Small Businesses and The Dark Ages

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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.


Rodrigo

What SMBs should be integrating into their CRM, for today and tomorrow

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At the CRM Evolution Conference in New York City I sat down
with Brent Leary, co-founder and partner of CRM
Essentials
, to talk about what SMBs are successfully integrating into their
CRM package today and what should they be doing in the future.

We talked about backend operational efficiencies, project
management, collaboration, more efficient sales teams (from a mobile
perspective), and more effective internal communications.

CRM customers expose how they’re integrating CRM into their business

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CRM’s real power is when it’s integrated with your business’
applications and processes. Pulling that off is not easy though. And nobody I
spoke to at the CRM Evolution Conference in New York City had everything
integrated, but they were doing some integration. I asked attendees how they
were integrating CRM into their business processes today, and how they’d like
to integrate CRM into their business processes for the future.

Social CRM: Getting a holistic view of your customers

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Do you know what your customers, non-customers, advocates,
and detractors are saying about you when they’re not talking to you? John
Bastone, Global Product Marketing Manager, Customer Intelligence Industry and
Solution Marketing for SAS may be able to tell
you.

SAS, a legendary statistical giant (I actually studied SAS
programming in college) is trying to make sense of the world of valuable yet
unstructured data that you don’t normally see in a CRM system. They’re trying
to link social media activity to customer activity to help businesses get a
holistic view of their customers.

Almost all of SAS’ clients are huge enterprise companies
that already have tons of people discussing them in the social sphere. They’re
just trying to make sense of all the chatter in terms of who are the
influencers, the advocates, and the detractors. But what if you’re not that big
and nobody’s talking about you? Is there nothing to measure?

Bastone says all is not lost. You still have a domain and an
industry and a certain topic area that’s relevant to you. Start searching for
pockets of consumers who care about those issues.

Break out of the software upgrade cycle by moving your CRM to the cloud

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Mark_Stacey

Mark Stacey was a 17-year veteran of desktop-based contact management and CRM software. While useful, he kept getting mired in the frustrating cycle of software upgrades. That all ended when he moved his CRM operations to the cloud.

Business

Mark Stacey is the CEO of the Milagro Advisory Group, a business development and integrated marketing consultancy. He is also the co-founder of Alcance Media, a five-year-old advertising network for the Spanish marketplace.

The Challenge

Stacey has a long history of using contact management and CRM applications. Back in 1989, he computerized his Rolodex with a DOS-based version of ACT. Immediately, his business experienced rapid growth. He quickly became a convert to the importance of CRM systems.

While Stacey stayed with ACT for many years, he still faced a major challenge keeping up with the program’s evolution. Each version required new installations and proper training in order to take advantage of the upgrades. He was getting frustrated, yet he still upgraded.

How discovered Zoho CRM

When Stacey started his new company, Alcance Media, one of the board members suggested Zoho.

Competitive analysis of CRM

Up until that Zoho recommendation, Stacey wasn’t looking at any other CRM solution. He was just trying to get ACT and also Microsoft’s Business Contact Manager to work.

While Zoho CRM had all the functionality they needed, the fact that it operated in the cloud was its major selling point, said Stacey.

Stacey also liked the friendly interface which made it a lot easier to train his staff. Also admitting to not being technically proficient, Stacey claimed Zoho CRM is the easiest program he’s ever used.

Unique use case

It didn’t take long to jump on board with Zoho at Alcance and Milagro. After just a few weeks of importing, configuring, and training, his staff were all in the field utilizing Zoho CRM.

Stacey used Zoho CRM to manage sales teams, databases, and people in business development and operations.

Advice for others

Before Stacey discovered Zoho he resigned himself to being frustrated with the tools he had. He advises others not to go through the same aggravation.

“No matter the size of your organization, you need to put your toe in the water with a program like Zoho,” said Stacey. “The savings and return on productivity cannot be dismissed.”

“Why wait?”, asks Stacey. He recommends anyone not already using CRM to open your own personal free account, play with it over the weekend and see if it can work for you.

Listen to Mark Stacey’s interview here.

Keep your Customers happy and they’ll keep you in business!

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For any business, it’s the ‘relationship’ part of Customer Relationship Management that really matters. The old adage “Keep your Customers happy and they’ll keep you in business” holds especially true in this ‘social-media-centric’ era today. Customers now are part of your community, they want instant answers to their problems and they drive your business!

