Bookkeepers normally have a wide range of “regular” clients, but there is nothing regular about how often they interact.
Some may be weekly or even daily clients, while others come in once a month for updated reports. Some just arrive once a quarter to get their sales tax reports done and still others only show up during tax season in the springtime.
Having a way to keep all of their contact information at your fingertips when you need it can be challenging. You need to be able to find their back emails quickly and easily and see all of their reports when you need them.
You also need to have their contact on your mobile device so you can call them easily as you work on their files or respond to their queries when you are travelling.
Using Microsoft Outlook to stay organized
If you have a regular client base, you likely remember them easily. But those who contact you yearly can be more challenging.
These are the people who leave messages like:
“Hi, it’s Paul here. Remember a year ago when you got those budget figures together for me. Well, we didn’t act on it then but we want to move forward now. I’m wondering if you can pull that report because we liked the style of your approach, and then we could hire you to update it for us.”
The challenge is you can’t remember the name of Paul’s company, and you have been filing everything under the company name. It would be embarrassing to have to call him and admit you forgot the name of his firm.
There is even a worst case scenario where you forget Paul’s last name, and you have everything filed according to the client’s name. You check your phone to see if it left his ID, but it had caller ID blocked.
There is a simple way around this. Save all files with the client’s name, corporate name, and whether they are weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. If all you know is that you are searching for “Paul” and “yearly” it will still come up faster than scrolling helplessly through your list.
Group clients for easier access
While many people use the “Categorize” feature on their Outlook program, far less use the “Groups” feature. I like it particularly because not only can you collect all your clients who come to you for specific purposes like HST, corporate taxes, payroll duties, etc., but you can send them group email reminders if you need to, such as a reminder that tax season is approaching or best wishes during the holiday season.
To utilize your Groups function, click on Contacts and then click on New Group. For Mac users, click the words “Contact Group” in the Office ribbon. Name the group and you will be able to find them faster.
Apps for your smart phone
Once you have your files and emails organized on your computer, it’s time to get the contacts on your phone in order.
Again, the idea of establishing groups to narrow down your search is attractive. Personally, I find it helpful to separate my friends, family and business contacts into separate groups. I even separate current clients with potential clients if I plan to do a marketing activity that will bring a number of potential clients into my sales funnel.
One app that I love for this purpose is Full Contact. It offers a free version and allows me to sync contacts across all my Apple devices. It also allows me to combine all of my contacts into one master list, whether it be Google contacts, iCloud and Office 365 so you only have one place to look for that contact information. One other feature I use all the time is the ability to find and merge duplicates. This is great when combining contacts from different sources.
Dealing with business cards
I recognize that this is becoming less of a problem with today’s technology, but, if you are drowning in a sea of business cards, you can organize them easily and effectively with an app called SamCard.
It is a business card scanner that allows you to take a picture of the business card. Then it will automatically search and gather all emails, phone numbers and company names and positions associated with that business card into a vCard that is stored in iCloud.
Find what works for you
The important thing about any of these apps or organizational tools is to select the one that does what you need and works best for you. Most of them are free so you can try them and discard them if you aren’t comfortable with how they perform.
Even if there is a fee attached, most of the apps offer a free trial period. That gives you ample time to try it and make sure it does the job you need it to do.
In my opinion there are several critical components that make any contact management tool work for you. First, it must be available across all of your devices and must sync automatically so you are always looking at the same contact information. Second, it must be very easy to get the contact information into the tool, preferably giving you the ability to enter the contact information directly from an email you receive. Third, it should be an easy process to find duplicates and merge them, particularly if you have several contact lists you are merging.
Remember that every small action you can take that saves you non-productive time (searching for a name, for example) is time away from your revenue-producing hours or your leisure time. At the end of the day, they all add up.
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