By Megan Totka

How many of us would like to be more organized this year? Right after losing weight, and saving money, getting organized it’s still right up there with the top resolutions.

When it comes to organizing an office, most of us have visions of desk caddies and fancy file folders dancing in our heads. We think of ways to organize the physical paper that’s cluttering up our office space. While exhuming yourself from the pile of paperwork IS important, chances are you’re forgetting about the biggest source of office disorganization–data!

We don’t think of data as clutter because it’s intangible. We don’t see it getting piled up, but we definitely notice when it’s a mess! Have you ever searched for a client contact, or wondered what happened to a lead? Anyone who’s had to search through their inbox, or worse–open their trash can–knows disorganized data can crush your productivity.

Not to mention the needless waste of sending clients multiple emails (which feel like SPAM). Or worse, having the wrong contact information and have mail returned or bounced back after it’s too late to resolve and the lead has gone cold. Disorganization can cost you time, customers and, ultimately, money.

So what are some best practices you can adopt when it comes to your data?

Start with Your CRM

Your CRM is like a big filing cabinet for your most important data–your customers and clients vendors, partners, and suppliers. Organizing your contacts and managing your relationships is vital to every office and industry, yet often put on the back burner.

Well, no more! Make this the year you organize your contacts and keep them that way by adopting best practices to carry you through the whole year!

Look for Double Entries

Double entries happen all the time–you have a customer “Jennifer Smith” and you enter her in the system, along with a phone number and a note to get her email the next time you speak. Except, Jen calls and speaks with your colleague. When she introduces herself she says, “This is Jen Jones-Smith”. Your colleague sees there’s no one in the database by that name, and they forget to check for a duplicate phone number.

Now Ms. Jones-Smith is in your database twice. The next time you speak and ask her for her email address and contact information, she sighs and says, “Oh, yeah, I just gave it to your coworker, Steve, last week but here you go…” Now Jen feels less important, more hassled and is wondering why you guys don’t have your list together.

Imagine how she’ll feel when she gets two different notifications (addressed to two names) about your sales event! Or worse–when something is shipped to the wrong address, or an order gets messed up. Yikes!

Instead, check for duplicates when you enter or import data. A full-featured CRM like Insightly features duplicate detection, which will suggest possible duplications and help you get your information entered correctly the first time.

Going forward, check for duplicates when you enter a new contact. Set a reminder on your calendar to check for redundancies once a month and keep your system up-to-date.

Update Tags

Tags are terrific–they’re a great way to drill down customer data and add individualized information to your contacts. You can use the tags to sort your customers by any information you find pertinent. For example–tag the leads you met at your last conference, or tag your customers who live in a certain area, buy a certain product or require special care.

Tags help add context and background. Different than categories or custom fields, tags let you create and attach any information you want to your customers. This can really help you get to know them, and easily follow up with them later. In fact, having these important details can help you plan your next marketing campaign and target customers directly (think of commonalities, and plan around shared interests, motivations or activities).

Because tags encompass a great deal of information, they can become a bit unruly (and less helpful) if they aren’t managed properly. Think of tags that are relevant and helpful to organizing your leads and customers.

When a tag is no longer in use it will no longer be listed. Periodically scan through your tags to make sure you don’t have a bunch of “single tag” leads, or tags no longer relevant to your project.

Tags can be a wonderful tool, especially when they’re used to your advantage. They are much more specific than categories, and more flexible than custom fields. If you’ve been sitting out of the tag game for a while, jump back in and use them to clean up your data.

Clean Up Mailing Lists

If you’ve created targeted lists for a single email campaign or have multiple lists for the same (or nearly the same) thing, it might be time to clean up your lists.

Go through envelopes you might have saved and emails you’ve flagged with updated contact information. Also look for returned mail from your cards and mailing lists. Update the information in your system and be sure you include any notes that might be pertinent to the change.

You know the list you’ve been holding on to of contact information that needs to be updated? Well, now’s the time. So often when we get a wrong number, find out someone’s moved on or changed positions or there have been other changes to contact information, we simply toss it in our “to do” file and wait for a rainy day. Get the year off to the right start by making sure all information is updated in your system.

One thing that’s often overlooked is letting everyone know when updates have been done. Let the administrators know, as well as your assistants so they can toss out pre-printed mailing labels, updated the contacts in their email system and keep everyone on the same page.

Going forward adopt a monthly time to update all contact information and keep your CRM up-to-date. Doing a little bit at a time can take just a few hours (maybe even less!) each month and beats trying to slog through it at the start of the year. Once it’s organized, resolve to keep it that way.

Make this your most organized year ever! Adopt a few best practices and never lose client information or drop a lead again.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at Website: