Depending on how you think about and use your contacts list, its current value to your practice falls somewhere on a continuum from basic administrative utility to highly-prized business development goldmine. Of course, the closer to goldmine the better. Great professional service marketers know the importance of their contact lists. They keep them up to date. They spend time reviewing them each month to target relationships for development. Yet, mining the full value of your contacts list is one of those “important but not urgent” activities that too easily gets postponed indefinitely. Here are two things that will make your list a more valuable business development resource: first, unclutter it by deleting unneeded and unknown names. (Save a backup if this makes you nervous; the idea here is to have a list that you feel good about using because it’s trustworthy and not one you avoid because you have to slog through irrelevant names.) Learn your software well enough to categorize your contacts so they can be sorted by main relationship (e.g., current client, former client, referral source– attorney, referral source — financial, etc). You may also want to categorize them by main affiliation (e.g., a specific bar committee or the networking group to which you mutually belong). Depending on your software, you can add a field for a simple 1-5 rating where a 1 represents someone in the most important 20% of your contacts, a 2 represents the second tier, etc. This way you can easily stay focused on your highest-value relationships. Finally, get in the habit of recording info about your contacts into the program (dates of key conversations, hobbies, family member names, etc,). Remember, there’s gold in that list, if you make it so.
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