Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Impress Your Customers by Staying Connected

Customer relationships are at the core of marketing. When you nurture relationships with your customers, you endear them to your brand or business. By leveraging customer relationship management (CRM) solution, you can stay connected with your customers for the long haul.

Keep Customer Data Organized and Accessible
The key to effectively connecting with your customers is to know important details about each one and keep all that knowledge in one place. For small businesses on a budget, it can be hard to tell whether a CRM will be worth the initial investment so try a free plan  or a 14 day trial of our premium plan as a way to get started without financial risk.

CRMs exist to make sense of your contact data. For example, Insightly CRM features custom fields, filters, and tags, so you can include all the information you want to and make it easy to search. You can even upload customer files and link between contacts and any other items. This gives you much more information to work with than a spreadsheet or an address book. Analyzing data to find customer likes, dislikes, spending habits and patterns helps you decide your next steps.

Try Customer Segmenting with Behavior or Category Tags
By creating "smart" tags or grouping customers by their behavior or some other common similarity, you can create email campaigns that not only target each customer based on their interests, but on the likelihood they will act on your pitch.

Rather than blast customers with email advertisements that will make them unsubscribe from your list, use behavioral segmentation to send them offers they want to act on. This isn’t just for mailers though. Use behavioral tags to inform all contact with customers. For example, you can contact customers who actively engage via your Instagram to advertise a flash sale just for Instagram followers.

Listen to Customers
We all know that customers don’t want to be sold to. They don’t want you to talk at them. If you want to communicate with your clients, you have to listen to them. Of course, great customer service is the first line in listening and responding to your clients’ needs. You can even listen even before they reach out to you.

By looking at the contact profile you’ve created, including purchase history, interactions with your company via social media, and how frequently they engage with your brand, you can gauge how often each customer wants to hear from you. If you’re initiating contact too often, customers may unsubscribe or unfollow. You can adjust your behavior to cater to their pattern of preference. For example, if you find customers tend to unsubscribe six weeks after a purchase, don’t send an email during the sixth week.

Have a Public Conversation
If your social media outlets are on autopilot, you’re missing out big time. It’s easy for SMBs to send out one post to several different social media accounts and think that’s enough. If you cannot manage live interaction with your customers over numerous networks, consider cutting down to one or two social media accounts or hiring someone to represent your brand for you. Effective social media means constant, meaningful interaction.

Having a dialogue with your customers over public channels shows individual customers they are valued, and your other followers see that you value each customer as well. In addition, you get more data about customers the more you interact, which, when paired with an intuitive small business CRM, provides you with information for future marketing efforts.

When you collect and maintain holistic contact profiles, tagged or grouped in a useful, searchable manner, you can put your customer data to good use and directly engage with your customers in meaningful ways.

Monday, 19 May 2014

6 Best Practice Tips to Ensure Successful Project Management

Have you ever thought about this?  Is a project a project is a project is a project?  Meaning…underneath…are all projects basically the same? Yes, in detail, every project is different…though some are very similar.  But from a project management perspective, setting up a repeatable set of processes can help you become more organized, more efficient and help you scale your business.

With the goal of creating the best chance of project success, below are some suggestions of best practices that should be applied to every project.

Know your Customer 
Before starting any new project, every project manager should know everything they can about their customer.  Yes, they will undoubtedly learn more and more throughout the engagement.  But just like you might prepare for a job interview by investigating the organization you are interviewing with, prepare for the project by knowing your client, their business, where they’ve been and where they’re going, and know as much as you can about the management team of the organization.  Going into the project engagement with key information and history on the client organization will help you understand their needs early on, will help you document key customer info – probably for inclusion in your customer relationship management (CRM) system, and will give you instant credibility with the new project client.  Trust me, they will be impressed that you’ve done your homework.

Compile Early Project Information
Get what you can from whoever initiated the project or closed the deal or whatever.  An account manager, the project sponsor (or both), your manager, the owner of the company...  whoever might have meaningful information, requirements, estimates, mockups, etc.  You need that critical information to start the real planning on the project and putting together a useful project schedule.  If you find that this material is scattered in different places, you may want to locate in a centralized place (like your CRM).

If it's a big project, acquire the team you need, or at least know the needed skill sets required for the project to be a success.  If you need to outsource these skill sets make sure you give yourself enough time to find them and engage them.  Now, if the project is small…like maybe a data transition and you have the knowledge and capability to do it all yourself, this may be a one-person team.  Otherwise, you’ll need to gather resources based on the skill sets you need or document those skill sets well and hand them off to whoever is the project resource gatekeeper.

