Mailchimp Integration

Do you use Mailchimp to send newsletters and communications to your clients? So we have got good news for you. Clevertim initial integration with Mailchimp is now available.

If you don’t use Mailchimp but are considering an email campaign software, Mailchimp is free and relatively easy to use. It is not the only one, but it is the only one Clevertim is currently supporting.

First things first. Assuming you have a Mailchimp account, you will need to go to Settings => Applications on your Clevertim account and enable the integration.

Clevertim_Mailchimp_Settings01

The Enable/Disable button is on the right corner. Once it is enabled, you will be able to do a few things on this page.

Clevertim_Mailchimp_Settings02

  1. You can choose whether to use just the first email address of your contact, or all of them.
  2. Check all the lists you have on Mailchimp. If you add new ones, just press Refresh lists and you will see new ones in the list.
  3. And finally, you can import the contacts from Mailchimp into Clevertim here. It will import contacts from all existing lists or just one specific one, your choice. If a contact with the same email address already exists in Clevertim, it will be updated, not duplicated.

Don’t forget to press Save when you’re done!

We recommend you starting from the last point above, importing your Mailchimp contacts to Clevertim, so your contacts are already included in lists.

Now that the Mailchimp integration is enabled, you just need to remember to update your existing contacts on Clevertim (the ones that aren’t already on Mailchimp and were imported to your account) with the lists you have on Mailchimp.

When you open a contact, you will see a section for Mailchimp on the right hand side, just under Custom Fields. Just click on Add a value in the list field and a drop down menu with all your options will appear.

Clevertim_Mailchimp_contacts

Repeat this step to all contacts you want to add to your mailing lists.

This is the initial integration with Mailchimp; we are currently working on updated and improvements and will come back with more news soon.

Clevertim Tutorial: The “Opportunities” tab

We have a new tutorial on our Youtube channel. This time you can learn more about the Opportunities tab.

The Opportunities tab is where you will register and follow up on all your business opportunities. If you haven’t changed the names of your tabs (it is all customisable, remember?), you will find it just after the Cases tab.

Clevertim_CRM_Tabs

Click on the video below to watch the tutorial, it’s just under 6 minutes:

Announcing a new powerful reporting feature

A lot of our customers and a few potential customers have been asking for a more powerful reporting feature to supplement the filtering of contacts, companies, opportunities and cases. We have listen to them and we started working on a feature that should give more control and more flexibility to the users building and running the reports.

Our new reporting feature allows users to build the report as a set of rules that have to be satisfied, and allows them to combine various rules, selecting whether to show records that satisfy all the rules or any rules.
Further more, the rules can contain sub-rules which can, in turn, contains sub-rules of their own, allowing users to build really complex reports for all business needs.

We’ve introduced a new tab called Reports where you can build these complex reports. Currently this reporting feature is in “beta”.

Going forward, we’re going to enrich our reporting with additional features, including the ability to save reports for easy access, ability to query on more custom fields, ability to drill down more into the data and relationships between the data, ability to do some basic aggregations over the data and much more.

Give it a try today and tell us what you think! We usually shape the features in our CRM based on customer feedback, so please, get in touch!

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.

 

What’s new

We’re continually working on improving Clevertim CRM in order to make it more user friendly, more intuitive and fix various snags. Here’s a list of items that we have delivered recently:

  • Filters in the “What’s new” screen – as you add more data, you will need to go back and filter by user who performed various operations, the operation type, the item type and the date when the action was performed. We also improved the navigation in the “What’s new” screen to allow users to jump to the first and last page (previously only navigating to the next and the previous page was supported). The time when the actions were performed is also now included.
  • User photos in comments. If the users upload a photo of themselves in the “My info & settings”, this will be shown in the comments section. The comments also now include a timestamp.
  • A link back to the company from the contact’s profile. A small arrow next to the company name on the right hand side of the contact edit details section allows for easy navigation from the contact to the company profile.
  • Further customization so that your own logo is shown on the upper right corner when you choose to upload one.
  • Under the bonnet performance improvements – we don’t want to bore you with the details

It’s our goal to continue to improve our CRM and make it one of the best CRM for small businesses, while at the same time keeping it simple, intuitive and less intimidating than other big CRM solutions out there.

Web based contact management

We often use the term “small business CRM” or “simple CRM” when we talk to some of our potential customers but when it comes to small businesses, most of them really need just a contact management solution. The reason we use the term CRM is because it conveys a bit more than contact management. It suggests that it comes with the required business processes to take small businesses to the next level. And this is what most small business owners are looking for. They are usually at the stage where they have managed to grow their businesses up to a point where they’ve outgrown the simple business processes they have used before. They have more employees or perhaps they outsource the sales or marketing to someone else and they need to have visibility of what’s going on in their business while ensuring that everyone in their team is up to the high standard they are looking for.

