Why do we offer a free CRM account?

We’ve written about free CRM accounts before, but we haven’t really covered the reasons why we’re offering such a free CRM account. This blog entry is talking candidly about our reasons to give out a free limited CRM account.

Number 1 – Conversion

Free to paid account conversion. There’s no beating around the bush about it, this is the number 1 reason we and all the other companies out there give out a free account, irrespective of the type of application, CRM or anything else. This business model is called Freemium and it works by giving out a limited version of the application, in the hope the free users will end up paying for more advanced features or plans. While this comes as no news to you, what’s probably not immediately obvious is that this model doesn’t work fantastically well. The reason is that, traditionally, conversion rates across various industries have been very low (10% if you’re lucky). So, if it was just for this, we probably wouldn’t give out a free plan. Which leads into our…

Number 2 – Brand exposure and referrals

This relies on our free users spreading that sought after “word of mouth”, either in the traditional sense of the word, or on social media. Nowadays, there are so many CRM applications and so many applications doing the same thing, that getting in front of potential customers can be really tricky. In a crowded market, picking up a product that’s right for you either involves a lot of research (and while that’s doable, it takes a lot of time and time is money) or a referral from someone you trust. We’d like our free users to refer our product, so that’s a very important point for us, which is why it’s important for us that our free users are happy with the product and the support they receive from us.

Number 3 – Help small businesses

We’re a small business too and we know starting up can be hard. Any help you can get at those initial stages is very important. Our free CRM account is our way to help out small businesses in the early stages. We hope this initial help will be the beginning of a long term relationship and as businesses grow, very often they will turn into paying customers as they realize we have a good product and great, responsive and helpful support. It’s our way of helping out and yes, get our “foot in the door”.

Number 4 – Product management

Our free users help us define the direction for our products, the features that we should prioritize and so on. While we’re prioritizing feature requests received from our paid users, the truth is, with every freemium business model, you end up with many more free users than paid accounts. It gives us a wider user base to help us discover new requirements, see the demand for certain features and so on.

Number 5 – Beta testing new features

Having a wider user base helps us find volunteers and users more interested in helping us beta test new features. Inevitably only a small minority of users are early adopters and the vast majority of users like a stable, mature product. However, as new features are added, the early adopters fill a critical role in helping us beta test the new features.

To answer a few common questions about our free account:

1. Will the free account offering be stopped if the conversion rates to paid accounts are low?

No. As we’ve tried to explain above, it is much more than conversion rates that we’re getting out of our free CRM accounts. We’ll never stop offering them and so, if you want a free account forever, that’s fine with us.

2. Do you pressure people into converting to paid customers?

No. We don’t believe in pressuring customers into doing anything. If they love the product and need more, they will upgrade, if not, we’re fine with that too. So, to that respect, we don’t pressure free CRM account holders:

  • We don’t limit the free accounts further
  • We don’t email incessantly about upgrading (we might email about new important features, but we do that very rarely – maybe once or twice a year)
  • We don’t call unless you explicitly ask us to

3. Do you plan to give more on the free accounts?

Not currently. We might introduce new features as we upgrade the product, but ultimately we are running a business and we need paid customers in order to stay afloat and be a sustainable business, which is what we’re trying to achieve.


Earth Hour

In approximately 6 hours we will have yet another Earth Hour, so in the spirit of solidarity, we’ll switch off our servers. Make sure you save all your data!
Just kidding!

But every Earth Hour, beside switching the lights and other electrical devices off, is a good opportunity to reflect at the human footprint that we’re leaving onto our planet and how sustainable our endeavours are and how can we make them more sustainable.

Opportunities to improve your eco-footprint would be:

Travel less
With so many social and collaborative tools available nowadays, it’s so much easier to work from home, even if it’s just part time work from home. It’s also easy to have your meetings using video conference technologies like Skype or something more advance, rather than having to fly half the way across the globe. I’m not saying we should eliminate face-to-face altogether, just think and see whether you can replace some of them with video conf calls and save time, money and the environment.

