I used to think Nextel push to talk (walkie talkie) was a very useful and productive tool, when it first came out for contractors. It did get a little annoying when I was on job sites or in meetings and kept hearing construction worker’s phones making loud beeping alerts as I could not help but eavesdrop in on their conversations. It served its purpose at the time. Since the release of the iPhone, Android and Windows phones, Nextel technology is pretty much non existent. I never owned a Nextel or Push to Talk phone, but saw the value in those short and quick voice conversations. Every time you get on a phone call, it is hard to keep it short. You have to start with a greeting, then an intro of why you are calling, get to the subject, get an answer and then wrap up with a closing statement. It is hard to make each phone call under a minute. With Push to Talk, you could get quick answers to what you needed in seconds.
Using a CRM
If your business is not using a CRM to track leads, customers, and sales, you need to start this now. It is one of the most crucial things your small business needs to run a successful business. I’ve written on a lot of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs over the years. You have a lot of choices. For those who want simple, clean, easy to use yet has one of the best features ever for a CRM, I recommend Base CRM. Here is why Base just got 10x better the past few weeks (this week for iOS). Read More
This evening, Base CRM‘s latest release for iPhone and iPads hit the Apple Store. I downloaded it and have been testing it out. There were no new features, but they did update the design (interface). It now closely matches the soon to be released iOS 7. Read More
8 Months ago, I was pretty content with the way calendars, contacts & emails from Google were syncing with my iDevices. I used Google Apps for Business and Apple hardware. When Google decided to stop supporting Microsoft Exchange on Apple devices (read an old post here) it made it a bit more buggy for many of my customers who were upgrading devices or buying new ones for employees. So there are ways to get Google Apps to work on the iPhones and iPads, but I’m finding that there are some pretty cools Apps that I’m using now that work just the same if not better.
When I use a product longer than a year, it must be good! I am always on the lookout for quality, cloud-based programs that work well for small businesses. Basecamp, by 37 Signals, is one of those programs that I’ve used for close to a decade now. I do have a laundry list of things I’d like to add to Basecamp’s functionality, but in the meantime, I am content with the current tools and features within Basecamp. I have hunted for the perfect project management tool and I keep coming back to Basecamp! It just works! Read More
For the last 4 years, I’ve basically used one online program for meetings and webinars, GoToMeeting. It really is a pretty simple product to use. The only real complaints I have regarding GoToMeeting are, 1) A little expensive for what I use it for and 2) My customers and I seem to always have to install updates. I tend to be coaching my clients on how to use GoToMeeting more often than not. A little frustrating, but on the other hand, there was nothing on the market that was better. Webex was a good program but cost more than GoToMeeting. I tried every other one I could find and chose to stick with GoToMeeting. Until…
Recently another online meeting tool surfaced in my inbox. I used a conference line company at times when I need it called Free Conference Call. That company is a sister company to the latest and greatest online meeting program called StartMeeting (affiliate link). I really had no reason to switch from GoToMeeting to StartMeeting but thought I’d contact the company and drill them about why their program was the same or better than GoToMeeting.
I scheduled a call with Greg Plum, VP of Channel Development. He walked me through all the features and benefits of StartMeeting and how it compared to GoToMeeting. I really had no problems using GoToMeeting, so I would not even consider switching unless it was easy to use for my clients, had screen sharing, was cheaper and featured mouse sharing. Greg did a great job convincing me about StartMeeting and the vision of his company too!
Selling Points That Are Making Me Switch
After close to an hour walking through the program, I was very impressed. StartMeeting was created to go to battle against GoToMeeting. That is their main competitor. That is why it intrigued me! I wanted the same product for less. I’m not being cheap. I just have a lot of small monthly cost programs, and I want to simplify my expenses! StartMeeting offered some key selling points for me:
- The price point for 50 users was half of what GoToMeeting offers: $19.95.
- It allows for the user to have a company branded “wall” which is where people can schedule a meeting or start a meeting. The background and logo are fully customizable.
- One Meeting ID and Phone Number. I didn’t like having to schedule a meeting with GoToMeeting…as sometimes I’d be on the wrong call waiting for my clients who received a different Meeting ID. So it keeps it simple
- Screen and Mouse Sharing: Most of my calls are to run marketing meetings. Yet I do get involved “fixing” or setting up certain programs and features on my client’s machines sometimes. Therefore it is nice to have the mouse sharing feature. If it did not have this feature, I would not even consider switching.
- Video Conference: This feature is a little weak, currently, but the presenter can show himself using his camera. This is good for a webinar. The weak part is it does not allow a two way video sharing like GoToMeeting’s HD Faces. This is a feature, StartMeeting said they will be working on. Again, for the price savings, I’m switching…as I don’t use HD faces all that much. If I want to do that, I just use Google Hangout which is free and simple to use as an alternative.
