What the Digital Age Can Learn from the Rolodex Era

Physical rolodexes are relics of our business past, long since replaced with contact management software, smartphones, email programs, and cloud services. With FullContact’s Contact Management API and iOS app, we help developers, businesses, and average people turn their contact lists into smart lists which perpetually add new information and update the old.

But what can we learn from the rolodex era?  What old school principles employed by our parents, grandparents, and the master salesmen from the Mad Men era are still applicable in the digital age?

Write Detailed Notes About Your Contacts

Old school salesmen took notes on business cards, but you can enter your notes electronically. Did your new contact mention their hobbies? Their blog? Their personal Twitter and Facebook pages that weren’t on their business card? How many kids they have? What apps they love to use? If you take the time to store this information, you can review it before your next meeting and then add personal touches to the conversation.

People want to do business with detail-oriented people who care about them as a person. Further, some of that seemingly extraneous information can make FullContact’s API/app even smarter and more effective for you than it already is.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Previous generations didn’t have smartphones, Internet surfing, or streaming music as a distraction, so they were usually focused on the specific letter or business card on their desk. When you’re inputting contact information, turn off your distractions, quiet your mind, and work slowly. After you’re done, check it again for accuracy. Reviewing the information backward helps, too, so your brain doesn’t see what it wants to see. Working methodically may be common sense, but common sense is rare – think how many good sales leads are lost every year because they were typed in incorrectly and the business card discarded?  Abraham Lincoln famously said, “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward.”

Two is One, and One is None

A favorite saying of my military buddies, this means that if you have only one of something, it will likely break, get lost, have coffee spilled on it, or not work for some inexplicable reason right when you need it most (like GPS during a solar flare). Previous generations kept carbon copies in redundant files in case of fire. A smart salesman had a backup rolodex in his home office. Do you have all your contacts in only one electronic database? Don’t assume that cloud storage is infallible. If it happened to Google, it can probably happen to any service.

FullContact provides you with a second, redundant storage space for your electronic contacts – and one that adds new and updated information without you having to lift a finger.

Don’t Let Creativity Get the Best of Your Business Card

Previous generations didn’t have the Internet for research, so their business cards were detailed and relatively standard form. When creating business cards, many tech people let their creativity get the best of them by listing only their website, email, Twitter handle, or just a QR code on their business card. What happens if pieces of your contact information change and your contacts can’t get a hold of you? What happens if your contacts violate my first principle (above) and type it in incorrectly?

Creativity is good, but make sure and hit the basics on the back of your card or in small font near the bottom.


Those are some tips to get you started, but if you’re someone whose life depends on relationships, check out our iOS app to see what we can do to augment your current system. For developers, check out our pricing plans starting at $19 per month.

UPDATE: Our iOS app is not currently available – since our acquisition of Cobook, we’re working on a new, improved version of the app.

For the meantime, sign up for our web app and give us feedback! The new iOS app will be coming soon.