Linkedin and open networking

I have recently joined Linkedin and in a few days my list of contacts has grown to more than 300+ connections. How? Open networking.

What is LION and open networking?

Well, first of all, LION stands for Linked In Open Networking, and second of all – although I should have started with this first – Linked In is the business social network available at linkedin.com.

Open Networkers are people who are open to make contact with anyone, accepting new connections from people they do not know. It’s fair to say most people on linked in are not Open Networkers, but the ones who are, they are very approachable and friendly. Some are there to sell some services, products, but most are there to develop connections because you never know when opportunities arise from your network. I suspect some are there just to “score” – meaning they collect connections as you collect points when playing Angry Birds.

One important question arises though. Are these people you meet real connections and are you really networking? It is fair to say these people will probably not remember your name. Does having 5000+ connections means you know everyone? Sometimes it might mean that you don’t know anyone, really. And that leads to the next point…

Most people you connect with will not help or add any value to you or your business. But if you ever played the dating game, you know you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince/princess. And so is in business. Not everyone will help, but that’s not the point. The point is some people will open doors to other connections that might help. In business, opportunities come sometimes from the most unexpected situations or connections. So being open certainly helps.

Imagine a situation where you have a problem that can be helped by a certain type of people – say you want to sell software to small businesses. You can use your linked in contacts to filter out those people that have connections to small businesses, either because they own themselves a small business or because they sell/advise/work with small businesses. Then you can right a personalized letter to all of these contacts. They might read it, they might not, but it’s a start and because you’re connected, you’re not spamming, and because they’re mostly open networkers you’re connected to, they’re generally more open to new opportunities/contacts.

So think about it and take the challenge on – start connecting with Open Networkers on linked in. You’ll identify them easily as they will tag LION or Open Networker on their profiles. This approach is not for everyone though, so think about the pros and cons and whether this is something that is suited to your personality and your way of doing things.

And while you’re at it, you can also join my newly created group CRM systems and tools, intended to discuss all things CRM or contact management related.

Have fun networking!

How To Choose an Effective Online Contact Manager

Gone are the days of manual record keeping and endless ledgers books taking up space in our offices. The advent of the Internet and consequent development of online applications have revolutionized the way we do business nowadays.

Electronic data keeping has become the norm rather than the exception in business. This new trend used to become a rather expensive practice, especially for start-up and small businesses because it required hiring staff with specialized computer skills to build and maintain our customer manager databases. Furthermore, we also had to ensure that our customers’ data storage was safely kept in backup disks or hard drives and make sure that we had enough security software installed to protect it from viruses and malicious programs. Thus, the convenience of digitalizing our business contact manager usually meant higher expenses. Those days are also gone!

Nowadays, savvy software engineers have provided our small and medium businesses with a much safer and more affordable alternative. They have created online customer relations management systems which allow us to store our data securely in online databases and provide a faster, more efficient and superior service to our current and prospective customers. Nevertheless, as this industry has grown, the sheer number of them available on the net can make it quite difficult and overwhelming to discern which one is the right one for our business needs. Indeed, not all online business contact managers are created equally.

For instance, there are some business contact managers like Oracle that are more suitable for large businesses and have a steep learning curve for those entrepreneurs that are not very familiar with the Oracle system or working with online databases.   Others that might be simpler to use might lack features that you consider essential for your business and are not customizable. So, how do you know which one is best for your business?

Based on my own experience, I have one rule of thumb when choosing online applications for my business: try it before you buy it.  Most reliable small business contact manager systems offer a demo or free trial which allows you to truly evaluate their full functionality before you buy them. Some, like Clevertim, provide you with a free online version without any time limits or restrictions. They are confident about the quality of their product and services and proud to offer you, the end user, the freedom to choose what features best fit your needs.

Therefore, when choosing a business contact manager, look for full free versions or trial with full functionality. A good online customer management system will offer you flexibility, customization, essential collaboration, business, customer, marketing, and sale applications without extra hassles.

CleverTim has a new logo!

For the past week we’ve worked with our graphic designer on a brand new logo and finally we can now reveal it to all our followers. This is it:

Clevertim contact management_Logo

We’re still working on our web based contact manager for small businesses, which we think it’s going to be great, intuitive, easy to use, simple and solve our customers mini-CRM needs without the added complexity of a fully fledged CRM system that requires hours and hours of setup, configuration, integration, support and maintenance.

Hello world!

We are here!

Our mission? To convince our customers to part with their hard earned cash. Boo hoo. Yes, unlike other start-ups, we admit it from the start. We need to make money to survive. One of the conscious decisions from the start was not to take VC funding. We want to be able to focus on our customers, not on our investors.

So, as not many customers will part with their cash just because we say so, the way we plan to do it is to have a great product, start with an initial version and then let our customer drive it. It’s key for us to keep our customers happy and listen to them, adapt the product to serve better their needs. After all, the more customers we keep happy, the more money we have and we might actually survive. The odds of survival are against us for now. Only 23% of the new startups make it, according to the statistics.

What is the product we are developing?

We are working on an easy to use and very intuitive web based contact management system, targeted at small businesses. The utmost emphasis is on usability. We believe most CRM (customer relationship management) tools for small businesses out there, including online contact managers, are way too complicated for the average small business. Managing your customers online needs to be simple, intuitive and quick. It should follow closely your work flow, rather than try to adapt it to the CRM system.

There are many CRM solutions out there, but most are either bloated and not very intuitive. Moreover, most companies do not focus exclusively on small businesses, they only provide support for small companies with the expectation they will sign up for larger packages and pay them more money. They tend to focus on bigger, more profitable accounts.

Not us. We are here to help small businesses, we are not after the big businesses. We’re not here to compete with salesforce.com or Microsoft. It would be crazy for us to try. We are here to focus all our love on small businesses. We hope to get you on board.

Let the adventure begin!

If you’d like to stay in touch, find out when we’re fully launched, please go to www.clevertim.com and leave your email address. We absolutely hate spam and we never sell emails – we care about our business more than that.