Poll: What do you use to build a community around your business?

Posted by Posted on by
2

Building a community around your business is, perhaps, the most important outreach activity you can ever pursue. It deserves such prominence especially because it’s a long-term activity. It’s an ongoing activity, like invoicing customers or addressing support queries.

The Zoho Support Poll

A community has far-flung benefits across various aspects of your business. It helps you keep your existing customers happy. It helps you win new customers. It helps you reduce the load on your customer service team. And, it helps builds your brand.

Every community starts off as an idea on someone’s mind. But, it eventually has to move to a more ‘conducive’ space. That space is different for each one. For some, it’s a simple forum. For some, it’s an interesting blog. For a few others, it can be a social network like Facebook or LinkedIn. Quora is a popular place too. It’s also possible for communities to ‘exist’ in a combination of these. Let’s take a look at each of these ‘places’ and attempt to profile them.

Facebook:

Most businesses generally use a Facebook Page to build a community. Non-profits and independent communities use Facebook Groups instead. Broadly, Facebook is a place where people let their hair down. They look for interesting pieces of content that are also fun. So, if you’ve got a really serious topic on the influence of cascading government debt on the global economy, you better steer clear of Facebook! ;)

Twitter:

Twitter is really for the ‘keep it short and sweet’ types. But, that doesn’t mean it’s not suitable for a conversation! Twitter is, in fact, a great tool to build a following for your business. You get to have crisp, yet interesting, conversations with your customers and prospects. It’s also a great place for content propagation. What you say or share can ‘virally spread’ to a large section of people.

LinkedIn:

Being a networking platform for professionals, LinkedIn is a lot more serious when compared to Facebook and Twitter. It’s mostly the platform for ‘serious’ conversations at a ‘personal’ level. Unlike Facebook, LinkedIn allows companies to have a more ‘serious’ identity. Some businesses use LinkedIn for recruiting employees. Some others build technical/professional communities. Independent forums and communities also thrive on LinkedIn.

Quora:

Quora’s the new kid on the block. Only, he’s not a kid anymore! What started as a simple social network for ‘Q&A’ has now become a marketplace of sorts for knowledge. It’s more loosely organized when compared to Facebook or LinkedIn. Prospects are very likely to ask questions and find answers on Quora before making a purchase decision. Also, what happens in Quora doesn’t just stay there. It gets shared on other social networks as well. So, it’s worth every bit of your time to engage people on Quora.

Your own forum & blog:

At the end of the day, it pays for you to have your own ‘outreach infrastructure’. In a sense, building a community exclusively on any social network means you might have to sway the way the it does. When you build your community on your own forum & blog, you reduce any such risk. You can always use social networks to reach more people for your community, while hosting the community on your own infrastructure. That way, you get the best of both worlds.

Most businesses can’t really handle a community that spreads across all these options. So, we thought we’d ask you and find out what you do w.r.t your community. We can’t wait to see the results!

Gather Data. Know Thy Customer. Zoho Campaigns Integrates with SurveyMonkey

Posted by Posted on by
0

In a recent team meeting I was asked this question: “What’s the aim of Product Marketing?” My answer was almost instant and I found myself saying, “To know and understand the customer.” I further explained that the crux of what I do depends on understanding the customer needs and opinion. It’s actually a cycle – know the customer needs – take actions – communicate – get feedback – make changes again.zcampaigns-surveymonkey

This is the reason surveys play an important role for any product marketer. Customer Feedback Surveys are the best way to understand the feelings of a very large customer group at once. The information gathered can then be passed on to the Engineering, Sales and Customer Support Teams, and decisions on the product can be taken accordingly.

So, how do I go about getting this feedback from customers?
Here’s how it goes: Read more

Support customers in LiveDesk, extend the value of Zoho CRM

Posted by Posted on by
0

We heard your requests for LiveDesk to integrate with Zoho CRM, so last week we announced Zoho CRM integration for all paying LiveDesk customers (or those on a current trial of any of the paid plans).

By tag-teaming with the premier CRM solution for small businesses, your LiveDesk gets instant access to the customer data you need while chatting, and your support interactions are logged alongside your other data in your newly-unified customer interaction suite. Leverage the power of LiveDesk and Zoho CRM together, and join the small businesses who are already elevating their team’s customer-supporting skills.

Zorge, who runs English Maestro, a small business providing online language lessons, put it this way:

“As an automation fanatic, I was very enthusiastic to use Zoho LiveDesk in integration with my Zoho CRM to provide live support to my customers. The functionality and features work awesome and exceed my expectations. [This integration] adds more value to my Zoho products.”

