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How to Build an Effective Contact Database in Under 5 Minutes

Updated as of: 2/19/18

So you’re the type of agent that is always busy. You’re out there meeting new clients, and successfully representing the ones you have. You’re attending networking seminars at every opportunity, sending out branded marketing material, and calling past clients when you have time. So what are you possibly doing that could sabotage your client relationships?

If you’re like many of our clients, you’re not regularly communicating and not following up with your top clients consistently. And when you do connect with contacts, you probably don’t have the information at your fingertips to guide your conversation in a meaningful direction. You’re marketing to the same people month after month, and while it may produce some great referrals and occasional repeat transactions, you’re not able to actively grow your business the way that you’d like.

To get the clarity you need for continued growth, you need to implement a contact management system into your routine. By doing so, you’ll have a single resource to house all of your contact information so you can easily segment your list and prioritize marketing efforts. And including notes on recent encounters will give you information that can help make your follow-up calls less painful and more impactful.

But, there’s a bit of a catch 22 with contact databases. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on a customer relationship management (CRM) system until you grow your business to a certain point, yet you need the functionality of a contact database to significantly grow.

Here’s how you can create a simple, yet effective, contact management database without spending a cent:

Step 1: Build your database (or use our free template).

If you’re creating your database from scratch, you’ll want to include columns for basic contact information, such as first name, last name, street address, city, state, zip code, phone number, and e-mail address. It’s important to remember that even if you don’t have all of the information, you’ll want to record what you do have—the blank fields will serve as a reminder to gather the info when you have the opportunity.

Other ways to identify and segment your contacts include the value they represent (for example, through past transactions, referrals, or estimated lifetime value), the length of the relationship, or any criteria you use to identify sales opportunities. Remember, 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients, so you’ll need to know who they are.

Additional fields you may want include:

  • Important dates.
    Knowing the last time you worked with a client, spoke with your contacts, or your goals for a follow-up call are crucial for scheduling productive marketing activities. Plus, you can do a quick sort to easily make sure you aren’t going too long without keeping in touch.
  • Type of contact.
    Whether you’re speaking one-on-one over the phone, sending email, or planning a direct mail effort, you need to communicate differently with certain audiences. What you say to clients will not necessarily be the same as what you say to prospects. Your spheres of influence need unique messages as well. By categorizing your contacts, you can easily sort and segment them for more targeted marketing opportunities.
  • Notes about recent conversations or encounters.
    This info is invaluable when following up, and it’s too important to trust to memory. Record notes about what you discussed during a recent conversation, any actionable items that were promised, reminders to yourself to follow up on specific topics, or even personal information about the contact, such as birthdays, or hobbies.
  • Social media accounts.
    Not only can you communicate with clients, prospects, and influencers you are connected with on these channels, you can also use it to glean information you can use to build and strengthen relationships.

Step 2: Enter the information.

Hopefully this doesn’t exist solely in your head. Begin by gathering all of your existing contact data from your personal address book, recent sales transaction documents, your email list, and even your good ol’ Rolodex. Spend some time entering as much info as you have, and make it a goal to call contacts to fill in any gaps. (This is a great excuse for a follow-up call!)

Make sure you include everyone you have contact with—clients, business partners, prospects, acquaintances, etc. This will likely be the most time-consuming part of the process, but trust us—it is well worth your efforts.

Step 3: Commit.

Any contact database is only as good as the data it contains. So for it to be effective, it needs to be up-to-date.

If you’re reviewing the database as frequently as you should be, this will become one of your most accessed documents. After every encounter you have with a client, prospect, etc., remember to update the notes section. As mentioned before, you want to document events, to-do’s, and other important information that comes out of your conversations. Make it a part of your routine to add information as you receive it, rather than waiting until you have a full list.


No matter which system you choose—an Excel database, or CRM system—it’s important to remember just how essential a clean, updated contact management database is to your business. So stop sabotaging your relationships, and prioritize more meaningful connections. If you want to make contact management a habit, but don’t want to spend the time building your own database, download our free Excel contact database template.