Build Your Innovation Practice through Your Customers

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If you want your business to innovate with its customers, start by building a customer community that others can vote on and contribute to so that the company can pull the idea through the process, said Mike Fauscette, Group VP, Software Business Solutions at IDC, in his presentation “Leveraging Innovation Management for Competitive Advantage” at the CRM Evolution 2012 conference in New York City.

Once you have a tool that can collect customer interaction, take it one step further and let customers be involved in defining the process. It will open the doors to opportunity that you wouldn’t have had before, said Fauscette. Customer engagement improves dramatically once the customer feels they’re empowered to drive the business.

It’s also important to be visible and transparent. Meaning you want to set up a system that allows customers to contribute and know that they contributed, Fauscette continued.

Conducting social media and networking activities

The most popular reasons companies conduct social media/networking activities for their business are (in order of popularity):

  1. Gather feedback on company product or service
  2. Respond to customer/partner inquiries
  3. Competitors are doing it
  4. Communicate with partners/suppliers
  5. Communicate with customers
  6. Create awareness about company product or service
  7. Make decisions

Creating a collaborative enterprise for the purpose of innovation

Crowdsourcing and collaboration unlocks distributed expertise that simply couldn’t be found by any other means. Contributing across groups and disciplines is very empowering to employees who realize they can have an impact beyond the four walls of their cubicle.

While so many companies say they want their employees to collaborate, it’s not reflected in how employees are being paid, which is often to work individually. If you want employees to collaborate, you have to build it into the culture and they have to be incentivized to do it, said Fauscette.

Introducing a Visual Editor for Customizing Website Themes

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Website is one place where people judge by the cover, and are mostly right. That is why a good looking business website has a significant effect on the business. Zoho Sites had already made it easy for anyone to build such business websites easily. Today, we are making it even more friendlier on the design front.

Introducing, a visual editor to customize themes.

Till now, theme-customization could only be done with a bit of CSS. But not anymore. You can now customize visual properties of a theme, such as background image, menu, color, size and font face of text. Without a speck of HTML/CSS, of course. You can preview the changes as and when you make them.

What’s exciting about this visual editor is, using this, you can create umpteen different versions of the same theme. The themes in our gallery are ready-to-use, but you can re-paint them, so that they look just how you want, in every way. The customization of themes, together with flexible layouts and drag-drop builder, makes Zoho Sites the easiest way to create a business website, all by yourself. Try it out.

Zoho CRM gets even better with Twitter

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We asked a few of our customers about how they use “Twitter for their Businesses”. We got several responses, but I’ll specially mention a comment by Jon Porreca, Sales Consultant at a1energy.net,

What we would love to see is when we access a contact, or lead, within CRM, the ability to see any or all of the communications, comments, likes, follows, etc.. that they have had on social channels. And likewise have the ability to comment, communicate, like, or follow a post we see in CRM. This would allow us to better reach new customers and vendors, to broadcast our brand, and also allow us to always “touch” our current customers and vendors and keep them up to date with our company.

@jonporreca you’re spot on! Zoho CRM for Twitter can now address these scenarios for salespeople!

Zoho CRM for Twitter helps you know your customers even better by connecting with them right from within Zoho CRM. If your customers are on Twitter, you can find out their likes, dislikes, their current interests and what they’re talking about. These insights might just give you a substance to start an effective conversation with them! Say, your customer is excited about a Soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona. If you’re equally a Soccer fanatic, wouldn’t that be a great topic to strike the right chords with your customer?Twitter Integration

That’s simple right! OK, here’s another way you could use Zoho CRM for Twitter. Say, your customer is holidaying in Paris or traveling on business. There is every chance that he might miss your call, or dismiss it as unimportant. So, how do you know when is the best time to contact your customer? By looking at their tweets, you can get an inside scope of when they’re on vacation, traveling on business, in a meeting or at their desk. Of course, the chances of closing a deal are more while they are at their desk.

What else can you do with Zoho CRM for Twitter? You can tweet, reply to tweets, retweet or favorite recent tweets of your prospects. Visit our Online Help to get started with the settings.

So go ahead, listen, engage and connect with your customers without stepping out of Zoho CRM.

- Radhika

Just Keeping Up with People is Key to Growing Revenue

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“If you don’t utilize CRM you lose everything. It’s so difficult to keep up with people. Not only in your own company but everyone you’re dealing with on a day to day basis. It’s imperative,” said William “Brimstone” Kucmierowski, President and Co-Founder of Hound Comics, a media company that not only publishes comics, but also cookbooks, TV programming, and lots more.

In my interview with Kucmierowski and his partner, Eddie “Luscious” Castillo, at the Small Business Expo in New York, Kucmierowski schooled Castillo as to what CRM actually is. He explained that CRM puts all the people you deal with on a regular basis in one place so you can actually manage them.

Kucmierowski has been a longtime avid CRM user. He was first a devotee of the desktop application ACT, but now he’s moved his CRM operations into the cloud.

