Pruning The Garden: Saying Goodbye to a Few Zoho Services

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Zoho’s strategy from the beginning has been to provide a wide portfolio of online applications so that you can focus on your business while we take care of the rest. Over time, we have launched many applications that support this mission. But from time to time we need look back and assess how those products are doing in relation to our expectations. Even the most well-tended gardens need some pruning every now and then!

We have decided to sunset some Zoho services so that we can focus our energy and delight our customers with our other products. Today we are announcing we will close

  • Zoho Challenge
  • Zoho CommentBox
  • Zoho Planner
  • Zoho Plugin for Office
  • Zoho Share
  • Zoho Viewer

Customers are, as always, our #1 priority. So you have plenty of time to get your data out. We will continue to allow access to these products (in read-only mode) until December 31st, 2012. On January 1st, 2013 data for all these products will be permanently deleted.

Current subscribers to paid plans of these products will automatically receive -in the next few days- a full refund of the value of their active subscription.

We are of course, a bit sad to see these products go. But we are a risk-taking company and we like to try many things. We know some of them will not be as successful as we want. We will move the resources (people and otherwise) we had dedicated to these services to our other more promising areas.

Sridhar

 

 

Make your sales happen with Zoho CRM for Google Apps – GDLsystems.com

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Regardless of the size and kind of a business one does, sales matters. To make the sales happen, one needs to have all crucial information about the opportunities in the market and make quick decisions. And that is exactly what Juan Pablo Orozco, CEO of GDLsystems, has in his mind. He says “If you don’t have the real time information, you are blind and you can’t take decisions. If you can’t take quick decisions you will be out of the business”

 

Juan wanted the best CRM software which would help improve sales. And here is how Zoho CRM facilitated GDL systems with finding more business opportunities in the market.

About GDLsystems.com:

GDL Systems is a Mexican company based in Guadalajara, Jalisco. Juan has 12 years experience in the field of IT and his expertise led him into starting his own organization in 2008. There are now 12 employees working for GDLsystems. GDL Systems specializes in information technology, with a mission to provide small and medium businesses access to useful Web applications and systems. Their main line of business are e-Commerce development, Web Page development, Web Application development and Online Marketing.

The GDLsystems team

Challenge:

GDLsystems was looking for a service that could help them improve their sales process. They wanted to analyze the market and find out more profitable opportunities. When asked Juan about the challenges they faced in the business he said “People with several roles can forget important tasks and in turn there are chances of missing some opportunities.” He also added “Being a small business often means more business areas than people and that means each individual must play several roles. In such a dynamic industry, cash flow can change for better or for worse on every month and we must be able to predict sales. Also small business has a tight budget but the needs are always big that is we have to grow and in the same time need to contain cost” 

Solution :

“I was looking for a CRM in Google Apps Market place and found Zoho CRM. Meantime we also evaluated SalesForce, SugarCRM, InfusionSoft among others. After evaluation and recommendations from friends I decided on Zoho CRM.”  “No upfront cost, you pay as you go. So every business can afford to run Zoho CRM.” commented Juan on the pricing.

There are currently 4 members in their organization who use Zoho CRM. For more than a year now, they have been employing it for different purposes such as Lead registration, Lead conversion to Contact/Account, Opportunity registration/tracking and follow up, Opportunity report, Email automation, Task management and a lot more. Juan said ” The best part is, we can customize Zoho CRM just the way we want it.”

Result:

“I can’t imagine our Sales Department working without Zoho CRM.” said David Orozco, Sales Manager, GDLsystems and Juan added “Zoho changed our sales process and we have a solid process now”

He also said “Zoho CRM allows us to have a real time information to predict sales and income for the month. It helps us focus on the most profitable opportunities and made our sales team more productive. We can now create reports and export valuable information for further analysis. Zoho CRM also increased our ability to respond to customers more quickly than ever before.”

Thus after a long search Juan has found what is best for his business. Its time for you to find the right solution for your business.

Go ahead and try Zoho CRM for Google Apps now!

 

Search Engine Optimization: Elementary Essentials

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The topics discussed here are very simple changes to your webpages, which when combined, have a notable impact on how your website is treated by search engines.

Here is what matters most, and why.

Keywords:

It all starts with this, even though it is not exposed to users. It is the term that people search for, in order to arrive at a website. You first need to identify the keywords which are both, relevant to what you offer, and are likely to bring you traffic. Keywords of a page are different from keywords of another page, because each page has its own focus terms. Identifying keywords is the most important task of them all, because the title, description and URL of that page depend on, and contain the keywords.

The more specific your keywords are, the better. For example,if you own a bakery in Seattle, and specialize in muffins, then Muffins in Seattle is a better option than Cakes.

Users are more likely to click on a search result that contains the term they just searched for. That is why the title and description draw attention if when contain these keywords.

Title:

The title of your page is enclosed in <title> tags, and is exposed as marked in the image above. There are some guidelines an optimum title would always follow.

