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Managing Your Contacts

Our homebased expert tells you why you can't live without a good contact management program.

Q: I've been hired to do sales and marketing for a wholesale company that drop ships all kinds of merchandise to businesses. They sell everything from plumbing and electrical supplies to janitorial and office supplies to businesses like hospitals, schools and nursing homes. I'm new at this and need help starting out. For example, should I buy marketing software? Where can I get sample sales letters to give me ideas?

A: With such a wide assortment of products and business prospects, it's essential that you organize your marketing program from the start using contact management software. Part scheduler and part marketing assistant with an ironclad memory, a good contact management program can save you time when producing letters, memos and proposals, and by taking the complexity out of mail merges so you can communicate efficiently with groups of prospects. (Many programs also include sample business letters as well.) For example, suppose you want to send a mailing to all hospitals that purchase office supplies from the company you've been hired by. Once you've recorded the information in the fields supplied, your contact manager can assemble your list on the spot.

Contact management software can keep important sales and marketing activities from falling through the cracks. You can schedule your marketing tactics, record prospect information, maintain customer files and evaluate your marketing results by setting up databases of customers for different product lines. Each morning, you can print out your list of contacts for the day, including a complete file and history record on each, so you won't overlook vital follow-up calls. It keeps you organized and lets you view your calendar by day, week or month, and lets you log in calls, meetings, to-do lists, prospect lists, marketing responses, letters, faxes and e-mails.

Here are three questions to consider when evaluating contact management software.

1. Is it easy to use? You should be able to start using the basic functions of the program right out of the box.

2. Will it integrate with other applications I use? You need access to your own word processing applications from inside the programs so you don't have to launch them separately.

3. Can the software grow with your company? It should be expandable as you add staff.

I recommend the newest versions of ACT!, the granddaddy of contact management software. Visit www.act.com for a demo.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.
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