It is fairly easy to import records into Outlook’s Business Contact Manager (BCM). Here are a few tips…For purposes of this post, my objective is going to be importing leads.
The first step is to obtain a list of leads. There are many places you can purchase lead lists; you can also get them from your local library. You will usually get your lists in some sort of electronic file. These files can come in a variety of formats. Comma separated values (csv) is a common, easy to use format. In this post, I will assume you are using a csv file.
Next let’s go through the steps to import records. Start by navigating to the database import tool
This starts the Import Wizard
Select "Import a file" and click Next
Choose Comma Separated Values. Click Next:
Click the Browse button and select the file you wish to import. Click the "Don’t import duplicates" option. Click Next
Under Import Data, check the box next to the name of your file. Select Business Contacts as the destination. Click on the Map… button.
This is where the fun is <g>. Mapping is how you tell BCM to to store the fields in your import file in the BCM database. You create a map by dragging a field from your source file (left column) on top of the corresponding BCM field in the right column.
Once you define a map once, you can reuse it so you don’t have to do this step every time. There is a slight trick to reusing a map. The "Use Previous Map" button is only enabled when you are importing a file with the same name as a file that has been mapped before. What this means is that if you map and import a file named MyLeads.csv, if you want to use that mapping again, your new file must be named MyLeads.csv. For this reason, here are the steps I follow when importing leads:
- Download (or otherwise obtain) a file of leads
- Do any cleanup and added additional fields to the file (more info below)
- Save the file in a comma delimited format using the name MyLeads.csv.
- After a successful import, rename the file using a more descriptive name. I try to include details about the list selection criteria along with a date – CPA_in_kscity_5to20employees_Dec2007.csv
One of the assumptions I outlined for this post was that we would be importing leads. This means we will probably need to add a "lead" data element to the csv file before perform the import. The easiest way to do this is to open the file with Excel, add a new column, add "Lead" in the first row of this column, and fill all the cells in this column with a 1 (number one).
You will probably also want the ability to work with these records as a group after you import them. You may want to add all of your new leads to a direct mail campaign. In order to do this, you need a field or category to use to create a filter. I prefer to use a special field (I created a custom field) that I named Import Group. To use this field, I add another column to my csv file (similar to the "lead column), name it ImportGroup, fill the cells with a description, and then map this column to my Import Group field in BCM.
I recommend importing a very small group the first time to test your mappings and data to make sure you will get the results you want. You should develop your own checklist of post-import checks – here are a few things that I have run into:
- Title vs. Job Title in BCM – title goes with the name and is usually "Mr.", "Mrs.", etc. Job Title is the field we normally think of as title.
- Many list services include the middle initial in the first name field. Whether you decide to delete the middle initial or move it to it’s own field, it’s probably easier to clean this in the csv file using Excel rather than fixing it in BCM after the import.
- Many list providers provide the zipcode in two separate fields – the zipcode in one field and the "+ 4" part in a separate field. BCM stores the zipcode in one field, so you will need to manipulate your source file before importing.
What happens if you find mapping mistakes after you do your import? Create a view that filters on your Import Group field, delete the records in this view, and start over.