1. Uniqueness – No two pages of your website should have the same title.
2. Readability – It should be a meaningful sentence, long enough (preferably 65 characters), and is not spammy.
3. Keyword – The title should contain the keyword which that page focuses on. The sooner it appears in the title, the better.

Description:

Description appears below the title on search results, and should support the claim you’ve made in your title.

1. Preferably 160 characters long.
2. Should also contain the keyword focused on that page.
3. Should be unique, informative and interesting
4. Should sum up the content on the entire page.

URL Structure:

Easily understandable URL’s have two main advantages. They make your website easily navigable to users, and simplifies managing your pages. The characteristics of a good URL are,

1. few, easy words, no numbers
2. Not too long
3. Use specific keywords like home.html, contact.html, etc. instead of generic ones like page1.html, page2.html, etc.

Headings:

It is best to have only one H1 heading tag per page, which should contain the same keyword used in title and description tags.

SEO with Zoho Sites:

All these are enclosed in meta tags like <title>, <description>, etc. If you are managing your own HTML files on Zoho Sites, you are probably familiar with these tags. Otherwise, if you are using the drag-and-drop builder, things are even easier. Zoho Sites lets you enter meta details for every page on your site.

In the Settings page, you have SEO options.

Pick the page from the list, and enter the meta details for that page. Once done, save the changes, and pick another page to optimize.

In addition to these meta information, there is another essential optimization technique, but that happens automatically on Zoho Sites; the sitemap. For every website published, Zoho Sites automatically generates the sitemap.xml file. A sitemap helps search engines to identify the entire structure of your website, so that no page goes unnoticed. It also helps in identifying the navigation path to every page.

All the above parameters focus only on the text on a webpage. There are numerous other techniques to drive more traffic into your website, which we will gradually get into. Try optimizing your web pages by filling these parameters, and see how it affects your site’s ranking on search engines.

Sales Prospecting: Why you should LOVE your CRM

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Mark Hunter over at thesaleshunter.com has an interesting post titled “Why I hate CRM systems for Sales Prospecting

The reason is simple — far too many salespeople either blame their CRM system for being so complicated that it prevents them from doing what they need to be doing. Or they use the lack of a CRM system as an excuse for not doing anything.

At Zoho, we’ve always understood this challenge. As a sales rep, your CRM system should work for you and not against you.

Which is why we’ve redesigned our CRM with a focus on simplicity and ease of use. Our main aim is to create a CRM that helps sales reps minimize the time that they spend within the CRM system. So that they can maximize the time they spend on actual selling.

Of course, we’re constantly evolving the CRM interface towards achieving this aim.  And it really helps when we get feedback from our customers, telling us whether we’re on the right track.

 

 

Adam Stone, CEO of D-Tools talks about how Zoho CRM helped him automate the entire sales process at his company.

And yet, of course, there’s more to CRM than just software. While we’re happy to take care of the software aspect of it, trying to ensure simplicity and ease of use, there’s a lot more that you can do at your end, to make CRM work for you.

Hiring freeze? Consider the part-time solution

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This is a guest post by Craig Keolanui of SmBizSuccessTeam. To read more from Craig, visit his blog.

Today’s slowly moving economy has made many small business owners have second thoughts about hiring any new help. Many businesses are starting to experience more growth, which inadvertently puts extra stress on an already thin staff. Following over two years of adjustments, staffing levels are at all time lows and many businesses are now finally starting to look for some relief.

Part-time help makes sense. If your company has experienced slow growth, you might remain fearful about the effect hiring will have on your bottom line. Adding part-time help can alleviate some of that stress by helping out where needed without adding the extra cost of a full-timer to your payroll.

  • Part-time help allows you to plug holes in the schedule and gives added flexibility.
  • Part-time help is cheaper in State and Federal taxes and benefits.
  • Part-time help usually costs less per hour.
  • Just like using a temp, you can always offer a part-time person a full-time position if they work out and your business keeps growing.
  • There has never been a better time to find highly qualified applicants in the part-time workforce pool.

Part-time employees are no longer minimum wage misfits. There are many things to worry about when considering part-time employees, but rest them aside and watch as the part-time workforce continues to evolve.

  • Many part-time employees are more experienced and educated. Many American workers have been displaced from careers (experience); and others are going to school in order to broaden employment opportunities (more education). This leaves a workforce that is highly skilled and willing to accept part-time work.
  • Part-time employees are willing to give more than the job requires, if they see room for advancement. Many qualified applicants are willing to do whatever it takes to get a foot in the door. Why not let that door be yours? Part-time employees care and many treat a part-time job as full-time and continue to work or think about work after hours.
  • Part-time employees typically accept lower wages in order to fit the job into their current schedule. Providing a flexible schedule is a great exchange for an out-of-work professional to take a part-time job that offers less than their profession would normally pay.

What about going with a temp? Everyone knows temporary help can get you through the extra work load without the worry of adding a permanent salary. However, it is costly and you can avoid the frequent learning curve required with temps. Save the commission you’d be paying and hire part-timers with different specialties, so you can get the best for less.

