Business News Daily receives compensation from some of the companies listed on this page. Advertising Disclosure
BND Hamburger Icon


BND Logo
Search Icon
Updated Mar 18, 2024

What Is Contact Management?

author image
Julie Thompson, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer

Table of Contents

Open row

Gone are the days of exchanging napkin notes and business cards. In today’s fast-paced business world, it can be hard to remember every customer’s name and their individual preferences. That’s why it’s essential to store data electronically, share it with team members when needed and gather information continuously to interact successfully with clients and customers.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right CRM solution for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

Contact management, a digital method of storing data, can help you grow and diversify your customer base. As your business grows, it will get more challenging to collect data and determine which information is valuable to you, your employees and your company’s sustainability.

But who has time to input all of this information manually? Fortunately, contact management software can collect and analyze data from purchases, marketing campaigns and previous conversations automatically.

What is contact management?

What is contact management?

Contact management is a means of entering customer and lead data for storage, quick access, editing and tracking. Contact management can be as simple as a spreadsheet or as complex as CRM software.

By digitizing contact management, you can give your employees access to valuable customer data. All departments can view the same data, so you speed up communication and streamline processes. When you make communication more efficient, you can focus less on business tasks and more on your customers.

In today’s business environment, you have to do more than personalize a sales email with someone’s name to make a sale. Customers are loyal to companies that remember their specific preferences, and they expect a stellar experience every time they place an order online or receive a package in the mail. Going above and beyond not only creates repeat sales but also encourages referrals, which could decrease your overall customer acquisition costs significantly.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Contact management is how you enter your customer and lead data for storage, access, editing and tracking, so it’s essential for growing and diversifying your customer base.

What is contact management software?

best CRM software

Contact management software can keep information about your prospects and current customers organized in a searchable format. The software can handle basic information, such as names, phone numbers and email addresses. It can also track fundamental interactions between the company and the contact and keep track of important calendar events.

Contact management software vs. CRM

Contact Management Software

CRM Software

Simple data collection and easier to use

More advanced data collection and analysis

Easy to set up

More advanced setup

Less likely to integrate with other systems

Shares data with other business software

Although contact management software and CRM software overlap in some areas, there is a difference. A contact management system offers basic features while CRM software provides advanced tools to integrate sales, marketing and reporting tasks. Having business goals in mind before comparing the two types of systems will help you decide which software is right for you.

For example, while a contact management system can use a few contact details and organize them for easy access and essential interactions, a CRM increases the amount of data you can gather on customers and leads and use that data to segment your audience and provide reports that can improve your relationships with customers. While contact management allows businesses to store customer information, CRMs enable companies to go a step further by taking that stored information and creating and nurturing relationships in real time.

Did You Know?Did you know
While contact management software and CRM systems both collect and store data, CRMs give you advanced features for sales, marketing and reporting.

Do you need contact management or a CRM for your business?

If you are in the business planning stage or have just launched your business, a CRM might not be the right fit. After all, using a contact management system first to learn who your loyal customers are will help you narrow down contacts when you are ready to upgrade. Plus, you will save money on monthly software costs, integrations, employees and training while you are still building your business’s foundation.

However, if you have an established business or have recently seen an uptick in revenue, you may be ready to move from a contact management system to a CRM. Before you sign a software contract, though, ask yourself these questions:

  • How many loyal customers do you have?
  • How many employees are available to enter and analyze data?
  • Is it necessary to record detailed information and interactions with your customers?
  • Does your industry require lengthy, complex sales?
  • Does your industry need quick, repeat purchases?
  • Does your company sell across a significant geographical location?
  • Do you expect upward business growth for the next few years?

Answer the above questions thoughtfully to weigh the pros and cons of using a CRM. If you have only a few employees ― even if it’s common in your industry ― a CRM might cost more than it’s worth. The same goes for customers. A small customer base can be easier to maintain via a contact management system since a CRM can be complex, with details spanning multiple pages. Plus, a business with fewer customers will need more periodic data recorded as it can be more accessible to segment customers by a couple of factors.

If your industry requires long, complex sales or short-shelf-life products that force quick sales, a CRM can help you garner data to increase your chances of a successful sale. A CRM can also be beneficial on statewide, national or global scales. Advanced data can segment customers by location so that you can provide the best products and services for each territory.

Check out our reviews of the best CRM software for small businesses to find an option that can help your business grow.

Analyze your current business status using the above questions to choose between a contact management system and a CRM.

How to choose the best contact management or CRM software

After you consider your business goals, it’s time to narrow down the software options. Because most business software has many competitors, you will need to research them before choosing one. [See our more detailed guide on how to choose CRM software.]

Here are a few areas to review in your search:

  • Colleague recommendations: If you have a trusted colleague who is in the same industry or follows a similar business plan, reach out to them for feedback on contact management and CRM software. For example, ask them which systems have better customer service, payment plans and integrations. Consulting colleagues or mentors can save you time compared to trying out every system on your own.
  • Online reviews: Seek out reviews from other users by doing a simple Google search. Look for positive reviews about customer service, frequent software updates and ease of use. Beware of companies that lack current reviews, have complaints about a broken feature that is important to you or have experienced billing issues.
  • Free trial: Free trials allow you to explore the dashboard, navigation and customer service options of a system before paying for it. Look for contact management software that offers this option so you can try it before you buy.
  • Excellent customer service: Choose software that has responsive, professional customer care. A system with 24/7 service is ideal but seek out a company that can answer your question within a few hours or at least provides an online frequently asked question (FAQ) tutorial database for simple issues that may arise.
  • Onboarding: If you have never used contact management or CRM software, you may want to choose a company that offers in-person or virtual onboarding so you can get the most out of the software. Having someone walk you through the features you plan to use can save you time and frustration. Plus, you will want to have a good grasp of the software if you need to train additional users.

Collecting audience data helps drive sales

Whether you choose a contact management platform or more advanced CRM software, having a tool on hand to collect and analyze data about your audience is key to improving your marketing and sales processes. By tracking your interactions with customers and understanding your audience better, you can personalize your messaging to them and reach them at the times they’re most likely in need of your products and services. For smaller businesses, a contact management system should be enough to get the job done. However, for more advanced tools that can scale alongside your business, consider a CRM system. 

author image
Julie Thompson, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Julie Thompson has spent nearly 20 years helping businesses with their marketing, sales and other operations. This has included developing brand standards, creating unique ways to market new products, leading media outreach and spearheading email campaigns. Her hands-on experience further includes Salesforce administration, database management, lead generation and more. In recent years, Thompson has focused on sharing her expertise with small business owners through easy-to-read guides on topics ranging from SaaS technology to finance trends to HR matters, alongside marketing and branding advice. She has also contributed to Kiva, an organization that helps fund small businesses in struggling countries.
Back to top
Desktop background imageMobile background image
In partnership with BDCBND presents the b. newsletter:

Building Better Businesses

Insights on business strategy and culture, right to your inbox.
Part of the network.