Improvements to the What’s New tab

The “What’s New” tab allows you to see who’s done what and when and answer audit type questions: what happened to this particular contact, company, case or opportunity. It also allows you to see what data has changed (from->to) and to undo accidental deletes.

Clevertim CRM - The What's New tab

We’ve now added the ability to search the activity based on the name of the contact or company. This is done using the filters. Your options are User, Item type, Company, Contact, Activity type and date.

Clevertim CRM - What's New Filter

Once you’ve selected an option, you can then type the info you want to filter.

Clevertim CRM - User Filter

Clevertim CRM - Filter by date

You can save the filter, in case it is a search that you will do often, e.g. changes to a particular Company, or all changes made by a particular user in your company. There is a Save Filter button on the right hand side of the Filter section.

Clevertim CRM - What's new_Save filter

 

Once you are done and want to go back to the normal screen, either Reset (next to Save Filter), or just press the X on the filter details, as shown below.

Clevertim CRM_What's New_remove filter

Using video to promote your business (part 2)

Before you venture in the world of video making, check out what your competitors are doing. If your business is food and you decided to film some of your best recipes, you will find million of videos online, from “chefs” showing how to make a dish to just hands making it all, with voice over or just on screen instructions. A video recipe tutorial needs to be visually attractive and simple to follow. You want your customers to want to eat what you are preparing, to prepare it, to share it. Take your time to rehearsal, to test the lights, the audio. Record the video once, twice, five times if needed. You will eventually get used to it and things will come more naturally.

If showing your face is not your thing, don’t worry, not all videos require a person on camera. The recipe idea using just someone’s hands we mention above is just one example. If you don’t like your voice, but your video require voice over, why not test other people in the company or ask a friend to do it for you (to keep costs down)? Can you use on screen graphics instead?

Once your video is edited and you are happy with the final results, all you need to do is upload it to your company’s channel, assuming you have one, share with your customers and friends via newsletter and your social media channels, upload it on your website. You want people to watch it and to react to it. Your video can also be used as your digital advert, if online advertising is something you are considering.

Make sure your next videos are better than the previous one; change what you don’t like, add things you have missed, tweak the script if you think it’s needed. Don’t upload a video if you don’t think it is doing something for your business. In most cases, it is not about reaching millions of people, it is about reaching your target audience. This is not a cute video about a cat playing a piano; it is your brand, your product, your service and at the end of the day, you want to promote it.

Producing a video can be simple, but do not ignore best practices. If using music, make sure it is cleared. You don’t want to end up having the audio of your video removed because you used the latest hit in the charts. There are plenty of library music available online – even YouTube share a few – if you absolutely don’t want to spend any money, but music is key for your video. The same goes for using clips of other videos -absolutely do not use clips of TV series, films, or third party videos without seeking permission and clearance, in writing. Even if using another product or brand, make sure that you are ok to do so.

Ready to give video a go and take advantage of the millions of viewers out there? Have fun!

Using video to promote your business (part 1)

A decade or so ago, creating video content to promote a brand or product was time consuming and expensive. Then came YouTube and the likes as things have changed massively. It has allowed everyone, big or small, businesses and individuals, to create and share content with everyone, everywhere. The way we consume visual content has changed and in some ways, it has become much easier for smaller businesses to create their own content without big budgets.

Is video for everyone? Is it worth investing in this area to promote your business? The answer is yes. Let’s just clarify that making videos to promote your business is not just creating ads for products. It is not even just about having it on YouTube and hoping it will have thousands of views or become viral. Videos can be used to support a sales pitch – imagine a punchy, upbeat video with some great stats and information about your company, short and sweet. You can create video-tutorials on how to use your product. If you are in the educational sector, you can have short samples of your classes. You can actually have a whole online section on your website with your lessons. If you own a restaurant, or a bakery, you can have videos of the behind the scenes – all the action taking place in the kitchen – or even post recipes.

It might take some time to get a few videos off the ground, especially if you are going to do it in house. If your plans include a series of videos, they have to be added to your planning calendar (together with your social media and online advertising strategy). Don’t be put off about that though, because making a video is much easier and simpler than it used to be and you don’t need fancy equipment to film your videos or hire specialists to do edit them (if you have extra budget, getting someone to do the work for you might be a good idea though). In some cases, all you need is a laptop and a basic video editing tool (and an extra dose of patience, if you are going to do it yourself for the first time).

