CRM in SmallBiz: Disappointing MisconceptionsWritten by Dinko Bacun
In last few months there has been quite a lot of discussion on CRM (customer relationship management) solutions in forums and ezines. Although it is extremely positive that people finally started to talk about one concept that will make future of a business successful or unsuccessful, there are quite a few misconceptions about term. Those misconceptions make people lose time and energy finding solutions in areas they should not be even searching, instead in concentrating on really important things. First, simplest and least obvious: Customer Relationship Management is about RELATIONS between people (yes, business is done by people, not companies). It is NOT technology. Business did exist before computers, so relations between business people existed before computers, i.e. CRM was not invented with invention of computers (just name CRM was). The good practices of relating with your customer did not become obsolete with introduction of computers, though TOOLS changed. So we use same practices, but we take advantage of possibilities that technology gives. It certainly is a different experience for buyer if he is met on web site by a human voice or keyboard chat (LivePerson, FireTalk, HumanClick) which is what technology now makes possible. The technology enables us to see how customer is navigating through site, and, if we want to, interrupt him and offer assistance. But I wonder whether customer will welcome that. If you are a salesman in a brick and mortar store, you would watch expression of customer and, based on that, decide to approach him or not. On net you cannot see his face (it's questionable if he'll let you even if possible). In any case, CRM is NOT technology, so you will not find your CRM solution among SW vendors. Which brings us to misconception number two. Business people tend to search for a CRM solution among SW developers and vendors. "They know technology, which I (the business manager) don't know, so they will know my needs and how to implement it". If a business manager would object to such a suggestion he would be labeled "old" and "overdue". In today fast business lane, fortunes are made fast, and young managers tend to "buy" a CRM software solution. CRM should already be in place, functioning, BEFORE starting IT implementation (who has to forward which info to whom to be ready for who, when? Who has to respond to what in how much time?). CRM Software solution is only a TOOL for procedures already in place. Let me draw a parallel. With invention of cars, way we conduct business changed. We could do much more business and do it better. But never once, it occurred to us to let auto designers lead and ENFORCE way we are building relations with our customers. So why does everybody think that software designers are capable of that? They might be brilliant SW developers, but still they wouldn't know how to better customer retention in a company manufacturing furniture. So why do we try to do that? Because it is easier not to lose time over enforcement of customer retention rules in our own company, when we can pay someone to do it. Because we have money, but we don't have TIME. Well, we can't do that. We cannot avoid our involvement in process (and our hours, of course), although I know most of you didn't want to hear this. Which brings us to misconception number three. You search for an SW solution for your CRM, buy it, and let those people do their job. As good manager, you organize weekly meetings to have your finger on things. Because you selected a SW vendor which is a respectable company, first thing those people do, is to organize internal audit. They pass out forms to people in different departments, to find out exactly what are needs of different parts of your company. Alternatively, they conduct interviews. And that is good. That is much better then them trying to force their "proven" flow of documentation upon your company. But what they are actually doing is LEARNING way your company functions. And teaching is done by people who work in each department, that most probably, don't have whole picture. So integration of whole picture is done by SW vendor. Can they learn in a fortnight or a month? I would suggest another approach. Find an "oldie" within your company, preferably one year from retirement. The one that does know how your company lives, who preferably worked a bit in sales, a bit in procurement and a bit in support or reclamation.
Guaranteed Traffic Generators!Written by Chad Hall
How do you promote a web site for a company that has an extremely limited buying group? Sure, most of companies on Internet today sell one small product or service, which is searched for by thousands, if not millions of people every day. But, if your company is like ours, you don't have a lot of people searching for your product. Or your competitor's product! Our company is in high voltage capacitor business. There just aren't a lot of uses for our product in today's "smaller, faster, cheaper" world. What does all of this mean? It means that I have to work twice as hard as most web developers or promoters to get hits to our site. If your company is like our company, then you will want to follow experience driven methods I have listed below.
1. Links, links, links. I can't say enough about getting sites to link to yours. It is a very simple method, but it takes time and it WORKS! In my case, I have simply searched for companies that would require one of our parts. I then write to them and let them know that we would be interested in a link to their site. Nine out of ten times, they link to us without ever asking for a reciprocal link! Most search engines today take into account number of other sites that link to your site. They assume that if other companies are linked to you, that your site must be good. Another approach is to search for links to your competitor's page. Go to sites that come up, and ask them to link to your site as well. You will be amazed at number of web sites that are simply devoted to linking to other pages! To search for links to a page, try using AltaVista or HotBot. As an example, type in following: link:www.yahoo.com You will be amazed at results! Of course, after you request links to pages, you will have to wait until search engines have indexed again before they know that you are now linked to other sites. Search Engines index on a rate from every two weeks to ever six months.
2. Meta tags. You MUST make sure that you have your Meta tags generated properly. This has been covered by Web Pro News an infinite amount of time, and it is just as important as registering your own domain name. Without Meta tags, most search engines will just pass over you. For a brief explanation on Search Engines and for a free Meta tag evaluation, visit Northern Webs at http://www.northernwebs.com/set/setsimjr.html