A huge part of marketing is reaching out to people and making connections that will eventually turn into paying clients. If you’re like me, you take every opportunity to market yourself. You chat up people while waiting in line, you socialize at non-work parties with the aim of meeting at least one business worthy person, and you network like mad – going to as many worthwhile mixers and meetings.

The inevitable result is that you’ve got a whole lot of business cards that are 1) taking up valuable office space; 2) an eyesore since some of them are hideous looking; and 3) you cannot possibly go through all of them the next time you need a this or that person for this or that service.

The traditional route was having a rolodex. But let’s be realistic. There’s no way a rolodex works if you’re avidly meeting and greeting people. Rolodexes are messy and information still can get lost. The analytical process-loving side of me even tried to take my box of collected business cards and enter them into an excel file by contact, industry, notes, etc. This worked for a little while until the list was just too overwhelming. I was wasting valuable time entering in data and I couldn’t really access it as conveniently as I would have liked.

My need for a better more efficient system led me to stumble upon the 21st century digital rolodex. Check out some of the ones I’ve found below…

CorpGenome’s Outlook Plugin Puts Your Contacts in the Cloud

Outlook Plugin – Despite how much our computers and programs have evolved, most businesses are still using Microsoft Outlook. With that in mind, CorpGenome has come up with a free Outlook Plugin that helps sales and marketing departments make use of their connections in a more effective manner.

The plugin acts like a smart little data bot. It scans every email for contact information including name, email, phone number, titles, addresses, websites – just about anything that would be used on a contact card. But before it saves this information, it requests user permission so you have executive control over what gets added and what is left out. This process really helps eliminate junk contacts including those of spammers or (if you’re in sales) other vendors.

It goes a step further though. The plugin puts all your contacts on a cloud system so that you can access your contacts from anywhere. Cloud really is the new direction of technology and business; the fact that CorpGenome has made sure their Plugin already caters to this need is a very good sign of their dependability.

Scrubly Organizes and Is Easy to Navigate

Scrubly – A lot of business owners also find themselves going into multiple businesses or areas of interest, which leads them to multiple accounts. What you have then is a hodge podge of contacts. The creators of Scrubly had just this in mind when they created a program that could take all your contact data and 1) remove duplicate entries; 2) merge compatible contacts; 3) delete the junk entries; and 4) figure out conflicting data. Scrubly works with Mac, Outlook and Gmail as well as Google Apps.

Their pricing is also pretty fair. If you have 250 or fewer contacts, you can get their service for free. Otherwise you’re paying between $10 – $25 depending on your preferred service tier. I think you’ll also really appreciate how simple they’ve made the process through such a well-designed, easily navigated site that gets you in and out as quickly as you need it.

Next Step: Make the Most of Your Digital Rolodex

Once you’ve found a system you like, make sure you regularly make use of your contacts through customized email newsletters that are organized by industry-specific updates, all general holidays, blanket newsletters meant for everyone, etc.

The key in making your contacts work is something I call contact marketing. This is where, when I used an excel system, I’d make a note of any special dates, birthdays or key points I needed to remember about a client. This makes for a special touch that most other business owners (especially your larger businesses, a.k.a. your competition) just don’t do. The problem, though, is that it is impossible to know or keep track of whose birthday is when, who just had a baby, and so on. Good news is CorpGenome is looking to have contact data synced with Facebook so that you can soon be up to speed on all this without any extra effort on your part.