Different types of video require different types of equipment and structure. If you are planning to have someone on camera, you will need a camera (or a good smartphone) and well-lit space with decent acoustic – remember that the sound has to be clear and the subject needs to be visible. If you are recording a tutorial that only shows a how-to on screen, you will need a software that captures images on your laptop and a decent microphone, if you are recording voice over. It is a good idea to have a plan of what you are going to say, to reduce on recording time to a minimum. It will also help massively with the editing process.

So how about checking your business goals to see if you can add a series of videos to your marketing plans? Make sure your calendar is updated with themes and content you want to record and don’t forget to come back for the part 2 of Using video to promote your business.

Making social media work for your business (part 3)

Now we know that maintaining an interesting presence on social networks is not for all type of businesses and it is also hard work. More often than not, small businesses don’t have the means to hire a digital marketing person to do it all, so they end up doing it themselves. The good news is that you can scale it down or up according to your strategy, needs and capacity. Sometimes it is about quality, not quantity. And about persevering.

You have your business strategy, decided where you want your business to focus, planned your 6-12 months worth of content calendar and now what?

No, you cannot just forget about it and focus on doing some actual work (like baking your delicious cakes). The key of any marketing activity is keeping track of its results and adapting it – if needed – to meet your goals. When starting in this social media business, you will have to test your different posts, images, call to action you are using until you are comfortable with your way of writing, posting, etc. Analytics will be a key ally to you. It will give you more information on what is working or not, so you can adjust your plan accordingly. You will then compare results with your own business goals (was it to get more likes, followers, shares? More people coming in to your shop? More online orders?).

Remember that these channels are also your eyes and ears to your customers, it is where you will have a conversation with them. And as you can imagine, it requires some dedication to reply to them, listen to their suggestions and complaints, make sure you answer their queries. And it is also a good idea to encourage them to write a review, share your posts – as long as the content lends itself to sharing,  etc.

In summary, social media might not drive huge sales, but for some small businesses it will be key to put their names out there and generate a lot of talk around their services and products. It is also where your clients can easily find you. Make sure you are making the most of it.

Happy International Beer Day

So apparently there is an International Beer Day and it is on the 1st Friday of August. So we will be heading to our local pub at the end of the day to celebrate it!

Did you know that there are over 1,200 operating breweries across the UK? It takes more than just appreciating a good beer to become a home brewer, but don’t get put off by needing to learn new skills and the highly competitive market. Any refreshing change of career would require you to learn something new and, sometimes, face tough competition. As with any new product in a crowded market, you have to do a lot of research and have a solid business plan and strategy to stand out. The good news is that although the consumption of alcohol in the UK dropped, when it comes to beer and ale, it went up. So there is a market for it, in the UK and in Europe. All you need is to learn the techniques to become a master of brewery, a lot of dedication, time, patience and hard work.

If you are all set to start your new business, or if you already in the business, you need to make sure you have the right tools to help you succeed. Whether you are thinking of hiring an in-house sales team or getting freelancers to do the selling, a simple and easy to use online contact management software like Clevertim will help you along the way. Your main clients are pubs, local shops, grocers, and your sales team will be constantly on the road meeting with potential clients, attending beer events, networking. Your CRM and contact management software needs to be intuitive and easy to learn and use, simple but effective. You won’t need a full bells and whistles tool, because you won’t use it. Unless you are planning to spend all your work time in front of a computer, learning to use your software, trying to figure out how you can make the most of all the features you don’t really need, you need something that will keep your work to a minimum and will be fast to perform actions. It’s like paying a fortune for the latest model of a MacBook when all you use your computer for is checking emails. Save your bucks and your time for better things, it’s the advice we give you.

Our simple contact management solution is perfect even if it is just you in the business in the beginning. Start by adding the companies and their contacts from your researches and networking, record your sales opportunities, save your emails and notes in one place. As your business grows and you have more people working with you, it will be much easier to share the information and bring the team up to speed. Clevertim is also very easy to learn, so it shouldn’t take long to figure out how to use it.

And make sure you let us know when your brewery is up and running as we would love to try your homemade Ale.

