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17 ACT! 2010 Gets More Social

The latest release of ACT! CRM software (2010) includes a feature that I’ve been pushing for and am starting to see as standard fare in CRM – the inclusion of a contact’s social media activity stream. Now, from inside a contact record you can view that contact’s activity on Facebook, LinkedIn, or twitter. Subscribe to RSS for their blog or even custom searches for their industry or competition. In addition, you can respond to something you read right from the record.

The bottom line is that having this kind of data can help fill in the total picture when it comes to a prospect or client and make you much smarter and more efficient in your follow-up and relationship building. I contend that you should be paying attention to this kind of information anyway, so now it’s easier to do.

screenshot_1

Social media activity for a contact displays inside the record (click to enlarge)

Another great feature is the full integration of email marketing. ACT has enjoyed a nice relationship with an email service called SwiftPage. The SwiftPage offering is now fully baked in as a paid subscription option called ACT Email Marketing. This subscription allows you to easily market to any segment or your entire database through email from within ACT! The service has some very robust campaign features (a record can be added to your database and a campaign and automatically receive a series of predefined emails.) Tracking user interaction with your emails sent is also very powerful with this tool, giving you the ability to analyze your hottest leads based on whether they read or take action in response to an email.

Overall I think I like the layout better and search throughout is much improved. You no longer have to back to the lookup screen to find a specific record.

There are many CRM tools to choose from, but for many small businesses ACT! is plenty powerful, simple and low cost. With these enhancements it’s an improved tool as well.

Disclosure: Sage Software, the maker of ACT!, is a client of Duct Tape Marketing and the Duct Tape Marketing Coach Network.

9 Building Deeper Relationships with BatchBook CRM

CRM and small business are two things that should go together, but as I’ve written here before, there are so many CRM options, strategies and technologies that finding the right one is as much a matter of kharma as feature sets.

My take is that most of the popular CRM tools out there will work, the question is which one works for you to help you more easily meet your objectives. In a lot of cases that’s the one that is powerful enough to get the job done, but simple enough that you actually get it up and running.

Recently, I had the pleasure of testing driving a new small business CRM tool called BatchBook and I think this will be a great CRM answer for many small businesses.

I think the main attraction for me is that BatchBook seems to be set-up in a way that helps you build deeper relationships with the contacts that mean the most. It does manage all the contact details, to-do lists, and communication records very nicely, but the killer feature, in my opinion is the elegant way that it also gives you the ability to bring into a record that person’s social media activity.

batchbook

In this image above you can see my record with my twitter stream just below.

So, if you’re contacting a journalist to pitch a story, you have their blog feed and twitter stream right there at your fingertips as you craft your email. If you are following up with a hot prospect, you can have their Facebook status and Flickr photo stream of their vacation to the Catskills to inspire some seriously personalized responses. (Note: I am only talking about content that a person makes publicly available.)

I don’t know that this functionality is something that would go into managing 25,000 newsletter subscribers, but for lists of customers, journalists, strategic partners, prospects, and influencers this tool has some very powerful upside.

More 3rd party integration is needed but for now you can use MailChimp and GMail as your mailing engine and FreshBooks to keep billing information with your contacts. BatchBook is a very affordable tool as well. Single users get it for free and you can get up to 15 seats for only $19.95/mo. I am integrating it into a layer of my marketing efforts just as described above.

1 Two Great Software Titles, One Great Price

As you may know I have partnered with Palo Alto Software to produce a marketing planning software based on my Duct Tape Marketing System and book. The software is very practical and functions more like an action planning tool than a document creation tool. It is called Marketing Plan Pro powered by Duct Tape Marketing and early reviews have all been very positive.

I’m also a fan of ACT CRM software from Sage. There are lots of choices in this category these days but ACT!2009 is still one of my favorites for small businesses.

So, have I got a deal for you! Palo Alto has bundled these two great titles and is offering the bundle at $150 off the price to acquire the two separately.

Sorry for the overtly commercial message here, but I just had to share this with you.

Buy Marketing Plan Pro and ACT!2009 for $150 off

13 Maybe CRM is a lousy term

There seems to be a real struggle to capture the flag by software makers when it comes to small business CRM. It’s very difficult to find a clear leader in this space, although many claim to be serving it.