Plan and Conduct the Kickoff Session
Sometimes this has to happen before you’ve assembled a team and sometimes after and sometimes it may just be you and the project sponsor.  However, this meeting is critical to set proper expectations, finalize milestones, understand assumptions and plan for more planning and plan for the when and how the work will happen on the project.  This session – no matter how big or how small the gathering and the project – is all about setting proper expectations and milestones for the engagement.

Weekly Meetings
Conduct weekly meetings and disseminate project status.  It doesn't matter how formal you make your status meeting – it can be a one-on-one call with the project sponsor that last for five minutes if that’s all it takes, but it must happen every week like clockwork.  If communication falters, that’s when the project can start to come unglued and project customer satisfaction can begin to decline.  Don’t skip the regular meetings and status reporting, even if there isn’t much to report.  Of course, on larger projects this status meeting and reporting process will be more formal, but it still needs to happen…every week.

Over Communicate. 
Effective and efficient communication is job one for the project manager no matter how big or small or detailed the project is.  It’s not just about the status meetings and status reporting either – it’s about all project details, task management issue management, risk management and anything relevant to the project that needs to be efficiently disseminated to the project team members…and customer…in a timely fashion.  And that must start with the project manager.

In general, the basic steps and practices that need to be included in order to achieve success are generally the same from project to project.  You may scale based on the size of the project, but every step mentioned above should happen on every engagement.  How about you?  Do you agree?  Are there any steps that might be missing? 

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Insightly Scheduled Downtime Sat. 17th May

Insightly Scheduled Downtime this Sat. 17th May

Insightly will be down for scheduled maintenance for a maximum period of five hours between 4PM PST and 9PM PST this Sat. 17th May 2014.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Evernote for Business Integration

Insightly has had Evernote integration for quite some time, and we've just added an integration with the newest Evernote product - Evernote Business. Evernote Business allows you to share and collaborate on Evernote notes with other members of your organization or team. This new integration is available to all Insightly users.

Linking your Evernote account to Insightly

If you have not yet enabled Evernote integration and you have an Evernote account, you can link Insightly to your Evernote account through the Profile menu in the top right, then choose the 'User Settings' option. Then click the 'Connect to Evernote' link towards the bottom of the Settings page, as shown below in red.

Adding Evernote Business Notes to Insightly

Once you have connected your Evernote account to Insightly, you can link existing notes from Evernote to Insightly contacts, organizations, opportunities and projects and share those notes with other Insightly users. Click on the Evernote button under the Notes tab to link an Evernote note in Insightly, as shown below.

In the notebook dropdown in the modal window that appears, you can now choose between Evernote for Business notebooks (if you have an Evernote for Business account), or personal Evernote notebooks when linking notes. All Business Notebooks that you have permission to see will be listed under the 'Business Notebooks' section (as shown below).

From the modal window, choose the notes you wish to link by clicking on the checkbox to the left of their names, and click the 'Add Evernote' button to link them to the Insightly record. The summary of each linked Evernote note will be shown in Insightly (as shown below).

Clicking on an individual note will show you the full contents of that Evernote right inside Insightly, and you can choose to view that note in Evernote itself from an option under the Actions menu.

This new integration is very handy for those of you who have an Evernote Business account and share notes with other members of your team.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Partner Post: Cow Tipping, CRM, and Why This Matters to You

Have you ever heard the term “cow tipping”?  I have…and I always assumed it was real and doable.  One night about 33 years ago – in the dead summer and the black of the night – I went out with some friends and cow tipping was on our list of things to do that night.  We ended up in a pitch-black field, in southern Iowa (prime cow country) at 2am looking for some cows.  When I found one…basically by bumping into him (and it felt like running into a 1,000 pound brick wall) because I couldn’t see him…I pretty much decided that this wasn’t for me.  I took off rather quickly…as did everyone else I was with that night.

Recently, I took a little poll of my Facebook friends from Iowa to see if anyone, anywhere, had ever actually tipped a cow.  All had heard of it, only one other had tried it, and none succeeded.  Wikipedia deems it nearly impossible and basically calls it an urban legend.  I wish I had known that back in 1981, but oh well…

Where am I going with this in terms of CRM, projects and why this should matter to you?  Well, much like some of us – in our youth – thought we could actually tip a cow over, many of us think we can manage our clients and contacts for projects and business initiatives using paper, a spreadsheet or maybe just our email inbox folders.  In reality, we can’t.  At least not effectively.  I’ve tried to both as a project manager and as an independent consultant.  We can save contact info that way, but we can’t do anything smart with it.  I can find email address…eventually.  What we can’t tell from much of that – at least not without relying on a lot of memory and potential human error – is what we should be doing with that contact info in order to effectively run our businesses and maximize our revenue.  That client that didn’t need your product or help now but wanted you to contact them again in two months.  Are you able to remember to do that or are you going to lose that potential business because you can vaguely remember you were supposed to contact someone but you have no clue who it was.  I had that happen to me the other day – and it took me two hours of searching to figure out who that potential client was.  This is an all to frequent scenario for many of us and we risk losing projects, profits and extended opportunities as a result.

