How many times have you rushed out of town or taken a day off only to forget to set an away message on your email account? I’ve done this plenty of times in the past. I used to have to wait to get in front of a desktop computer, login and set the away message. If you are using Google Apps for Business (Gmail) there is a more simple way to set an away message remotely, right from your phone. Read More
Small Biz Talk
A few months ago, I wrote a blog called “Would You Like Fries With That.” I was inspired to write on the subject of encouraging your employees to ask for more work because they are more influential than most of us think. They can easily build rapport on a project better than the salesman and close more additional work. Read More
#1 Base CRM
As of April 2013 Base CRM, by Future Simple, still leads the way for the best mobile CRM for small business. They now have “native apps” for the iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, iPad & Android Tablets. They also have developed some key plugins, apps and extensions for those still using Microsoft Outlook, Gmail & Mac.
The reason I give Base first place is how quickly they were able to develop a clean and useful application for many of their users. In just a few short years, the majority of businesses owners and salespeople have ditched their Blackberry and now use either and iPhone or an Android phone. These were the first two apps that Base CRM developed. They were thinking ahead! There are always little bugs to squash in every app I’ve tried, but Future Simple has done a good job of releasing Apps where the main CRM features just work: contacts, deals & task. I am one of their testers, so I give them constant feedback of things I want to change, update and/or bugs to fix. But all in all, it is truly an awesome experience.
Those who want to experience their first CRM or don’t want to spend a lot can try Base CRM for free. The mobile features don’t cost anything. It is only when you get above 50 sales (deals) or need more “cool” features that you pay for the app. Companies who run a simple sales cycle and rely on Google or Outlook for their main tools, might get by with their basic paid version of $15 a month. I would recommend their main paid version for those who have a more complex sale and want to carefully track each stage of the cycle. This would cost $45 a user per month. This is still not bad for how much time you save, and it makes sure you don’t drop the ball with your sales process.
#2 & 3 Salesforce and Zoho
Zoho CRM is basically a copycat of Salesforce. The features are pretty similar. Salesforce was one of the first cloud-based CRMs on the market and is still considered the leader. Salesforce had one big problem that has hurt their foothold into the small business world. This is only my opinion form observing them over the years, by the way. First, I think their prices were too high early on for most small businesses to justify, and second, they had way too many features and apps. Almost all the companies I spoke to about what CRM was best for them had already explored Salesforce. They all said basically the same thing: “It is too expensive. It is complicated and it has more features than I need.”
Salesforce has since lowered their fees and has begun to cater more to the small business market. They seem to have a lot of funding, so I will assume they will maintain a strong presence.
I have tried their iPhone App several times the past couple of years and consider it functional and good. Though it is not my favorite nor as easy to use as Base CRM. I have a number of clients who use Salesforce and seem to like it. It does require a bit of training, and their tech support is fee-based. I will end with this, even though their tech support is fee based, they are good. They will help you do what you want with your CRM as Salesforce is VERY customizable.
Zoho CRM’s iPad and iPhone Apps are actually pretty slick and easy to use. I like the design (UI) and user experience. My number one problem of why I don’t recommend Zoho CRM all that much is their pricing structure is such a pain. Everything is an Add-on. i.e. You want more storage, add more per month. You want to use our mobile app, add more per month. You want to _______, add more per month. This is the standard complaint I’ve heard from folks who have tried Zoho. Sorry Zoho, love your product but the small business owners out there need a simple product with 1 price option (hint hint).
#4 Pipeline Deals for iPhone Only
This is sad that I have to put Pipeline Deals in 4th place. Why? Because they have one of the most stable, reliable and simple CRM products I’ve ever used (desktop / cloud). I rarely ever find a bug using their product. Many of my customers actually use CRM as well. This was because they were early adapters to integrating their product with Google Apps for Business. They also has a mobile version that you could (still can) access from your mobile browser. The mobile version does work ok for quick access, but overall it is very clunky.
