We were recently invited to The Balancing Act, a morning talk show on Lifetime Television, to discuss how online software helps people run their small businesses. Sometimes those of us in the SaaS industry forget how new and daunting running applications on the cloud can appear to those that are new to it. But of course, it isn’t. Zoho makes it easy for freelancers and small businesses to focus on their business while we take care of the rest.
In its February 2012 issue, Website Magazine prints the list of the Top 50 Software Solutions to Explore in 2012. Guess who holds the #3 spot? Zoho. Well, I guess that’s where we disagree with Website Magazine – we think we should be at the top. But, who’s counting?
Website Magazine notes (emphasis mine)
Web workers used to (and many continue to) struggle with the wide variety of software that was necessary to gather intelligence, engage in all manners of Web marketing and online advertising management, and communicate digitally. That’s a lot of responsibility, but thankfully it’s getting simpler. If there is one trend that will define 2012 and beyond, it is that of a more unified platform.
A unified platform – that’s exactly what has been driving us at Zoho since we started in 2005! We believe there’s a lot of value in having everything work together, seamlessly, to having everything under one roof. And that’s what you’ll find here at Zoho.
You can find Website Magazine’s 50 Top Software Solutions to Explore in 2012 in their February 2012 issue and you can also find it online.
A few months ago we started rolling out a preview of our new, totally-rebuilt Zoho CRM UI. We took a close, hard look at how users were interacting with our app, and how we could make it easier for them to achieve their daily goals. Our goal was to make users spend less time inside the Zoho CRM app, so they can spend more time selling.
So we re-designed many workflows and screens inside our app. A small example: we realized that everybody wants to add notes to their contacts/prospects. So, we made it very simple for them to add more notes. We streamlined how we show contact information. We made it easier for a sales rep to check availability for scheduling a follow-up call with a prospect right from the contact screen. We made several other changes - big and small. The feedback we got from users has been overwhelmingly positive, and we’re pretty thrilled about that.
But that’s not all we have been working on. We have also been busy building a lot of new things we know you will love. We kept this as a surprise for all of our users – and here it is.
Stay on top of what’s happening on your sales pipeline with Pulse
Just like you can follow people on Twitter, now you can follow a particular lead, deal, contact or account in Zoho CRM. Sure, you can always run a report, but Pulse takes sales tracking to the next level by allowing you to follow what’s really important for you. But that’s pretty much where the Twitter analogy ends, because we’ve taken it a couple steps further. How? First, you can create rules that will automatically “Follow” a deal for you when some conditions are met. But my favorite part is this: you can also follow what’s NOT happening in your business.
Let me explain. When you follow a deal, it’s because you’re interested in seeing what happens with it. But what happens if a week goes by and you haven’t heard anything? How will you remember? Pulse takes care of that for you. In the Pulse tab inside Zoho CRM, you can view what is happening and what is NOT happening, and you can also set different time intervals for keeping track of your deals.
Build Custom Apps based on your CRM Data
With this latest Zoho CRM update, you can now build custom apps that access data inside your CRM system easier than ever before. For example, if you want to build a Travel Expense app, you can have one field ask what account or deal this travel was related to – and display a list of deals right from Zoho CRM. Of course, you have always been able to build this with an our API, but this update makes it easier for you to build apps with Zoho Creator – so there’s no coding required, just drag-and-drop. In addition, you are able to add these custom apps as tabs inside Zoho CRM.
Connect with your Customers on Social Media
Zoho CRM now allows you to link a CRM contact with their LinkedIn profile. So you can not only very easily get their position, company, city and more – but now you will also be able to keep up to date with their business and professional activity. You can even see their picture directly in your Zoho CRM contact. You can even send a note to your contact through LinkedIn right from Zoho CRM. Webhooks make Zoho CRM even easier to integrate
We’ve had a pretty good and liberal API program for a while. But say for example, you want to update your inventory system every time you close a deal. How can you alert the external system that something just changed inside Zoho CRM? That’s what webhooks are for. Without getting too technical, every time some condition is met, Zoho CRM will send a quick message to your external system (your inventory system in this example) to give it a “heads up”. After that, more complex processing might take place through the API.
This is a major release and a major milestone for us, and hopefully you will find it exciting and useful!
