Using Plaxo as Your Contact Management Solution
Business is about relationships: the relationships between business, its existing and prospective customers, its employees, and its other stakeholders. Consistent and clear communication is key to the success of any relationship and directly drives sales efforts. But if your firm is struggling to pull together contacts from a dozen different employees, who in turn are struggling to pull together their professional contacts from a dozen different sources, all in order to share even the simplest of corporate messages, you will lose time, marketing opportunities, and revenue. Many small businesses struggle with this; some even still using Microsoft Excel to manage their customer contact lists.
If this is the case, you clearly need a contact management solution. And depending on your needs and budget, Plaxo just might be that solution. In this article, we will cover 1) the history of Plaxo, 2) the purpose of Plaxo, 3) the benefits of Plaxo, 4) setting up a Plaxo account, 5) using a Plaxo account for business, 6) Plaxo key terms, 7) best practices for using Plaxo, and 8) a case study of a brand using Plaxo.
HISTORY OF PLAXO
Plaxo was founded by Sean Parker (former President of Facebook and co-founder of Napster), Minh Nguyen, Todd Masonis, and Cameron Ring launched in November of 2002. Its early popularity, largely through word-of-mouth marketing, earned in 20 million followers over its first six years of operation. But those efforts also garnered some controversy, specifically in relation to its bulk email marketing methods, which the company indicates it no longer does.
Plaxo was acquired by Comcast in May of 2008. For a period, beginning in 2008, Plaxo flirted with integrating its social media site, Pulse, into its core business. That effort, however was abandoned in 2011, and Plaxo resumed work on creating a comprehensive contact management system. Today, Plaxo is home to over 50 million address books, containing a combined 3.7 billion entries.
PURPOSE OF PLAXO
Plaxo’s corporate website notes that, “In 2002, we set out to solve a difficult problem – how can we help the world’s address books so that contacts never become out-of-date?” Plaxo was designed a contact management system designed to answer this question – a contact management system that keeps pace with contacts from multiple sources, particularly social networks and smartphone contacts. In a world where on any given day, you can randomly gain new Facebook and Twitter followers, finally create contacts for the numbers of old friends in your smartphone, network on LinkedIn, and still receive printed business cards, there is something to be said for an all-in-one system. Further, Plaxo is designed to enable you to share and find contact information for your friends and colleagues, mask it from strangers, and transport it from one application to another. And lastly, Plaxo also provides calendaring features, making it easy to schedule and keep track of appointments.
BENEFITS OF PLAXO
Plaxo allows you to manage your contacts from multiple email address books, smartphone address books, social networks, and CSV files, as well as manually entered contact information. This has many benefits – both for the individual seeking to manage his contact information of his personal network, for the professional looking to manage his professional network, and for the firm needing a tool to update and distribute customer and vendor contact information to its employees. Plaxo notes that 66% of people mix professional and personal contacts in the same address books: so the ability to keep them categorized separately is crucial.
Plaxo is platform independent and allows you to categorize contacts in virtually any method you deem necessary. Customizable fields allow you to capture and record the information you want, and store all of it on Plaxo’s cloud server, making it accessible from any device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone), you own. For example, the ability to take note of a prospective client’s model of car may provide a sales professional the opening he or she needs to initiate a sales call/conversation. Recruiters can easily keep track of and categorize candidate phone numbers. Event marketers can easily track attendees and catalogue responses. Public relations professionals can keep track of reporter contact details and pitching preferences. The possibilities span the gamut of business roles.
Another key benefit of Plaxo usage is that Plaxo backs up your contacts regularly. If you lose your phone and don’t pay for backup protection, that contact information may very well be lost forever, which can be devastating. Plaxo stores all over your information on its servers, and in the event of the loss of a device, you can download your contacts from Plaxo and upload them to a new device. Plaxo can also easily be managed from a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
A third benefit is Plaxo’s tools for de-duplicating Contacts from multiple lists. The site flags such Contacts allowing you to consolidate contact information and/or delete extraneous information. This is critical to ensuring that your customers are not receiving multiple messages from you – a quick way to turn them off of your brand.
Plaxo also offers holders of certain premium accounts the Plaxo Personal Assistant, which uses predictive analytics to make automatic update recommendations to your Contact information by comparing that data to contact information from 600 million people from publicly available sources. This can cut down on the time you spend managing your contacts significantly – and can even inform you when a contact has moved to a new opportunity.
SETTING UP A PLAXO ACCOUNT
Setting up a Plaxo account on a computer is simple. Visit www.plaxo.com and select Sign Up. Then select the type of account you would like. If you select a Plaxo Basic account, you will be prompted for your name, email address, and a password. By entering this information and clicking Register you will have set up a Plaxo account with tools for synchronizing, cleaning and backing up your contact information. Professionals and firms may wish to consider one of the premium packages, Plaxo Sync¸ Plaxo Pro, or Plaxo Preferred, which offer eCards, premium customer support, and custom analytics on your contacts, among other features.
To take full advantage of Plaxo, you will want to download the mobile app. This is so that the app can synchronize your smartphone contact information. Visit your respective App store, search for Plaxo and click either Download or Install to obtain the app.
You should note that Plaxo does not offer an enterprise version; and so integration of Plaxo into your firm’s daily operation may be difficult, even with a written policy mandating it.
USING PLAXO FOR BUSINESS
As a contact management solution, Plaxo can help by consolidating your corporate contacts enabling you to strengthen your relationship management, B2B marketing, and recruiting, as well as expanding your reach. This is particularly important in a day and age where employees use their personal smartphones, and in many cases, their personal social networks, to do business.
