Begin customer relations before your business is up and running

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Bernt Ruetzel is literally building a small business. It’s a rental home in Italy, an old rustic home called Bogata Roggio. As he’s waiting for permits to start building, Ruetzel has launched a website and began engaging with prospective customers.

Here’s the rundown:

Business: Vacation home in Italy, Bogata Roggio.

The challenge: Initiate customer relations before business begins operations. Add custom fields specific to the needs of his customers.

How discovered Zoho: Stumbled on Zoho at his large company that wanted to use a CRM solution just for their department. He began playing around with it and realized it would be perfect to use for his small business.

Competitive analysis of CRM tools: He looked at and compared many CRM products including He feels that all the CRM systems are the same. What differentiates them is how easily can you customize the product for your specific business needs.

Unique use case of Zoho CRM: In Germany, school holidays change depending on what region of the country you live in. By asking a prospective customer their address and if they have kids, he can determine when they have free time to take a vacation. This allows him to better time his holiday requests and offers.

Advice for others: Ruetzel says users of CRM solutions need to spend more time upfront thinking about what you want to do rather than immediately implementing. It’s important to understand the entire process from getting a prospect, to sending an offering, getting pre-payment, final payment, follow up, and ultimately feeding those tips back into the system so he can improve his business process.

How do you want to follow with your customers? What are the steps you need to take? These will inform you as to what fields you’ll need to add to customize your CRM system, Ruetzel said.

Listen to the whole interview with Bernd Ruetzel here.

Zoho Support: Our new addition to Google Apps!

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So you’ve moved your business onto the cloud, subscribed for a Google Apps account and provided your employees the benefits of interacting with customers on the web. But how do you manage the plethora of daily customer e-mails and support tickets? Tracking these discussions (who replies to whom and when) can quickly become a nightmare. 

This is where

Zoho Support
comes in. As a full-fledged, web-based help desk service, Zoho Support can ease your process of managing customer needs and add value to all of your hard work! So today, we here at Zoho are excited to announce our latest addition to the Google Apps Marketplace: Zoho Support​​.

The Google Apps and Zoho Support Integration now lets you:

  • Use

    Single sign on

    for users to access Zoho Support directly from the universal navigation bar in Google Apps

  • Add users from Google Apps into Zoho Support

    as support representatives

  • Import contacts from Google Apps

    into Zoho Support as customers

To learn more about these features and more ways to use Zoho Support, check out

Zoho Support for Google Apps
You could also check out the list of all

Zoho services integrated with Google Apps

Apple’s Revenue History

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Apple’s revenue now is at a run rate of over $100 billion dollars, a good deal higher than that of Microsoft. Apple’s profits also well exceed Microsoft’s profits. Yet, Apple has only about 50% of the headcount of Microsoft. These things were utterly unthinkable just 5 years ago. One way to visualize this is to imagine Yahoo overtaking Google in the search market and in terms of overall revenue & profits (Google does about 6 times the revenue of Yahoo), and multiply that difficulty by 10-fold, because Yahoo actually still makes money, but Apple was losing a lot of money when Steve Jobs came back in 1996.

I assumed that Apple grew steadily from when Jobs came back. I was wrong. Here is the revenue trajectory of Apple all the way going back to 1981. Focus on the years after 1997.

Notice the crisis in 96-97-98 when he came back – that was a stomach churning drop in revenue, which explains why he came back. But notice that 5 years after he came back, in 2002, Apple still had less revenue than in 1997 (in fact, it was less than they had as far back as1989!). During those 5 years between 1997-2002, revenue first went up, and then went down again during the recession in 2001-2. Even worse, Apple was again losing money in 2001, a full 4 years after he came back. Why is that relevant? Any normal person would have found it very hard to keep the spirit and motivation up at that time. Apple’s greatest years were ahead of them, but only one person would have possibly believed it – Steve Jobs. No one else, in 2002, would have believed Apple’s best days were ahead. From only 2005, did Apple really achieve that big burst of growth, and within just 6 years Apple has overtaken Microsoft.