The good news is that Pipeline Deals is finishing up their first native iPhone App. This will be released within the next couple of weeks of writing this post. I’ve been testing this App for a couple of months, and it is very good. Their goal is to make an App that replicates what you can do with their online version. Version 1 is not quite there, but the basic functions that one needs in the field work quite well. I think Pipeline Deal customers who have an iPhone will be thrilled with the first release. Also their price point is really the best on the market. You can’t go wrong. They recently increased their prices, but I think that was a good move. One price: $25 per user/per month: plain and simple.
My hats off to Pipeline Deals. They are slower in development, but I think it shows a lot of wisdom. My guess is they operate on very little debt and borrowed funds. They make sure they release quality updates and products. Their tech support is the best I’ve seen as well! They post their phone number on their home page!
So there you have it. I only named the top four mobile CRMs I’ve tested and like. There are probably another dozen that I did not list. Some of those are fine products as well. For those who like testing and trying out CRMs for fun, give Nutshell CRM a try.
Let me know what you decide on and why.
It’s Not a Sin to Ask For More Work
Retail and fast food chains survive by getting customers to add more food to their current request. You know what I’m talking about. You go grab a burger and the cashier asks, “Would you like fries with that?” You were thinking just a burger and they helped you add fries or a soft drink to your meal. How many times have you said yes to their question? Hint…most of those chains are doing well today!
Contractors can learn something from these chains. The easiest way to grow one’s business is by asking for more work from your existing customers, especially while you are currently working on a project. One of the hardest things for business owners (and I’ve seen this first-hand while working with my dad) is getting employees to sell additional work. It is like pulling a tooth that won’t budge. I think there are two ways to make it happen.
You Get What You Inspect, Not What You Expect
First, my dad always said, “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” You need to continually remind, manage and follow up with your employees. You can’t just tell them to ask for more work. You have to tell them, and then follow up until it gets done. I talked to one contractor who said when he follows up with his employees on how they are doing with seeking additional work, he can add 10% to this annual revenue goal. That is with minimal effort on his part. When he gets busy and doesn’t follow up, that number drops below 5%. So follow-up is step one.
Don’t Just Tell Them To — Train, Encourage, Set Goals
Second is to train and encourage your employees: make it easy and even fun. You can have contest if you’d like or just give your employees tangible goals. I spoke with my dad about this recently. We figured if everyone could look for $450 a week (each crew leader) it would add 10% to the annual revenue goal. $450 of extra work is nothing in the painting business. It might be the front fascia, an entry door, a small bedroom etc.
The technician in the field could have a very high closing rate in selling additional work because of the trust he or she has earned with the homeowner. He has built the rapport, and it is only natural to take a little initiative and ask for more work. Here is how it might sound. The project manager/crew leader is wrapping up a job and mentions to the owner, “My crew is just about done with your project. Is there anything else we can do for you while we are here?” That one question could open up a world of extra work. Homeowners might respond with a simple, “Can’t think of anything right now.” But others may say, “Hmm, I’m not sure. What do you think? Are there some areas you think need attention?” Or “Not that I can think of. Why? Did you have some suggestions?” The ideal client will want your crews to make sure their home or property looks great. He or she will be relying on your company’s expertise. So encourage your employees to always ask if there is something more you can do. This is a way of serving your customers. Many homeowners will be glad you asked!
Got any other ideas on how to ask for more work? Love to hear about it here, by email or on my facebook page.
A number of you know that I have a strong working relationship with a full service business consulting firm, based in Philadelphia, PA: Summit Services, Inc. I have been connected with them since they started in late 2003. When they started, their target audience were painting contractors. In more recent years, they offered full business and financial coaching to any small or medium size business. They now have a wide variety of business industries in the network.
In addition to business consulting, Summit also offers an in and outbound Call Center, Marketing Management (thru me), Sales Training and now… Recruiting.
Finding Good People
Recruiting is perhaps the single must frustrating thing for small business owners. Many times you spend weeks looking to hire someone and that individual doesn’t work out half the time. I’ve seen this happen many a time. Summit Services can now offer full headhunting and recruiting at a very reasonable fee too!
One special feature that makes Summit the go to place for recruiting a salesperson, production manager or office manager is due to their connections with Linkedin. They have full access to profiles in their national professional network. Through advanced search tools, they will be able to search for and proactively recruit candidates (profiles) that meet specific requirements that you or they define.