CRM though is generally just a tool that helps you implement your business processes, but these are something you, as the business owner, have to design because you know what’s best for your small business and how you want to grow it further. A business process is just a fancy way of saying “the way you’re doing things”. When you have employees or when you work with freelancers or outsource work, you need to think about the way you want these people to operate. It does help to write down a few sentences of what’s expected, a basic workflow they have to follow, especially when they need to interact with other employees or sub-contractors.

Once you have these few sentences, you can use a simple CRM or contact management app to implement these business processes. You can start using the CRM as a shared repository of customer intelligence, customer communications, previous sales history and general collaboration between your employees and contractors.

It’s not rocket science, but we feel the term CRM conveys more of the right attitude of understanding your own business, defining your business processes and be on take charge of your small business destiny. Ok, maybe without the melodrama.

Free CRM

If you keep an eye on Twitter, Quora or other online forums, you regularly see requests for free CRM, generally coming from small businesses that are looking to make an entry into the CRM market. The free availability of information on the Internet nowadays and the plethora of free apps in the wild makes requests like these reasonable.
When I say reasonable, I really compare that with other types of requests for “free cars”, “free houses”, “free tangible assets”. You don’t see those very often and those would be unreasonable in my book.

Producing software can be done effectively and the cost can be kept low or, if done by enthusiasts, then the cost is not even an issue (see open source). You can get really good open source CRM like SugarCRM and not pay a penny if that’s your goal.
Of course, that brings other challenges with it, as you’d essentially be on your own or have to pay for support, custom development for customizing the CRM to meet your business objectives.

But it is an option and we should all be grateful that we have it. Imagine a world controlled by a few powerful software houses (that shouldn’t be too difficult!).

The problem with free CRM or free anything really is that nothing is free. Someone else has to pay for it, in one way or another. The open source enthusiasts absorb the cost by putting in their time because they enjoy it. Companies offer CRM for free or other services for free either as a “freemium model”, to get their foot in the door and hopefully entice customers to upgrade to paid plans, at some point. Other companies give it away for free in order to get consultancy or professional services business from their “free customers”.
And others do it to get exposure, get the word out, compete differently in a very competitive market.
The point is, someone else is subsidizing your free services.

Why should you care?
Generally, as a consumer, you should not care. Every once in a while you get to read in the press about a scandalous invasion of privacy from big companies like Facebook, Twitter, etc. trying to monetize their services at the expense of their users’ privacy. Yes, they are trying to monetize their “free services”. Are you more eager to pay with your money or with your privacy?

As a business, you probably care more, as some of the services you use are vital to you. It’s not just a matter of stop using Instagram and going on with your life. Many times, the free services make the difference between being in the business or not. A life and death situation, to put it slightly melodramatically (after all, I don’t want you fall asleep reading this).

So the problems with free services tend to affect you more. As a business owner, free services concern me because I know they’re not sustainable so:

  1. The companies can go under as they do not have the means to continue. I’m left committed to the services but on my own. If you’re dealing with a SaaS company (hosted CRM, software as a service CRM, that kinda thing), then the whole application goes away when the company goes away as they cannot host it anymore. Ensuring your suppliers stay afloat is a BIG BIG issue for businesses.
  2. The companies can always stop giving away the services for free or change their business model dramatically which puts me, as a small business owner, at risk as I cannot plan. Going for a sustainable business model and paying for it gives me peace of mind.
  3. The companies supporting free services do not have an incentive to provide free support or enhance the product further. Not for free. In a few years time, you can end up with an outdated product on your hands. Then what?
    If you have problems with the product, what do you do then? Do you pay someone for support? Paid support can be more expensive than the original software

Don’t get me wrong.
I still think free is good, I think open source is fantastic and we use open source software here at Clevertim.
As a startup, especially if you’re bootstrapping, free can be an essential lifeline for your business. But, as your business grows, you should try to revisit the issue of free, just to reassess whether you’re exposed to too much risk, needlessly.

At Clevertim, we do have a free CRM plan for the customers looking for free CRM. We do subsidize it and this free plan will never go away. But it is limited in terms of functionality and what’s available to it. You get a limited number of contacts and opportunities and no files. If that’s not enough, have a look at our other CRM plans.

Selling simplicity

Let me tell you about Clevertim.