I think the problem may reside in the fact that what small business marketers really want (need) out of their marketing software may be hard to define and it’s probably not customer relationship management.

No, what most small business owners want and need out of marketing software is the ability to get home earlier at night, to be able to spend time doing the tactical work they love (I didn’t say that was best, but it is reality), and to follow-up automatically with leads.

If that’s true then the entire category of software aimed at small business might more accurately be dubbed “marketing automation” software instead of CRM software. Marketing automation software would track contact details, capture leads, send emails, execute on campaign steps, distribute leads to sales folks, and create order and fulfillment tasks and do it all with the potential to use both online and offline marketing tools. (I know, most CRM software does this, but it also rotates and balances your tires.)

The notion of marketing automation software came directly from a recent conversation I had with Clate Mask, CEO of Infusion Software, on the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. Infusion has poured a great deal of effort into creating a marketing automation tool just for the small business, and while they may not be alone, they certainly seem to be on the right path. (Full disclosure – I am an Infusion user)

Sometimes it’s hard to abandon long established industry terminology and blaze new paths. It sometimes requires a great deal of energy just getting people to understand how your tool is not what everyone else calls it, but when you get it right, the payoff is worth it.

21 Automation, the small business marketer's friend

Marketing AutomationFrom a business standpoint, a lot of small business have some pretty distinct advantages over much larger organizations.

Not always, but in some cases, they can be more flexible, offer personalized options, provide faster/better service, and involve senior experienced level people in implementation.

From a marketing standpoint, I do see small organizations get out sizzled from the sheer wake of bodies and moving parts that a larger organization can throw at a sales pipeline.

This is a place where technology, and the automation it can afford, can come to the rescue.

Technology exists all around us today that allows any small business or one woman band to create robust, multi-part, segmented and personalized campaigns that rival those of the fully staffed marketing departments.

Lots of CRM software makers talk a about automation, but for most small businesses it’s just overkill. The key is to find the right suite of tools that allow you to create the engine to automate contacts, sales follow-up, tasks, email, marketing materials distribution, orders, upsells, referrals and campaigns. It’s about marketing automation, not customer relationship management.

When you take the time to design your lead generation, nurturing, and conversion processes like the big guys, and then hook the system together with the right moving parts, you can compete with any size organization.

And now for some tools to check out!

  • SwiftPage – email lead tracking and scoring that helps identify hot prospects
  • Infusion Software – the best all in one solution for contacts, sales, orders and email marketing
  • Vtrenz – automation for direct marketers
  • Get Friday – outsourcing that is automated
  • Wufoo – creates forms of all type on the fly
  • GotVMail – automates phone messaging, extensions and message deliverability
  • Jott – lets you post to Google Calender, post to blogs, Twitter and send email to yourself or groups from a phone.
  • TripIt – forward air, hotel and car reservations to an email address and get an online trip page with local info and maps added
  • TextExpander – automatically insert any amount of text into an email or document with a phrase – great for commonly written email responses
  • Basecamp and Backpack – automate collaboration with teams, vendors and partners
  • Create Space – on demand CD and DVD publishing and fulfillment
  • Amazing Mail – send pre-designed post cards to 1 or 100 contacts in 24 hours

What are some of your favorite marketing automation tools?

22 The perfect CRM would be really simple, but not too.

Heap emailA few weeks back I asked the question, “What would the perfect CRM look like?

The question drew lots of conversation and was accompanied by a survey.

I think this comment from Ben Smith of WBP Systems, maker of HeapCRM, sums it up for the true small business.

I just wanted to comment on your great point. I do think that many people confuse “CRM” with “CRM software”. In an attempt to make this point, we actually spend the first part of our manual discussing a coffee shop and how by simply putting a sticker on the cup they have achieved every goal that you would ask of a CRM.

What someone really should do, to implement a CRM, is get a list of goals they want to achieve with the CRM system (not necessarily software), then find the simplest tool that achieves all of their goals. If you can achieve all of your goals with a spiral ring notebook, then you should use a spiral ring notebook. Of course if you need Salesforce with some-odd add-ons then that’s what you should use.

And perhaps the survey results may support this as well.