The bottom line is Summit Services will do all the work. If you need to save time and get professional help from a great company, I strongly recommend you get more information about their new recruiting services.
Learn More about Summit or call them: (610) 449-0960
NOTE: I am not an employee of Summit (nor do I receive any commission for referring people to them), but we both have a strong referral network. So I refer them, they refer me. I also happen to like working with them! Their coaches and staff are awesome. They get results.
If you run a small business, chances are you’ve read or heard a thousand times from all the best business books, classrooms, seminars and business coaches that in order to run a successful business you must do many of the following things: have a marketing plan, a business plan, researched competition, have completed a SWAT analysis, a system for tracking leads, a CRM program, created a employee manual, an exit strategy and so on. If you are like me, your head starts spinning when you are plagued with all the things you’ve got to do to be successful. I think sometimes all the business leaders out there make running a small business complicated. It doesn’t have to be!
Don’t Try To Keep Up With the Big Guys
Attending seminars and filling up your notepad or notebook app with pages of todos and goals is ok if you like that sort of thing. Maybe you listen better by doing that. I sure don’t. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve just seen a lot of businesses struggle to make it because they are trying too hard to follow all the “rules of success.” They try to keep up with the big players in their industry. They want to be successful, make more money, work less, look and feel big. They do this by overcomplicating what it takes to run a small business.
Just growing a company large doesn’t mean you will be profitable and have a healthy business. I know a few businesses that run small companies under the “business success radar” and are more profitable: make more money than the big guys.
Stop Comparing and Succeed
If there is one takeaway from this blog post, I’d hope it would be this: stop comparing your business to everyone else out there, be yourself and begin moving your business forward. Instead of trying to follow every jot and tittle of what it takes to run a business (that you’ve heard works) just do one thing that you feel comfortable with right now.
If your customer hires you because your brushwork looks and feels like glass when finished, then start there: deliver those same results to every customer. Make ever customer’s home look the best. If customers hire your company because they feel they can trust you, don’t every let them down. Make it your goal to focus on 100% customer satisfaction with all your employees. Share that vision with each employee and make sure they all get it!
All the other “stuff” that you hear about can have its place at the right time. Setting goals, working with budgets, tracking leads, all important things. Just take it one step at a time. Slow down, enjoy your work, and focus on making your business the best it can possibly be.
P.S. Don’t just take my word for it. Order a copy or download to your digital device a copy of REWORK by my friends at 37 Signals. It goes against everything you’ve ever heard about running a business. When you get the urge to write out your action plan, stop. Just re-read and enjoy it.
Do you get emails weekly or even daily from people who are guaranteeing they can get you onto the top of Google search engine? I receive them now and then and my clients get them all the time. I have a good laugh when I read over some of these. Here is one I found very humorous. I cut out a portion of the email and deleted my client’s URL for the sake of privacy issues, but here are the highlights:
The person then leaves his full name and phone number, no company email or web address about his company. The email my client received above is first of all not accurate. There are far more than “two Google back links” and his website does show up very well in search results. He has hired a reputable SEO company in the past that ended up being very beneficial for him. So this company definitely did not do their research. The thing I found amusing was the ending paragraph which reads, “I found your site in the Google search…” That pretty much narrows it down right there. Whomever wrote this email found my client’s site using Google search and then tells him the site in not ranked well at all. Folks, when you get emails telling you your site sucks on search engines and gives you a bunch of data as to why everything you are doing is wrong, consider this as SPAM. Don’t trust these emails.
When to Trust
Now, if your website really doesn’t show up well on the search engines, don’t get tempted to call up a person of one of those bogus emails. Make sure any email or phone call you get is a legitimate company. Make sure they have a quality website and that IT RANKS WELL. That is right. Do a few search terms yourself and see if that SEO company shows up high for their own search terms.
Base CRM (affiliate link) is still one of my favorite small business CRMs on the market. The features, user interface and design are high quality and simple to operate. Base CRM is a lightweight Customer Relationship Management program hosted in the “cloud.” It does what most small business sales people need it to do. The main reason I like Base CRM is its integration with mobile devices and Google Apps for Business. If you have an Android or iPhone, Base CRM has native applications built for each platform. A salesperson can truly be on the go entering sales information and/or looking up contact information from anywhere.
