March 01, 2017

How I Manage My Contact List... Kinda


The most important part of networking is showing up. The second most important part is following up. I advocate for people to follow up with new contacts soon after they first meet, so each person is still fresh in each other's minds. I talk a lot about the importance of following up on my blog at Following up well should help you keep your contact list organized but the truth is mine is a hot mess.

I have never been able to get into the habit of creating a single Gmail contact for each person I exchange emails with. The steps to add a contact in Gmail are a little clunky and end up taking too much time. And so I neglect keeping my contact list up to snuff. I used to stress about this but I found a solution you can use too.

Contact Management Solution...

My solution is to rely heavily on search within my inbox. I am thankful I use Gmail, which of course is owned by Google - everyone's favorite search engine. They know a thing or two about search.

Searching within Gmail is actually quite powerful beyond a simple keyword search. Here are a few examples of ways I use email search to manage my contact list. These results may vary based on your email service provider or software but all should have a decent search function built in so give this a try.

Search By Date & Keyword

I usually mark my calendar to follow-up with new contacts about six months after a conference. Of course this is excluding the immediate follow-up I referred to earlier. I always use the conference name in my follow up email, "Hi Tim, It was a pleasure meeting you at XYZ Conference...". This is key to making this tip work.

Assuming the conference was on December 1, 2016, I will enter the search query: before:2017/01/10 after:2016/12/01 "XYZ Conference" This search reveals messages sent just after the conference.

Check Your Spam

God forbid I missed their email because it accidentally ended up in my spam folder. I'll do a quick search for the conference name within any of my inboxes (included spam).

Search: in:anywhere "XYZ Conference"

Search By Subject

When I send an email with a proposal, I will include the word "proposal" in the subect line. Once a month, I will do a search for these messages to check back in.

Search: subject:proposal

As a Contactually user, I add each person to a bucket to better manage my contacts moving forward. I will also add the conference name or word "proposal" as a tag on each person so I can search and find them quickly within Contactually.

So yes, my Contact List within Gmail is still a hot mess but using search and Contactually makes it all work perfectly together. Give it a try.

Hey, I offer a free networking tips email newsletter you should check out. I even include some of my favorite tips for using Contactually. Find it at