So, what can you do to keep your customers happy? While it’s true that there’s never a “one size fits all” solution, it’s still possible to tell all your customers that you’re there for them and that you’re listening to them. Here are 5 ways…


1. Be aware of every nook and corner of your Product

Consider this situation:


Customer: We have a requirement for 250 users. We would like to know if your new integration can support us.

You: Ugghh.. ok.. wait.. Just hold on a moment, Let me just find out.

During this hold period, the customer must be thinking, ‘If the executive isn’t confident enough, how’s this company going to support me after the sale? Should I go to some other place, where they’re sure what they’ll be offering us?’

Being knowledgeable and confident about every aspect of your product always helps, because only then will you be able to pass on that conviction to the customer.


2. State the Facts

In other words, honesty is definitely the best policy. Playing around with your customers’ expectations just because you want to retain them, well, how terrible can that get? Ask the question: ‘How would you want to be treated had you been in your customer’s shoes?’


3. Be willing to Educate

Telling more is always good – not just about your product/service but about the industry, the latest trends or the value addition that you can bring in over your competitors. There’s no assurance that you’d make a sale, but you’re sure to earn a long term business contact!


4. Be in Touch

A call or an email once in a while, just to say “hello”, posting on a customer’s wall, telling them about the latest in your product/service or a even a tweet will do. Simple, yet effective. Reach out!


5. And finally, use your CRM system well

The power of your CRM system lies in how well you use it. Sticking to the basics will go a long way.

Let’s take a very common example of the Sales Team: You talk to a prospect, and there’s plenty that the prospect will have to say. A task as simple as adding notes to the Contact details can help you build a strong relationship. Your note can be like: ‘

Talked to Jonathan. Interested in buying the Enterprise version. Asked questions which include pricing, customization features, mobile edition and Security. Wants a demo on the 5th. Loves to talk about the market conditions. Interested in Politics. Big MJ fan and dwells on Pizzas!

A few weeks later, when you have a call with Jonathan again, you can’t be better prepared for the call. The notes that you’d added will be your savior.

These are a few points but can be vital. Many of us – be it Sales, Marketing, Customer Support or Engineering – forget to empathize with customers while communicating with them. Amid the flurry of trying to get work done, we forget to realize that it’s people’s emotions that we are dealing with. In the end of it all, it’s those business relationships that count.

What are the other ways in which you keep your customers happy so that they keep you in business? Let us know your ideas too!
(Image courtesy:

stock.xchng
)

Raw Engineering taps Zoho Recruit for their Recruitment Process

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Today we are excited to hear from Banani Prusty – HR Manager, at raw engineering about how her company has transformed their recruitment process with Zoho Recruit.

A Little about raw engineering

raw engineering specializes in web and mobile application development, serving its clients with offices in San Francisco and Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. Our 35-person company is on a mission to solve the toughest web architecture and integration challenges. To that end, we have built core development expertise in .NET, Java, PHP, Ruby on Rails, and related Web 2.0 and rich Internet application technologies. Our qualified engineers provide services at an extremely competitive rate, with the highest levels of quality and technical integrity, and we are one of the only technology firms known to guarantee customer satisfaction.

raw engineering’s Challenge

We had not been using any other tool in the past. As a result, the recruitment process was very slow and inefficient. We were having a particularly difficult time keeping track of applicants.

Zoho Solution

We have been long-time users of Zoho People and Zoho Projects, so we already knew the company and knew that we really liked their applications. It was no surprise that when we tried Zoho Recruit, we found it very quick and easy-to-use. It’s a very effective way of managing the recruitment process. The interface is great as well. And we get excellent support from Zoho. Now, we use Zoho Recruit to post job openings, track applicants and maintain our resume database. In the future, we would like to use other features that it provides. We would like to sign up for a few more recruiters in the future as it has made our job much simpler and more effective.

Zoho Recruit Impact

With Zoho Recruit, we can track applicants very easily and quickly. Overall, Zoho Recruit has made our recruitment process very easy, very effective and very organized.

Read more about raw engineering’s success story using Zoho Recruit.

If you have a success story that you would like to share, please drop us a mail at support@zohorecruit.com or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter