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Hey, isn't today the day you have that appointment with Joe... uh, Joe... damn! What was his last name again? Blow? Schmoe? Shlabotnik? You don't remember? Too bad you didn't bother to write his name down.
Ah, well, if Joe really wants to speak with you, he'll give you a call. In the meantime, maybe you should make some follow-up calls on the mailing you did two weeks ago. Now, who did you call already? You don't know? You were too busy to take notes? What were you doing, fighting crime?
As if the typical IP doesn't have enough to do with marketing, mailing, calling, meeting clients, invoicing -- not to mention actually completing your assignments -- now you're expected to do data entry like some vocational school dropout?
That's right, pal. And if you can't keep track of your marketing contacts and prospects, you might as well use those costly direct mail-pieces for rolling papers and make your cold calls via a tin can with a string attached.
Choose Your Weapon
When it comes to keeping your contacts in order, you have two choices: new-fangled software or Ye Olde Rolodexxe. Believe it or not, many IPs who are too young to remember the Alamo have adopted that old-world standard, the Rolodex (or as a certain manufacturing company's uptight lawyers would have it, a Rolodex-brand office organizational system and head lice remover). "I tried electronic databases, but they aren't always accessible," says Ann Keeling, an IP who operates under the name Cristofoli-Keeling Marketing Communications Management and who uses three -- count 'em, three -- Rolodexes. "It's frustrating when you need a phone number and your computer is locked up. A Rolodex is always just a flip of the wrist away." She uses the Rolodex to store contact information, and occasionally adds schmooze-worthy specifics like birthdays and favorite restaurants.
Other IPs, such as Tara Malatesta, an IP marketing maven and president of Prizm Communications, use the Rolodex for frequently called phone numbers but supplement it with software that helps them keep track of everything from URLs to the times when their prospects' houses are likely to be empty and the pass codes to their alarm systems. As a creative-yet-modern soul, Malatesta prefers to jot ideas and day-to-day activities on paper but to keep track of proposals and prospects in a computer database.
Flex Your Rolodex Pecs
Break away from the oppressive chains of alphabetization! Your mind doesn't sort contacts last-name-first-name in alphabetical order, and neither should your card system. Barbara Hemphill, author of Taming the Paper Tiger at Work, suggests labeling and arranging the cards according to how you'll actually remember the contacts. For example, you may not remember that the editor you've been sending press releases to is named Anita Getpublished and works at Noodle Art Fortnightly, but you will remember that she's an editor. So write her card up as "Editor -- Anita Getpublished" and slap her into the "E" section.
Get a Rolodex that holds large cards so that you can staple business cards directly onto them. (Just think: no more punching holes in business cards with those little plastic torture devices, which invariably cause you to punch out part of a phone number.) This will also give you room to jot down notes about the contact -- where you met him, the name of his spouse, the alibi you last used when you were late with a project, and so on.
Get With the Program
If you find the Rolodex too... uh... grannified for your tastes, look into database software. I use Filemaker Pro on a Mac for my marketing database, which has become as big as Eminem's police file and as complex as string theory. I've created custom fields to meet my particular needs -- name, address, phone, fax, email, Web site, notes, favorite fruit, date contacted, result, follow ups. I can then slice and dice my prospects any way that I like -- choosing, for example, all contacts who are going to vote for Ralph Nader -- and merge their information into preformatted sales letters.
For IPs who like to stick to the cheap and easy, Mr. Tracy Emerick, a former IP database-marketing consultant who is neither cheap nor easy, suggests Microsoft Outlook (not Outlook Express) as a simple database tool. You can't create custom fields, but Outlook, which comes with Windows, has that quality that all IPs desire -- it's free.
Barbara Hemphill swears by the database system ACT. "ACT does absolutely everything," says Hemphill. "I even do my email through it, and all the emails I send out are attached to the contact so I have a record." You can also divide contacts into multiple, overlapping groups for more detailed searches; Joe Blow, for instance, could be entered as a lead from a conference, as a corporate bigwig at Donwana Payu Corp., as a prospect who asked to be on your mailing list, and as someone with a funny name.
Whatever program you choose, dare to go beyond the lame name-address-phone number format. According to Emerick, marketing databases should have three parts:
So who's got time to enter in the names of your contact's six kids, details on his toy train fetish, and a record of his food allergies? At the risk of infuriating the High School Labor Guild, I offer Hemphill's suggestion to hire a high school kid to do your data entry if you're too busy raking in the dough to do it yourself.
But no matter whether you rip off some innocent youngster just getting his or her first taste of the job market or gouge a loyal friend who took a bullet for you in 'Nam or bilk a trusting humanitarian whose only goal in life is to make others happy, get your data organized. Otherwise, Joe will never forgive you.
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