Laptops, and Tablets, and Phones! Oh My!

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Businessman at his desk using a digital tabletAs necessary as it is to daily life and my job, part of me is annoyed with our culture’s dependency on technology. Annoyed with sitting in public — restaurant, gym, bar, supermarket, you-name-it-kind-of-store — and seeing the majority of people with their heads buried in a smart phone.

Annoyed that face-to-face conversations are a dead art. Annoyed that a couple on a date can’t make it through dinner without one of them reaching for their phone as the other gets up to use the restroom.

Annoyed that I just described myself.

Yes, whether I like it or not, I’m fully immersed in this lifestyle. Here I sit with not one, not two, but three screens in front of me. I have a laptop, an external monitor, and of course, an iPhone all on my desk. My co-worker is holding an iPad, and if I had the chance, I’d have one too.

And while we all may feel a little like Fred Armisen in this Portlandia sketch from time to time, this is the modern workplace. Multiple devices, multiple screens; each used to complete every task necessary for running your business. But just how many devices does the average worker use, or need?

Whether you realize it or not, we are all using multiple devices on a daily basis. Sitting at home watching a movie or television show on your laptop while texting a friend or checking your email. It’s second nature.

Last year, Google examined this trend and found that 90 percent of people move between at least two devices in order to complete a task. That’s 9 out of 10 people doing something along the lines of checking an email on their smart phone before moving to a laptop or tablet.

statsIn a similar research report from Forrester, the breakdown of how many devices people are actually using becomes much clearer. After surveying 9,900 employees, the independent market research company found that 74 percent used at least two devices on a daily basis at the workplace. Additionally, 52 percent used three or more devices, 16 percent used four or more and 14 percent used six or more!

With workers using personal devices — smart phones and tablets — along with a desktop or laptop, they are able to complete tasks at a quicker rate virtually anywhere. In fact, many researchers say workers are currently adopting mobile technology in the workplace at a much faster rate than when desktops were first introduced.

Multiple Devices for Marketing

Along with understanding the new trend of multiple devices in the workplace, as a small business owner, you should also understand how multiple devices can impact your marketing strategy.

In the same study from Google, the company found that customers often take a multiple-device path before making a purchase. An estimated 65 percent start on a smart phone with 61 percent then moving to a PC or laptop and only four percent moving to a tablet. Twenty-five percent of customers reportedly start on a laptop while only 11 percent start on a tablet.

This means that a strong web presence across multiple platforms is as important as ever. This also means advertisers and marketers should approach each platform differently in order to appeal to their consumers more effectively. You have to tailor ads or content to best fit the device consumers are using.

“While marketers once generated content to fit manufactured and static advertising placements, consumers now control their own flow of content — from day to night, and from screens large and small,” Natasha Hritzuk, senior global director of Research & Insights at Microsoft Advertising, said. “So it’s even more imperative that marketers understand consumer motivations in order to meet them in their moment.”

The reliance on technology and multiple devices in the workplace and in marketing is only going to intensify in the coming years. By understanding this trend, you can not only use these devices to your benefit by completing tasks, but by also reaching your audience on multiple, dynamic levels, across various platforms.

Organizational and Nature’s Communication Mechanics

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Nature is the most accomplished engineer and the human body is perhaps the greatest piece of engineering. Mimicking this marvelous technique can work wonders.

An organization has a very close conformity with the mechanics of our body. Similar to the cells being fundamental unit of body, people are the basic units of any corporate body. Cells communicate effectively, so that the organs function well, in turn the body remains healthy. Similarly, effective communication among people in the organizations leads to organizational well being. There is a central nervous system to control all body functions and it is coordinated by all organs. This controlled communicative synergy, when adopted by companies gives them an open and efficient work culture.

But its not always hunky dory. Communication can be hindered by certain barriers such as differences in perceptions and language, overload of information, pressures of time and geography, emotions of people and hierarchical layers. There are solutions!

These barriers when acknowledged by the management can be removed using more efficient tools. The flow of information, knowledge and ideas shouldn’t be limited to a single mechanism, such as email, because of cost savings. The communication should be consistent across channels and should engage target audience. It is important for organizations to seek new technologies that enable efficient and effective communication.

The orthodox dictatorial  mode of communication, when found less effective compared to  prospective tools, have continuously been replaced by new tools. From emails to chat to intranet to Social network, the tools of communication have been evolving. Email has response delays, Chat has informal pitch, and Intranet has hierarchical hurdles. This has led to evolution of more open and robust medium.

Newer tool like Enterprise Social Media has given employees better visibility, platform to put forward their ideas, collaborate, communicate and freedom to express.  More and more companies are looking forward to adapting to this social evolution. This ultimately leads to satisfaction among employees which is the recipe for better productivity.