Only 61% said they used any form of CRM or Contact Management

    When asked what was most important in terms of features:

  • Contact history 79.6
  • Lead tracking 62.2
  • Opportunity management 49
  • Task list 40.8

More advanced features such as inventory management, partner management, shopping cart integration, lead distribution, quote management were largely unimportant.

  • 78% of the respondents were companies with less than 20 employees.

Any surprises? Not really – conclusions – keep it simple, don’t make me have to change the culture of the organization to make it work.

43 What would the perfect small business CRM look like?

Jason Friend, a co-founder of the wildly successful software developer 37Signals stopped by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast recently to chat.

37Signals makes a collection of killer online apps such as Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack and Campfire. These productivity enhancing tools are the back office support for a lot of small business collaboration.

We spent a fair amount of time discussion the workings of their newest offering, a CRM app known as Highrise. The CRM field is a pretty crowded one and lots of folks are trying to get it right for the small business. It’s a pretty tough task since small business needs vary so wildly in this category.

Service providers are faced with trying to create something that will meet all the needs and causing potential overkill or focusing on a set of needs in a niche and doing that well. As is usually the case, 37Signals chose to do some of the primary CRM functions elegantly and leave the others to, well, others. It’s worth a look.

I know there are other, so feel free to let me know who they are!

CRM as a category is tough for the small business because there will always be the balancing act of “too much or too little” and “return vs. upkeep.” CRM or at least tracking leads, nurturing leads and converting, reconverting and partnering with leads will always be a good thing. Once you more than about 10 such leads, keeping it all in you head, or in the head of a person that walks out into the street everyday, get dicey. And yet, looking for another CRM fix to cure your poor processes or cultural dysfunction can be more of a waste than a productivity gain.

In thinking about this category, I would say don’t just look at a CRM solution as a way to keep track of leads, think about it as a way to keep track of leads and improve the overall experience your prospects, customers and partners have with your organization. If you think that way, the cost of implementation might not seem as steep (cost being money and time) and the actual features you think you need might change a bit.

So let’s do a little CRM feature survey shall we!

Tell me what you think the perfect small business CRM would look a little like. Please visit this four question CRM survey and pick the actual features you think the perfect small business CRM offering should have.

8 Friday roundup of stuff

That’s not a very catchy title is it?

Oh well, I just wanted to share a couple things that may be of interest.

3 If data is in two places, which one is wrong?

NetBooksRidgley Evers was instrumental in the creation of one of the widely used small business accounting software program, QuickBooks.

After a few tours of Italy, (see Davero.com) among other stops, he is back addressing a familiar problem with a different approach. That new approach is something called NetBooks.

He was a guest on the most recent episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast.

NetBooks is an online (SaaS) offering that addresses data for the small business as an integrated set of power tools. Those tools start with CRM, Marketing, Sales, Inventory, Manufacturing, Production, Shipping and, yes, bookkeeping – tied to one data source.

There are others out there promoting this approach, but not for what NetBooks calls the “true small business” – 2-50 employees.

One of the problems NetBooks is attempting to address is the age old small business problem of storing data in multiple databases (scraps of paper) – If data is in two places, one of them is wrong – Ridgely Evers.

AT&TThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by att.com/onwardsmallbiz. Resources for the small business owner.

7 Previewing Highrise from 37Signals

The folks at 37Signals, makers of Basecamp, have been quietly working on a CRM application that promises to be as simple and effective as everything else these guys put out. Originally the name of the program was Sunrise (nicely aligned with their camping themes in Basecamp, Backpack and Campfire) but the newly announced name is Highrise. (Rather than thinking they’ve gone urban I think they are talking about mountains.)

For now, you can go here to get on the Highrise release list

Online CRM is a crowded, and growing more so, space. With the exception of Salesforce.com’s lead, it’s still pretty open for the small business. Funny thing is, as more folks jump into CRM with more and more features, what’s missing, based on feedback I get, is a simple CRM system – one that does the handful of things that the typical small business will actually use and benefit from. It doesn’t matter how cool a technology is for the power user, it’s the huddled masses, the ones that won’t use 75% of the functionality, that are crying for help. We shall see if that’s what Sunrise can bring.