years.
Think about the following and read up on each system below:
- Where are you organizationally right now?
- How are you going to keep up with the system you choose?
- How much money and time can you dedicate to customer relations each day? Week? Month?
- What tool are you most comfortable using to stay organized? A computer? A paper product?
Got an idea?
P.S. Comments, emails, running a business and being a mom of 3 were just too much for me to handle. So, blog comments got the boot. But the lack of a comment box doesn't mean I don't want to hear what you think! Share your thoughts with me via @GoffCreative on Twitter or directly via email.
Could your Twitter followers benefit from this post?
Please share this pre-filled Tweet!