One of our non-profit clients recently asked for help entering the numerous business cards they get at trade shows, etc., into their Customer Relationship Management database, a copy of CiviCRM that we setup and manage for them. The best path for entering contacts isn't necessarily obvious from the get-go, but the following procedure is the best we've found and has the lowest up-front investment (you might be able to do something more efficient with a Profile, but that doesn't seem as flexible with respect to matching existing contacts).
Before we get started, if you're using Drupal, make sure you've added the CiviCRM Shortcuts block to an accessible location on your site, such as the navigation bar on the left. To do this, go into Administer → Site building → Blocks and define a region for the "CiviCRM Shortcuts" block. I'm not familiar with Joomla, but it probably supports something comparable.
- First, login and click New Individual under CiviCRM Shortcuts. If you're using CiviCRM 2.1, you can also get to the New Individual screen by hitting Alt-Shift-I (on a Mac, use Control in place of Alt).
- Enter the individual's First Name, Last Name, and Current Employer. If you're using CiviCRM 2.0, make sure you type the employer name exactly as it appears on the card (especially if that organization might already exist in the database). CiviCRM 2.0 will match organizations in the Current Employer field, but they must be typed exactly as they show up in the database. CiviCRM 2.1 has an auto-complete field for the Current Employer. If you type in the first few letters of an organization and it already exists in the database, it'll fill it out for you and link up the contacts automatically.
- Click Check for Matching Contact(s). If the contact already exists and you need to make changes, click the contact's name to edit.
- If the contact doesn't already exist, enter any additional contact information you want to associate with the individual, such as his or her e-mail address and direct telephone number and/or cell phone number and click Save.
- Now click on the Relationships tab in the individual's contact record. You should be able to see from that page whether the organization already has an address and/or telephone number associated with it.
- If the organization doesn't have any information other than a name, chances are it was just created for you with the individual (using the contents of the Current Employer field). To add contact information for the organization, click on the organization's name and then the Edit button on the following screen.
- Enter any additional information from the business card, such as the organization's mailing address or main telephone number, and click Save.
Good luck, and by all means let us know if you find of a more efficient method of entering a large number of contacts!