Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Here's a great Contact Management tool you can use

I'm always on the look out for CRM tools and software that are suitable for the SME market. Using Outlook goes so far but then it's difficult to take to the next stage. With GoldMine having moved out of the lower end products there doesn't seem too many good alternatives around

More often than not I'm disappointed as they are lacking in functionality or simply haven't been thought through properly. I have to say some of them I've looked at are just fundamentally flawed.

So it's good to find one that seems to do everything I would expect from an SME targeted system. Not only that but the basic version is free too!

Have a look at it here:
Free CRM Product

What is Free CRM?
F ree CRM is a web based software solution for customer relationship management and sales force automation. Free CRM is great for contact and lead tracking, sales and contact management, sales pipeline management and forecasting, customer service and business management.

What can I do with Free CRM?
F ree CRM software and sales team automation tools speed sales and customer service with real-world features that make your jobs easier. With integrated email campaigns, call automation and tracking and group calendaring, Free CRM is smart groupware.

Free CRM Product

If you need help with your Contact Management and CRM visit Alloy CRM

Monday, March 16, 2009

Get to the point on your website

Get to the point!

Your potential customers, generally, don't want to mess about.

When they arrive on your website they are probably looking for either of two things:

1. If they know of your business by recommendation they are just looking for how to contact you - email or phone.

2. If they arrived by searching or a tenuous link verbally or otherwise, it's information they're looking for.

They haven't the time or the patience to rummage around to find stuff. You need to get straight to the point.

Make sure your contact phone number and email address are prominent 'above the fold' that is the section of your web page that can be seen without scrolling down.

Make it bold and, if your purpose is to solicit phone calls from enquirers put it at the top right of the screen. This tends to be the spot that takes the eye.

If they are after information - then give it to them!

They're probably not particularly interested at this moment that you have been in business for 30 years, or that you have the best staff team around. All they want to know is, do you sell the type of things they are looking for, what variations/options are available and how will these solve my problem or fulfil my desire.

If you've made them click a couple of times to get that information, they've probably already gone back to the search engines to find an alternative. Harsh, but true.

If you get past that, then they want to know why they should choose you and how they can be confident that you are the right supplier. Why would they want to know that first before knowing even if you are a potential supplier?

Analyse your website home page, or at least the first page they are likely to see, through your customers eyes and ask yourself if it fits the bill.

If you need help to make your website work then look at our Website Profit Program from Alloy CRM

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Getting sales when times are tough

If times are tough where do you look for extra business. Is there a secret, untapped, vein of potential revenue that you can try?

Maybe there is a vast community of potential customers that you've never even come across before that are just crying out for your solution?

Sad news folks - the reality is that it's unlikely. So best you look elsewhere.

It's widely accepted that most businesses fail miserably when it comes to looking after, and selling to, past satisfied customers. Why is that? These people are probably the most receptive to your offer of further products and services.

But, beware, if you haven't contacted them at all since you made your last sale, don't just blast them with a sales pitch. That will go down like a lead balloon.

So what can you do?

Try regularly keeping them informed about things that are related to your product but are helpful to them. It could be tips on how to use your service or product better, changes in legislation that affect them or research progress that could help them in the future when they are considering replacement. The objective is to be their helpful friend in your sector.

By all means add a small piece at the end of your connection to remind them about what you have to offer, but don't make it an all out sales pitch.

The easiest way to do this of course is by email. That way the process is much simpler and cost effective. If you haven't been keeping in touch in the past, don't expect a huge rush of orders from your first mailings. But if you seed links back to appropriate parts of your website for more information, or a phone number to call for help, you could end up with some leads you might have otherwise lost to your competition.

Managing an on-going email campaign such as this can be difficult without the right tools.

There are two providers I use regularly, aWeber - probably accepted as the industry standard, and SendFree - not quite free if you want the emails to look right, but still inexpensive.

If you would like to go down this route and need some help and guidance, please contact me through my site Alloy CRM site where I help businesses increase sales, revenue and profit.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Master Email Lists to Increase Profits

I spend most of my time now working with on-line sales and marketing, but for the last 10 years I've been specialising in CRM - Customer Relationship Management.

They may seem worlds apart but there is a great deal that brings them together.

The whole purpose of having a website for your business is to generate enquiries, leads or direct sales. Either
way you will be collecting some data about your prospective customers. Probably all their details when they have purchased but maybe just their email address when they first enquire.

What you do with that data can make a great deal of difference to the result - a sale and maybe a second sale later on.

The smart businesses do that by using CRM. It isn't a piece of software, it's a process.

Keeping in touch with the people on your list can really make the difference. If they have made an initial enquiry, then sending them an answer quickly followed by a number of sequenced emails with more information and appropriate offers is likely to result in a sale down the line because you bothered to keep in touch.

Doing that can be a pain and time consuming, even though the end result is worthwhile.

There are a number of autoresponders around that make that process easy for you. Once your enquirer has handed over their email address via your web page, a whole series of email followups can kick-in, all designed to entice your prospect to take the next step.

Once you have written the emails and decided the gap between each before they are sent out, the whole thing is automated for you. Those email addresses are now held securely and have agreed that you can send them appropriate information. So, if you have a new product or service to shout about, it's easy to send out a mail to everyone who has ever enquired.

You don't even have to worry about people who un-subscribe or whose email address bounces. That's all done for you at a really sensible and cost effective price.

There are two providers I use regularily, aWeber - probably accepted as the industry standard, and SendFree - not quite free if you want the emails to look right, but still inexpensive.

If you would like to go down this route and need some help and guidance, please contact me through my site Alloy CRM site where I help businesses increase sales, revenue and profit.

Where's all the music videos on YouTube?

If you're a YouTube music video watcher you will have noticed that they have pulled all the professional music videos over the last few days.

The Performing Rights Society (PRS) have been trying to negotiate with YouTube for some time about how to ensure payment for song writers and artists when music videos are played. But YouTube, owned by Google, pulled out of the negotiations yesterday unexpectedly.

The principal of PRS is that payment is made to artists and songwriters every time their recorded work is played. Not just on the radio and tv, but in work places, shops and pubs too. Although built with good intentions, it's a pretty hit and miss affair with monies being distributed in an arbitrary fashion.

This break down doesn't surprise me however. I spoke to the PRS a few years ago about how to deal with the use of a well known track as a background for a promotional video for a non-profit organisation and hosted on YouTube.

They had no solution whatsoever to cover that other than an enormously priced global option covering all sorts of other non-related use of the material. I suggested that I would contact the band and their agents directly to agree rights but was told firmly that when the PRS caught up we would be charged the extortionate rate in retrospect.

I questioned how they were going to handle the increase in music used on video hosting sites and their answer was basically to just shrug their shoulders.

The PRS seems to be very outdated in it's view of the way music is used now and is burying it's head in the sand over how it needs to change to accommodate new media. So I can understand Googles' frustration and decision to withdraw.

Sadly it's not just us at the user end that suffers, it's the artists too who have lost a potentially valuable revenue stream by promoting sales of their new album through YouTube. But I suspect that the PRS don't really car about that?

Alloy CRM helps businesses to increase sales, revenue and profit

Monday, March 9, 2009

Maximising your Networking Investment

I went to BNI leadership training today. I'm doing an extended term as Chapter Director. I don't mind, I really like the job.

The thoughts of a 7:30am start and 5 hours of training doesn't always seem like a good idea as the alarm goes off when it's still dark and evil thoughts of pulling a 'sicky' go through your half-awake brain.

But the end result was worth it.

Looking beyond the practical stuff of how to run effective networking meetings and chapter growth, what really comes shining through is the real purpose, and benefit, of putting aside a couple of hours every week to attend.

Making the financial commitment to be a BNI member for a year is not insignificant and shouldn't be taken lightly. Every member needs to maximise the potential they have of generating new business and profits to ensure a good return on their investment.

Every moment you are in a BNI meeting should be focused on that one goal. But managed incorrectly, it can turn sour and unprofitable very quickly.

