Most financial advisors are so busy dealing with pressing problems that pop up each day that they do not have the time to spend learning technology tricks that, ironically, will save them time. It’s totally myopic. It’s like a fireman saying that he is so busy putting out fires with buckets of water that he has no time to learn how to use a hose. As a result, I think most advisors are technology nincompoops.
So here’s some help: Starting with this column, I’m going to give you a homework assignment every month. I’ll suggest a software download, a trick you can use, or recommend a Web site that will teach you some practical tech trick that you can use in your practice. Some assignments will take you 15 minutes, others an hour or two. Please feel free to e-mail me to let me know how you’re doing with these homework assignments ([email protected]).
This month’s assignment is about a piece of software that you can download for free and use for 14 days, at which point you’ll have to plunk down the $50 purchase price. It’s money well spent. You see, every once in a rare while you come across a technology product that works great and can really help you conduct business more efficiently. I know it is rare and there is a lot of hype in technology reviews about products, but this is the real stuff. It’s called GoodContacts and is put out by an Ottawa, Ontario-based company also called GoodContacts, Inc. (www.goodcontacts.com, 613-831-0653).
GoodContacts is the best contact manager add-on product that I’ve ever seen. It’s cheap and is so simple that even a financial advisor can figure out how to use it. If your attention deficit in technology is preventing you from serving clients better and growing your business, GoodContacts can help you.
For any small business, keeping your address book accurate is a pain in the neck. When I input a new contact in Outlook, I usually don’t have the time or patience to input the person’s title, company, address, and other details. (Read below to learn about a little shortcut using Microsoft Clipboard that I occasionally use to complete this pesky task.) As a result, most of the contact information I have collected is incomplete. Plus, a lot of my contacts have changed companies, addresses, phone numbers, and other details since I originally entered their data months or years ago.
GoodContacts automatically updates your contact list. It does this by sending an e-mail to your contacts asking them to update the contact information you have in your electronic address book, and shows them the information you currently have for them. Using GoodContacts, I was able to easily update contact information–new phone numbers, addresses, cell-phone numbers, and other details–on dozens of people at once.
Plug and Play
The software is like a plug-in for Outlook. As soon as you download it from the Web, GoodContacts examines your entire address book. In my case, for instance, I have four different contact lists in Outlook. GoodContacts found that my main contact list had about 1,000 entries, and that’s the list that I wanted to work with. However, only about 400 of those 1,000 entries had e-mail addresses. (That’s because at first I used Outlook only for phone numbers and only began a year ago to use Outlook to manage e-mails as well as phone numbers and addresses.)
GoodContacts displays each contact’s name and lets you check off which of them you want to send an e-mail to requesting updated information. It listed all of my 1,000 contacts, and I could obviously send e-mails requesting updates only to the 400 or so that I had e-mail addresses for. I checked off 315 e-mail contacts to request their updated information.
GoodContacts uses a wizard to walk you through sending a friendly “Keep in Touch” e-mail to all your contacts. It shows you the text of the e-mail it is about to send your contacts and you can modify it. I did not.
Within an hour or so of sending my Keep In Touch request, I started to get replies to my e-mail. GoodContacts sends you a receipt informing you that your e-mail was read by your contact. The other thing that happens is that a little icon appears in your “systray.”
Let’s just a take a minute to talk about systray. Systray (short for system tray) is the rectangular box in the bottom right corner of your Microsoft Windows screen, and it shows you what programs are set up to run all the time on your computer.
Many programs, including Good- Contacts, automatically install themselves in your systray or ask you during installation if you want to install them there. It’s convenient having programs running whenever Windows runs but they do take up resources, so you don’t want to have programs in your systray that are unnecessary. You can usually right-click on any systray program and change its setup. For instance, if America Online is in your systray but you don’t use it very often, right-click on it and change the settings to tell it to stop loading in your systray. You can still always start the program by clicking on your “Start” button and then choosing the application under “Programs.”
To get back to GoodContacts, when you click on its icon in the systray, it lets you open the GoodContacts program. The screen that pops up shows you “Things That Require Your Action.”
This Is Exciting
The action item that’s most exciting about this program is accepting juicy new details about your contacts. In other words, all the people who replied to your Keep In Touch E-mail and sent you back a new phone number or address are listed on this screen. You can click on a button to “review differences,” between your old contact information and the new one.