Go paperless
Do you really need so much paper in your life? Nowadays, there is so much technology that will store your data locally or in the cloud, back it up for you. All your office essentials that are still paper based can be switched over. If you do decide to go paperless and need a CRM, don’t hesitate to look at our small business CRM.

Use less electricity
Switch the lights off at night in your office and your home too. This will not only save the environment (yes, a lot of electricity is still produced by burning coal or oil), but it will save you money.
Switch off your computers when you don’t use them (over night for example).
When you buy new appliances for your office or your home, check their energy rating and buy the ones that are eco-friendly. Also try to use them less too.
Don’t leave appliances on stand-by when possible.

Offset your carbon footprint
There are many schemes that will allow you to offset your carbon footprint. You pay a small fee and they will take care of the offsetting process, which generally means investing  that money in eco-friendly initiatives like planting trees, preventing deforestation via all sorts of social programs, raise awareness, etc.

Plant a tree
Some people end up hugging them, but if you only plant them around your office or home, that’s a fantastic start. Trees extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce the oxygen so vital for all life on our planet.

I’m not saying you should do all of these and change your business practices dramatically. Just think where you can make a difference. Sometimes it’s a small change to your business processes or your personal behavior and life, but if everyone does it, it compounds and it can have a bigger impact.

Besides, it will make you feel better and a better person overall.

Our Quick Demo has just got better

We believe in simplicity, ease of use and removing all obstacles and hassles for our users to be able to run their business without our CRM app getting in the way.

Quick Demo is just one of our way of showing it. A big button on the main page, giving users an instant glimpse of the CRM experience we have designed for them. All of this without the hassle of registration, giving your email out or entering credit card information. We believe all of that is non-sense. If the users love the app and the app does what they need and it’s the right CRM for them, then they will register.

It’s simple and allows the users to be in control … as it should be.

However, our CRM demo was always a bit empty, there was no data in it, so users would have to enter their own, something a lot of them wouldn’t do. Yes, we do look at how our users use the app, and we do it in order to improve the CRM user experience further.

Not anymore!

We have now decided that we need to add some dummy data, just to show the users how the system works, without them needing to enter a lot of it, just to get to that initial point.That being said, we’ll let the Quick Demo do the talking, so why don’t you try it out today?

Why do I have to import my Linkedin contacts via a vCard?

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:

  1. Log into linkedin and export your contacts as a local vCard file
  2. 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.

Actionable information

Once in a while I experience something very discomforting and embarrassing at the same time. As much as I would like to think I’m special, I’m convinced others do go occasionally through the same thing. Here’s what’s happening and it will sound very trivial perhaps:

I, sometimes, pick up a book and I know instantly: I’ve read this book, but I cannot remember anything that was in it.

It’s like I read it but my mind was somewhere else. Now this simple realization raises a series of questions, some existential questions, some more pragmatic in nature:

  • Why am I reading these books? Am I looking for some type of information that I didn’t have before? Am I looking for someone to bring order & balance to my thoughts and the information I already have? Or is it because I am looking for reinforcement, encouragement in the knowledge that others are thinking through the same problems?
  • What is my selection criteria? This ultimately reflects my immediate attention and that can go off-topic, off-course pretty easily. The question is … am I focusing my attention on something that will ultimately help me advance towards the strategic goals I’ve set for myself (you have strategic goals, right?)
  • How is reading helping with that advance? How am I benefiting from the books? How do I use the new information? The sad truth as I discovered is that I forget most of it.

This last point brings with it the realization:

I only benefit from the new information when the information is actionable and I DO take action.

Actionable really means that you can do something with the information, something practical, something that you can put into words, something that you can describe into a TO DO task. For example, if a book suggests that the best idea to improve customer service is to talk to your customers and ask them what can you improve, then the action is “select 5, 10, however many I can handle, customers and ask them how I can improve the service”. Or “come up with a survey and send it to them by email”.

Something you can actually DO, something you can ACTION upon. Not just abstract theory, but something practical.

