Two businesses, one Clevertim account

I run two separate businesses, can I use one single Clevertim account to manage both of them?

Short answer: Yes.

There is nothing to prevent you from doing so. We certainly don’t place any restrictions like that. What’s in your account is up to you and the way you run your business(es) is again up to you.

Long answer:

Just because you can do so, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea to do so. One question you have to ask yourself is: Will I be able to tell which contact is for which business? And also, if your business grows and you bring in help in the form of new employees, personal assistants or virtual assistants, or if you decide to outsource parts of your business processes to a third party – will they be able to tell? Will it be manageable going forward?

One way to keep everything separated would be via tags. You tag everything with either: Business1 or Business2. You can change the names of these tags of course, but maintaining the tags, ensuring they’re correct – it’s a lot of work.

The next question you should ask yourself is why you are trying to keep your contacts into one Clevertim account? Is it to save money? We are already one of the most competitively priced contact management solution out there.  Is it because you think it’ll be more convenient to have a single login? You could use two separate browsers – for example you could use Chrome for Business1 and Internet Explorer or Safari depending on your platform for Business2. This still means you can remember logins in each browser, so you don’t have to type the password every time.

If you decide to go with two accounts, one thing to keep in mind is that you will need two separate users and each user needs a separate email address. So you will need two separate email addresses. And you need to keep them separate – for example, you should not enter email1 as an additional email address in the account for email2. Doing so will confuse the Dropbox feature that allows you to attach emails simply by CC-ing, BCC-ing or forwarding your emails to a dedicated email address. That feature is designed to identify you by your email address and it could start attaching notes to the wrong account if you start mixing and matching emails and accounts. If you have any employees working on both businesses, they will need to keep emails separate in same fashion.

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!



Get the most out of your CRM system

Using a CRM app is a great way to improve your sales, customer retention, customer satisfaction and the happiness level, but it does require a lot of discipline to follow business processes consistently. In other words, in your interaction with your customers you want to be:

  • Thorough – ensure you follow up always, until the customer either buys or clearly tells you he is not buying. Follow interest until it moves into a clear Yes or No
  • Be consistent in your thorough-ness – ensure you apply the same methods and level of follow up to all your customers. Every day of every year and applies to every one of your employees/co-workers

Start by defining your business processes, in other words, the way you work to ensure you’re thorough and consistent. Here’s a list of 5 easy tips to get you started. Refine these tips as needed by your busines:

  1. Update the CRM system with every interaction with your customer – phone call notes, meeting notes, emails, proposals, documents, etc.
  2. Add tasks (for you or assign to other co-workers) to break down what needs to be done for each customer or lead to either convert to paying customer or sell more. In particular add follow up reminders, to ensure you don’t forget to follow up in 1 week/month/or more depending on your sales cycle
  3. Ensure you do call, email, or message on social media when you get the follow up reminders.
  4. Record again all those communications in the CRM system. This will help you build a valuable business & customer intelligence database
  5. Ensure EVERYONE in your team/company follows the same steps diligently. Sell the benefits of using the CRM system to your team.

Remember, a CRM app is only as good as the data you put in it and the business processes that it supports. That is, the way you work.

Small business CRM lessons to be learned from real customers

A while ago, I came across a message on one of the CRM forums I read; a message from a small business owner who needed a CRM system. Here’s a rough description of the problem, as described by the small business owner:

Hi, I have a beauty parlor and I have a lot of customers (around 1000). I use an Excel spreadsheet at the moment, but my biggest problem is that I know nothing about marketing and it was suggested to get a computer to do it for me.
I want to ring or email people to get them booked for another appointment. Is there a system that tells me what to do for my business?
All the CRM ones I have seen want me to tell them what to do and I’m not sure what to actually do. It’s all too complicated.
Any help would be appreciated!

Some of you might be smirking now and some of you might even feel a bit patronizing after reading the above, but the reality is … these are the problems small business users face and the reasons they cannot easily connect with CRM are hidden within this message above.
There are so many lessons to be learn from this one single message. Now, let’s see.