Base has always had a paid version but the plan was recently updated with some added features. They introduced sales forecasting and a new automation feature which is really slick. I’ve not played around too much with the forecasting, but from what I’ve seen so far, it looks powerful. The automation allows a sales staff to have a complete sales and follow up process: pre and post sale. I can create as many action items as I’d like in the deals section now. So for example, if after the deal is “WON” it will auto populate a set of task to the right person or persons at my company. This allows me to make sure I never forget and follow a complete sales/service system. The fully featured (paid) version went up a bit in price. It is now $45 a month per user to receive the automation and sales forecasting features. The cost is a little steep for some small businesses I work with only because most contractors only have a couple of sales people. The rest only need to use Base CRM as a contact manager. Unfortunately, at this time, Base CRM cannot provide different pricing structures depending on how people use the CRM. So you cannot have one person using the Free Version and only the sales people using the Paid Version. When you upgrade to the full version, you pay the same price per user. I believe it is a smart decision for any sales organization to have a good sales tracking CRM, and Base CRM does the job well, even for $45 a month per user. If you are worried about the cost for your non sales staff, one way around this is to just make sure all your contacts are in your Outlook or Google Contacts and just have your sales staff use Base CRM. The rest can use their Google/Outlook contacts.
To learn more about Base CRM and what it can do, check out the powerpoint slides they sent me. Also, stay tuned soon! Base CRM will be releasing a native iPad App this summer.
We all have hobbies and habits. Some of us like playing golf, running, reading the morning newspaper, weekend rides, even playing around on our new techie gadgets. How much time do we spend doing these activities each day or week? Here is my challenge as we enter the spring season. What is keeping you from adding something new to your weekly routine? How about starting and maintaining a blog? Already have one but the last post was 2011? Keep reading.
So what’s keeping you from blogging? Is it that you are not sure what to write about? Or are you afraid you’ll run out of ideas? Maybe you are not a good writer and are afraid of what people might think when you misspell “except” when it should be “accept.” I can think of a dozen more reasons why most small businesses don’t blog. I think the number one reason is that small businesses don’t make the time to fit in this very important marketing idea. There is room for everyone still to begin and continue to write what they are passionate about.
Has it worked for me? I’ve been writing about a blog a week for six years and believe me, I sometimes want to quit. I, like you, run a small business, volunteer at my local church as a trustee, am one of the managers of our church building project and raise 4 small kids 6 and under. Do I have writers block? Do I sometimes want to stop blogging? Yes! Quite often to be honest. I have the same fears my clients have but have to stuff away that head trash. Has it helped my business? In more ways than 1. It has given me opportunities to do public speaking and travel all over the country, gain new clients and grow my business without spending any money on traditional advertising. Actually, I did just spent $35 when I reordered business cards! Ok almost no money on traditional advertising. The point is, if you personally will not blog, you’ve got to get someone to start blogging on a regular basis and be faithful to continue to write for your audience. Don’t stop! Press on!
Still Need Help?
If you are not sure where to begin, fill out my quick contact form and let’s talk. I’ll point you in the right direction. As always, I recommend blogging in house before outsourcing.
Photo credit: Woman in Thrisis
Most service companies would love to be well known all over their city, even a large metropolitan area. In order for that to really happen, one would need a substantial marketing budget. Instead of trying to market all over your city, it is best to target your market closer into your key area. Take a look at where you do most of your work. Ask questions like, “Where do most of my leads come from?” and “Where do my most profitable jobs take place?” Look into the sizes of those cities or towns and see if there is enough work for a company of your size to dominate the area. Instead of writing down your top 10 cities, start with 2 to 3. How can my company be the #1 painter, roofer, plumber in this city? After you answer these questions, begin doing research on how you can begin to build your brand awareness. Your budget should include some branding items such as: community events, association newsletters, little league, Boy Scout troops, yearbooks, marathons, chambers and so on.
By narrowing down your service area, you will begin to build a stronger brand and grow your company. As you grow, you can have goals to expand into other towns, but not until you are #1 in your key service areas.
How do you build brand awareness in your area now? What is working for you? A penny for your thoughts?