What we need is an effective, easy to use, and reasonably priced customer relationship management (CRM) system that can manage our current clients, past clients, and potential clients that we need to get back in touch with so that we have enough cash on hand to take vacations and go out and do stupid things like trying to tip 1,000 pound cattle in the darkness of the night.  There are many options available – check them out on some of the CRM comparison sites available and find the one that best suits your needs, business and industry.  I highly recommend starting with Insightly CRM.  It’s easy to use, fast to learn, low cost, and comes with great online support.  You can sign up for a free account or a 14 day trial of the premium/paid plan.

About the author:  Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer & IT/PM consultant and author with over 27 years of development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. 

Friday, 9 May 2014

Partner Blog Post: How to Effectively Administrate Your CRM

Just because you’re a small business owner, it doesn’t mean you have small goals. In fact, many small businesses have colossal goals. All large companies started out small, so why is your business any different?

A CRM makes it easier for small business owners to achieve big goals. However, as any business owner will tell you, your CRM doesn’t magically build itself. Even if you have picked a CRM that is easy to use, getting the maximum value from your CRM takes a combination of skill sets. There's big-picture planning, content writing, technical inputs, list management, and data analysis - to name a few. You can either do it all yourself (and hope for the best), delegate internally, or hire people to make up for your busy schedule and/or lack of know-how.

In this article, I'll offer tips for breaking up your CRM admin into digestible chunks - and how to staff up without breaking the bank.

Why Do You Use a CRM in the First Place?
Stop and think about why you implemented your CRM in the first place. You likely were hoping to achieve one or more of the following:

•    Close More Deals – Improve your tracking processes and increase the probability of closing more business.
•    Improve Customer Relations – What does CRM stand for in the first place?
•    Increase Efficiency, Decrease Oversights – Using spreadsheets, email or notes to track deals is inefficient and prone to errors.
•    Achieve More Goals – The name of the game is to close more deals with less effort. CRMs are designed precisely for that.

Everything you do with your CRM should align with these goals. However, if you’re a one-person shop, you may not have the time or know-how accomplish everything in your CRM. Sure, many CRMs targeted towards small businesses are intuitive and easy to use, but, intuitive still doesn’t add more hours to your already busy schedule.

What Skills Are Necessary to Maximize Value from Your CRM?
Many CRMs offer a free package to start with and then offer premium plans for a fee.  This is great because you can upgrade to more features when your revenue stream justifies the expense. But even if you’re on the free plan, there could be a ton of advanced functionality you may be missing out on simply because you’re too busy to set it up (for example, opportunities, customizing your pipelines, and tags). How much business are you losing because of this?

Let’s imagine for a moment that you did have more time to dedicate. Here are the skills you’d probably need to have on-staff (or in your head):
•    General overall architect – Someone who can see the big picture and help determine the ideal structure or layout for your CRM.
•    Callers - Who will be making outbound calls? Only You?  Sales reps?  Managers?  Customer Service reps?
•    Assistants – Who will follow up - set follow up tasks, follow up events and in general make sure nothing slips through the cracks?
•    Technical resources – Data mapping and importing, pipeline configuration, and report customization are just a few of the more advanced or technical aspects of using a CRM.  (Depending on capabilities, the general architect may also be able to help here.)
•    Copywriters – If you're sending mass emails out from your CRM, are your current sales emails converting? If not, perhaps it may be time to either rework the content internally, or bring in an expert to tweak the verbage.

You might be saying to yourself, “Sure, I’d love to extract even more value from my CRM. But I don’t have the time, and we certainly don’t have the budget to hire someone to manage this for us.”

How to Staff Up Quickly (Without Breaking the Bank)
In a nutshell, here’s a framework for staffing up with outsourced CRM experts who are both affordable and experienced.