Also notice the extreme variation in growth. Even after the iPod arrived, Apple’s growth rates has dipped as low as 14% and has gone as high as 68% (until 2011, when it scaled new highs). In the 2009 bust, Apple dipped to only 14% year-over-year growth. Yet, in 2011, driven by the boom in iPad, Apple is exceeding 80% growth without meaningfully adding any headcount. This is the track record Jobs has piled up. I don’t know it will ever be equalled in this industry again.

Chocolates and Zoho Recruit: The Ah Cacao Story

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Today, we are pleased to share the story of how Ah Cacao Real Chocolate simplified their recruitment process with Zoho Recruit. Rohan Barnett, General Manager at Ah Cacao, describes how they were able to overcome recruitment-related challenges with our Applicant Tracking System.
About Ah Cacao
Ah Cacao Real Chocolate, founded in 2003, offers a complete chocolate experience for both the mind and body. Their chocolates are handmade by skilled artisans with the finest Mexican cacao and natural ingredients that create a heavenly taste and a true ancient Mayan experience. 
Ah Cacao’s Challenge
Within the 35-person company, Ah Cacao employs only one person to manage the administrative work across three retail stores and a wholesale business. And for a growing company with no human resource employees, this can be a challenge and requires appropriate technology to keep things running smoothly. In the past, Ah Cacao used Google Docs to receive employment applications, but this presented three specific problems:
1. Candidate information was hard to read in a spreadsheet.
2. Replying to candidates and keeping track of their statuses was laborious and error prone.
3. Candidate photos had to be requested individually by e-mail, another laborious process.
Zoho Solution
As the general manager,” Barnett explains, “I just didn’t have the time to continue contacting candidates by e-mail. That’s when I went online in search of an automated solution and came across Zoho Recruit. Today, about five people access the information in Zoho Recruit. We use the job openings feature to post current openings on our website. We also use this URL in our job announcements, and it is the only medium by which we accept applications.

After switching to Zoho Recruit, retrieving and organizing employment applications has become easier. After reviewing the applications, Barnett then divides the candidates into three groups to determine the action to take in response:

1. Unqualified/rejected – an e-mail is sent automatically to the candidate.  

2. Hireable – we may hire the person in the future, but not right now. An e-mail template is sent. 

3. Interview – we use interviewer scheduler to send an invitation, again with an e-mail template that includes a Google Map link to the interview location.

Zoho Recruit Impact
Zoho Recruit has made the recruiting process much more streamlined and automated. Now, we receive an application and with a few clicks, we can reply to the candidate and update his or her status. This saves us a lot of time and allows us to be more responsive to the candidates, which improves our image as a company,” says Barnett.
Read more about Ah Cacao and Zoho Recruit here.

If you have a success story that you would like to share, please drop us a mail at or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter Integrates with Zoho CRM

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This is a guest post by Robert C. Johnson, CEO of, a cloud based customer support management solution, is excited to announce the completion of a powerful new integration with Zoho CRM.

Once the simple setup is completed, the integration provides for the seamless transfer of select customer and contact information from Zoho CRM directly into TeamSupport.  When new support tickets are created in TeamSupport they are automatically added as notes into Zoho so that the sales team can be kept in the loop on support issues.

The transfer and update of contact names, addresses and phone numbers happens seamlessly in the background with no intervention required by either TeamSupport or Zoho users.  When a Zoho user marks an account as a “Customer” then that data is automatically sent to TeamSupport.

TeamSupport is a powerfully simple customer support software, and our integration with Zoho CRM brings two best of breed solutions together for our mutual customers.  We’re very excited about our integration with Zoho and look forward to a great partnership!

Read more about the TeamSupport – Zoho CRM integration here.

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!

. 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.


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
, 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.