How To Manage Your Contacts & Customers

Most of us need, at some time or another, to group our contacts according to type. Most often, this is because we need to know who is to be included in something; maybe a list of people attending a proposed event, or a list of everyone who has signed up for a newsletter. HOW to categorise – giving names to show what those categories represent – is a decision that is often made by aiming at the current task. But in the end, this is neither an efficient nor reliable way of working.

Whether you’re using customer CRM management system or working offline, your categories are identified by the names you give them, so it is important that the names truly represent what they are. If this is not the case, there can be a lack of clarity in what the purpose of the group can be in general terms. For example, imagine the situation where an event organiser is arranging an event for those interested in financial markets, needs to invite representatives from local banks, and buys a list of “financial” contacts accordingly. In thinking about a name for this list, the category names “investors”, “banks” or “delegates” might be considered, but these are fundamentally different, because the first (investor) is applied to the person, and the second (bank) applies to the organisation as a whole, and the third (delegate) applies in a temporary way to someone who might (or might not) attend an event. Anyway, some of the “financial” contacts might be investors, and others might be senior managers, and yet others might be cashiers, and not all will eventually attend the event, and so there’s a temptation to choose a generic label such as “Banks” to solve the immediate problem. But to do this means to misrepresent your data – the label on this particular box doesn’t exactly show what’s inside. Future needs must be considered; if you are only ever going to be addressing banks as an organisation via one contact person, there won’t be problem. But if it transpires that you need to send an email to all your investors who eventually decide to attend the event, the category “bank” clearly won’t do.

Different types of categories – types of types – are needed. In our example here, it would make logical sense to label the address as a “bank”, the person attending the event as a “delegate 2012″, and as an “investor”, too, if appropriate. In this way, you will be able to direct future communications with everyone working at a bank, and/or everyone who’s a cashier, and/or everyone who came to the event last time, and/or combinations of these. With this type of arrangement, your data purchase will have a continuing and lasting relevance to you and your business.

This idea might sound complicated, and so it is. You’re bound to need help. So when you come to choosing a CRM system, have a look to see if these three types of groups – address categories, person categories and temporary (event) categories – are provided as part of its basic functionality. In a well-managed business, nothing short of this will do.

About the author:
Heather Godfrey is a director of a company that designs and publishes database software. She has worked with database technology since the 1980s, and has applied her skills to formulate database applications across education, local authorities, and business sectors. During this time she has also been heavily involved with education and training, showing others how to support their administration processes.
My website is at:


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