Contacts or companies?

When you start using a contact management system or a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, one of the first problems you encounter is what level should you track your data at? Sounds like such a simple problem too, and, depending on your business processes (i.e. the way you work), it might be simple or not so simple. But the fact you come up with the question shows you one important thing: until you try to add a structure to the way you work, you don’t really discover some of these questions. Discovering the trivial, yet important questions about your business is important when you want to scale your business, train more staff, transfer knowledge easily and institute some consistency in the way you deal with your business partners, be it customers, potential clients etc. For example, how can you be sure that both Mike and Pete in your company follow the same rigorous steps in the sales process?

But let’s go back to our simple question. What level should you track your interactions in your customer management system? Contacts – that is people? Or companies? The answer depends on the industry you’re in, the way you interact with your business partners and what you want to get out of the contact management system. Let’s see the options you have.

1. Contacts only

If all you do is interact with individuals, then this option is the most natural choice. It is the most appropriate option if you work in retail or take appointments from the regular Joe out there. If you’re a financial adviser trying to sell retirement plans, then you obviously work with individuals. Companies are irrelevant and you don’t want the additional complexity.

2. Companies only

You might be in the B2B domain, where you work and sell to companies, not to individuals. Even then, the interaction for selling purposes with inevitably happen with actual individuals working for the target company. You might decide to only track notes under the company and not care about the individuals involved. You might lose some of the business intelligence in that case, but that might not be relevant in your case.

3. Contacts and companies

This is probably the most common scenario when you work with individuals and companies. The actual exchange of information, communication, emails happen with individuals. When you use the Dropbox feature and forward or CC emails to your dedicated email address, those notes will be sent to actual individuals, unless you use generic email addresses (e.g. sales@domainname). If you want to attach a note under a contact and a company at the same time, that is possible with Clevertim, as Clevertim allows you to attach a note under multiple contacts and companies. It also allows you to attach notes under an opportunity or a case.

We want to encourage our customers to use both contacts and companies when using our contact management system. One of the common complaint is that is not easy to have a single view of all the communications with a company. To facilitate this, a while ago we’ve added an option under the Business Preferences. It is called “Automatically file contact notes under their respective companies too”, and, as the name suggests, it makes all the notes filed under contacts visible under their respective companies. As a result, the company becomes a single view of all the exchanges done with any employees within that company.