Small Business Solutions

Base CRM Adds Events & Accounts

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During the past several months, the Base CRM development team has been very busy providing many valuable updates to their simple yet effective Customer Relationship Management (CRM) cloud software. I have been using Base for the past couple of years for my own business. After the last couple of big updates, it has become an even better tool for my company. I use it daily, and if you are still looking for a great CRM, you should give it a try yourself. It is built for small and medium size businesses. Read More

Alternative to GoToMeeting

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | 5 Comments

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…

Meet StartMeeting

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.)

What is Google Remarketing & Is It Right For My Service Business?

Posted by | Small Business Solutions | 2 Comments

Most small business owners have heard of Pay Per Click (PPC) by now. You guys have also heard of Google Adwords too? Well, Google has made over 90% of their money through companies using their Google Adwords service over the years. In recent years, Google started another type of paid advertising which is known as “remarketing.” So what is that all about and is it something I think can work well for your business?

Remarketing Defined

When a visitor enters your site and then leaves to continue his (or her) browsing, will he ever return or remember your website? In most cases the visitor will forget he came across your website. Sorry to disappoint many of you, but people have a very short attention span these days. Take a look at your analytics. My guess is that most people searching for a service contractor are not spending more than a minute on your site. If your site is amazing, maybe some will stay on for 2 to 3 minutes, but don’t get your hopes up. Remarketing basically makes sure that when a person leaves your site, he doesn’t forget your brand! 

How Does It Work

Google will install a “cookie” (aka a tracking code) on his browser when he leaves your site and follow him around and post your brand on sites that allow for Google Adwords: Text or Image Ads. Let me give you an example of how this works.

Two days ago, I typed in my search engine the words, “Breville Espresso.” I was looking for a picture of my espresso machine I owned to send to a friend of mine. We were comparing coffee machines! I found the espresso machine image I wanted from Macy’s. Macy’s is using a remarketing ad campaign (with Google or someone…others do it to). I didn’t know that at the time…but two days later I went to a completely different site to download a custom FONT for my computer. Here is what I saw on the FONT page:

Check out the ads on the top and sidebar: Breville Espresso Machines and other modesl from MACY’S. That is remarketing. They knew that I did not order an espresso machine from their website, and they are sending me little hints to not forget about them or what I was looking for the other day. Pretty cool, eh?

Should Your Business Give Remarketing a Try?

I have spoken to a few paid search companies, and they’ve all told me that remarketing is still VERY cheap compared to most pay per click campaigns. As long as the pricing stays reasonable, I’d say it is a good idea to create and run a remarketing campaign for your service business. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this, but to be able to stay in the minds of a consumer after he leaves your site is powerful. Maybe he is just doing some research on painters, remodelers, plumbers etc and not ready to buy just yet. In 2-3 weeks…he sees your ad pop up again, it should trigger his memory that he’s been to your site before!

Now there are other ways to stay in the mind of a consumer doing blogging etc. But for the price and ease…give remarketing a shot as part of your marketing plan.

A Few Pointers On How to Use Social Media

Posted by | Small Business Solutions, The Obvious | No Comments

I get asked often what types of things to post on social media sites, how often to post and so on. I think many business owners and employees don’t really know how to use Social Media the “right way” so they either go crazy and post too much or don’t post at all.

A client of mine recently forwarded me a “visual” article called, “The 6 Simplest Ways To Say “Thank You” On Social Media” by David Larson. This prompted me to write this short post and share it with my followers. The six ways use different social sites: Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook etc. You don’t have to use all 6 sites. Instead look at the things you can do, pick 1 or 2 social sites and start doing them. It really is quite simple.

To add to the steps mentioned in the article above is connecting with your customers on a face to face level and write handwritten notes too. The little things matter. Customers will love you for staying in touch in a way that is not irritating.

Base CRM’s Fall 2012 Update

Posted by | Cool Software, Small Business Solutions | 12 Comments

 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.

Best Bluetooth Earpiece for Driving

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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!

Pipeline Deals CRM

Posted by | Small Business Solutions | 5 Comments

After over three years of test driving dozens of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programs, I’ve decided to endorse my two favorites: Pipeline Deals and Base CRM (affiliate link). This week’s blog will be focusing on Pipeline Deals: the Pros & Cons of this cloud CRM. As a reminder, both Base and Pipeline Deals are very effective for managing your marketing, sales & customer base. If you want to have good tracking in your business, you need to settle upon a good CRM program. If you are not wanting too many features to overwhelm you, Pipeline or Base will do the trick.