Keeping up with the trends

Isn’t it fantastic how in this day and age you can almost immediately react, adapt, create something new for your business, based on a piece of news, a campaign that has gone viral or a life changing event? Thanks to social media and online news, we can be constantly monitoring and riding the right wave. From a marketing point of view, it is refreshing to be able to experiment and try new approaches. And unlike popular belief, when something goes wrong – as long as it is not terribly wrong – it is possible to control the damage and move on.

A year ago, the ice bucket challenge, a campaign to raise awareness of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, went viral on social media, got loads of people that had never heard of the disease involved, celebrities took part of the challenge (and those who refused where criticised), lots of money was raised. Some brands – including biggies like McDonalds and Energiser were quick to use the opportunity to promote themselves, I mean, help with the ALS cause. Samsung went ever further, and challenged its competitors Apple and Nokia to take the challenge as well (watch the video here). And because it’s hard to predict how long a topic will be trending, the marketing teams have to be quick, bypass high management approvals, and go for it.

As with most of the things online, people tend to forget quite quickly about these things, which makes this “exercise” a challenge in itself. Big companies, global brands, they have the bucks, they have the teams, they have the brand to put these actions in place. They will select the right picks as overdoing it can also damage the brand, but they have the means to react quickly. Now how about small business? How can the small players take advantage of the immediacy of trends to help boost their businesses?

There is more than one answer to this question. One of them is “they don’t. Just ignore the buzz and move on”. Sometimes it is not worth the effort and the investment, just to be out there with everybody else. Does it make sense to your business? Is the topic something related to your brand or to your heart? Is it related to your clients? Luckily, there are ways to be part of it, without breaking the bank or diverging half of your team to implement it. Words, for example. You can write a nice/funny/powerful message on your Facebook page, you can donate money for a charity, you and your staff can form a team and run the half marathon to support a cause, you can share someone else’s story or activity that you think your customers will like.

For us, here at Clevertim, sometimes we like to have a giggle and wonder what we could have done around one of those moments, like with the ice bucket challenge, for example. “How about getting Tim, our mascot, to take the challenge?”. We have a laugh and focus on making our product better for our customers, implementing new features, reading reviews, asking for feedback. Because at the end of the day, if you don’t have a great product or offer a great service, what is the point in even promoting it?

We need to talk about Feminism

You are probably wondering what feminism has got to do with a blog about contact management for small business, right? This is not an essay about general feminism, but rather a short post about equality and respect in the work environment.

People tend to think that feminism is a “women’s thing” and that men shouldn’t or don’t need to get involved. Big mistake. This is something that affects us all, like global warming. And like with global warming, part of the problem comes from lack of information.

Another big mistake that people often make is to think that if you focus on or discuss feminism, you are ignoring everything else around you. For example: you are fighting for equal salary in your work place with HR and the management team, and you are also organising the company’s Christmas party, which you are hoping to be the biggest one ever. You can be a feminist, raise money for poor countries in Africa and grow your tache for ‘Movember’.

A very good exercise to help you engage in the feminist cause is to put yourself in the other’s shoes. How would you like someone to tell you that you look intelligent because you are wearing a suite? Would you like your wife or daughter to earn less than a male colleague although they have the same professional experience? How would you feel if someone excluded you of a conversation because they are talking politics and not bags and shoes? You might not realise that what you see as a joke, in fact offends and hurts other human being feelings.

During a pub conversation once, a group of us – men and women – were discussing how difficult for it is for a woman with kids to progress in their careers. One of our friends, a woman who runs her own business hiring private language teacher across the country, said that she was reluctant to hire women with kids because they are less reliable, less committed to working the hours that she needed. “And why do you think this happens?”, I asked. She promptly replied that if the kid was ill, it was the woman that had to deal with it. Now… don’t you think this is a little unfair? If it is the mother that will look after the poorly child, it might be because the father is not doing his part. This friend work with teachers outside work hours, which suits mothers very well – they could teach in the evenings, while fathers take over the home duties, right?

It is just assumed, by this friend and by managers of several companies I worked for, that it is the woman’s role to look after the kids, when in reality, it is both parents responsibility. Some forward-thinking managers and companies are now making sure that both parents can take time off to take their kids to doctors, school events, etc. It is not the women’s solely obligation to raise a child and it is the men’s right to be present in their kids’ life.

Several businesses are now focussing in empowering women, giving them the same professional opportunities as men, making their work space more inclusive. It is a win-win situation for both employer and employee, and has nothing to do with putting men aside, choosing women over men.

