Contact management software is a vital tool for millions of businesspeople whose work involves building relationships with customers and prospects. Just ask freelance sportscaster Eric Tracy of Woodland Hills, California: "I used to be the kind of person who wrote things down on the back of a business card," he says. "Now I'm an information machine." A good contact manager lets you:
- record complete contact information in a customizable database
- log calls, meetings, to-dos, letters, faxes and e-mail messages
- view your calendar by day, week or month
- quickly produce letters, memos and proposals
- perform mail merges to easily communicate with groups of contacts
- extend your customer information using direct links to the Internet
- share your calendar and contact information with co-workers
Two of the most popular programs on the market are GoldMine (GoldMine Software Corp., $295.95, www.goldminesw.com, 800-654-3526) and ACT! (Symantec Corp., $199.95, www.symantec.com, 800-441-7234). Their newest versions, 4.0, provide all these features as well as telephone integration, so when a customer calls, you have instant access to his or her information based on caller ID. Look for these benefits when shopping for contact management software:
1. Ease of use. If a program takes too long to learn, you may be too frustrated to use it.
2. Integration with other applications. Both ACT! Version 4.0 and GoldMine 4.0 give you access to many applications, including word processing and e-mail, from within their programs so you don't have to launch other programs separately while they're running.
3. Security. Look for a program with integrated zipped backup. ACT! 4.0 offers a special reminder when it's time to back up your data.
4. Expandability. Good contact managers can grow with your company, so you don't have to learn a new system when you add employees.