Smart Tools For Small Businesses

Small business success is something often gained by long hours, hard work, and 100 dedication to the tasks and milestones you have set for yourself to get there. As an entrepreneur or small business owner one of your biggest desires is to see that thing you created grow into something remarkable. How do you do that without losing site of friends or family. Without giving up going to the park or a movie, or even spending time on your favorite hobby.

I am Pete Blum and today on the Florida GovCon Podcast we kick off our second series. This series is based on Smart Tools For Small Businesses.

While working hard is something required for business success working smarter can help you be more efficient, more organized, and get you some of that valuable time back to rejuvenate and enjoy life. I want you to be successful and happy, not just successful.

Today the internet and technology play a big part when it comes to business success. You may have gotten to where you are by pounding the pavement and knocking on doors initially but now you really want to take it to the next level and are not sure how to do that. With this 7 episode podcast series I am going to talk to you about the tools that can help your business and explain how they work. A beneficial example of many of these tools is the ability to work from anywhere and still collaborate with you team or network with your peers as if you were in the office. Think about how much more productive you and your team can be by using some smart tools.

For each episode in this series I will be talking about a particular tool or group of tools to help you gain some valuable insight on the benefits the tool offers. Today I will talk to you about CRM (customer relationship management). For the rest of the series I will cover these tools:

LinkedIn– I am an avid user of LinkedIn and I will tell you my story of how it got me where I am today. LinkedIn really encompasses making a brand for yourself and building a business community. Both of which are critical for success in today’s competitive business world.

Facebook and Twitter– In the past these were thought to be more for fun than for business. There was a line between personal use and business use and companies did not allow them to be used in the work place. Now they are a thriving part of the business world and I will talk about what they have to offer for your business success.

Office Productivity Applications– The core of your business usually boils down to your email, your contacts, your calendar, and your documents. There are some great tools out there allowing you to manage all of those things from anywhere. I will talk about two of the biggest and well known tools in this area, Office 365 and Google Apps. Added to that I will talk about document storage options on One Drive/Google Drive/Dropbox.

Small Business Productivity Tools– There is a long list of productivity tools available but you may not know which ones to use or which ones will benefit your business the most. I will tell you about the ones I personally feel will benefit you the most for things like training, team collaboration, and more.

Small Business Marketing– Marketing is certainly a key to success! You may have the greatest product or service but if only a few people know about it you are not maximizing your potential for success. To save you hours of research and comparison I will provide you information on tools and give you other ideas to help your company thrive.

Attracting Veterans– The last episode in this series with be all about using tools so that your business can attract and keep veteran employees. Everyone knows veterans make great employees. They are already organized, disciplined, mission oriented, and on time. Employing a veteran is also like giving back and thanking them for volunteering to put their life on the line for our country. This is something I am very passionate about since I served in two branches of the military.

Today’s Topic is CRM

CRM is really the backbone of your business. It is where you store and manage all of your customer data, allowing you to interact, analyze, and build business relationships with your customers.

I am sure you have heard of Salesforce, Microsoft, and Oracle. Well they may work great for large enterprise corporations but what you really want is something more cost effective and geared towards your needs as a small business. A few options that I would like to throw out there after doing research and having some experience using them are HubSpot, SugarCRM, Zoho, Contactually, and Insightly.

HubSpot– Now HubSpot really has a great marketing team. You practically see and hear everywhere about their free CRM for life. It is easy to setup, very powerful, and they add new features frequently. They even have the HubSpot University and teach you about inbound marketing. You have the ability to record every aspect of a customer’s journey in one place and create ‘deals’ for each prospect. That makes it easy to follow and maintain a relationship with your customer. There is not as much customization available as there would be with a more powerful CRM but again it is free.

One thing I found out fairly quickly after implementing the product was even thought it was so easy to setup and use once I had loaded up contacts into the CRM I was not able to create a group to add contacts to so I could send out a mailing list. HubSpot has great marketing software as well but it is not free. So they have great tools, training, and support but when it comes to software pricing the breakdown is: free unlimited CRM software, Sales software for $50 a month, and a basic marketing software plan for $200 a month. Onboarding and add-ons will cost you extra also.