And to set the stage, I’ll have to tell you we’re a small startup, based in London, UK and operating in a very competitive industry: CRM for small businesses, web contact management, etc. At least that’s what google thinks about us. We see ourselves differently: we sell simplicity.

I know what you’re thinking. We live in a predominantly quantitative world, where startups get measured by the number of features, whistles and bells they decorate their products with. In such a world, simplicity is like trying to sell snow to the eskimos simply because that’s all you’ve got. It is perceived to mean “no features”.

Now, I’ve never tried to sell snow to the eskimos and between you and me, I like to hang out in a milder climate, but here’s how I can imagine it a salesman go about it.

 

“Hi Mr. Eskimo. I hear winter’s coming and you need to build an igloo pretty soon”.

“Indeed”

“Well, I’ve got this snow that has 50% more adherence than normal snow and it never melts unless the Earth changes course and this becomes the tropics”.

“Hmm, sounds good, but what color is it?”

“White.”

“Well, I’ve got enough white snow, look around you…”

“We’ll color it green for you”

“You’ve got yourself a deal!”

 

What are the key points in the dialog above?

1. Identify needs and focus on solutions (need an igloo, we can help with our snow)

2. Add enough customization and eye candy for the customer to feel good about buying and using your product (replace igloo with iPhone in the dialog above)

An alternative sell pitch can promise a full eco-house, with remotely controlled thermostats and lifts to the first floor and basement; a good investment packed with goodness but only available in two winters time as the build and customization are likely to take a tiny bit longer. The eskimo, as most people, will end up using about 10% of the features but will likely be the envy of the whole village (if he survives the first winter that is).

At Clevertim, we decided to focus on the 10% that actually get used and leave the rest to our competitors. As simple as that (and no simpler – as the cliché goes).

After going through this process, we actually discovered that implementing 10% is actually more difficult than implementing say 80% of the solution, and that’s because, when you implement 10%, you need to:

– Identify needs better (what’s in that 10% really?). The appeal is to build 80% hoping that should cover more needs.

– Target certain customers (different customers will use a different 10% of your features). The appeal is again to build 80% to cover as many customers as possible.

– You need to subtract and simplify. The appeal is to build as many features, rather than improve the usability of critical features.

This last point is quite important. You don’t just stumble upon simple and intuitive solutions from your first attempt, instead you have to go through a slow process of improving the usability of your products guided by the experiences of your customers and your own experiences of using your product (we are big users of Clevertim CRM ourselves – eating our own eskimo food). As you learn more about usability, the more you and your customers use the product, the more insight you gain, the more you can improve it, simplify it, streamline it into a better product.

Every time you add a new feature, the process is the same and you have to start with the question: “How do I make this feature easier to use, more intuitive?”.

Why do we think simplicity is so important? Three main reasons:

1. The joy of user experience

Using simple, intuitive products is pure joy. You don’t have to think twice when you click, you don’t hesitate when you have to accomplish certain operations. It is all very obvious. Using such products that do exactly what you need and they’re easy to learn and use is a real pleasure. They’re products that don’t get in the way of you doing your stuff (with all the associated frustration or lack of). Think google search. Simple, powerful.

If they look good and they’re optimized for performance for the operations you use every day, you also get a much needed productivity boost and feel good factor.

2. The target customer

We target small businesses with our CRM product and generally small businesses that have had no previous experience with CRM systems or other web based contact managers. Some of these sales people working in these small businesses are not IT or computer savvy. This means we had to come up with a simple CRM app that is easy to learn and use and makes you feel like you hit the ground running.

3. The CRM market we operate in

A crowded market, I know.

There are better and more complete CRM solutions out there in this market but most of them require a steeper learning curve and a longer period of customization. Generally bigger businesses need that and our product is not for them.

Small businesses on the other hand need a system that is better than the alternatives they’ve used until then (email inbox and/or spreadsheets) and they want something simple that doesn’t get in the way, as they need to focus on their business, not CRM.

We believe our target customers in this market are buyers of simplicity.

All I have said here is just the tip of the iceberg, as our friend Mr. Eskimo would put it, but I do intend to talk more in a follow up article about the practical steps we have gone through to simplify our product and make it easier to use and about some of the core features that helps us in our goal of improving usability for our users.

In the meantime, being true to our goal of making CRM simpler, we made it really easy for you to try out our product, should you wish to. On our main page, we put a big “Quick Demo” button that won’t ask for your emails, credit cards or likes on Facebook. All you have left to do is press it. Simple!

Disclosure: Mr. Eskimo is a fully fictional character and while his preference for green snow is dubious, he does tend to be representative for the vast majority of buyers who want uncomplicated solutions to their problems that look good, make them feel good for buying and allow for some customization that doesn’t take years to implement. After all, winters are quite harsh in Eskimo land and they simply don’t have years to implement solutions.