Join Zorge and discover through easy integration with Zoho CRM, how LiveDesk quickly adds more value to your existing customer interactions. Get started with LiveDesk today, and test-drive what it can do in tandem with your CRM. Let’s explore how the apps work together for small teams like English Maestro and soon you, your customers’, and your company’s benefit.

Easy linking unlocks value instantly

Because both products are members of the Zoho family, it is easy to link the two apps, quickly adding the ability to support customers through live chat into your existing customer interaction structure.

Recognize customers and deliver tailored solutions

When a customer initiates a chat with your team, LiveDesk automatically relays their information from your CRM, directly to the live chat window. Your agents have instant access in the chat window to vital information—such as the high-value account a customer belongs to—and are only one click away from the contact (or account’s) complete details. When they notice this customer’s long and valuable history with your company and past interactions, they discover that this particular customer responds best to step-by-step instructions. Enlightened, your agent asks the right questions and tailors his responses exactly to the customer’s preferred style.

Continually refine your customer knowledge base

Maximize the potential value of future interactions—sales, support, whatever—utilizing new insights gleaned from live chats to retain and grow customer relationships. With the power to add valuable notes directly into your CRM from LiveDesk, and chat transcripts automatically logged inside CRM, your whole team benefits from every live chat interaction.

When a customer asked for help configuring your iPad app as he prepares for an upcoming cross-country motorcycle trip, your agent was able to add insights that will someday payoff. Your friendly support rep discovered through chatting that the customer’s trip was with his business partners to celebrate their company’s five-year anniversary. While chatting, your agent quickly added a note, so your team can send a note congratulating the customers on their milestone. He also added a note in the contact’s details about his affinity for Harley Davidsons and passion for being on the open-road as much as possible.

Capture curious visitors in your CRM

Unlock the ability to capture new website visitors who connect with you through chat (either automatically or manually) as leads or contacts in your CRM. While answering questions about your product from someone who is currently on a trial, you learn that the company he works for is looking for a new, custom-made solution, right in your team’s wheelhouse. So while continuing to answer questions, you quickly capture the visitor as a new lead from the chat window, and even convert the lead into a potential.

You even create a follow-up task in your CRM to ensure the account manager from your custom-builds team connects with the lead and builds on the foundation you built through chat.

Extend the value of both products for your team, and link up LiveDesk and Zoho CRM today.

Results: What’s your approach to customer support hiring?

Posted by Posted on by
1

At Zoho, we get to talk to several startup founders and small business owners regularly. A good number of times, the topic of hiring and retention comes up in our conversations. We thought it might be a good idea to ask the community at large and understand the broad opinion.

We had asked a question on customer support hiring, via our poll last week. From our own experience, we’ve seen startups with very good process clarity as well as mid-sized businesses that prefer not to have strict processes. So, we were naturally excited to see what results would emerge from that question.

What's your approach to customer support hiring?

About 40% of all respondents said they preferred to hire experienced professionals and empower them suitably.

From a traditional standpoint, this feels like the optimal approach for any company that wants a ‘safe bet’. If you hire experienced customer support professionals, you can trust them to behave reasonably in most of the situations. In a sense, when you hire experienced professionals, you can expect them to hit the ground running. A lot of companies prefer to have that ‘celerity’ as a competitive edge. However, there’s also the downside that experienced professionals are ‘conditioned’ and don’t necessarily come with a completely fresh outlook. For some businesses, that can actually be a significant drawback.

About 60% of respondents said they preferred to hire fresh talent and train them internally.

This is definitely not an approach that leads to a safe bet. Over the last few years, if there has been one broad trend in customer service, it’s that companies are looking to create a customer service ‘culture’ that’s unique to themselves. Companies like Amazon have taken that trend to a whole new level. It’s pretty difficult to create a culture like that by hiring just experienced folks. So, companies prefer to set a culture in place and hire fresh talent. It’s far easier to align fresh talent to your company’s culture than to align experienced professionals.

It’s also fairly common for companies to maintain a good mix of both fresh and experienced talent. However, the ‘right mix’ is very tricky to attain. In a way, that’s one reason why it might be better to set a customer service culture for your company and hire accordingly.

That’s it for this week. We’ll get right back to you with another interesting question next week! Until then, have a great weekend!

Our Management Consultants Recommended That We Kill Our Free Email Plan; We’re Increasing It Instead

Posted by Posted on by
81

When it comes to hosted email options for your business, there is not a whole lot to choose from unless you want to compromise on quality. There’s Microsoft’s Office 365. There’s Google Apps. And there’s Zoho Mail. We think Zoho Mail is better, but then again, we’re kind of biased.

