My holiday gift to you is contact management

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency.  Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing.  Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.

Attorneys in transition should always make time to focus on contact management.  After all, if you are in transition, some of your contact information is likely to change.  A new position presents the opportunity to reach out to some of the people in your network to say hello and offer updated contact information.  Worry not, most of them will not ask “what happened?” as transition is a natural process in career evolution.

My gift to all the attorneys in transition this season is the gift of contact management.  I will share a few of my tips and tricks with hopes you may adopt some or search for and share others.  Contact management is somewhat like billing in the sense that any system with which you are comfortable is the right one.  Just please make sure you have a system to collect and manage contacts.

First, collection takes many forms; we collect business cards at events, contacts are e-mailed to us, and contacts we know have their information posted online.  If I were starting from scratch I would make a list of every important contact I know, grouped by profession or practice area, and start an excel spreadsheet with columns for their remaining contact information.

Second, once my Excel sheet is full, I would make sure I was Microsoft Outlook friendly (there are many Outlook for new users that make the transition easy), and then “import” all my contacts into Outlook directly from the excel sheet.  The reason I recommend Outlook is two-fold: 1) it is inherently easy to use, and 2) most commercial software applications have built-in “save to contacts/calendar” functions that Outlook users embrace.

Third, after I have imported my network of contacts into Outlook, then I would make a plan so that I could strategically keep in touch with the people in my network.  One sure bet is to communicate with groups or your whole list periodically.  Mass e-mail programs like Constant Contact make it easy to send a mass “change of office address” e-mail.  Please be careful using e-mail marketing programs – too often your contacts will be annoyed by “marketing” e-mails about how great your services are – instead you should offer something of value that your contacts can use, such as a new opinion in their practice area (see the benefit of separating contacts into lists such as practice areas).

Lastly, using Outlook I would schedule a calendar reminder to say hello and follow up with my contacts individually.  Fridays are good days to spend an hour or so each Friday reaching out for no other reason than to say hello.  Every three to six months we should let people know we are still out there if we otherwise do not speak frequently.  Remember, contact activity generates business.  Make a the contact plan and work the contact plan.  Contact me personally if you want more contact management tips.

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