Passwords or Pulcinella’s Secrets?

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What is the purpose of a password? If we pose this question to any group of users, we will get a variety of responses. In simple terms, the purpose of a password is to keep your data/information secure, secret and private. Essentially, passwords have to be kept secrets to serve the purpose. Ironically, due to lack of proper password management, we tend to make our passwords much like ‘Pulcinella’s Secrets’!

Yes, you read it right – Pulcinella’s Secrets! If you wonder whether you got the meaning correct, let me explain:

pulcinella-secrets

Pulcinella is an illustrious comic character in Commedia dell’Arte, a form of theater that
began in Italy in the mid-16th century. The very character of Pulcinella is his inability to keep secrets. Any confidential information conveyed to him would become an open secret in no time. The secret will reach far and wide, but everyone will pretend not to be knowing. In reality, Pulcinella’s secrets are not secrets at all.

Passwords in Text Files, Post-Its or Spreadsheets are Pulcinella’s Secrets, Literally!

With the proliferation of password protected online accounts and IT assets, businesses are drowning in a pile of passwords. But, many organizations and business establishments do not have any effective password management procedure in place at all. Employees adopt their own, haphazard way of maintaining the passwords. Following are some typical scenarios:

  • Sensitive passwords are stored in volatile sources such as text files, spread sheets, post-its and the like
  • Many copies of the passwords are circulated among the people who require them for their job functions. There is generally no trace on ‘who’ accessed ‘what’ passwords and ‘when’. This creates lack of accountability for actions
  • When one user changes a password, it should be updated in all the ‘copies’; otherwise, at the most needed time, one would be trying to login with an outdated or old password. As a result, the passwords mostly remain unchanged for ages for fear of inviting such lockout issues
  • There is rarely any internal control on password access or usage in many organizations. Users freely get access to the passwords
  • When other members of the organization require access to an online application / an online account, passwords are generally transmitted over word of mouth
  • If an employee leaves the organization, it is quite possible that he/she may be getting out with a copy of all the passwords

So, if you follow the traditional style of storing the business passwords as described above, your passwords would have probably turned Pulcinella’s Secrets! Many in your organization might be accessing the passwords, while you would be thinking otherwise. Obviously, this practice leaves the organizations open to security attacks and identity thefts.

Deploying a Password Manager – The Best Practice Approach

One of the effective ways to keep your passwords secure (and really secrets) is to store them in a central, secure, digital vault and automate password management tasks. Deploying a password manager like Zoho Vault can help you in taking total control of your passwords. You can store all your online identities – passwords of web applications, PINs, registration numbers, access codes, bank account details – anything sensitive or confidential in the online vault and access them from anywhere. Password changes can be updated at the central vault.

You can selectively share common passwords on need basis among the members of your organization with fine-grained access privileges. Your users will get access only to the required passwords, not all. You will also get comprehensive audit trails on ‘who’ accessed ‘what’ passwords and easily trace activities to individuals. You can completely eliminate the insecure, cumbersome practice of storing passwords in volatile sources like post-its, text files, print-outs and spreadsheets. Try Zoho Vault, now!

Freedom to Focus on Your Business: Happy 4th of July!

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Happy 4th July from Zoho!

When you run a business, there are many things that could take up your time and attention, and hold you back from actually running your business – but Zoho frees you from many of them. Zoho Invoice frees you from the chores of sending paper around and collecting payments. Zoho Sites gives you the freedom to create your very own beautiful-looking sites and Zoho Creator gives you the freedom to create your very own biz apps. And just this Monday, we announced that Zoho Support now frees you from having to count licenses, with unlimited free licenses for your support team.

Zoho frees you from the complexity and cost associated with business software – so you can bring the focus on your business. We hope you don’t have to work this Independence Day weekend, but if you do, all that you need will be right there in your phone, in your tablet or in your friend’s computer. Happy 4th of July!

Note to our customers in other regions outside of the US: Our support channels will be open throughout July 4th.

Employee Recruiting the Smart Way

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Successful Business People.Face it. Sooner or later – if your business is having success and growing – you’re going to have to hire employees so you can move on to the next level.

Here’s the problem. Every other company is competing for the brightest minds and most talented employees too. So how do you set yourself apart and get ahead of the competition? How can you recruit with the best of them? Here are a few ways you can get the most out of your recruiting process right away.

1. Utilize Employee Referrals — You already have great and productive employees who not only get the job done, but also fit in with the company culture. Why not utilize their address book or Facebook friends list? Looking at employee referrals as potential candidates is a great way to find qualified people without having to use social media or a headhunter. Referrals can also help speed up the hiring process and give you inside knowledge about the candidate’s character, personality and work ethic so you can streamline the hiring process.

