Creating a Uniform Business Contact List in Outlook 2003

A database of business contacts is always changing, but Outlook 2003 can help maintain order. Whether it's customers or suppliers, people come and go, phone numbers change, folks get promoted, and so on. Keeping the contact list up-to-date is a challenge that intensifies when you take location into consideration. Quite often, the list is split up among the billing system, the purchasing department, and each salesperson's various archives (Rolodex, Pocket PC computers, and even the business card forgotten in the top drawer). Without an updated database, you can't communicate well with your customers.

Here are a few possible solutions to this problem:

  • Use your Contacts list as your customer and suppliers database. Update any information as you receive it, when working by yourself.
  • Use one person's Contacts list as the company list. Make this a company rule: All new updates that anyone gets (such as a business card, a phone call with new information, or an e-mail) goes to one central person for database updating.
  • Create a public list on the Exchange server and choose a person to be the list keeper. You can use the Business Contact Manager version 2.0, which is a free add-in to Outlook in the Office Professional and Small Business editions. You can share the business contacts and accounts as one list with the rest of your company.

You should update address changes and add new contact information immediately. The first option is good when you're working alone. The second option works when you don't have an Exchange server available or don't use the Business Contact Manager Version 2.0. The best option is the third one, because the Contacts list is available to the whole team anytime, anywhere with Outlook Web access. You simply type the new contacts into your Contacts list, save it, and then send it as a vCard to the Contacts list keeper as follows:

1. Open the saved contact.

2. Choose Actions, Forward as vCard.

A new e-mail opens with the vCard attached.

3. Send it to the Contacts list keeper.

The Contacts list keeper receives the e-mail and can simply drag and drop the vCard from the e-mail into the Contacts list.

Adding a contact in this way automatically records the date the contact was created (using the field name Created) and maintains a last modification date (using the field Modified). You can customize your contacts view to include the Created and Modified fields if you want to keep track of this information.

You're likely to receive contact information from several sources, such as the internal sales system, each salesperson, or the management team. Associating the contact with the person who generated it facilitates tracking.

You can use categories to help you track this information:

1. Create a new category for each sales team member.

2. Insert a new contact on the list.

3. With the contact open, click the Categories button.

The Categories dialog box appears.

4. Select the Sender Name category and save the contact.

The contact is associated with its source.

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