This is a question that I have been asked quite a few times in the past. As a business grows their database of prospects, customers and suppliers increases and can become unmanageable on pieces of paper, a business card file or a confusing spreadsheet. There then comes a time when a more formal system or software needs to come into play.
This sort of application is generally called CRM, which stands for Contact or Customer Relationship Management.
Once a business decides to go down this route it’s essential that they understand what objectives they want to receive from using any formalised system and that any application that is chosen will fulfill those objectives. Do you just want a simple system to record your contacts and be able to find them easily, or do you want a system that can be used for other things, which may include targeting your marketing, recording all interaction with a contact and recording your products and sales.
Once you’ve decided what to use, if you have not already done it, it’s worth going through your database and selecting appropriate categories etc that they fall into. For example customers of a particular product or service, your suppliers, your prospects. This will help organise them when you want to do a marketing campaign or follow up leads on your prospects. Once you have your existing data in place check that the solution you are using can import it if you already have it in electronic form, otherwise you will have to add each contact manually. The advantage of adopting a system early on in your business, means that there would probably be less manual work to do, and as your business grows your database will grow with you and you have everything that you need about your contacts to hand.