Feminism is not about women versus men. It’s about women and men being valued and respected for who they are, their experience, their potential, their needs, despite gender.

The one simple trick that will improve your sales

This short blog article is when I tell you about the one simple trick that changed my sales mindset and significantly changed my business life and the way I think about sales in general.

It’s a simple trick once you know it, but it took me a while to fully realize its true transformational power. Once I did, I noticed that my sales improved, people started paying more attention to my sales pitches, they became more interested in the actual content and what I was really saying. More importantly, I realized I was closing more deals than before. Now thinking about it, it all seems so simple that I keep wondering how come I didn’t think about it earlier – my life in sales would have been so much easier.

You too can repeat this simple trick in your mind and it will definitely change the way you approach sales, ask for things, present your ideas and do business in general.

The simple trick is this:

No one cares about YOU, they care about THEMSELVES!

That’s it. Now go ahead, repeat it 3 times:

No one cares about YOU, they care about THEMSELVES!

No one cares about YOU, they care about THEMSELVES!

No one cares about YOU, they care about THEMSELVES!

It’s a simple thing but its implications are subtle and powerful. Too often, in sales, marketing, but also in real life, we’re too caught up in ourselves and in what we have to offer, our products, our services, the features, etc. It’s all about us, US, US and me, me ME.

Many sales reps have a pre-learned script that they go through and it’s about presenting the company, the product or the service as the best, as having X whistles and Y bells, as being used by so and so.

This is more evident in remote sales done by inside sales teams by phone or email. There, the sales reps really follow the same script, same templates and most templates are boring and talk about the company, products, services, features, etc. They don’t talk about one thing potential customers genuinely want to hear about: themselves and their own problems. So they switch off, either abruptly or they go on auto-pilot and stop listening.

So it’s important to remember customers have their own problems and they care about themselves. They want someone who understands their problems and cares about solving their problems. They’re not interested in someone who just wants to sell to them but rather someone who in the very least listens to their needs. Any solution provided, be it problems or services need to start with the customer problem and offer to solve it.

Say that once more:

Any solution provided, be it problems or services need to start with the customer problem and offer to solve it.

And now in bold:

Any solution provided, be it problems or services need to start with the customer problem and offer to solve it.

It doesn’t sound like a big realization. Pfff, I knew that! It’s so obvious. Well, of course everyone cares about themselves.

But the more you think about the implications of this one simple trick, the more you realize that you can win more, sell more, be more popular in general by simply changing the way you sell and the way you interact with prospects, existing customers or other human beings in general. Put yourselves in their shoes! Who are they? What are their problems? Their aspirations. Their needs. What actually makes them tick. What excites them. What drives them.

Create a real image of a potential customer. Give the image a name: Michael. Give it a job. A family. A house. A car. Picture him on a day in the office. Picture him on a day out. Think of him as a real person. Now ask this person all the questions above. He’ll tell you what he wants to hear.

Now go out and find a real Michael and sell to him by putting him first. Or her. And since you’ll have many more contacts, leads, prospects and customers as a result, you might as well try a really intuitive web based contact management system.

 

Dealing with your worst customers

Most customers are a real pleasure to deal with, but once in a while, you inevitably encounter one of those customers that defy the social etiquette and behave outrageously for one reason or another. How you deal with such customers tells the story about who you really are as a business and at the same time, it can leave a mark on your reputation. So how do you deal with such customers?

Well, one common advise that you read in popular business book is to “fire your worst customers”. This advice is not necessarily a purely pragmatic advice, motivated by cost and profitability – and indeed, bad customers can be a drain on your resources in terms of support, time spent answering their emails, phone calls, addressing complaints and so on. It’s a recommendation that goes against another very popular advice found in many business books that says: “The customer is always right!”.

So which school of thought do you follow? Do you think the customer is always right or do you fire the worst customers?

At Clevertim, we believe the truth and the right thing to do is somewhere in the middle. We believe in general customers are in their right to ask for things to work properly without hitches and we do apologize and fix things quickly when it’s our fault. Inevitably some people are frustrated when things don’t work as they expect to and tempers differ. This doesn’t bother us.
However, we draw the line at abuse and intimidation of our staff. We believe our staff and any staff, any human being in fact, has the right to perform their duties and live their lives free of abuse and intimidation from anyone, irrespective of what the situation is.

