Monday, January 17, 2011

Say Goodbye to Standalone Contact Databases

Almost. Here’s the thing. 
  • The current worker in the US stays with their employer for on an average of 4.4 years. 1 
  • As of January 7, 2011, the unemployment rate was 9.4%. 2
    • Add to this all of the people who are working under contract, and what you have is a lot of people doing a lot of moving around. And this means your contact information quickly becomes outdated.
    So, if you want to stay with a standalone database, you’re going to have to find a balance between the costs of keeping it up to date, and the number of times you hear, “He no longer works here.”

    But it’s much worse than that. Outdated information can be very damaging.
    • Mass communication problems - you won’t know who is not receiving information you feel important enough to broadcast.
    • Missed opportunities - for instance, you have a client that you speak with on average four times a year. Let’s say that contact moves to a new company. You won’t know that until the next time you call him. By then your contact may be using the company’s default supplier. And you’ve lost a growth opportunity.
    • You become reactionary - This is a world of information. If you’re constantly the last one to find things out, you won’t be around long. It is unacceptable to discover that a key contact has moved to another company from an industry periodical.
    Here’s the answer to this conundrum. Outsource your contact management to the contacts themselves! Who knows the most about your distribution partner, Edward Knickerbocker? Edward Knickerbocker, that’s who. He’s the one that is going to update his profile on Linkedin when he moves to a new company, because it’s in his best interest.

    Admittedly, I haven’t seen the right software for this yet. Linkedin is the best self-updating database for professionals there is at the moment. But there’s a snag. People are hesitant, and rightly so, to put their phone numbers on their profile. Other than that, you can download your contacts’ information and plug it into any program you want. Go to the “Contacts” tab, then click on the export connections link at the bottom right-hand side of the page. This will allow you to turn your contact information into a .csv file. You can import your contacts into a cloud program, say Salesforce or Google Contacts. From there, everyone in your organization can see the same contacts, and it’s constantly updating. Sensitive information, like phone numbers and notes will not be effected by incoming, non-conflicting fields.  It’s not a perfect solution, but one will come soon. Perhaps a permission level system built into Linkedin. We’ll see.

    In the meantime, keep cutting costs where you can. And win the information race.

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