1.    Assess your needs – 20 minutes – Download this free outsourcing guide to assess your company’s needs.
2.    Sign up for a free outsourcing account with oDesk or Elance – 10 minutes
3.    Post a job for free – 15 minutes
4.    Drill down and find a specialist or two – 30 minutes
5.    Interview the applicant(s) – 1 to 2 hours – Most virtual interviews are done via Skype, Google Hangouts, or phone.
6.    Set an hourly max or budget and make the hire – 10 minutes

Now, of course when making any hiring decisions, there are a lot of factors you need to take into consideration. If you do decide to outsource a portion of your CRM administration, you may find these free outsourcing resources useful.

Get More from Your CRM

You use a CRM because you desire to achieve more goals for your business. Isn’t it time you thought about building scalability from your CRM? If so, outsourcing some or all of your CRM administration may be a wise decision for your business.

About the Author:  Matt Keener is a marketing professional, specializing in marketing strategy and efficient, cost effective outsourcing best practices.

Monday, 5 May 2014

15 Great Ways to Nurture Your Pipeline

 Sometimes making sales isn’t about the major efforts you make; the little things often create just as big an impact. Here, we look at 15 ways you can build your relationships and close more sales.

1. Offer a Free, No-Strings-Attached Consultation
People are often suspicious about those free consultations, but make it clear in your marketing copy that your aim is to help prospects. If they decide to work with you, great. Otherwise, they’re armed with free information they didn’t otherwise have. And be true to this! Don’t use this ploy to lure in unsuspecting prospects, or they’ll run away.

2. Share Your Contact’s Content on Social
If you’re connected to your contacts on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, et cetera (and you should be), make a point of sharing their content or responding to their updates. Everyone likes a little attention on social media.

3. Answer the Phone with a Smile
People have come to expect recorded operators or mechanical customer service voices. Delight them by answering the phone with joy. You’d be surprised how positively people respond to a pleasant voice.

4. Send More Targeted Emails
These days, technology helps us do more than send a blanket email to everyone. Now you can send a customized email with links to products each subscriber cares about. And with our integration with MailChimp, you can ensure each lead gets the most targeted email.

5. Wish Them Happy Birthday

Whether it’s on their Facebook wall, via email, on the phone, or in person, a simple birthday wish can go a long way. Consider sending a special discount or free offer via email for that special day.

6. Buy Them Coffee
Set up a coffee date — again, no strings attached — so that you can pick the brain of your prospect and see what makes their business tick. You’re not trying to sell, but the information you glean can help you not only better market to that lead, but also target your sales efforts to all leads.

7. Comment on Their Content
If a contact has a blog, read it and comment on it. Show that you’re paying attention. Consider writing a roundup post on your own blog and feature some of your favorite prospects’ posts.

8. Get Smarter
It may seem a strange way to nurture your pipeline, but the more you know, the better service you can be to potential customers. Stay sharp on your industry by attending conferences and reading books, blogs, and magazines. That way, you can catch even the biggest curveball a contact throws you.

9. Always Call a Contact by Name
We don’t always say the name of the person we’re speaking to, but when we do, they pay attention. Sprinkle your contact’s name into the conversation, and see if he doesn’t perk up.

10. Stay in Touch, Even if You Never Make the Sale
Let’s say you nurture a sale until you’re sure you’ll close it...only you don’t. That’s no reason to drop the contact completely. You may not know the reasons why she didn’t buy (maybe she got sick or busy), but if you create an opportunity and then check in a few times a year, you might win that sale down the road.

11. Be a Connector
If you have two contacts who you think would benefit from working together, connect them. Or share a great blog post with a contact. There’s nothing but altruism in this effort, but people will appreciate the fact that you’re thinking of them.

12. Create Other Ways to Work Together
You could invite a contact to be interviewed on your podcast or blog, or attend your conference or webinar. Buying from you shouldn’t be the only way they can get to know both you and your brand.

13. Invite Them to Your Office
If it’s not necessary for clients to visit your office, invite potentials anyway. Give them the tour and introduce them to everyone. Your goal here is to show them the behind-the-scenes and make them feel a connection to your brand.

14. Take Notes on the Small Stuff
If, during a call, a contact mentions he’s headed to Aruba for vacation, or that his son just won his Little League tournament, make sure you pay attention and maybe create a calendar entry to remind yourself. After that vacation, send a quick email asking how it went. Or send a note of congratulations on that game. When you pay attention to the details, prospects take notice.

15. Never Stop Trying
You don’t have to be pushy to build a relationship with a prospect. Just continue paying attention and finding new ways to connect.

Keep ultra-connected with everyone on your contact list, from prospect to repeat customer with Insightly. Sign up for a free account or a 14 day trial on our paid, premium plan.