What is contact management?

Everything you need to know about contact
management and how to choose the best system
for your business.

Contact management is the act of storing, organizing, and tracking information about your customers, prospects, and sales leads.

In its most basic form, you can manage your contact data using an address book or an Excel or Google spreadsheet with entries for all the people you do business with.

However, many businesses choose to use specialized contact management software. This can be especially beneficial if you have many contacts to organize or multiple people that need access to the information.

Some organizations use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems instead of contact management software. CRM tools typically provide contact management functionality but add features that help businesses manage their relationships.

Contact management software vs. CRM system

Contact management software and CRM software are both related in that they help you organize contacts. A CRM is typically much broader in scope in terms of the functionality it offers. Although the exact place where a contact manager becomes a CRM system is not clearly defined.

You should know that while contact management and CRM are different things, the two labels are sometimes used interchangeably. This is due in part to their similarities.

Here is a look at some of the differences between contact management and CRM.

Contact management software

Contact management software typically allows you to make entries for each of your contacts. This can include contact information such as a name, phone number, email address, or company.

The tools organize this information in a way that makes it easy for you to find the entries again. The data may also be searchable.

Contact management software can also offer features like tracking the interactions between the customer and the business, as well as some scheduling abilities, for example, the ability to organize meetings with clients in a calendar.

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Customer relationship management software

A CRM tool will typically combine the above contact management features with extra functionality that helps your business manage its relationships and create a great customer experience. It will help organize all your marketing and sales activities through features like automation, email marketing, and pipelines. 

Not all CRM software solutions offer the same features, however. The exact ones you have available to you will typically depend on the provider and plan you choose.

Here are some common CRM features: 

Track customer interactions

Like contact management software, CRM software allows you to track your interactions with customers, prospects, and leads.

You can store emails, support messages, or phone interactions within the entry for a contact. Much of this happens automatically with the right integrations. If you use marketing automation, you can even keep a note of how the customer has interacted with your campaigns.

Here is how this could be useful:

 Imagine a sales rep has a call with a lead. Instead of going into the meeting without any knowledge of the customer, the rep can simply bring up the CRM entry and see an in-depth overview of everything the company knows about the customer. This puts them in a far better position to have a successful interaction.

As the CRM software is available throughout the organization, everyone in your business has access to the same data about each customer. 

Lead scoring

Lead scoring allows you to identify which of your contacts are most likely to buy your product based on how they interact with your marketing campaign. Each lead receives points when they perform specific activities such as opening emails, downloading resources, or visiting certain pages on your website. 

Someone who downloaded your eBook but never opened it and didn’t interact with any follow-up emails will have a lower score than someone who downloads the ebook, signs up to a webinar, and then visits the pricing page of your website.

When the lead reaches a predefined score, your marketing department can send them to your sales team, who will begin the final stage of the conversion process. This saves time as sales reps do not waste energy on leads that are unlikely to convert.

Sales force automation

CRM software also has sales force automation features that can improve sales team processes and reducing the chance of errors. 

Imagine a prospect requests a call-back on your website. The CRM can log this information and alert a rep that they need to take a particular action. When the rep receives the notification and makes the call, they can note that they performed the task within the CRM.

Not only does sales force automation ensure that the sales call is made at the right time, but it also stops the lead from getting multiple calls from different reps who were unaware that someone had already taken action. 

Marketing automation

Many CRM providers include marketing automation software that helps you set up effective marketing campaigns.

For example, you can collect email addresses by setting up lead generation forms and then have your CRM automatically create new entries for each contact that signs up. Or customize the emails you send to a lead based on how they interact with your previous communication. This makes it easy for you to send targeted marketing campaigns to each of your contacts and improve your lead management. 

Analytics and reporting

These features are typically backed up by in-depth analytics and reporting features, providing you and your team full visibility into how your marketing and sales strategy is performing. Many CRM systems include sales pipelines to help ensure you have a steady flow of incoming sales and alert leaders to any problem areas.

Confused about what makes a great CRM?

Our free guide has all you need to know to choose the best CRM solution for your business.

What is the best contact management software?

The best sales contact management software for your business is the one that fits into the way you work. 

A small business with just a few employees will have vastly different requirements to a multinational with offices around the world. Enterprise contact management software, such as HubSpot or Zoho, therefore, has different features to those aimed at small businesses.

Nonetheless, the best contact management software will typically have some of the following features.

Cloud-based

With cloud-based software, all the customer data in the contact manager is stored online. This allows people to access and add to the data wherever they are in the world. It is perfect for teams where people work from multiple locations, or those with remote workers.

Sales reps can check a prospect’s entry in their car from their smartphone on the way to a meeting through the contact management app, while customer support teams in the head office can bring up information on existing customers when they get in touch. 

Being cloud-based means, all updates made to the entries are reflected in real-time across the system ensuring all departments are working from the same data. 

Integrations

You need to pull information from a variety of sources to build up an accurate picture of a client. While you could add this information manually, the best contact management systems will automatically integrate with your other tools and pull in data from these services. 

For example, you can: 

  • Integrate with your email client to automatically add new contacts.
  • Integrate with eCommerce platforms to see a customer’s order history from within the dashboard.
  • Integrate with social media sites to add contacts when you get new followers or leads.

Easy-to-use dashboard

The dashboard should be easy-to-use to increase adoption amongst those at your business. If the software is not user-friendly, you may find that your team does not get the most out of the software or, at worst, simply avoids using it.

More than just contact management

Act! combines contact management with powerful sales and marketing tools. Try it free for 14 days and experience the power of CRM and Marketing Automation in one.

Why Act! CRM?

Act! CRM is an excellent choice for those looking for a contact management system with the added benefits of relationship management. The product is far more than a way to store contact details—it helps you organize sales and marketing strategies to maximize revenue.

Powerful contact management

Act! CRM includes powerful contact management features. You can store customer information such as names, companies, and contact details alongside in-depth data such as emails, a history of interactions, and data on how each customer interacts with your company.

Smart integrations

The contact management app is powered by smart integrations that allow you to bring in data from the tools you use, such as social networks, email, and eCommerce apps. All this data is organized within the software, making it easy to access.

Act! grows with your business

Not every business needs in-depth marketing automation or the ability to send out tens of thousands of emails every-day. At least, not when they are just starting out. Act! has a variety of plans ranging from the starter plan that includes basic CRM and marketing features, to the ultimate plan that includes everything you could want from a CRM. It’s easy to upgrade to a higher plan as your business grows. 

Transparent pricing

When you sign up to Act! CRM, the price you see on our website is the price you get. We have a simple fee structure that does not have any hidden extras. Your costs only increase when you add a new user or if you want to move to a higher plan.

Wrapping up

Contact management tools are simple ways to keep details of customers, leads, and prospects organized.

While no-doubt useful, in recent years, CRMs have mostly succeeded contact management software by offering the same basic functionality but adding powerful tools that allow businesses to manage their sales funnel and sales processes.