Zoho Sponsoring “On the Road Europe 2014” with ZAPP* Partners

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Following our successful On the Road Europe 2013, trip, we are very excited to be co-hosting two more events this year: one in Porto, Portugal on February 20, and a second event in Barcelona on February 26.

Continuing last year’s trend, Raju and I will be presenting some of the latest product updates and the company’s vision.
This year’s morning and afternoon sessions will include:
•    Zoho Vision & Company Roadmap
•    Running your business on Zoho (30+ applications)
•    Zoho CRM Latest Developments
•    Why choose Zoho CRM?
•    Customer presentations and case studies
•    Improving your Sales Process
•    Using Z Campaigns to Run Your e-mail Campaigns
•    Zoho open Q&A

Zoho is rapidly evolving and growing – now with 30+ business applications, a worldwide loyal customer and partner base and a growing team; these events provide a perfect opportunity to keep our Zoho friends up to date.  The “On the Road” series has been very successful in bringing together small audiences who want to learn more about the Zoho applications they are currently using or plan to use in the near future. It is also a great occasion for us to receive valuable feedback and to join some of of our partners in discussions on specific customer topics or concerns.

Thanks to our partners Globaz in Portugal and Apps Implantadores in Spain who have organized the events in their respective cities. Both partners have years of experience implementing solutions on Zoho’s suite of business applications, particularly Zoho CRM.

“We are very proud to co-host and collaborate on this event with Zoho (in Barcelona). We think it is really useful to establish new connections between our customers and Zoho and to experience first hand the Zoho ecosystem.” Raul Bellmunt Tabero – Apps Implantadores

If you are interested in attending any of the seminars, please sign up to the event pages here

*ZAPP = Zoho Alliance Partner Program – Zoho’s consulting partners and global reseller network

You’re Never Too Big to Hit the Road

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Zoho Group pic rsMost of us have attended a few expos, trade shows, or conventions in our life. I’ve certainly been to my fair share. Usually, these types of events showcase fledgling companies who are really just trying to build awareness and let people know that they exist.

Up until a few months ago, I had always thought the idea of “hitting the road” and setting up booths at conventions and expos was the type of bootstrapping that was only practical for small “mom and pops” or other up-and-coming businesses. Afterall, what tangible value could a large company like Google, Apple, Facebook, or (dare I say) Zoho possibly be able to extract?

On a good day, you might interact with a hundred people. But, if a company were to instead direct the money spent at an expo towards something like online advertising, they could reach thousands of people. Seems pretty simple, right? Why connect with a hundred when you can connect with THOUSANDS?

Well the key word here is “connect.” While mass marketing certainly has its place when it comes to building large scale awareness, it severely lacks in building strong connections.

On a day-to-day basis, how many internet advertisements, radio pieces, or television commercials do you actually connect with? How many do you interact with?

I can’t remember any of the commercials I saw yesterday, but I can remember the extra friendly barista at Starbucks the other day. We connected.

That’s not to say that there is no place for mass advertising, because obviously shouting the company message from the rooftops can lead to booming business and high growth potential. However, connections are the way to build deep rooted customer loyalty.

If we think about it geometrically, mass advertising is the way we build area, but “hitting the road” and connecting with customers is how we create depth and plant roots.

I first noticed the effect of “hitting the road” when I was in college. I worked at a place called Tennis Warehouse that was/is the largest online distributor of tennis equipment in the world. Yet, every year they would spend tens of thousands of dollars to set up a massive tent at a tennis tournament in Palm Springs, California to sell merchandise. Additionally, they would send nearly half the staff along to run the operation.

Obviously, this was a major cost.

Although they made a lot of sales, the real added value was the enthusiasm people felt when they saw a familiar brand and the customer connection that inevitably resulted in brand loyalty.

Several people would come into the tent solely to meet the staff and some of our online personalities. At the time, I was too preoccupied with enjoying my status as a q-list celebrity to realize the “connection effect” that our presence was having on our customers.

To this day, if any customer ever posts a complaint about the company on their online forums, hoards of Tennis Warehouse “fans” step in to the companies’ defense before a Tennis Warehouse admin can even address the complaint.

Now THAT is customer loyalty.

Apple and Microsoft too have become a much more local presence. I have no idea how profitable their retail stores are, but I would imagine a major reason for opening was to develop a deeper connection with customers and potential customers. I know I have personally walked into the Apple store several times just to play with the technology, and I’m more apt to buy their products knowing that I can personally connect with an Apple employee if I have any questions.

With Zoho, I’ve been fortunate to see this kind of connection in action at the annual Zoholics event as well as at a recent business expo I attended. Zoho users would see our booth and absolutely illuminate with delight.

As much as I wish their enthusiastic approach was because of my handsome face, it was more likely because of the colorful Zoho logo on my shirt.

But the connections grow beyond just the presence of Zoho.zoho interview

For example, one of my jobs is to interview enthusiastic customers we meet at such events. Not only does that help us create interesting media, but the customer now feels like a brand ambassador of the company. In psychology, they refer to this behavior as “commitment and consistency” – once someone identifies themselves as a Zoho fan, they will strive to behave consistent with that belief. Essentially, these customers become walking, talking billboards for Zoho.

And then there’s the company giveaways.

Most companies at expos go with the old standard candy bowl to lure in traffic. To their credit, anyone who has a Twix candy bar for the taking has a 100% chance of me stopping by to chat. But candy bar satisfaction to an attendee is fleeting, and the company is quickly forgotten.

At the Zoho booth however, we had something special. Ultra small flash drives that were Zoho branded. Customers were dumbfounded at the small size of the flash drive combined with its 4GB capacity and were eager to put them on their key chain. Now, for the foreseeable future, they will see the Zoho logo EVERY TIME they use the flash drive.