SugarCRM– SugarCRM is open source and can be downloaded for free. If you have a server to run it on and are comfortable managing and customizing CRM yourself this is a great option. If you do not have a server to run it on you can get it hosted someplace like Amazon Web Services. AWS has fairly inexpensive data usage plans to get started. Costs go up as you need more space, dedicated space, or a faster speed. The amount of emails you can send out is limited with the smaller AWS plans. Additionally you can go with the fully supported option of purchasing a plan from SugarCRM that starts at $40 a month or get a bigger plan with more features at a higher cost.

SugarCRM is easy to use and is packed full of features. Sugar Studio is a great tool that allows for easy customization of forms and fields. Instead of groups SugarCRM uses Target Lists but they work the same as groups. It comes fully equipped with marketing tools like email campaigns. I think it has most of the features as any enterprise level software at a better price.

Zoho– Zoho is really climbing up the ranks as a CRM product as they offer an entire portfolio of software products that complement each other. Their CRM is flexible with many features. They even have a robust mobile app that will scan business cards right into the system as well as many other features. Their user interface is really friendly and the reporting is great. You can start off with a free 10 user plan and get up and running. They have several well priced plans starting at $12 month. There are many add-ons for practically every business need and most of those have a free version as well. They put a lot of focus into their mobile app and its capabilities. They have integration into Microsoft Outlook, QuickBooks, Google Apps, and social media platforms.

Contactually– Contactually is a CRM built around building and maintaining relationships. If you want your customers to feel like you really have a personal interest in them this is a great CRM to accomplish that. Rather than groups they use buckets and tags to organize and filter your contacts. It is easy to setup and get started and the dashboard interface is one of the better ones I have seen.

It integrates with your email and actually lets you know who you need to reach out to and follow up with daily. This way you can keep your business relationships “warm”. They color code these relationships as well so you know which ones need an action taken the most. One of the things I like best is the extensive list of customizable email templates for practically every event that you can think of like reaching out to a new lead, a networking event follow-up, a newsletter and more. They have a $29 monthly plan that gives you most everything you need but the $49 monthly professional plan is the one that gives you all the customizable email templates, more bulk messaging, and pipelines for sales tracking.

Insightly– I have not used Insightly but it is a good one to keep an eye on when it comes to weighing your options. It has a good reviews by small businesses and appeared in a top 5 list for 2016. The main one being its simplicity from a user perspective. It has tight email integration with Google Apps and Office365. They offer CRM, project management, sales pipelines, reporting, and more all in one package. They have a free plan with some basics and a $12 monthly plan but neither of those plans really give you enough storage. To get a decent amount of storage you really need to go with their $49 a month professional plan. They have a good mobile app and are integrated with many social media platforms.

There are so many CRM solutions to choose from that it could turn into a burden trying to find out which one is right for you. Hopefully narrowing it down to these 5 has helped you gain a better idea of what you are looking for if you’re are either trying to find the right CRM solution or you are looking at moving to a better one.

Keep in mind some of these key points when making a decision on a CRM solution:

Does the software have the core functionality you need for your business?
Does the plan you are considering give you enough disk storage?
How important is customization to you?
Does your company need a CRM solution with a mobile app?
Does the solution come with any training or webinars to teach you what you need to know?

Summary

For all of the tools I will be talking about in this series some are free and some come with a price as you have heard with the CRM solutions I talked about today. Either way they are valuable tools that will help you move your business forward. An investment in the right tools can give you the boost you have been needing and help you reach new audiences. In the end that means increased revenue while gaining some time back to do something that you love!

For some of these tools I will dig down and go into some of the details that matter the most for your success. For others I will give you some overview and comparison in order for you to make a better decision on which tool is right for you and your business.

I hope that you have enjoyed this podcast and I hope you enjoy this series. It will be published every Friday at noon.