Your projects don’t stop just because you’re away from your computer. And now, with the new Zoho Projects Web App you can stay connected with your projects and your team wherever you are.
The Zoho Projects Web App allows you to access all of your projects while on the go. You are able to see the Project Stream and see what everyone on the team has been up to – finished tasks, new posts, comments, wiki pages and any other activities from the members of your team.
You can also go in and see the tasks that you have open and update their status, any notes and mark them as finished when you are done. How’s that for giving your team real-time info? And if something new comes up while you are out and about, you can also of course add a new task right from your phone.
Our web app is available starting today – and all you need is a Zoho Projects account (including the Free edition). Once you’ve setup your account just head over to m.zoho.com using your phone’s browser (iPhone or Android), and start getting things done, even while on the go.
Today we’re taking online productivity software to the next level. Everyone else focuses on making reduced-functionality online tools. That’s not the path we’ve chosen. We want to make the best online tools. We want to make them even better than their desktop counterparts. And while Zoho Show is currently the best online presentations editor available, we are never completely satisfied.
So we’ve been working for a long time on the next release of Zoho Show. We have made it easier for users to create visually appealing presentations. We focused on making the whole process painless and effortless, and we wanted to make sure you can deliver your presentations anywhere. We’re excited to unveil the beta version of Zoho Show 3. And while there are still some kinks to iron out, it is at a stage where we’d like to open it up for people to try it out and give us some feedback.
Zoho Show is the best online productivity experience anyone has ever delivered in a browser. I’d tell you what’s new in this release vs our current one – but everything is new here.
Nobody likes slide decks full of bullet points. Zoho Show makes it very simple to create great, visually appealing presentations that will help you engage your audience. Adding effects like shadows and reflections to your online elements takes only a couple of clicks. Insert dynamic shapes that you can morph and tweak to fit your particular slide. Enhanced text and image editing gives you more creative control so you can make your slide look exactly how you want.
Some time ago we introduced our MenuTab design in our Zoho Writer service – and it makes it so much easier to get your stuff done. Now we’re bringing the MenuTab to Zoho Show. But that’s just the start. When you are trying to modify an element, now we present the choices visually and when you make a selection, we’ll apply it to the object in real-time, so you don’t have to keep guessing how your slide will look like. We’ve revamped the way we handle masters and layouts – and now you can even choose between several slide sizes to match the medium you’ll be presenting on (for example, widescreen projectors, or letter-sized paper). And now, creating flowcharts and diagrams is a breeze with our self-routing connectors.
One of the primary reasons you create a presentation is for, well, others to see it. Zoho Show makes this very simple. You can, for example, collaborate with other people while creating your presentation. But that’s not all. When it comes to actually delivering your presentation, you can do it from your laptop hooked up to a projector, or you can do it over the web. One of the nice things about Zoho Show is that you only need to give a URL to the people you are presenting to, and they’ll be able to follow along using just their browser – without having to download anything. Need to go out of your presentation and share the desktop? You can do that too! And of course you can also embed the presentation on your website for others to peruse at their own pace.
Here’s an embedded presentation about Zoho Show 3 we created with -you guessed it right!- Zoho Show 3.
But why just look at it when you can actually PLAY with it? We invite you to try our new Zoho Show 3 today. Head over to
You’ll be able to see an embedded presentation that showcases some of the new features. You can also click on Try Now to go the editor and play around with it. Please remember that you won’t be able to save any changes or work that you do in the new editor – we’re still in beta! Finally, you can also sign-up to be notified when we release Zoho Show 3 into production.
If you’ve read this far, you’ve read more than enough. You’d be better off just going and trying it!
Two months ago we released the Zoho CRM App for iPhone. It was the first iPhone app for Zoho CRM and most of you had been waiting for it for *ahem* a while.
We didn’t want to make you wait any longer for our follow-up release. The new version addresses the most common suggestions customers like you had about the app. We appreciate all your feedback and we ask you to please keep it coming.
Here are some of the things the new version has to offer:
The app now also includes access to the Cases module. Now you can view/create/edit/search cases records from your iPhone.
You are now able to import contacts into Zoho CRM from your iPhone address book. And the other way around as well – you can now export contacts from Zoho CRM into your iPhone Address book.
A very common asked-for feature: access to related notes and related potentials for the record details page.
An improved home screen.
