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We all need to keep track of the various conversations we’re having with the people in our lives, be it for business or personal reasons. There are significant bits of information that we’re given by others or we say to others that we need to easily be able to retrieve, reply to, follow up and so on. The need is there, so how do people solve this problem?
Well, most of them just store everything in their inbox and then whenever they need the information they do a search. Some use tags to classify the information. Email providers like gmail make it really easy to run a business or your personal life without the need of any additional tools. The only problem is when you have a lot of information, searching can be difficult, as you have to go through a lot of information. In addition, sometimes, the information you want is not in the email system you need, but rather on your facebook, linkedin, twitter or other social media account.
There is a case for a central repository of your information, communications and business intelligence on your customers. You can keep only the relevant information that you come across over multiple channels, you can rate your customers according to how likely you are to make a sale to them, you can keep track of your sales opportunities, quotes, proposals that you send out and so on.
Storing it on the web means you can access it from anywhere and your employees can easily work from home, access the information remotely from the field and all this without you having to run any complex IT infrastructure with all the associated cost.
Is this for me, you might be asking yourself?
While various salesmen will try to answer this question for you, it’s a question only you and the people in your organization can answer. It does require a kind of discipline in the way you approach and structure your communication with your leads and customers.
But this structure it’s an inevitable sign of growth and success and as your business grows, you should review your business processes to make it more efficient.
One of the most basic problem when trying to sell CRM solutions to small businesses is the blank stare you get when you mention the term CRM. Coming from a technology background, it’s so easy to assume everyone knows what CRM is and why they need it. But the vast majority of small businesses do not know what this acronym mean.
So, what is CRM?
The next temptation is just to spell out the acronym: Customer Relationship Management. So while each word is instantly understood, it’s not immediately clear what “customer relationship management” means – and I mean customers really associating the term with some clear benefits and business process improvements, rather than a vague “Ohhh yeaah”. They all understand that’s it means managing your relationships with your actual or potential customers, but what does it really means for their small business?
So while pointing them to an article on wikipedia about CRM is a good bet, a more down to earth explanation is needed, where you describe the term in relation to the relevant small business’ domain of activity, business processes, etc, using a lot of examples as to how CRM would mean for them in terms of benefits, improvements, and so on.
Something like this:
“Imagine one of your leads calls you asking if the quote he was given is still valid. Now that implies you store all the quotes you give out in a common place, but most small businesses are not very organized, so that could be in a notebook, or the back of a napkin used at a conference or in a million other places. Further more, you won’t have any more information about this lead that might help close the deal there and then.
Now imagine you had one central repository of all this data and when the customer calls, you have all this information up to date.
Imagine you could use this information to help you following up when leads don’t call you back, or when you just want to surprise your existing clients by reminding them it’s time for another appointment, sending them a thank you note, a happy birthday note or other notes that you can only send when you have the right information on your customers and the right system to use this information.”
Now this is of course just a basic approach on starting explaining to someone what CRM is and what it can do for small business. My main point is that you should never assume that everyone knows what CRM is. You should not assume that because they don’t know what CRM is they don’t need it – spend some time educating these small businesses and you will start seeing the benefits.
When small businesses realize they need some sort of CRM solution to manage their contacts and leads, the first question that comes to their mind is:
What’s the best small business CRM?
A quick search with the google keyword tool suggests there are 1600 global monthly searches for “best small business CRM” or variants like “best crm for small busineses”.
“best crm software” scores 6600 global monthly searches, while “best of crm” is top of the list with a whopping 33,100 monthly searches.
This is a common question people that just start the market research for a CRM solution have. It’s understandable everyone wants the best solution, the best software out there. No one really wants the second or third best.
It’s a question from people who want to find out who the market leader, the accepted CRM solution by the vast majority of users is and go for that.
There is a problem with this question though.
CRM is a mature market and like every mature markets, there are solution for various needs, various niches and they come with various degrees of customization and 3rd party tool integration and so on. In looking at mature markets, the question doesn’t work and that’s because there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
What’s the best car?
A similar question for a similarly mature market. And while some people settle on an answer to this question, it’s always a personal answer. After all, we’re all driving different makes…
So the question should be a more personal question: What’s the best CRM for me?
The key difference here is that you start by looking at your needs first: what are you after? what are your business processes? how do you intend to use the CRM system? how much complexity can you tolerate? how much customization will you need?
These questions are not easy, but they underline the main point I am trying to make here: there is no one-size-fits-all in mature markets and the answer is always a personal one.
Here at Clevertim we focus on google-like simplicity as we believe that will make small businesses more productive. We also use the latest technologies to make sure you take advantage of the cloud while making our app feel more like a desktop app.
We only support importing your contacts from Linkedin via a vCard. It is more painful than it should be, as it’s a 2 step process:
- Log into linkedin and export your contacts as a local vCard file
- Log into Clevertim and import the local vCard file
Why can’t this be done via connecting to Linkedin via their API and importing contacts without the need to save an intermediate file?
And the answer is:
Because Linkedin doesn’t allow it.
When accessing your contacts via the Linkedin API some limitations were put in place by Linkedin. One is: you cannot access your connections’ emails or phone numbers. You can only access a basic profile which only includes: first name, last name, headline and a few other not so important details.
But not emails or phone numbers and Linkedin have done this for privacy reasons. Their main concern is protecting your connections against applications harvesting email addresses and spamming them without your knowledge.
While this is a valid reason, it does make our life and your life more difficult as the only alternative to import your users (including vital information like email addresses, phone numbers, companies they work for, etc.) is to export the contacts via a vCard and import it manually into Clevertim.
It is a shame, we do realize some users will be put off and they’re not going to use the import facility and maybe give up on Clevertim before realizing what it can really do. But we have no other alternative at the moment.
We will be keeping an eye on what Linkedin are doing with their APIs and if they open it up, be sure we’ll be there to implement a better import.
So now that you know, perhaps you’ll be a little bit more patient with this 2-step import process.
When you import contacts from a vCard or a csv file, it’s desirable to be able to see just the contacts & companies imported in that batch. In addition, sometimes you make mistakes, you upload the wrong file, you upload it with the wrong visibility and so on. To help out in this scenario, we’ve added a feature to do just that:
- View the batch imports, by date, user, file name
- View how many contacts and companies were uploaded in that batch
- Easily filter the contacts & companies to show you only the entries uploaded in that batch
- Undo a batch – it deletes the customers & companies uploaded in that batch
Where is it: in the Contacts tab.
How does it look like? Voilà:
Clicking on the links takes you to the 17 contacts and 17 companies respectively uploaded in the batch.
Clicking the X in the corner will undo the batch by deleting the contacts and companies uploaded in the batch. It’s worth to note that the batch can update some contacts and companies – if duplicates are detected. The updated contacts and companies will not be deleted when you undo the batch, only the newly added contacts and companies will be deleted. The rationale is that the existing contacts and companies were there before the batch, so undoing the batch should not affect them.
Please let us know what you think!