Pipeline Deals

PROS

  • Very simple but good interface and CRM features. This is not a complicated CRM. The design and features have improved over the years, and it is very easy for users to figure out and start using in very little time. Most of my clients have settled upon Pipeline Deals. I believe it is because of the price point ($15 a month per user) and the ease of use. The CRM features are there: Contacts, Calendar, Deals (sales tracking), Reporting for Sales & Marketing, Document and Call/Email Communication Storage.
  • Integrates with Mailchimp: With a few clicks of a button, a user can quickly add new contacts to their Mailchimp email marketing list(s). Mailchimp will not allow duplicates, so even if you accidentally add someone twice, it will remove it.
  • Works Well with Google: More and more businesses are using Google Apps for email, calendar and other business communications. Pipeline has created a beautiful two-way sync with their calendar and Google Calendar. It is one of the only programs that has such a slick and easy two-way sync. Many others on the market are buggy or only a one-way sync. They offer a two-way Google Contact sync as well. That works, but I’ve seen a lot of duplicates with this feature. Therefore, I encourage users to disable the contact sharing. Finally, Pipeline has what is called a Google Gadget. This installs a scaled down CRM of Pipeline in each email you receive in Google’s Gmail. A user can add specific emails to a contact’s profile, BCC important emails, add notes, create events, task and more all within Gmail. This is a must have feature, saving you time having to login to your CRM to make quick changes and updates. 
  • Goals Tab: One of the only CRM programs on the market that has this key feature. If you have more than 1 salesperson working for you, you’ll love the Goals Tab on Pipeline Deals. You can set individual and team sales goals: monthly and annual goals. It works very well. Every time a salesperson changes a deal to won or lost, it updates the goal tab.
  • Branding & Custom Fields: A pretty common feature in most CRMs, you can install your company logo within Pipeline Deals & change the colors the tabs, custom fields and buttons. The custom field area is also very easy to use and a key feature. You can set custom fields for DEALS or CONTACTS. Some of my clients use it for their pre-qualification process: Size of Home, Estimator’s Name, Referral Source, and much more. You can have multiple choice options, dropdown menus, long and short text and more. Very useful feature!
  • Custom Reports: Want to know how many leads from the Internet you had the past 7 days? Pipeline Deals can make a custom report called “Internet Leads The Past 7 Days” and show you the details. Pipeline’s reporting features are very custom to your liking and have many variables and criteria. If you are an analytic junkie, you can download those reports into an Excel spreadsheet and continue your tracking further.
  • Price: One low price of $15 per user per month. It is one of the least expensive CRMs on the market with more than enough features for small businesses.
  • Support: Bottom line…their support is the best! I know all the guys over at Pipeline Deals. They are all awesome!
CONS
  • Mobile Version: I hope that sometime in the fall of 2012 the iPhone Application will be released to Apple’s App Store. I’ll be one of the early beta testers of their app and will keep you all updated. Until then, the mobile version of Pipeline Deals is the weak link to this almost perfect CRM. I think they are late in the game on this, but they have produced a well oiled program with very little bugs. The reason I think a mobile version is key in today’s market is for those of us on the go all the time. We want to look up a quick contact and/or add a new one, not so easy to do without a mobile version. Now, Pipeline has a mobile web version currently. It does work, but I’ve heard mostly complaints from my clients and is rarely used. So stay tuned. This is a feature Pipeline’s staff is working hard on as we speak. They have a beta releasing this month (September 2012).
  • Duplicates: If you get duplicates in the current version of Pipeline Deals, there is not much you can do about it accept manually delete them. They have ways to avoid duplicate emails and people, but I’ve had a number of clients get duplicate names and companies when they do an import or turn on Google Contacts, and it can take a few hours to clean up the system.
  • Google Contacts: As stated above, I would not use this feature without first talking to their support staff about how it works. By turning Google Contact sync on, I’ve seen duplicates happen quickly.
  • Overall Design & UI: This is a weak point of Pipeline Deals as well. It is not a reason to not use it by any means. Some people probably like the simple interface, just the way it is. I think there is room for improvement from a Graphic Design perspective. This is more just me. Most of my clients have not complained too much about usability, which is a good thing! I always like to see design and feature improvements.
All is all, Pipeline Deals will not disappoint you. Give it a try and let me know what you think. The first 30 days are free, and they have weekly Webinars to help their clients learn how to use their product better.