Lesson 1: Why small businesses need CRM

This is such a basic thing, yet, many technical people, who see themselves mostly as problem solvers (which implies the problem is felt, understood, defined) and even some sales people, forget the simple reasons small businesses get to the conclusion they need CRM. This message spells out some of those reasons:

Small businesses reach out a critical mass of customers where maintaining customers in Excel is no longer manageable
Small businesses need a more controlled way of interacting with customers for sales (booking appointments) and for marketing, customer retention etc. (ring or email customers)

This is a very important lesson because small businesses do not just go out and buy CRM systems because they can or because you and I think it’s a good idea for them to do so. They buy it because they have a problem managing their customers and because they realize they have a problem.

Lesson 2: Small businesses is a market that needs to be educated

It is clear from this message that this one business owner is not very IT savvy.
The first clue is that she is looking for answers on a free forum and the second clue is in the way she defines her problem and asks the question (“it was suggested to get a computer to do it for me”). It is clear the business need is there, the problem is understood, but the solution is not clear.
She wants to learn how to solve her problem.
It is also clear that she wants to solve her problem cheaply or low cost, otherwise she would go to a specialized IT company for answers.
This is true for a lot of the small businesses out there.
CRM solutions focusing on small businesses need to educate the customers, not just sell to them.
At Clevertim, we’re fulfilling this duty by writing a meaningful blog, full of free and useful advice for small businesses.

Lesson 3: Word of mouth and social media is how small business owners educate themselves

This is the same idea as in Lesson 2, but it needs to be spelled out explicitly.
Small businesses will get word of mouth advice first, from friends, colleagues, other business owners. It is obvious this has happened in this case: “it was suggested to get a computer to do it for me”.
Word of mouth will be the first bit of advice they will get and the advice they will trust the most, because it comes from people they know and trust already.
But if word of mouth cannot provide a full solution, the next stop is social media, and this small business owner is already making use of it by posting questions, asking for help on a social media forum. It is clear she wants to learn, she wants to reach out to people who can help her learn and help her solve her problem.
The fact that she mentions the use of some CRM systems in her message suggests this might not be her first message on social media. She has already tried a few CRM systems and she’s hitting a few limitations …

Lesson 4: CRMs are generic solutions

One of the limitation she hit is the fact that most CRM solution out there are not targetted at her particular business or at beauty parlors in general. They require the user to “tell them what to do”. In other words, they require quite a bit of customization before they can be used to solve real world problems.
This customization is too expensive for small businesses.
Another point is that the user’s expectations were out of sync with what CRM systems can do. She expected the CRM software to be able to tell her how to run her business, maybe provide some business models, or templates of marketing models.

Lesson 5: CRMs require business processes

Yes, this user realized that a CRM on its own will not solve her problems. A CRM system is just a tool to support and automate some of your business processes – in other words, the way you work. You have to “tell it what to do” through your business processes (the way you do things) and then CRM can act like an intelligence bank on your customers, your interactions with your customers, and so on.
Although the term “business process” might sound a bit scary or too abstract, it is really “the way you do things” and that’s best illustrated with an example. Let’s describe a few rules that this small business owner could implement (or most likely she already implements them but doesn’t call them business processes):

Rule 1: After every appointment, enter a note in the CRM system, for that customer. Enter a small description of how the session went, comments, suggestions, complaints from the customer, your impressions on the customer and on the session, any bit of extra information you can extract on the customer e.g.: does she have siblings, children, a spouse, when is her birthday, etc. You can later on use this information to target the customer better, maybe get extra customers (e.g. her spouse) or send them a Happy Birthday note.

Rule 2: After every appointment, add a task to follow up with the customer in 1 week/1 month/a few months, depending on the length of your sales cycle. The CRM system will them automatically notify you when it’s time to pick up the phone or fire an email to follow up and ask your customers if they want another appointment.

Rule 3: When you get reminders from the CRM system, pick up the phone and talk to your customers

Rule 4: After the phone call, enter a note on how the call went, any extra information you extracted

Rule 5: After the phone call, enter another appointment in the CRM system or another task to follow up in 1 week/1 month time if the customer hasn’t booked yet. Do not give up, always follow up.

Above we have 5 simple rules for running a small beauty parlor with the help of a CRM system. It doesn’t need a lot of work, it’ll get the small business owner much more organized and selling more (because she always follows up now) and it’ll not cost a fortune – web based CRM systems are very affordable these days.

Conclusion: Just listen to your customers and potential customers and you will be amazed how much you can learn. Learning about your customers means you can help your customers better, which in turns means they are more likely to buy and stay with you.