This is perhaps the biggest benefit of Plaxo – the ability to consolidate all of your contacts in one place. But Plaxo users don’t just get one big heap of contacts. They are provided tools to categorize them, making sure that professional contacts can easily be culled and shared; and that personal contacts are spared from unwanted marketing messages. Premium features that automatically make deduplication recommendations can help you sort through what may be a sizable address book. Backup and storage options, as well as data portability, ensure that no matter where you go, you’ll never lose your contacts.
Relationship management is key in any industry and any sector. By properly detailing key information about your contacts, you can have it ready to be harnessed at opportune moments, in order to build and strengthen the relationship. For example, a sharp brand ambassador who makes note that an attendee at a corporate event holds a board membership on a targeted firm, can enter that information into a Plaxo contact, and share that with their sales and marketing team, which in turn can reach out to said attendee immediately to build a relationship through a strategic partnership. During the course of interactions between the firm and this Board member, annotations in Plaxo that the member is passionate about cancer research as his wife passed of cancer, can provide the firm opportunities to show that it, and its agents, care not just for the sale, but for the Board member. The firm might make a donation in the Board member’s name to a cancer charity to show this, for example.
Expanding reach and visibility
Networking on behalf of your firm is one of the best and most effective ways to grow your corporate and professional brand. Plaxo allows you to do so effectively by centralizing and organizing your contacts, and allowing you to detail key facts about them. Further, you can use Plaxo to populate your address book with contact information from social websites, and then upload that information into an email or social media management tool to reach out to them with content or offers.
Moreover, you can use Plaxo to grow the number of ways you can reach your contacts. For example, you can download your entire Plaxo contact list, draw from your smartphone, email accounts, social profiles and more, and then upload it into one of your social networks, you may receive suggested Friends based on the new emails it has received. These might be members of your network for whom you had just a name and number. By sending them a Friend request (and their acceptance), you can now reach out to them through Facebook (and by reviewing their social media profiles, you can get more insights into them). Try this with your other networks frequently to ensure that you have as much contact information for, and other information about, all of the members of your network as possible.
Plaxo is very helpful to recruiters in keeping track of candidates, particularly in cases when a particular recruiter is the public point person for a particular search. Recruiter’s using Plaxo can categorize calls from candidate by search, and include notes on the phone call itself, which can help in the hiring process. This can also be helpful when a recruiter is handling multiple phone interviews or in-person group interviews with large numbers of candidates. Also, recruiters who keep detailed notes may be able to place a candidate rejected for one opportunity, into another one by reviewing candidate contact information in Plaxo.
Further, it’s useful to note that Plaxo has partnered with a number of job sites, such as SimplyHired, and has and continues to aggregate job listings from websites. An ad your post could very well appear in a Plaxo users’ search results.
One of the most powerful tools a sales man has is his Rolodex. This is because B2B sales (and by extension, marketing) is about relationship building – between sales man and purchasing agent/decision-making authority, and between vendor firm and client firm. Sales men should be armed with tools that allow them to complete catalogue their interactions with prospective clients for reference in future sales conversations, as well as the development of tailored marketing materials and other targeted marketing efforts. Once a sales man closes the sale, their notes should be passed on to an account management team so they may further manage the relationship. Plaxo’s contact management tools allow sales men to catalogue this information and share contacts with others.
PLAXO KEY TERMS
Before using Plaxo, read through this shortlist of key terms that may help you use it more effectively:
- Address Cards – where your professional and/or personal Contacts are entered in Plaxo;
- eCards – online greeting cards available for purchase from Plaxo that can be customized and sent to your contacts for a variety of purposes;
- Sync – a feature allowing Plaxo users to ensure the consistency of contact information across digital assets and devices;
- Alerts – a Plaxo feature notifying you of changes to your address book. Blue alerts notify you of any updates, green alerts indicate that you have other Plaxo users in your address book, and orange alerts indicate when you need to fix an issue with your account.
BEST PRACTICES FOR USING PLAXO
Using Plaxo can be tremendously advantageous to your business. Follow these steps to make sure you get the most out of the contact management service:
- Fill out ever field and be as detailed as possible when capturing personal information. Every interaction between you and your customer conveys a brand impression; and moreover is an opportunity for you to gather insights about how best to reach them.
- Capture as much contact information as possible. Phone numbers, email addresses, and social media profiles all change over time, so having more than one way to reach them on file, can help you make sure that you have accurate information for them on an ongoing basis.
- Don’t delay creating a new entry in your address book for new colleagues/acquaintances/friends/targets as soon as the call your cellphone. You don’t want to be in a position where six months down the road, you are manually inputting that information for dozens of phone numbers in Plaxo, trying to remember key details about each contact.
- Grow your network online and offline. You never know who you’ll meet or connect with (or who they are connected to). Import new addresses you’ve entered into Plaxo into your social networks and connect with them online. Invite them to connect with you on Plaxo.
- Take advantage of birthday notifications to keep in touch with your contacts. You can use the service to send eCards to your contacts automatically on their birthdays, making sure that you don’t disappoint even if you forget on the day of.
- Avoid bulk email marketing methods (i.e. mass or repeated invites) through Plaxo’s platform if possible. People may still remember Plaxo’s earlier dalliances with spam – an association you do not want to be attributed to your brand.
Bethany Williams, an IT executive, blogger, and speaker uses Plaxo to manage her professional brand. As a professional consultant and speaker who has been featured at the esteemed Tedx conferences as a keynote, contact management and relationship building are of paramount importance. She uses Plaxo to automatically populate her address book with Twitter (among other) contacts, which she then uses to push out her blog content, network, and secure speaking engagements. And the strategy is paying off as her efforts have resulted in best-selling books on business and multiple speaking engagements.