 

How to Setup Multiple Google Calendars on an iPhone

Posted by | Marketing Advice, Small Business Solutions | No Comments

If you are a Google Calendar junkie or using Google Apps for your business, you’ll love this feature of viewing multiple calendars on your iPhone. This is a must for business people so one can not only view but can even schedule appointments for other team members. If you have any questions regarding Google Apps for your business, please contact us.

Step by Step Setup

Step 1. Open Up Your Browser Safari or Chrome

Step 2. Type in: m.google.com/sync
Step 3a. Tap: Sign in with your Google Account
Step 3b. Sign In To Your Main Google AccountYou can do this with Google Apps (for business) or your personal Gmail account login.

To make sure all the calendars you have are accessible to your iPhone, you first need to make sure they are shared / visible on your desktop version of Google Calendar. If you get stuck here, email me.

Step 4. Find your device with the most recent sync and tap it. 

This will list all your mobile devices (iPads and iPhones)

Step 5. Check off the emails you want to sync and display on your iPhone Calendar App. Then tap SAVE
Step 6. Check/Uncheck to show/hide your calendars and tap DONE. Use EDIT Button to change calendar colors. 

If you are not currently using Google Apps for your business or are but need help setting that up on your device, Read my “old” blog “How to Setup Google Apps on iPhone.

Project Management Software for Contractors

Posted by | Small Business Solutions | 9 Comments

I’ve been asked often if I know of a great “Cloud”  (online) project management software to help with things like, scheduling, job staging, reminders, billing, and budgeting. Basecamp, from 37 Signals has a lot of strengths for many project management features, but Smartsheet (affiliate link) hits the nail on the head for being one of the best cloud-based programs that does it all. If you own a remodeling company, run a painting or similar trade business, you need to check out and consider using Smartsheet. In a nutshell, Smartsheet basically takes two key programs many of you use (or have used): Microsoft Project and Excel and created a “Smartsheet” that links to things like Google Calendar, Google Docs (now Drive), Google Apps Email and more. The bottom line, if you know how to use the basic Excel features, you can use Smartsheet with little training. In this short post, I will not explain all the key features you can do with Smartsheet as it is very powerful. For that, just check out their website and watch their videos. I’ll focus on how contractors are using it currently.

How Contractors are using Smartsheet

The contractors I know who are using Smartsheet right now do three things: 1. Manage a marketing budget and calendar, 2. Have a communication and job schedule (painting) and 3) A full fledged managing of all aspects of a remodeling project (billing, check numbers, reminders for when things need to be done, who is responsible, next steps, when a bill is received, receipts attached to a task and much more). Smartsheet acts like a spreadsheet in Excel. The benefit is if you want to create a schedule for your crew leaders or project managers, you can type in the times of a job (Sept 1 through Nov 5th) and have it automatically upload to Google Calendar. You can even make changes within Google Calendar and/or from an iPad. You can invite employees and even customers to view your Smartsheet project as well and make comments on task and events.

Here are a few screenshots of a marketing budget and a simple employee schedule.

The marketing schedule and budget above shows only a few rows of information. It also can help with market-tracking by lead source (won, lost and pending). So technically, most of your marketing reports can be viewed from one spreadsheet. This also links up nicely with Google calendar so we can see what is going on when we are not logged into Smartsheet.

This sample scheduling spreadsheet here also has a built in calendar view and/or can be synced with Google. If I wanted to attach a Work Order form, I can do that from within Smartsheet and send an email to the Foreman alerting him of his next job and paperwork.

Pricing of Smartsheet

The cost of Smartsheet is pretty reasonable for what you get. I signed up for their annual plan to save about 10%. There are different levels of cost. My current plan runs a little less than $15 a month for 10 Smartsheets. They consider a “Smartsheet” to be a project. So if you’ve got 15 remodeling projects going on at one time, you’d need TEAM version, which is around $50 a month. If you are only using it for scheduling and a marketing budget, you’d get by with the basic version for less than $16 a month. I don’t think you can beat the price for the features you get. I just mentioned a few key features in this article. There is a plethora of things you can do when you have the time to dig deeper into this power Smartsheet!

Schedule your free 30 minute marketing call. Contact David Today!