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Referral marketing is a numbers game.

If you’re used to keeping your referral base data in your memory, it’s likely you’ve seen its limitations. You probably can recall facts about your clients and referral sources when you visit face to face, but you can’t perform from memory many advanced marketing functions.

Contact management software allows you to perform high-level functions easier, faster and in greater numbers. You can track historical data on referral sources and other marketing contacts, generate reports on services performed and future needs identified, and inform clients and referral sources of future events in your office.

Research software that is a good fit for your existing storage and record-keeping systems. These can be industry-specific and vary to individual preferences.


You can track mailings to specific groups of existing and past clients for cross-selling and upgrading purposes. Target groups of clients in your database who fit the criteria for other services, such as a small business owner client who needs estate planning and asset protection.

Tracking mailings also allow you to see how many referrals have been generated by existing clients over the years. You can track the follow-ups to each referral, such as a thank-you card or phone call.

Database features

Database features determine how much you can do with your system. Look for the ability to create many databases and customizable fields. Choose software that can import data from other formats and  can merge many databases into one for easy reconciliation of all your data.

Some systems can auto-dial any phone number within its database, and there is software that will date-stamp the notes you take for each contact. Systems that can store an unlimited number of contacts will let you expand your efforts easily. Look for software with a clear and readable format for contact history pages. These pages are the backbone of the system, and you’ll refer to them often.

Integrated scheduling

Contact management software that allows you or a team member to easily manage your calendar through an integrated activity scheduler is handy. Look for software that will assign priorities to activities and allow you to view actions based on importance. Another helpful feature can roll over incomplete tasks from today to tomorrow.

Report generation

Choose a platform that has defined reports, including phone lists, address books, activity and status reports, and task lists. Is the software customizable? Does it let you change fields to generate different reports such as “search for all past clients who own a businesses” or “all past and present clients who are older than 65.”

Word processing features

You’ll need software that can mail merge letters, envelopes and mailing labels. Some systems can fax-merge documents to multiple contacts. Customizable templates for business letters, report forms, memos and fax cover sheets are a must. Look for a package that has the ability to add fonts and graphics to customize your presentation.

Project management

This will feature master and sub-project to-do lists. It will track completion timelines, allow you to change dates easily, calculate due dates, and it has alarms for deadlines.

Security features

For office confidentiality, pick software with options that include different security levels for added control, such as record locking, secure logins, a public-private toggle switch. Some have a utility that allows you to manage user access.


Look for software that integrates with the email software you use.


Verify the software can be shared easily among different users. With networking, you can share information about your schedule, but your appointments and activities can be kept private and accessible only by password.

Key technical considerations

Answer the following questions about the criteria to evaluate which contact management software would best suit you and your office:

Does it work with your computer’s existing operating system? Is it compatible with other programs already in use? What amount of hard disk space does it consume before data is entered? What is the speed of responsiveness when running on your computers? Is it compatible with your printers and printer drivers?

Using the right contact management system can help your firm run leaner and more efficiently — and it can help you manage your contacts to increase your marketing activities.

Shawn McNalis

Practice Advisor Trainer / Curriculum Director

Shawn McNalis is a former Imagineer with the Walt Disney Company and credits her 15-year career with Disney for her creative, collaborative approach to advising attorneys. In partnership with Mark Powers for 20 years, Shawn is a senior practice advisor, director of curriculum, and a trainer for Atticus.

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