If that happens, we don’t fire customers though. Everyone has ups and downs and we know and accept that. When that happens, we try to cut through the emotion and negativity to see what the real problem is and address that. Is there a problem with the payment? Is there a fault with the website? What’s the root cause of the problem – get to that one thing we can do something about. Then just fix it and move on.

The other thing we do is to be honest with our customers. We’re a small business ourselves and we operate with limited resources. One of our goals is to keep the cost down for our customers, so that means that we can’t do everything. For example, we cannot offer phone support – we only offer email support, which we like to think it’s very responsive and helpful as we don’t have many layers between support people and developers or managers who can actually fix the issues. We also cannot implement all the features under the sun. We listen, but sometimes politely explain we cannot do it.

Some customers fire themselves at that point, when they realize we cannot do for them what they want: e.g. phone support or feature X, Y or Z. It’s just a fact of life. We cannot be all things for everyone. But for most of our customers we solve a real business problem of managing the data about their own customers. We like to keep those customers happy by any means we can.

Now, that being said, back to you… how do you deal with your worst customers?

Web based contact management for web designers

Do you run a web agency? How do you keep track of your leads and existing customers? Well, it’d be ironic if the answer wasn’t “on the web”. Actually the answer depends a lot on your size. If you’re a small agency, you don’t need more than a spreadsheet, your inbox and your good memory. The problem manifests itself once you start growing a bit or if you start outsourcing certain services to freelancers, virtual assistants etc.

For example, Steve McKenna, a friend of mine running a small web agency, told me that a while ago started using virtual assistants, mostly people he sourced from odesk or elance. He was using virtual assistants for getting leads from social media, essentially outsourcing the filtering of social media leads. Social media can be a great source for lead generation: a lot of people ask for recommendations for a good web design agency on twitter, linkedin groups, various forums and even on facebook.

Scouring the social media every day to track these down and try to communicate with those users is very time consuming and potentially not fruitful. Certainly, not for someone who wants to focus on web design and high value, qualified leads – i.e. people who are very close to buying your services, rather than long shots.

It’s the ideal type of tasks that can be outsourced to cost effective virtual assistants who are located in countries where the cost of living is cheaper than the UK or USA. Virtual assistants based in countries like India, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, China or eastern Europe can do that work for you. So how would that work?

Well, the way Steve works with his virtual assistants is he’s asking them every day to search various social media websites he provided them with for various keywords. For example, the virtual assistants would search twitter every day for keywords like “recommend web design”, “need web design”, “suggest web agency”, and so on. Steve has provided the full list of keywords and the full list of social media venues. They would identify tweets like “Can anyone recommend a good web designer?” or “Anyone know a good web agency in London?”.

Once identified, the virtual assistants would try to engage them by messaging them with a soft approach. Again, Steve has defined what’s ok and what’s not ok when engaging potential customers on social media. Steve has a soft approach to engaging such early stage leads as he doesn’t want to alienate people or make them feel uncomfortable. The virtual assistants mostly approach users with “Hi, please consider our agency for great work. See our portfolio here”. They’re instructed not to annoy further, unless the lead expresses some interest, or starts interacting.

This approach has the advantage that it replies to existing requests for information – so it’s not spam. It has the advantage of engaging people who already have the problem and they’re actively looking for the solution – i.e. they need web design services. The other, side benefit, is the fact that a link to the portfolio is posted in a genuine conversation that can be witnesses by other potential customers or that can attract curious onlookers. Some might become customers in the short or long run. It’s brand awareness as, in the process, some people who didn’t know about your web agency now know.

At this point, if the user engages or expresses interest, the virtual assistants enter their details into a web based contact management system (and in this case it happens to be Clevertim CRM) where an onshore team member will pick it up and continue the conversation until the deal is hopefully closed. This basic workflow is followed repeatedly every day for a multitude of social media venues: twitter, linkedin groups and a list of forums Steve provided.

But does it work? Well, according to Steve it does. He couldn’t afford someone onshore to do that sort of triage, but when low cost virtual assistants do it, it tends to be profitable in the long run. The links to the portfolio that are posted on the social media also generate leads that cannot be easily attributed to the virtual assistants and they also help with Steve’s web agency’s SERP rankings for SEO purposes.