2. Spend Time on the Job Description — This part of the recruiting process is often overlooked, but it can actually be one of the most important factors in finding that ideal candidate. Spend some time crafting a job description that accurately reflects not only the importance of completing tasks, but also qualifications and work experience necessary to benefit your company. If the job required 2-3 years of experience, make sure you say so. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you don’t want in a candidate either. A number of small businesses fail to accurately describe the details of the job, and therefore, don’t get the best possible candidate applying in the first place.

3. Use Social Networks — This may seem overwhelming, especially with what seems like an endless number of social media sites out there, but if you aren’t utilizing Linkedin, Facebook, or any other social media source, you are missing out on a number of recruiting opportunities. Start with creating a good online presence with a complete company bio and contact information. Make sure you appear human so potential employees feel an instant connection to your brand and company culture. Then, start using social media resources like filtering Facebook ads to those who have previously shown interest in your brand. You can also look into applicants Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter profiles before bringing them in for an interview.

4. Get Out of the Office — It’s easy to just draft a job description, post it online or in a local print publication and wait for resumes to come to you, but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll find the best candidate. Get out of the office and away from your computer and find the brightest and hardest working people out there. Go to trade shows or conferences and talk with people about their background and work experience. Go to colleges and universities when they host job fairs and talk to recent or upcoming graduates about their future plans. In this ever-changing and dynamic professional landscape, you need bright young minds with experience with technology, even if they don’t have “real-world” experience just yet.

5. Stay in Contact with Candidates — As a job applicant, there is nothing worse than applying for a job or going in for an interview and not hearing anything from the company for weeks. Stay in contact with potential employees. Busy schedules are understandable, but if a candidate doesn’t hear back from you after a week, he or she may take another opportunity. Keep them informed about where you are in the hiring process. If you offer the job to the candidate and they turn it down, don’t burn that bridge. Stay in contact. They may change their mind six months from now or a position may open up at your company they are better suited for and more excited about.

So take action today and start recruiting the right employees that will help your company move forward in the coming years.

Customer Spotlight: Business Thrives Thanks to the “Perfect Pair of Jeans”

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Hillbay

For nearly twenty-two years, Alexander Loffeld was a successful businessman working initially as a sales agent for shoe company Lisa Tucci, before joining another designer shoe company as a top sales manager.  On the outside, things seemed to be going well.

Loffeld however was fed up.  Corporate bureaucracy and the grind of long hours and constant deadlines were finally wearing him down.  In 2009, Loffeld decided “enough is enough.”

“I basically had a breakdown, and in one week I sold nearly all of my possessions.  For the next two years, I basically lived a very relaxing life and let the previous twenty-two years of work stress evaporate from my body.”

After two years however, Loffeld was ready to return to the game.  This time however, he was going to start his own business, Hillbay Consultancy Ltd.  All he needed was a few tools to help him get started…

The Business

Hillbay is a consultancy for the shoe industry.  In addition to selling shoes under their own label, Hillbay provides design, production, and distribution for a variety of companies across Europe.

Hillbay Consultancy has an extensive network of shoe manufacturers operating around Italy and works with a variety of customers at various levels of shoe production.

The Challenge: A Company Rapidly Gaining Contacts Seeking a Simple CRM Solution

alex loffeld

Loffeld knew immediately after starting Hillbay Consulting that he needed a CRM solution.

He was rapidly making new contacts and had an existing large database of leads for which he needed a customizable and easy-to-use CRM solution.  As a startup company, Loffeld was also very price sensitive and could not afford to try out an expensive CRM solution only to find it unsuitable for his needs.

Loffeld’s primary challenge then was quickly finding a long term CRM solution that matched his rigid criteria.

Competitive Analysis of CRM Solutions

Loffeld had several years of experience with CRM prior to starting Hillbay Consultancy, and was thus very particular about two “must have” features:

Easy to Use – Because of the high volume of clients and Loffeld’s need to keep everything neatly organized, he did not want to waste time navigating through a complicated CRM solution.  Ease of use was essential.

Low Cost – As a startup, Loffeld was concerned with keeping costs low when selecting business software to integrate into his company.

Prior to using Zoho CRM, Loffeld had extensive experience with Exact Synergy’s CRM solution however he was less than satisfied.

Exact was quite difficult to use.  It needed a lot of hardware, was very difficult to learn, and was not very precise!  I needed something EASY!”

