I’m using Gmail’s built-in contact application to run my contact management. (By the way, did you see that you can use Gmail and Calendar and Chat on your own site now, configured for your own domain?) Though there are some things I can’t use Google to do easily (mail merge types of things), there are lots of ways that I use the Contact portion of the application that might not have come to mind for you right away.
Add Birthdays– I put birthdays into the contact section as well as in Google Calendar
Their Needs– You often get emails from someone saying, “Know anyone who’s good at Typepad?” (btw, do you?). I put those against the person’s contact name, so that I can remember who needed what, and to ask if the person’s solved that need, if some time has passed.
Kids’ Names– I’m really good with names, but that rarely extends to everyone’s kids, their ages, etc. So I plug that into the Contacts page, so I can remember to ask the person. Ditto family, spouse, pet scorpion, etc.
Add their personal blog– Before I make a connection with with someone I haven’t contacted in a while, I check in on their blog first. It’s like peering in the curtains before going in. I find this very useful. The one time I didn’t follow this tip, it was devastating! No details, but I came off seeming REALLY insensitive.
Roles– You always hear about a job opening, and then never remember who matches that role. Keep their roles updated so you can plumb it when needed.
Favorites– My favorite food is leftovers. I like sci fi and action movies. I don’t go to many live concerts. Note these things for your contacts, if you know them.
Read below the line– When you click on a contact in Gmail, it gives you the list of emails between you and that person (provided you’ve kept them, which I’ve started doing). This gives you a sense of the thread of your conversations. Take a browse of these from time to time and consider the theme of what you’re reading. Is this person helpful? Should you talk more with them? Do they often have great advice? Or worse, are they sucking your life away, one email at a time? Use this tactic to consider things often.
I’ve got some more thoughts around email, but let’s leave this as a list about contact management. What are some of yours? How can you grow this list of tips?