For years we used Highrise at Eric Miller Design to track our leads and manage contacts. As we didn’t want two systems in place, we also used Highrise to manage projects, simply using to-do’s to track tasks and dates.

This eventually got cumbersome, and we really liked what the new Basecamp offered, so we switched to it for project management. Like before, we didn’t want to keep track of two systems, so we developed a fairly simple method of tracking our leads in Basecamp too. This isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but after testing for several months we’ve found it works quite well so we wanted to share.

We have a single project called “Leads” which is always the first starred project so it’s easily accessible. Within that project, each lead has a separate to-do list. The title of the list is the project name and the description is the primary contact name. This gives you a nice overview of your open leads by scrolling through the to-do list page and seeing your pending projects, the person you are dealing with and the next task.

We store all notes about the project itself in comments on the to-do list, not on individual to-do’s. This way you know all background information is in one place and not spread across several to-do’s, discussions or text documents, like it might be on other projects.

Now, this is the most important part when it comes to not dropping the ball on a pending project. Always make sure you have at least one, dated to-do for each list. This might be as simple as “Follow-up” or “Send proposal” or it could be a meeting or phone call that is scheduled. Rather then creating new to-do’s for each follow-up and checking them off each time, we actually just edit the to-do and change the date, but that’s just a time-saver. We store short, simple notes in that to-do to remember what happened last, such as “Left message but we should try them again.” These notes can be stored in the to-do itself since they don’t have much value as far as keeping track of the project details and scope.

We have the Leads project set to red on the Basecamp calendar (and choose to have all others gray) so to-do’s are easily spotted.

When a lead is won, we check off any pending to-do’s and create a separate Basecamp project. When we don’t land a project, we make a last note about the result and again, check off any to-do’s. This method also gives you a nice snapshot on the to-do lists page in the right column. “Current to-do lists” shows a list of all open leads, and “Completed to-do lists” shows closed leads, which you can easily re-open by just adding a to-do.

As far as keeping track of contact information, we’re just using Mac Address Book. We store a little background in the notes for a person, such as who referred them, and have a few groups to separate clients from leads from other business contacts.

I hope this comes in handy for anyone looking for a simple approach to using Basecamp not just for project management, but also to track leads. You can follow us on Twitter here.