Web based contact management

If you’re a small business, growing is a fantastic experience. There is a new learning experience every day and sometimes it’s not easy to stay ahead of the curve. It’s a time when you start working with more people, be they employees, customers, leads, suppliers, partners and so on.

Keeping track of your business’ interactions with all of them can be quite challenging. If you were relying on managing everything from your inbox or a spreadsheet, this is the time when you start to realize that is simply not working very well anymore. How are you going to share all the data with your employees? How are you going to ensure your leads are being looked after by your employees in the same way you look after them? How can you make sure your customers are kept happy and everyone in your business adheres to the same principles that you set out for your business?

All of the sudden, you have to start thinking about data management, about visibility of data, about workflows, about business processes in general. It is time to ditch the inbox as your main business and sales contact manager and say goodbye to your spreadsheets that outlived their usefulness. There is only so much data and complex interactions that you can model in a spreadsheet anyway.

CRM systems can offer a good way of doing that. CRM stands for customer relationship management. However, CRM requires a lot of investment in technology and come with a hefty cost of customization, not to mention a full business exercise of defining or verbalizing your existing processes, and that’s not always easy, although it sounds like that.

As a small business, you’re probably best bet is to go with a simple CRM solution, more like a contact manager that allows you to track also sales opportunities, cases, task and so on. Contact management is a small subset of customer relationship management and it’s a light introduction to a new way of structuring your business for growth. It’s growth without paying a heavy upfront cost.

For small businesses, there is also a strong case for managing all your contacts online, on the web. In other words, web based contact management. The main advantage is that you are outsourcing the complex IT required to run your systems and the reducing the heavy cost that can be associated with running these IT systems in-house: think software, potentially development or customization work, hardware and qualified people. Again, instead of paying a big bill upfront, you are paying as you go, in much smaller amounts. It radically reduces the risk.

This is just a light introduction, and of course, we’re biased, so do look for a second opinion. But, since you made it this far, why not take our quick demo. We believe in simplicity that increases productivity and doesn’t waste anyone’s time, so no credit cards, no registration required, just click on the quick demo link, and you’re straight into our web based contact manager.

Enjoy!

Simple small business CRM

You have probably heard the expression “Less is more” quite a few times and while some of you believe in it, some of you probably think it is just a marketing ploy to compete when you can’t beat your competitors on features.

The truth is probably more correctly described as “Less can be more”, but just because it is less, it doesn’t mean it is more. In other words, just because a product has less features, it doesn’t mean that it gives you more. It is only “more” if it provides the exact set of features and functionality that you need, no more, no less. Then, you can claim that it is exactly what you need without extra complexity added by features you don’t need, customization options that you will never use. It is straight to the point.

Like Google. No whistles, no bells, just a text box, allowing you to do exactly what you need  (search) without the distractions of features you don’t need. In contrast, yahoo and other search engines were mixing search with news, with links to their other various services, with weather report and so on. When all you want to do is search, all of these other features are distractions that substract from the value proposition, from the user experience. It is indeed a case where “more is less”.

CRM (customer relationship management), like search, it follows a similar pattern, especially in the “small business” domain where the competition is fierce. It is really a buyer’s market and that actually means that you need to find that one CRM that is right for you, that has the features that you need without the extra baggage that will ultimately act as a drag on productivity and user adoption. If the others in your business won’t use it, it is not very valuable. So you need to define what sort of feature you want in a CRM, how simple or how complex you want it to be. Think about your business processes, but also think about the people in your business who are going to use the CRM system. How sophisticated are they? Are they IT savvy? Will they easily learn the system and start using it for every single communication with your customers?

It turns out that the vast majority of small businesses do not need complex systems. They need a simple CRM that doesn’t gets in the way of doing business. They need something intuitive, that’s easy to learn and easy to use, intuitive and that really means that you don’t have to think twice about what a button might do and you don’t spend 15 minutes trying to figure out how to do what you need to do. It’s just obvious.

At Clevertim, we’re constantly striving to make our product more intuitive, easier to use, as simple as possible and no simpler. And that’s because we want to improve the productivity of small businesses, we want to make it easy for small businesses to adopt our system, start using it, see benefits. We know that if they love the product, see value from using it and we keep them happy, they will stay with us in a mutually beneficial relationship.

So, if you are looking for a simple CRM for your small business, why not try our CRM today. Because we believe in simplicity, we put a big “Quick Demo” button on the main page without asking you for an email or credit card.