- Downloading and Upgrades: I’ve not used StartMeeting much just yet, but they assured me that my clients and I won’t have to be continually updating my computer with v1.3, v1.4, v1.5 etc. This sounds great!
So I’m making the transition from GoToMeeting to StartMeeting to keep the pricing and features simple. If you are interested in giving it a shot for your business, the first 30 days are free. Let me know what you think. My referral link is here: StartMeeting. (same cost as going directly through them.)
Base CRM from Future Simple keeps getting more robust every month I use their product. To learn more about the details of what this simple CRM can do, read my previous reviews on Base 1 Post Here and 2. Post Here
In short, Base CRM is the best small business CRM on the market that works beautifully with mobile smartphones, tablets, Macs, PCs and Google Apps. Key feature updates:
- It offers both online and offline access of your data when you are on the go, which many competitors do not currently offer.
- Incredible native apps (installed on your device): iPhone, iPad, Android & Windows Phone (offline).
- Integration with Mailchimp for Email Marketing: This is a brand new feature this month. It works well. You can add people to select list. I am a huge fan of Mailchimp for sending emails, so I am excited about this new feature.
- Sending emails within Base CRM: If I’m too lazy to send an email within my Google account, I can do it within Base. If I really wanted to, I could just use Base for sending/receiving. (I still like my Google Apps though). It notifies me if the person has received and read my email as well. It then stores a copy within the customer note section. New Feature: All my emails sent from within Google are auto BCC’d to Base. No more having to remember to auto BCC or forward emails.
- Sales Automation: Those of you who have a set sales system in place will love their easy to use Sales Automation feature. You can setup all your Sales Stages and what Task will auto populate when you’ve told it to do so. This is perfect for those who have a sales team and want to make sure you remain consistent. Sometimes this feature can be overwhelming, because you definitely will get reminders and task that you have to check off to move on. Regardless, this features is a real plus. (Paid users only)
- Deals: Easy to create, track and manage deals from a desktop or mobile device. You can add files to Dropbox, set follow up task, run quick reports on where you are at in the pipline/sales stage and more. The deals in Base CRM are a real plus.
- Pipeline & Reports: Their reporting features got a major upgrade and facelift this Summer 2012. The graphs and reports are cleaner and easier to view.
- Easy Tagging and Contact Look up. (Multi-Tags too)
- Custom Fields
- Task Features are getting better. The task features within Base CRM are powerful but still need a bit of improvement. They work just fine, and I use them everyday. My main “beaf” with their task management is that currently I can only set task on the hour: 12, 1, 2, 3. I then get a reminder 1 hour before. I’d like more customization here. That is coming, from what Base has told me. So expect some Task improvements Shortly. I’d like to add a feature request to have Google Calendar be 100% synced to Base…no bouncing back and forth. I want to create an event with a customer within BASE and have the interface be Google. It is ok to have a wishlist!
- Google Gadget. See Above Picture. I can add a note, a task or a new contact right within my business Google Apps account.
- iPhone and iPad Apps: When Base released their almost completely bug free iPad version in late August, they gave the iPhone a facelift too. I liked the old version, but this one still is quite user friendly and bug free.
- Overall New Design: Base CRM also was given a completely new and improved look. It is cleaner, faster and easy to use.
Base CRM is really a great Customer Relationship Management program for the small and medium size businesses. For the little guy who doesn’t need it for lots of sales, he cause use Base for free. For everyone else, $15 a user for the basic plan and $45 a user for all the advanced features. It is worth the cost based on all the features and easy of use.
Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent more money on bluetooth earpieces than I have cell phones. I’ve tried the cheap and the most expensive devices I could find. I’ve had the phone reps swear up and down of their personal favorites: Jawbone I, Jawbone II, Motorola, Jabra, Blue Ant, Plantronics etc. Yes, I’ve tried them and always had mediocre success. I wanted a bluetooth earpiece where I could hear the person I was talking to clearly and visa versa.
Earlier this year, I was told by my sister that her husband was using the Bose earpiece and loved it. He was not a techie guy, so I figured it must be easy to use and good. I was sick of spending $125+ on earpieces but decided to do it one final time. I gave the Bose 2 a try. As I write this blog, 6 months later, I am still a fan of the Bose 2 Bluetooth Earpiece. It truly is the best earpiece on the market for those driving a loud truck or sitting in an office. In fact, I switched from using my landline to using my Bose Bluetooth for almost all phone calls. You can connect it easily to a smartphone or your computer. This is the first time ever people cannot tell I’m using an earpiece.
