If you are going to stay in contact with all of your clients and prospects, you need to have some way of organizing all their information so you can remember them all and locate their address, email addresses or phone numbers. Having scraps of paper, backs of envelopes, or old napkins with scrawled names and numbers is one form of database, but not the one I’d recommend! One step up from this is to have a file box with an index card for each person on your list.
The index card would list name, address, etc. and you could look up the information very quickly. A lot of Real Estate agents currently use this system of 3×5 cards to keep track of their contacts. Is this way still viable in this day and time? Absolutely not! In order to successfully wage a constant client contact campaign, you must keep some form of electronic database. In this article, I will review two basic computer programs that you can use for your database, listing the features and pros/cons of each.
Arguably the easiest and least expensive way to transfer your data from 3×5 cards to the computer is to use Microsoft Excel. This program is most likely already loaded onto your computer, and you have probably used it a time or two before. A basic spreadsheet program, the best way to organize your data is by row. Use one row for each contact, and put the same information about each contact into the same column. With this pattern, you could sort your contacts by first name, last name, zip code, etc.
When you use Microsoft Excel, it is very easy to merge your contact list with Microsoft Word when you want to do a mailing and need letters and labels. The disadvantages? Excel has many features, but is not a “database program”. There are definitely limits as to what you can do and Excel does not have as much capability as the other programs designed for contact management. Recommendation? If you are using 3×5 cards, Excel is a great way to take the plunge into electronic contact management. Use this for a while and then you can move on to bigger and better.
A step up from Excel, Outlook is Microsoft’s email program. This program is a great way to keep track of your clients and all sorts of extra information about them. Family members, birthdays, notes about how you met them or what they are looking for, etc. You can also group your contacts by category, ie: buyers, sellers, referrals. You can apply more than one category to a contact as well. Outlook is great also for contacting groups of clients by email. You can put your clients in a distribution list and send out a single email that will reach each one.
Another nice feature to Outlook is the Journal. With the Journal you can track emails you send to different clients, Microsoft documents that you work on, task requests, and even phone calls! What a great way to see exactly how much time you spend with each client and what you are actually doing to help them with their real estate needs. Disadvantages? It’s hard to share your database with a partner or an assistant unless you are all on a Microsoft Exchange server (if you don’t know if you are or not, you probably aren’t). Linking contacts with tasks, especially repeatable tasks, is not the easiest thing either. Yet, it should come with your computer and it’s a great step up from Excel.
By Michael Williams