Subliminal marketing.

Zthumb DriveAs you can see, the flash drive is small and pretty cool (maybe I have a future career in “hand-modeling?”).

Let’s try another analogy, shall we?

Think of an expo as a crowded bar on a Saturday night and I, the attendee as an attractive single woman (this may be a stretch, I know).

The booths are like the single guys trying to lure me in with a free drink (or Twix bar). I may stop by to say hello and enjoy my free treat, but after five minutes of fluff talk, I’m finished with my drink and ready to move on to the next guy.

Then I spot Zoho with it’s colorful logo and well-dressed yet magically charming team. I stop by and chat, and they give me the coolest flash drive I’ve ever seen. Instead of walking away with an empty glass, I’m walking away with an engagement ring hooked to my key-chain that will remind me of Zoho every time I use it.

I think you get the picture (however feel free to erase the mental image of me as a woman).

The bottom line is, you’re never too big to hit the road. Sure, let’s share our brand with as many people as we can so they know we exist and offer something valuable, but the depth of customer connection is magnitudes greater when you take the time to give them a face and personality as well.

They will become connected and “engaged” to you, and THESE customers are the roots that make sure you never fall on the way to the top.

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.

How a Film Festival Plans to Run Its Entire Operations on Zoho

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Ever try to run a film festival? Me neither. But if you had to do it, would you try pulling it off without a CRM application? Probably not.

Well that’s what happened last year for the first ever Napa Valley Film Festival. The entire event was produced without CRM. The coordination was a process of looking up spreadsheets, Google Docs, and sharing documents via DropBox. It caused a lot of confusion and overworking that they want to avoid this year with a move of all operation management onto Zoho, said Carrie Markham and Ben Mahoney, the Administrative Director and Director of Operations, respectively, for the festival.

Customizing CRM for a festival

The Napa Valley Film Festival’s coordination effort is massive. Markham and Mahoney are looking to use Zoho Creator to build an application that integrates all the various elements and departments of the festival such as development, marketing, venues, wineries, operations, sponsors, volunteers, filmmakers, and film programming. Everyone needs to be coordinated and in sync.

I met Markham and Mahoney at the Zoho user conference, Zoholics in Burlingame, California. They were there to make sure that Zoho Creator could help them build applications and forms that would integrate into or from the CRM without duplicating any effort. Plus they wanted a solution that would allow them to customize every aspect for their unique needs, and eliminate the need for any data reentry.

The festival happens the second week of November every year. This year it’s November 7-11th.

Using CRM to Automatically Manage Basic Sales Tasks

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Since 2008, Johnny Shami, Sales Director at AdLift has been a customer of Zoho. Prior to that time, he lived in an offline world of contact management and CRM. Plus, all his information was split among different applications: Excel, Word, and even paper. He was constantly asking the typical sales questions such as “What’s my pipeline for this month and next month?” and “What do I need to follow up on?”

It was a world of limited access of information for him, and more so for his team. Once he moved online with Zoho that all changed.

Now that applications are integrated and everyone has access via an online CRM system, Shami says he can complete all the sales 101 tasks he couldn’t complete before such as assigning tasks, finding pipeline information for any month, and seeing how each sales person is performing.

Today, everyone has access to Zoho and Shami’s wasted hours hunting down information has been reduced dramatically.

Customers Want an Experience Through Your Brand

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There is a belief, and for most rightfully so, that Social CRM is an extension of traditional CRM. With Social CRM you’re adding new technologies and strategies to traditional CRM. As a business, this requires you to move from traditional or social channels to multi-channels, said Paul Greenberg, Principal of The 56 Group, at Zoholics, the Zoho user conference in Burlingame, California.

That makes sense if you’ve been in CRM for many years. But if you describe Social CRM to young practitioners they’ll just refer to it as CRM, said Greenberg. These supposedly “new” methods of social are traditional to them.

Customers are in control

A successful Social CRM or CRM implementation is the process of giving your customers the ability to sculpt the relationship with you where they own and control the relationship, said Greenberg.

You can do that by providing things to the customer that make them remember you well and to respond to the customer when it’s appropriate to respond. Not every engagement or call out requires a response.

Watch the video as Greenberg talks about how the line of American Girl dolls creates an experience for fathers and daughters within the American Girl stores.

Key to Customer Engagement is To Make the Customer Feel Valued

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Don’t confuse hammering your audience with marketing messages with customer engagement. You can’t force customers to engage with you. It has to be a decision the customer makes to want to interact with you in whatever manner they wish to engage, said Paul Greenberg, Principal of The 56 Group, at Zoholics, the Zoho user conference.

That engagement can be intense, casual, occasional, and/or frequent. And at any time that engagement level can change to any of the other states. Your job as a company is to provide customers with channels and capabilities to want to connect with you. If you get the customer in that state of mind, that’s engagement, Greenberg said.

Greenberg offered up the example of a company sending customers a coupon for 20 percent off every month for six months. They don’t expect each customer to actually come in and make a purchase every month, but the company is giving their customers the opportunity to make the choice to engage. Similarly, if you give people discounts to give to their friends, that’s another form of engagement that they select.

Engagement is proactive and it’s typically the customer who initiates it. What you’re providing are products and services and consumable experiences that make them want to interact with you. All you can ever do with a customer is “make them want to.” You can’t shove a message in their face and expect them to respond. You can try it that way but the typical response is usually negative, explained Greenberg.

“The goal is to engage the customer so they feel valued. So they’ll act and be proactive, not reactive.” said Greenberg.