How to Manage your Contacts

Pile of business cards

Everyone who has a business keeps contact details in some form or other. Often these contacts are a box of business cards, sometimes they are either handwritten or online data collection forms. For people who are really on the ball these contacts might have been added to a spreadsheet.

As an administrator, I would usually advocate storing your contacts in some sort of online contact management system. However, there is absolutely nothing wrong with storing your contacts on a spreadsheet – in fact, if you have loads of contacts to add,  I would advocate starting them off as a spreadsheet.

The good things about a spreadsheet are:

  • It is quick and easy to update
  • It is easy to sort contacts at a basic level
  • It is easy to upload contacts from a spreadsheet onto other online systems such as mailchimp and contact management systems.

The important thing is to do something with your contacts. They are absolutely no good in a box, drawer, or bag. You have probably spent time and money gathering those contacts, whether it be at networking events, trade fairs or through having them as clients. Contacts are valuable.

So, here are a few rules you should have when setting up a spreadsheet of contacts:

  • Set column names and stick to them
  • Always store title, first name and surname in separate columns
  • Allow for 3 address fields plus Town/City and postcode
  • Make sure that the Town/City and postcode are stored in the relevant column
  • Decide how you want to sort the people and set up columns to do this eg relationship – these might be supplier; contractor; client; lead. You might also wish to set columns for when and where you met them
  • Think how you are going to use the information and set up columns accordingly. If you are a wedding business you might have a column saying when they are getting married as there is no point sending wedding marketing messages to people after the wedding.

If you set up your spreadsheet in this disciplined way you will be able to:

  • Send letters either through the post or via email using mail merge tools
  • Upload the information to online newsletter software and personalise what you send
  • Upload the information to a contact management system so you can easily keep in contact with the person in future (and keep much more detailed notes of conversations, emails, quotes, work done etc). I personally recommend capsule Crm – you can use it for free if you have less than 250 contacts, so have a go.

 The Legal Stuff

The data protection act requires anyone who processes personal information register with the ICO. If you are not sure whether this applies to you, you can do a quick assessment here.

If you are sending out mass electronic marketing you also need to comply with the Guide to Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations. You can read more here, but is summary people need to know they have opted in to marketing and they must always be able to unsubscribe easily.

Organising and managing your contacts can be time consuming, but it is well worth getting it right. If you need any help with organising your contacts, get in touch on

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