We now support additional custom views in the Potentials, Accounts, Leads and Events modules.
In addition, we’ve made some tweaks to the way you can search for information in your device as well as bug fixes.
Gene Marks over at Forbes just published an article today on the Quicker Better Tech column. The piece, Google Buys Motorola Mobility… And So Begins The Dark Ages is an interesting take. While most people have focused on what that merger means for the current patent wars, the future of Android, mobile devices and so on, Gene focused on a totally different angle: what this might mean for Small Businesses. In a nutshell, Gene is arguing that this purchase is not going to be good for small businesses:
But will this news help my small business? Unfortunately, no. The empire is breaking up. Chaos is approaching. Life, particularly for my business, is about to become more complicated.
The overall point that Gene makes is that “Pax Microsoft” (the peaceful period during which Microsoft used to dominate) was good for small businesses because it brought stability for software vendors, who would focus just on creating software on top of the platform, so things “just worked” and were “inexpensive”. Gene also has some other concerns. For example: what platform should his business standardize on? How can he make sure that he is able to export data from one system to another, and finally, integration between apps. While Gene acknowledges “the cloud”, I don’t think he really realizes the impact this will have on businesses like his (according to his profile he owns a 10-person consulting firm). But lets leave the benefits of the cloud itself aside for a second, and focus on some of the other points. Mobile is just a front-end for business apps. Sure, you access your CRM data through a native App, but the difference between most consumer apps/games and business applications on a mobile device, is that while consumer apps/games have a significant amount of “intelligence” built into the mobile app, business apps are different. For almost all business apps, the logic, the core of the app, resides in some server in the cloud. The mobile device is just a convenient front-end to it that takes advantage of some hardware features (i.e. GPS/camera) or enables off-line. Besides, mobile business apps are primarily intended for secondary, on-the-go use (this is true especially for mobile phones). The main use will remain in the desktop/laptop factor and in the iPad factor (there’s no such thing as a tablet – only iPads!). And in that case, I think most of it will happen through the iPad’s browser. Which leads me to the next point… You can always use the browser. Mobile Apps are certainly nice and useful. We have released a handful of them ourselves lately (for both iPhone and Android). But I think Gene stresses too much about choosing a platform. Most vendors will support both iOS and Android for the foreseeable future. The particular app you want right now is not available in your platform ? Well you can always use the mobile browsers and use the mobile version. Commitment is not as serious this time around. In the “PAX Microsoft” era customers had to make a very serious commitment to a platform: Windows or Linux; Oracle or SQLServer, .NET or Java… etc. Once those decisions were made, well, you as a business were literally stuck with it for years (or decades) to come. And the cost of switching was very high. In the Android vs. iOS question… well that’s another story. If you decide to go with the other platform, it just takes a couple hundred bucks and you’ve switched. It’s really not that bad as it used to be. Open Data. Most people will agree that, for the most part, cloud providers have a pretty good track record of making it clear that the data belongs to the user and it is up to her to take it whenever she wants. That is certainly the case with us at Zoho, but most of our competitors and other people in our space also operate under this principle. As with everything, there are exceptions, and no business in their right mind should use one of those services! Integration. My favorite point. I argue, Gene, that you and your business are better off nowadays than years before, especially with regards to integration. At Zoho we’ve made it one of our priorities to provide contextually integrated applications that help you. We have not only integrated our Zoho CRM with Zoho Mail, but also Zoho CRM with Zoho Projects, and Zoho Projects with Zoho Invoice, and the list goes on. But that’s not all… there are also multiple integrations with third parties. For example, we integrate heavily with Google Apps, and just recently we integrated Zoho BugTracker with GitHub and there are even some third-party hook-ups with other third-party services, like the recent one that Cazoomi did for tying up Zoho CRM and ExactTarget. Sure, fragmentation sucks for us, but it is just the cost of doing business in the technology world. And if we look at it from another perspective, fragmentation has been already here for a while. It started with Firefox eating IE’s lunch, and now Chrome. The bottom line is that Google purchasing Motorola Mobile really doesn’t mean much for the small business sector. Sure, the mobile OS wars will only continue to escalate, there’s uncertainty about the future of Windows, Macs (as in desktop, not iOS) ar
e on the rise again… but as long as businesses stick to the cloud, they will be fine.