Master Your Contact Database

A fundamental tool of a good networker is a thorough master database of contacts. While Outlook is passable as a contact manager, its primary focus is still as an e-mail client. True contact management tools are much better suited for active networking. We use and recommend Act! by Best Software. GoldMine is another excellent product. Both integrate with Outlook as an e-mail client, but provide much more robust functionality centered around contacts, rather than around e-mail messages.

Among the data fields that one should include:

standard contact information (phone, address, email, website, etc.)
category (1=family/best friends, 2=close friend, 3=casual friend, 4=casual acquaintance, 5=met once, and 6=stranger)
connections (how we met/common affiliations)
affiliations (clubs, etc.)
special interests
career history
appropriate holiday greeting (Merry Xmas, Happy Rosh Hashanah, Happy Chinese New Year, etc.)
For an exhaustive list, see “The Mackay 66” in Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive.

It is critical to maintain the database with new information as you obtain it. People regularly switch jobs, locations, and occasionally spouses; one out of seven Americans moves every year. If you do not work to maintain it, the value of your database will rapidly degrade.

The exercise of building a database of everyone you know will facilitate keeping in touch with them, and will also help you think about who you can introduce to whom. This will help you to become a matchmaker, connecting people with similar interests. Incidentally, this is 90% of the job of an investment banker.

Make sure that you have critical categories well-represented in your network. In particular, a good network should include people from all of the following areas: real estate broker; a source for hard-to-get tickets; travel agent; community leaders from major ethnic/religious communities (Catholic / Jewish / Protestant / African-American / Feminist); headhunter; banker; elected local official; high-ranking police officer; firefighter; insurance expert; auto mechanic; media contact; and spouse and/or best friend. For more on this, see Harvey Mackay’s Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty.

Learn the software you select inside-out. The searchability of a good database is one of the principle advantages of using technology for your networking. Take a class, get a good book, or even get some one-on-one coaching to be sure you’re really getting the most out of it.