And if you’re a small business, your options are even more limited. Until some time ago, Google Apps had a free edition. It started with unlimited users and decreased then gradually until they finally canceled it. Microsoft chose to never give anything away for free (shocker, I know!).

Now, here’s something we haven’t told anyone: When Google Apps Free Edition went the way of the dodo, Zoho Mail registrations shot up through the roof. Want some proof?

Of course, I was just being facetious with the title. We didn’t hire a management consulting firm, because we already know what they would say. Their recommendation would be: ”Well, your two other competitors don’t have a Free plan, so why would you? Don’t offer anything free now, and instead make more money.”.

Instead of spending money with the consulting firm, we decided to spend that money with you, our users. Starting today, we’re increasing our Free plan for Zoho Mail, making it even better and making it completely free for up to 5 users. When we say completely free, we not only mean that you pay nothing for it, but also that you don’t have to deal with ads. Free and ad-free.

Even though Zoho Mail now is the only viable option for small businesses looking for a great -and free- hosted email solution, we’re not backing away from our commitment to our small business friends.

Rodrigo

New In Zoho Sites: Code snippet, LinkedIn widget and more

Posted by Posted on by
2

We’ve been fortunate to have our feature priorities be continuously questioned by the community. As a result, we are announcing 5 new features that, we believe, would make a difference to most of you who have been repeatedly asking for these.

Third-party widgets and scripts via code snippet
The Embed widget has had an upgrade; in addition to HTML code, you can also insert scripts and code snippets now. Widgets and apps from most third-party vendors demand that you to insert few lines of script into your website. You can add them all now. That includes scripts that work behind the scenes, like tracking and in-page analytics. (See how.)

Custom Page URL
You can now customize the URL of a page. This is important on the SEO front, as it is on the aesthetic front, allowing you to optimize your pages for hot keywords.

LinkedIn Widgets
Previously we introduced widgets for Facebook and Twitter. But of course, you need to work too! Now we’ve added a LinkedIn widget for you to add your company profile, personal profile, and Share button to your website.

Custom 404 page
Whenever a visitor accesses a wrong URL of a webpage, a 404 page comes up to direct the visitor to other pages on that website. This is increasingly becoming an opportunity for creativity and a way to excite visitors when they least expect it. So we now leave it to you. Customize your 404 page however you want.

Revoking a published site
Just as you publish a site with ease, you can now bring down your website as well. But why would you want to do that? Well, we figured you might want to perform some periodic maintenance, and this would be the easiest way to do it and get back up when you are ready.

Try them out, and let us know.

What the Recent Rise in Loan Approval Means for Your Small Business

Posted by Posted on by
1

It’s no secret that the past five years have been anything but kind to small business owners and entrepreneurs across the country. In fact, an unstable economy and variety of other factors have forced a number of small businesses to close their doors while also discouraging others from entering the market.

Fortunately, good news is on the horizon in 2013 thanks to a recent increase in small business loan approvals.

According to the latest Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index, big banks are approving loan requests at the highest rate in over two years, while small banks are giving the green light to over half of all small business loan requests.

Last month, big banks reportedly approved 15.9 percent of small business loan applications, a 35.9 percent increase from February 2012 and the highest rate since Biz2Credit began compiling this information in January 2011. Similarly, small business loan approval rates have increased from 49.9 percent in January 2013 to 50.3 percent last month.

Rohit Arora, Biz2Credit Chief Executive Officer, attributes the higher approval rates to a stable economy over the last year and a half and attractive premiums on securities backed by Small Business Administration-guaranteed loans.

So what can small business owners do with this data? If you are a small business owner, now is one of the best times to receive a small business loan to expand your existing business or take the first step in entering the market. Three smart ways you can invest this money into growing your company include the following:

  • Making smart investments – Whether you need office space or a piece of machinery to increase efficiency, one way to expand your business is by investing in property, buildings and equipment. Increased loan approval coupled with relatively low interest rates make this the perfect opportunity for growth.

  • Improve IT capabilities  Online business applications can help you increase sales, view real-time metrics and also decrease spending on traditional IT expenses. In fact, Forbes recently listed “cloud computing” as an essential for small businesses in 2013.

  • Hire employees  As a business owner, you don’t have to do everything on your own. By allocating money and resources to hire an employee — or multiple employees — you can focus on more important tasks like growing your business. When hiring employees, make sure you have a hiring strategy and think about whether you need a full time employee, part time employee, or even a freelance worker.

Spring isn’t just a time of rebirth in nature. It can also be a serious time of growth and development for your small business. And with loan approval rates on the rise in the first part of 2013, the sun may finally be shining on Main Street.