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I'm in a medium sized distribution organization that has 20-30 employees with around 40 dealers and 100 locations in North America. Our current problem is the time-consuming nature of managing external dealer contacts for our employees. I would like to know if anyone has any recommendations or thoughts on the best way to manage contacts.

We are currently invested in Exchange Online / SharePoint Online and use Public Folders and Distribution Lists to manage contacts for each territory. We also have a separate dealer portal that we create users for dealers based on the external contacts that get entered into the public folders.

Our typical usage scenarios are emails going to out to specific dealers or all dealers about certain product updates. Email also gets sent out to types of users whether it's to all sales managers or all service managers of a dealership.

Our sales team will copy public folders contacts into their Outlook folder contacts so it will sync contacts to his phone. If he wants to update the contacts he has delete the contacts and re-download from the public folder to his Outlook contacts folder.

All in all its a lot of re-entry of data and can be difficult for sales team to manage their own contacts, especially ones that aren't tech-savvy and require the time of other employees to do it for them.

We have looked at options like SalesForce and other CRMs, but it seems like a very expensive way to go for what we want. I am wondering if there are any services or better ways to manage these contacts in a organization. Examples would be greatly appreciated!

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Is this just email contact, or other information like phone, mailing address, etc? If just email, you may consider setting up a listserv.

At my work we have to contact various groups of people based on things like position classification, pay grade classification, if they are associated with a course, etc. We get info from HR/ITS to automate building these lists, but we also hand-manage some lists (all dept. chairs and their admin assistants, etc).

The lists are locked down - some people (our provost, the college president, their admin assistants) can send to any list with out any approval needed. Anyone else can send, but one of us list admins have to approve the message being sent. Lists are configured so that hte reply-to address is ONLY the original sender (no list messages with "OK, thanks") and so that users can't unsubscribe themselves.

Plenty of good listserv software out there, both Free (libre) and free (gratis) for all sorts of mail servers and host operating systems. We happen to use Lyris, but probably out of habit since we've been using it for 10+ years.

  • Ivan thanks for the suggestion. It is a few more fields as you suggested such as phone number and mailing address. – Derek Feb 8 '17 at 16:48
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If you are still on the lookout for something to help you manage your contacts, I would advise having a look at Mailing Contacts App template on Simitless.

  • Your app is fully customizable: there are modules/fields (like spreadsheet columns) that you can select from and tailor the app to track/collect only the data you need.
  • And, what can be practical with contacts, you can give contacts different tags. Once you need to send emails to your contacts, filter then according to the tags needed and email select contacts directly from the app (you just need to configure your email client).
  • All of the contacts synchronize in real time for everybody connected to the app and the data are available both in the browser and on mobile devices as it is a mobile web app as well. (There is no direct synchronization with each phone contact but this is not something you were asking for, from what I understood).
    • [The way I see it for your use case, you create your app, do the operation of inputting/importing your contacts once (instead of having to redo it every time you need to change anything) and you filter and use it (to send email for example) as you see fit. Each contact card has a direct action button (e.g. email, Skype, call). In addition, you can generate a "mailto" link to email selected contacts, selected dealers, using your existing email software.]
  • You can have as many parallel connections as you want (i.e. multiple employees can connect to the app simultaneously.) And there are templates to start building your app or you can start from scratch.

Full disclosure: I am part of the startup that designed that platform. We just launched recently, still in beta. If you want to try it out and need some help, I can definitely give you a hand. Just get in touch. You can modify any template to your heart's desire.

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