Discovering and Implementing Zoho CRM

Prior to Loffeld discovering Zoho CRM, he was already a user of Zoho Mail, so he was familiar with the company.  During his research into CRM solutions, he stumbled upon an article entitled “5 CRM Companies for You”

“I found an interesting article in a Dutch magazine which listed five different CRM solutions.  They touted Zoho VERY highly, and I somehow subconsciously was saving the ‘best for last.’  I tried every one of them with varying levels of satisfaction for the next two months until I finally realized I haven’t yet tried Zoho CRM itself!”

Having already tried out a number of CRM solutions, Loffeld was growing weary that he would find his ideal solution but was pleasantly surprised when he registered for Zoho CRM.

“I registered for Zoho CRM and after just a few hours, I knew this was it!”

But Loffeld didn’t stop with Zoho CRM.  As he began to grow comfortable with the interface and customizing it for Hillbay Consultancy’s needs, he began to discover other Zoho tools and solutions that integrate tightly with CRM.

“Once I imported all my clients, I began to brainstorm some different ways I could interact with them.  Then I discovered Zoho Campaigns, and integrated that with CRM to send mail out to my clients.”

As Loffeld dug deeper, he began finding value in a number of Zoho products.

“At the moment, I think I use everything of Zoho!  I use Zoho CRM, Campaigns, Sites, Invoice, Projects, and Mail.  Using these products together has made things even easier for me!  I also have begun integrating the mobile option which adds to the convenience.”

Life After Implementation

As soon as Loffeld decided that Zoho CRM was the solution for Hillbay Consultancy, he really “sunk his teeth in” and began taking advantage of Zoho CRM’s customizable features.

“I began optimizing Zoho CRM for myself by adding several custom fields, and grouping clients into separate groups.  To be honest, now I use every feature in CRM in addition to the new features that are added because everything is just so simple to learn.”

Hillbay Consulting is now thriving and has even started its own shoe label in addition to the existing consulting services.  With Zoho tightly integrated into the company, Hillbay has been steadily outgrowing and outperforming its competitors.

What You Like to Say to Other Customers about CRM Solutions?

“If I were to write my own perfect CRM software right now, it would be nearly identical to Zoho.  The BEST thing is that it’s so easy to use!  Zoho CRM is like a good pair of jeans that fits great when you try it on, and one year later is even more comfortable.  I now essentially have Zoho integrated in all aspects of Hillbay Consultancy and we are thriving.”

To learn more about Hillbay Consultancy, CLICK HERE

Announcing Zoho Survey: Easily Create Professional Surveys, Collect Data and Make Smarter Decisions

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Zoho Survey for iPad

We are excited to announce Zoho Survey, the newest addition to the Zoho family. It will now become easier for you to create professional surveys, distribute them to the right people wherever they are and analyze their responses.

 

Create Surveys with Ease, even while on the goZoho Survey for iPad
Our smart survey tool is filled with features that help you quickly and easily create great-looking surveys. Multiple question types are available and hence you can ask your audience exactly what you want. Add logic to your surveys by skipping or adding questions. Depending on the survey taker’s previous responses, you can always make the surveys shorter and more relevant.

 

Zoho Survey also comes with ready-made templates that you can use, with just a couple of clicks, for a variety of purposes. With elegant themes, your surveys look more professional.

We know that most times you are working in a larger team and you can now work in collaboration with your colleagues to receive feedback even before you deploy a survey. Plus, with Zoho Survey’s app for the iPad, you can create surveys while on the go.

Collect Feedback from Your Audience
Zoho Survey is integrated with MailChimp and also with our own Zoho Campaigns. Now, you can connect your surveys with your e-mail marketing lists and distribute personalized invites to your contacts.

Share survey links across social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus and watch the responses roll in. Zoho Survey automatically generates links and HTML/embed codes, so you can display your surveys on your website or blog.

All surveys are automatically optimized for mobile devices (phones and tablets) and hence your participants have a better survey experience and can complete surveys faster on their mobiles.

Analyze Results and Make Smarter Decisions
Analyze your survey results through reports that include a detailed summary of responses and visual representations with numerous charts. You can also create custom reports, crosstabs and filters, so you drill down and uncover patterns in your data.

Results can be shared with colleagues, viewed in Zoho Sheet and exported in various format like XLS, CSV and PDF.  Google Apps users can also export reports to Google Drive.

Plans and Pricing
Zoho Survey offers a free plan and two pocket-friendly plans – A standard plan for $19 per month and a Professional plan that costs $180 per year. You can create unlimited surveys with any plan!

Register for a Webinar
We are hosting a webinar on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, at 9:00 a.m. PDT. Register here for the Zoho Survey webinar.

And, there’s more…
As part of our inaugural offer, get a three-month free subscription when you refer three friends. If you’ve got more friends, make hay while the sun shines, and get up to twelve months free. Create surveys; make smarter decisions.