How to make email follow ups insanely simple.

How I Organize My Contacts to Make Email Follow Ups Insanely Simple

Why don’t we organize our contacts?

In theory, it’s a nice idea to follow up regularly with contacts, but for most people it never happens (including myself). Until my role at a startup two years ago demanded I figure it out.

I finally took the time to learn how to organize my contacts.

Ian Adams of the Senator Club

Author Ian Adams, Founder of the Senator Club

While we were growing up, no one taught us a class on “how to organize contacts.” There was no instruction about it in grade-school, high-school or even college.

You would just meet someone new, get their phone number, maybe their email, and then add it to your phone. That was the extent of organizing contacts.

Now we have the opportunity to do things differently.

I’ll share with you how I philosophically think about contacts, how that effects your way of organizing them, and how you can finally put them in order to make follow ups insanely simple.  

Because seriously, why did you get their email and phone number if you never plan to follow up with them?

Think about the outcome of your relationship

There’s a concept called Outcome Based Thinking by Kevin Hogan, who wrote the book “The Psychology of Persuasion“. It suggests most of us operate in a stimulus/response mode. Something happens; we respond. Something else happens; we respond.

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However, it’s possible to do it differently and achieve a more favorable outcome. It’s called Outcome Based Thinking, and it will allow you to decide what you want and show you how to get it.

In fact, I suggest you use the same philosophy to organize your contacts.

For most of us, this is the most complex our contact list becomes.

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Work
  • Hobby

That’s because we designed it while we were in response mode. Something happens; we respond. Get phone number; put in phone.

I want you to try to design it while in Outcome Based Thinking mode. This is how I organize my contacts.

I think about the desired outcome of my relationships

Think about this. When you have a desired outcome in mind, you will communicate with a contact in a specific way to achieve that outcome. So, when you organize your contacts by the desired outcome, you can streamline your communications to all of them.

This saves an incredible amount of time for two reasons. Number one: you will already have written email templates to follow up with them (I’ll explain). And number two: you will no longer be overwhelmed with “how to follow up” because instead the outcome and communication will already have been scripted.

So think about this for your contacts. What do you want to accomplish?

Then create primary buckets for each desired outcome. For example, let’s say you need to raise capital; create a bucket for “investors”. Let’s say you need to hire a social media manager; create a bucket for “hiring recruits”.

Soon your list will look something like this:

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Investors
  • Leads
  • Partners
  • Hiring Recruits
  • Vendors

Then within each primary bucket you can create sub-buckets:

  • Employees (marketing, sales, operations, IT, HR)
  • Leads (Product 1, Product 2, Product 3)

Remember, each bucket exists to achieve a desired outcome. But here is the most important part. The follow up.

Write your follow up template before you need it

Once you organize your contacts into buckets, it’s easy to think you are done. Take this extra step.

It will make your follow up insanely simple going forward. Write email templates for typical communications that will occur between you and your bucket of contacts.

You can build email templates in gmail and outlook or applications like Contactually, ToutApp and Yesware can help manage it for you.

You’ll have teaser emails to investors, welcome emails to customers, interview emails to recruits, etc.

When you pre-determine email communications through templates, it not only saves time but also allows you to have a consistent message in the marketplace.


The sooner you make this change the better. Your contact list is only going to grow larger. So organize your contact now. Because it’s a lot easier to add contact buckets and email templates incrementally versus one month from now.

Ian Adams is the founder of the Senator Club, a social club where entrepreneurs and sales professionals learn how to sell. Founded in 2013, the Senator Club is designed to educate members on modern day sales strategies and technologies. Learn more via his blog or twitter.


  1. Thanks for sharing Nate! Great to work with you and Contactually :)

    – Ian

    • Nate Sullivan

      No problem, Ian — thank YOU for giving us this contact organization method. I think I’ll go try it…

  2. This are tips you are not taught in a business schools. Post another on how to archive sales documents. I get so frustrated when I ask my sales guys for a quotation we made six months down the line, and it doesn’t come within the meeting. Thanks

    • Great suggestion Maurice. Thanks for the kind words too!

    • Hi Maurice. A tool I’ve found to be indispensable for sales people/managers is CRM software such as ‘SalesForce’ or ‘ACT!’. It allows salespeople to keep track of all communications with their prospects/clients. This includes copies of emails, details of phone conversations, future meetings, etc…
      I’m a huge fan because it not only allows you to manage your time like a pro, but also your clients are amazed by the details you “remember” them mentioning.
      There’s so much additional functionality (which I won’t go into). Check it out. It will be time well spent.
      Cheers! Ross

  3. Problem is that once you go to all the trouble of organizing your contacts, Contactually won’t allow you to attach them to a new Program. You can only send a “Program” (ie an investor letter)to those placed into a NEW bucket after the Program is created. So, it seems that you are constantly having to re-create the Buckets you took the time to create.

    • Hey Adam-

      Just saw this. Yes, that is frustrating so I developed a quick workaround. [Remember: this is a hack and ugly].

      1. Create another bucket with a similar name. Example, if you previously had “Investors”, create an “Investors2014”. You can change it back later.
      2. Make “Investors2014” a starting point for the program that you want to run.
      3. Mass add all contacts from “Investors” to “Investors2014” in the contacts dashboard by clicking on the “Add To” button.
      4. You can then delete the old “Investors” bucket and rename “Investors2014” as “Investors”.

  4. Oh dear! We were doing this with computers back in 1980, almost 35 years ago!

    • Yikes! I wasn’t even around back then.

  5. Thanks Ian, it makes a lot of sense in organising contacts based on expected outcome……it expedites the way things move and also makes it for a productive day at work

    • So glad to hear Ganesh.

  6. Not sure this would work for me. I’ve long since given up folders – just another thing to remember where I’ve put things – now I have an active inbox and 3 actual inboxes – one for each account. I have rules that send important (and new) mails to the active inbox where I deal with them and delete. They are still in the other inboxes so I can easily find them by searching. Works for me.

    • I know what you mean Hywel. As far as email is concerned, some subscribe to the zero inbox approach. Archiving all messages that you’ve taken action on, then accessing them via search should you need to in the future.


  7. This is already built in to your contacts with the right business software. Also pulling up an invoice from the past should be as easy as one or two clicks.

    • Ahmen. Perhaps a software like Contactually…

  8. Thanks so need to know how to do this

    • Sounds like you’re on your way Barbara!


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