But that’s only half the story, the other half being: “and I DO take action”. This bit is very important because most of the time, this is the part that’s failing me. I read books while I’m away and I either fail to take notes, fail to revisit the book when I’m at my computer, or simply decide it’s probably not going to work, or it’s too hard to implement. All of these are failures to act and are as bad as not identifying actionable information, or reading books which do not have any actionable information in them.

Getting back to the part about forgetting, well, that’s only natural. We are not machines, and our brain can only store so much information and keep it in the active memory – or short term memory if you want. We forget easily because there is always something else, new information, new books, new websites, new blogs. So don’t keep it all in your brain,

Write notes!

Keep a to do list with all the tasks/actions that you want to take and keep them in the list. Spend time building the list and spend some time going through the list and getting things done. You can prioritize the actions on the list to make sure you get what’s important and urgent done first.

This is nothing new!

There are thousands of books suggesting you should do this, millions of blogs and even more applications that will help you keep to do lists. This is a topic as old as written language, but…

It’s difficult to actually apply it!

which is why there are new books and new apps doing to do lists. It’s difficult to do because it’s not about the books, it’s not about telling you how to do it or telling you that you should do it. It’s about actually doing it, every day. These apps won’t do it for you. You have to do it.

It’s hard because it requires the discipline to do it every day. It’s not a one-off trick, it’s a modus operandi, a way of working and a way of life, day after day. It’s hard because there are no shortcuts.

Which is why we’ve implemented yet another app to do “to do” lists in a CRM app. It’s because it’s not about the app, it’s about you. But really, looking after your customers is the best example of dealing with “actionable information” as looking after your customers is a long term activity, one that you undertake every day, but also one where you potentially don’t have to deal with a customer for several weeks or months before you have to pick it up again where you left it off.

If you don’t take notes to know where you left it off, you will lose in the long term.

So take full advantage of our “Tasks” feature and keep track of your todos, meetings, events, follow ups, set reminders for calls, emails that need to be sent out. Your customers will love you for it!



How to lose customers and not even know it

Here’s a question about losing customers and not even know about it.

Let start by giving you an example from my day to day life as a customer.
A while ago, I bought a new car. I had to travel to the car dealer – a two hour drive trip. The car was great and under-priced for what it was, so the trip was totally worth it.
There was a problem though. I couldn’t get the the second set of keys coded for my car and because I had to go back the second day, the dealer offered to contact another dealer, closer to where I live to do the coding for me. All great.
I contacted the local dealer, set up an appointment and showed up for the job. It would have been a quick 15 minutes job to code the new pair of keys, but after the dealer kept me around for half an hour, I was told their machine they use for coding is not working at the moment. Then, they told me they will contact me whenever the machine starts working again.

They never did contact me. They must have lost my phone number, or the some note sat forgotten in some notebook somewhere. In the end, I had to contact another dealer.

What is clear in all this is that they’ve lost me as a customer. This might have been a small, low value job they had to do for me, but they have failed. They have failed because they haven’t followed up on a lead. They have lost me because I cannot trust them with bigger, higher value jobs given they have failed with low value jobs. In the end, I’ve become someone else’s customer. The irony of all this is that they don’t even know it.

The moral of the story is clear: follow up always, be organized, make sure you’re on top of your customer data. Otherwise you will be losing customers and you won’t even know why.

Listen to your customers on Twitter

If you lived on Mars for the last 6 years then I probably need to tell you what Twitter is: a social network where you can publish short messages of up 140 characters (this was designed to be compatible with the short messaging system: SMS messages you send from your mobile phone, which are also restricted in length). It empowers users to share content, mostly about how they feel, but also share content, links, feedback on companies, films, blogs, other content, ratings, etc.

Now if you started a small business on Earth, then you’re probably thinking how can you take advantage of Twitter to grow your business, connect with customers, find out what customers need etc. The first temptation is to try to pitch on Twitter, or send updates relating to new products. Let’s face it: twitter users don’t want to be talked at, they hate the usual corporate messaging, they want to connect with people and they want content they’re interested in, they want to connect with companies and individuals working for those companies in their own terms. Forget the traditional way of doing business.

