I have confessed to being “distracted” when it comes to Business Development. My favorite tool for overcoming the distracted-ness is a contact management tool developed by 37signals called Highrise.* The thing I like about Highrise is that with the minimum of effort you can track the development of a relationship with a prospect. I blind copy or forward my emails into the prospect’s page, set tasks for making the next contact or the needed follow-up, and add notes from meetings and phone calls. I end up with a chronology of all my interactions. With just a few minutes a day, which works much better for me than once a week, I am able to keep all my efforts moving forward.
The four main features I use in Highrise are Contacts, Tasks, Cases and Deals.
Contacts: individuals or organizations that you want to manage a relationship with
Tasks: TO-DOs related to contacts or other efforts, say, your website. You can get notified by email or SMS when due.
Cases: this is a way to pull together multiple contacts to make it easier to manage the effort to win a potential project where several people are influencers. Perhaps members of a board or building committee...
Deals: once a project is formed, you can use a Deal to track RFPs, interviews, value of the fee, wins and loses.
Check this all out at their website.
I recommend signing up for the free account first. See the link in the fine print about a free account. That way you don’t have a time limit, and if you decide to upgrade to get expanded features you can. Or maybe you will be happy with ’free’.
I also use Highrise to track ’marketing opportunities’ for each project by treating the name of the project as a “Company” in Highrise and assigning tasks to remind me to blog about the next opportunity on the project.
I like to contact prospects once a month and past clients every month or two. Even though a past client may not have another project any time soon, by keeping in touch I maintain a relationship that might result in referrals. This monthly contact for numerous prospects got to be a burden - what do you say? So I came up with a number of standard email subjects to draw from, and used a ’note’ assigned to the prospect to track which topics I had already used.
Here’s my Email Subject Master List: (in no particular order)
- “Nice to meet ya, will keep in touch...”
- “I noticed your zoning does/doesn’t allow ...”
- “Have you thought about storm water management ...”
- “Potential building code issue you should be aware of ...”
- “Noticed your parking lot is ...”
- “Local drought-resistant plants to consider ...”
- Offer an energy audit ... Free or discounted
- Offer a building inspection ... Free or discounted
- Offer up-to-date floor plans ... Free or discounted
- Find something to complement about their facility
- Take and send an attractive photo of their facility
- “Here’s an update on current construction costs ...”
- Send Project Budget template and offer to help complete ...
- Send Constraints Checklist ...
- “Building schedule milestones to be aware of ...”
The idea is to have a rough draft of each of these topics saved so you can quickly customize them and send it out. I use Highrise to save the sent emails and record a task for which to use next and when.
You really can't do this kind of contact management very well without a tool like Highrise. After some initial organizing, you really can keep dozens of relationships developing in just minutes a day. I urge you to check it out. I find it the easiest way to stay in touch.
* 37signals recently decided to focus on Basecamp exclusively, but their other products will continue and will be managed by others.