Give it a try and let me know what you think!
I spent most of my working hours as a marketing manager for service companies. However, my main hobby for many years is discovering the best technology solutions for small business owners. Anyone who knows me well knows I always have a number of gadgets with me at all times. I’m continually testing Apps, Cloud Programs & Devices to see what works best for each of my clients. If I can’t figure out how to use something quickly, I don’t recommend it.
April 18th Cloud & Mobile Solutions Talks
Those who live in the N. Virginia, DC, Baltimore or Frederick areas are welcome to attend this week’s NARI meeting. I’ll be sharing a bit more about what cloud computing is, how to use it and why to consider to use it. I’ll spend the second half of the discussion sharing my favorite Business Essential Apps for Apple devices. I might have a couple Android suggestions too, but I really am no expert on Android devices or applications.
Who Can Attend
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has local chapters throughout the United States. I will be speaking at the Mid-Maryland chapter. Typically you will find owners of general contracting and remodeling companies in attendance along with individual contracting trades. Vendors who service contractors, called industry partners, and usually attending as well. If you are not a member, you can still attend this meeting for $50, which includes dinner. This month, the Women’s Council of Realtors will also be attending this talk. The event is from 6-9PM at Dutch’s Daughters in Frederick, MD.
To sign up online and learn more, visit the NARI Mid-Maryland Website.
So I have my work cut out for me. I have slightly over an hour to tell 4 different groups: contractors, vendors, sub contractors and realtors all about Cloud and Mobile Solutions. They way I usually do my discussions is I always welcome questions during the entire presentation. I like to keep people awake, so come prepared to ask me about your mobile or technology questions.
Guest Post: Not all the apps below I’ve had the opportunity to try myself. This was a post written by Jane Johnson. Thank you for taking the time to write this for my audience. I’ll begin to look into your recommendations and give you my feedback. Based on a quick look of each app, they all look promising. Enjoy.
Stock your business arsenal with the right tools for success
The business world is ever-evolving, and as business owners we must stay ahead of the curve to succeed. Technology can help businesses, large and small, stay competitive, grow, and survive during hard times thanks to thousands of smart phone apps specifically for business. Apps for business provide many of the tools and resources that small businesses might not otherwise have access to. However, with so many business apps to choose from, how do you know you’re downloading the best business arsenal for your particular needs?
To help take the stress out of business apps, I’ve put together the following list of the Top 5 Apps to Help Grow Your Small Business. These apps are available for download, many for absolutely free, to your iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, T-Mobile Samsung Galaxy S, and numerous other wireless devices.
1. MetroFax (Free)
This fax app for the iPhone offers small businesses a fully-accessible fax service. Enjoy the big business perks with MetroFax, an app that allows you to send and receive faxes—right from your iPhone. You’ll never have to stress about missing an invoice, an important fax, or legal documents ever again.
2. LinkedIn (Free)
I like to think of LinkedIn as my personal marketing team—even though I have a small business consisting of one employee: me! The LinkedIn app is all I really need for network with prospective clients, business partners, freelance employees, business partners, and vendors. Simply, this app connects those who need a service with those who can provide that service. It’s professional networking at my fingertips. I can use my iPhone (or Android, BlackBerry, or any smart phone) to connect with potential customers anywhere, at any time of day.
3. Primadesk (Free)
This multi-functional app (for Web, iOS and Android) makes content management easy. The Primadesk app keeps all cloud-based business content organized and easily accessible via search hash tags. Plus, it’s great for remote groups who need to share, view, manage and backup all business content from a single interface—i.e., if collaborating on a project—regardless of their chosen computer or mobile device. To share or save a document simply drag and drop Word docs, multimedia, spreadsheets, and photos from your desktop to Primadesk.
4. Abukai (Free)
This financial business app was given the “Editor’s Choice”, a 2011 award given by PC Magazine for outstanding business expensing applications. Not a hard task when you’re compatible with almost any mobile device—including iPhone, Android and Blackberry. The Abukai app makes filing financial reports a synch in three easy steps:
I. Take a picture of any receipt or invoice with your mobile device s
II. Submit it
III. Receive a completed expense report at the end of a designated period (week’s end, month’s end)
5. OmniFocus ($19.99)
Pricy, but totally worth every penny—the OmniFocus app for iPhone puts you in control of task management when you have your smart phone within arm’s reach. That’s why it won the Apple Design Award for best Productivity App. OmniFocus tracks tasks by project name or number, place, person, or even the date. you’ll always have your important information at hand, whether it’s a shopping list, agenda items to discuss at work, things to do at home—whatever you need.