Either way you look at it, part-time help can no longer be ignored and should be revisited. There are plenty of professionals out there chomping at the bit to just get the opportunity to get in your door. Now is the right time to consider letting one of them in.

Do you know who your customers are?

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This is a guest post by Sandra Faleris of SmBizSuccessTeam. To read more from Sandra, visit her blog.

Used to be customer demographics led marketing departments’ strategies. Mass media filled the bill for just about any retail-oriented small business that had a decent-size advertising budget. Vertical publications used to be one of the few vehicles with which business-to-business companies could reach their targets.

It was a shotgun approach but didn’t require “keeping up with the Zuckerbergs, Brins, Pages or Hoffmans”. These days, social media and online advertising can more directly reach your target audience, depending on who they are.

Yet, there are still oodles of customers who are dying to spend their money with companies that answer their phones and offer the personal touch during their purchase.

Loyalty has slipped in place of value. Value means different things to different ages and walks of life. Some might think ‘speed and price’ equals value. Others might equate a long-winded sales approach as “top-notch customer service”. There are also those who want “quality over price” and, of course, those who want “quality and price”.

Now, more than ever before, it is important to know who your customers are and how they, specifically, define value. According to statistics gathered from Facebook by Advertising Age*, the largest group of Facebook users are between the ages of 21-24 yrs. (17.5% male, 16.6% female), followed by the 35-44 age group (15.3% male, 15.4% female). The smallest group of users was the 64+ (4.5% male, 4.8% female), followed by the 55-63 group (5.5% male, 7.2% female).

Text messaging and the use of cell phone statistics are similar to that of Facebook users. Young adults are the most avid text users by a wide margin. Cell owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day. (Source: www.pewinternet.org)

It is important to determine the age group of your current and prospective customers. Advertising, marketing and branding efforts need to match the media habits of your target audience to get the biggest bank for the buck.

Knowing who your customers are and what they expect will become increasingly important to the success of your business. So if you don’t know social media and your customers are over 50+ years of age, your strategy should remain with mass media, direct mail and promotions. This group’s definition of value is likely to be within the “quality plus price” category, which may mean they want severe discounting on quality goods/services.

If your customers are in the demographic groups that are in the highest ‘user’ groups for Facebook, mobile use and texting, then you better jump on the Internet and get educated. This groups’ idea of value is likely to be “speed and price”, so the use of mobile marketing and social media that catches them when they’re ready to buy, might be the best route.

The bottom line is that the more you know about the demographics and psychographics of your customer, the easier it will be to understand their idea of value which will help attract and garner a new stable of users.

It’s a long and ever-changing lesson on marketing in the 21st century, but worth the education.

No employee left behind: When an employee is struggling

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

Take a look at your last auto repair receipt. What makes up the majority of the cost of the repair? Labor. You don’t need to ask an accountant what is often the largest expense on an income statement. Labor. Why is labor so costly? Because it’s the most valuable asset your business has.

Finding the right staff and keeping them happy and productive is one of your greatest challenges as a business owner. Your staff have an impact on your company’s image, profitability, ability to meet project deadlines and level of customer satisfaction. But their performance is also dependent on your management skills, so when an employee’s performance is suffering, ask yourself first “Could the problem be me?”

Micromanaging. Why does this sabotage productivity? Because all your employees want to feel recognized for their talents and trusted in their abilities to accomplish their tasks. When you micromanage, you’re sending the message that you aren’t confident in your staff’s capabilities. If that’s the case, why did you hire them in the first place? By implying that you have such low expectations of your staff, you’re taking away their opportunity to shine. Allow your staff to show you why you hired them by letting them do what they do best.

Lack of direction. If you find that your staff aren’t doing their work, maybe it’s because they don’t know what to do or don’t have enough to do. When you make sure they understand what work is their responsibility, when it needs to be done, and why it’s important, you’re giving your staff a sense of purpose. Check in with them during a short daily or weekly meeting to assign tasks, prioritize continuing projects and hear their progress.

Not enough communication. Rumors are often at the root of low morale. If your staff aren’t hearing the news from you first about what’s really happening, they can only guess. Don’t provide an opportunity for rumors to fester and create discontent: nip rumors in the bud by showing your staff that you’ll always be upfront and honest with them. After all, your staff are invested in your company almost as much as you–their livelihoods are dependent on it. Let them know before anyone else about major developments and involve them in making important decisions.

No positive reinforcement. It’s your responsibility to keep your staff motivated. What’s the best way to motivate them? Bring out their competitive side with contests and coveted prizes? Offer a carrot with a performance bonus? Foster ambition with promotion opportunities? It certainly won’t hurt to try any or all of those options. Or it could be as simple as making a point to regularly let your staff know that they’re doing good work and you appreciate them.

If an employee is underperforming, look to yourself first to find out the cause. Since every employee is a valuable asset to your company, are you doing enough to make sure no employee is left behind?