Being a 'Hunter' and simply looking for every opportunity to capture business from other members and their contacts is unlikely to go down well and you could face the prospect of less business rather than more as members lose confidence.

BNI, and any networking for that matter, needs to be looked at as a medium to long term investment.

I would be reluctant to hand over an introduction to my best, most lucrative and sensitive customer until I am completely satisfied that you will do a fantastic job that will give me credibility for introducing you! So you need to prove to me that you are great at your job, you are committed to staying with the group (I don't want to be having to 'recommend' your replacement to my clients in 2 or 3 months) and that you are doing what ever you can to help the other members.

Offering to take on a role in the running of the Chapter is not only a great way to show your commitment, but also increases your own visibility within the group. If you do the role well you gain credibility as well as getting visibility.

BNI is not the only form of networking and the structure approach is not for everyone, our own Antidote Network for example provides a great alternative business forum. But I really do think that BNI is a great form of generating business and my profits would suffer without it.

If you're in BNI, or thinking of joining, make sure you maximise it's potential - hold up your hand and offer to help. You'll probably benefit more than you think.

Information about my BNI Chapter, Innovation.

Information about the Antidiote Network

Alloy CRM helps businesses increase sales, revenue and profit both on and off-line

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Green Shoots of Recovery?

I heard today that a major estate agent in Norwich believes they are seeing movement in the housing market.

They have been selling housing stock at the lower end of the price range, which must be good news. The downside is the price reduction those owners have had to make in order to sell. Apparently they had to drop from around £140k at the top of the boom to £100k now.

Realistically though the boom peak prices were just off this planet and needed a major correction anyway so the losses aren't as large as they appear.

In another whisper I heard today, the banks seem to have found their business loan application forms again and are actively handing out money. I guess (hope) they are being a bit more careful in their credit checking rather than the lax "does he breathe and can he sign his name' check they seem to be using on some lending up to last year.

If your with me and see the twinkle of light at the end of the tunnel, then make sure you hit the ground running when it all takes off by having your on and off line sales strategy already fired up. Need help with it? Contact me at Alloy CRM for help with increasing your revenue and profits.

Someone made me think about networking

As the Chapter Director of a BNI (Business Network International) group in Norwich, I was passed the contact details of someone who had shown interest in visiting and maybe joining our group. I sent out the appropriate invitation and received a reply that said they had spoken to most of our members at other networking events and they were not able to sell to them then, so there would be no point in joining. I sent them a polite (hopefully) reply explaining what networking is really about.

Yes there will always be an element of the hunter in us all at networking events, some events are more suited to it than others. Andy Bounds excellent book The Jelly Effect explains how to maximise this process well. He goes through the process of identifying your 'Big Fish' in the room and succeeding in securing a meeting later to discuss business opportunities.

However groups like BNI work on a different dimension. They are based on relationships. Understanding what your fellow members do, how they add value and their ideal target customer gives us the background knowledge we need to find them suitable prospective customers in our daily travels and maybe within our own client base.

To do this effectively we spend a great deal of time understanding each others business and gaining confidence and trust in their ability to fulfil. That's not a quick win. It takes time to build that sort of relationship, but once it's there is very sound and can be very lucrative.

So if you're just about to look at networking as a new form of marketing then make sure you understand how networking works before you blunder out there and think it's a waste of time.

Roy Gough of Alloy CRM helps businesses increase sales both on and off line.

Ideas to Survive

I saw an interesting piece today that looked at what happened in the Great Depression between the first and second world wars.

It appears that, although many industries floundered, there were a couple of exceptions that bucked the trend and actually grew during that period.

They were Radio and Printing.

It has been suggested that they flourished, even boomed, as they were new and emerging mediums for business at the time.

If we look at that relative to the present, it's the Internet that shows up in the same way.
The Internet possibly has the same ingredients?

Additionally there the advantages of:

Lower cost base
You can automate much of the sales and customer acquisition process
You can automate fulfillment too

If that's true, then we should all be looking at how we can move our business to a more Internet based model to survive.

Alloy CRM, Sales and Marketing both on and off line.