So here’s a list of 3 dos and 3 donts that will help you take the most advantage out of Twitter, as a small business owner:

1. Personalize your content – don’t sound like a corporate advertising campaign. The user 2.0 has very good filtering abilities and your message will fall onto deaf ears if it sounds like the usual corporate message. Instead be personal. Use your real name, sound and behave like a person, rather than a corporate identify. Users like to connect with people, not companies. If you do that, you’ll find your message is listened to more often than not.

2. Listen – don’t just blast your message, instead use Twitter to listen to what your customers are talking about, what their problems are, what they’re looking for, what they need. You can do that by searching Twitter for various keywords related to your business and see what the users are saying, complaining, thinking about. There are also various tools that will allow you to monitor the user generated content. Try to respond to users if you have solutions to their problems. Again, sound like a person (see number 1), rather than a corporate automaton.

3. Share interesting content – a lot of companies think that talking about features, releases, things you normally write in boring PR releases will make users follow you and get excited about your products. Think again! Users want to read content relevant to them. Instead, talk about common problems, offer tips & tricks related to your business area, free advice and industry insight. When 140 characters are not enough, add links to more extensive content on your blog, wiki, website. To know what content users are interested in, revisit number 2: Listen.

And here are the 3 donts (DO NOT), some of them extracted from the list of dos above:

1. Do NOT sound like a broken corporate record (see number 1 and 2 above)

2. Do NOT share boring content – it’ll be a waste of your time and money as no one will read it. As much as you’d like to think your business is special, no one necessarily sees it that way. If you produce boring content, no one will follow you on Twitter.

3. Do NOT get dragged into heated exchanges, insults, etc. There’s nothing that put a user off better than seeing a small business owner getting down and dirty, exchanging online punches and insults with potential customers or competitors. You will be judged by your words and actions. It’s always better to admit there are problems or that errors have been made, rather than try to fight it. You cannot silence the social media, so don’t even try.

Customers, maps and postcards from Google

If you have a local small business, you must consider Google Places. This will show your business on google maps when your customers type a related search in google maps. A lot of customers search local businesses this way and you don’t want to miss out on that.
It will also help with your SEO (search engine optimization).
It is a free service and Google will even send you a postcard … to verify your address. No wonder, they want to keep it spam free.

Contact management for small businesses

It can be challenging to create a business. There are many tiny but very important components that must be used in order for it to grow efficiently. Organization is the key to success. Many tools are available in order to achieve this task in a successful manner. One of the more useful ones is contact management for small businesses.

Contact Manager systems is a type of software that has the ability to record and organize data that is used to operate a business. One example is client information. This would not only include contact facts but also what type of product or service that they invest in. It also may contain other information such as how much they buy and when their last order was completed. By having this important type of data readily available, a company will have the ability to provide a higher quality of care. They will be able to nurture customers on a personal level in order to maintain a steadfast relationship. It is very important to accomplish this type of support to establish a solid clientele base.

When a business makes the decision to purchase an online contact manager, they will have access to it from many different devices. This can range from a cell phone to a computer. That will give a sales representative the opportunity to find information while they are traveling around the country to meet important clients. It will allow them to provide their client with the data at any time.

Other than providing materials for sales teams, the CRM program will also have other tools to implement into their overall business plan. It will allow an owner to review their strategies and goals. They will also have the ability to track their progress and see what changes need to be made.

Before a business owner makes a decision to invest this type of software, they need to research the variety of features that it offers. A person may think that this is a waste of time but it actually will help them benefit the most from what the program has to offer. A variety of resources are available for a person to access. Many companies who manufacture this product will offer classes for their clients to take advantage of.

Contact management for small businesses will open up the doors of opportunity for an owner. They will find the exact information that is needed very quickly in order to efficiently ensure that the business is running smoothly.