You have to keep on those contacts and constantly follow up, as that’s critical to the ultimate prize, increased revenue, said Kucmierowski. Luckily Hound Comics is growing strong so their biggest challenge is to simply maintain a great staff, and continue to build in a strategic manner.

Are you facing a taxable profit this year?

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Many small business owners have done their best to produce a decent profit and, in doing so, face the prospect of paying more in taxes for their efforts. We all have to pay our share of taxes, however, many businesses are still unstable and are struggling to make a profit. As we all know, there are times that the profit is on paper, not in the bank. So coming up with additional funds to pay Uncle Sam after fighting to stay afloat is not an easy task.

Fortunately, there are some effortless moves you can make that will reduce the amount of profit “on the books” and support growth. Here are four tips you can prepare for in advance.

1. Paying in advance for things you need tomorrow.

The first step is to simply prepay for many supplies and goods that you use to produce your product or service. This serves two primary purposes. It will help minimize your expenses right out of the gate for a very uncertain 2013 and if done properly will give you a quantity discount when placing a higher volume order.

Plus, most vendors raise their prices for the subsequent year. So you are saving money in three different ways: Quantity discounts, avoiding raised prices and taxes.

Note: Make sure that you don’t forget in January that these costs were paid for in December or you might develop a false sense of security when you consider your January P & L.

2. Pay the government more today, giving you a credit tomorrow.

Most government situations will allow you to pay more in taxes now to credit your account for the next tax period. If this is not the case, a simple, yet justifiable, error in the government’s favor will not raise any red flags. Just be careful that your state doesn’t require you to amend end-of-the-year returns or this will not do you any good.

3. Pay commissions or bonuses in December instead of January.

If you make any quarterly commission or bonus payments based on a previous quarter’s performance, paying at least a portion of these out in December instead of January will happily cut into your net profit. If you want to avoid scrutiny, categorize these as “holiday bonuses” and deduct the amount paid from any quarterly bonuses usually paid in January. If the bonuses pertain to work performed in 2012, this is perfectly legal and will simply look like a nice gesture by you to give your commissioned employees more money to buy gifts for the holidays.

4. If you ship products, allow for delayed payments or defer payments.

There is such a delay in shipping items in December that many orders do not arrive at their destinations until well into January. It is easy and allows some of your better clients to pay for orders in January versus prepayments. If you sell things on the Internet, it is easy to a run these sales through on payment “posting” dates as opposed to the actual date of a sale.

Also consider deferring payments by simply holding deposits and logging/recording the deposits in January, particularly if you are on a cash-based versus accrual-based system.

NOTE: Now is not the time to pay for things your business can not afford and paying extra taxes will do very little to keep your business in healthy shape for 2013. Your future growth is what will eventually provide that extra revenue the government seeks.

Customer Spotlight – Wedding Planner Finds Zoho Books To Be A Time Saver

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Every girl wants the happiest day in her life to be ‘just perfect’. Cathy Akinkunmi decided to don the hat of a wedding planner and decorator while planning her daughter’s 10th birthday ‘Princess’ Theme party.

The result was Beautiful Linen Rentals. She says,

When ‘you’ are responsible for the little details that makes the perfect wedding, you’ve got to be on top of your game every single moment.

As a wedding planner she’s constantly wearing multiple hats. While meeting new clients, discussing decor style, selecting colors and setting up the venue are part of her job description, she also needs to manage her business. When she’s busy ensuring the day remains perfect for someone else, she needs assurance that her finances are being managed well. Returning home to messy paperwork is not what she looks forward to at the end of the day.

She started managing her accounts with good old excel. But as the business grew, she wanted an online application which was simple, customizable and which gave her the snapshot of her financial health at any given point. With a busy schedule and working 16 hours a day, she didn’t have the patience nor the time to learn complicated software. She found Zoho Books when she was looking for a simple accounting application for small business and after the free trial she was sold.

The ability to download my banking information and auto populate my expenditure is just awesome and saves a lot of my time. Zoho gives me the opportunity to free up valuable time to focus on other issues, issues which I cannot delegate at this point in time.

Read more about Cathy’s story, a multifaceted person, who enjoys creating the ‘perfect’ day for someone special.

End the Software Upgrade Cycle with a Cloud Office Suite

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For years, Nancy Williams had been stuck in an aggravating and costly cycle of upgrading her desktop applications. Williams, who just launched InfoZario, an online/offline training business for information management finally decided to dump her desktop applications for cloud-based Zoho applications. She choose not only Zoho CRM , but many of the other applications in the suite as well, such as documents, spreadsheets, projects, and soon the mail client, she said.

For others still stuck in the desktop software upgrade cycle looking to move over to cloud-based productivity applications, Williams recommends starting with Zoho’s mail suite to get comfortable with using applications in the cloud. As soon as you feel comfortable with those applications, start using CRM immediately.