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5 Ways Speakers can Get More Referral Gigs

How heavily do you rely on referrals to keep your calendar booked?

For many professional speakers, referrals are an absolute key source of business. The idea that these might dry up, or go through a quiet spell, could be quite detrimental to the health of their business.

You might be fortunate and find that many of your referrals “just happen,” but a more reliable strategy is to create those referral opportunities for yourself.

So how can you ensure that you keep a steady pipeline of good referrals?

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#1. Gather feedback

Hopefully you’re already in the habit of gathering presentation feedback as a way to help guide improvements in the future. But what does feedback have to do with referrals?

One primary concern of many companies that book speakers is seeing an ROI from the engagement. Did booking you as a speaker create the value they were hoping for?

When you think about it, corporate gigs are usually arranged because the company has some kind of goal they’d like to accomplish by booking you. As for conference gigs, they want to know that having you up on stage checked the boxes for their audience so that they come back next time.

So, you should tell them how you added value.

Here’s a neat tip from professional speaker Hugh Culver: ask the “one thing” question.

“For everyone who comes to talk with me, buy a book, or ask a question, I always, always ask them what is the one thing in my speech that made a difference.”

When he asks this question, people pause. They consider that “one thing” and then, as Culver describes it, they give him the best free market research possible.

“If they say they learned tips they can use – great! I’ll include more of them.

If they tell me they feel more empowered – great! I’ll spend more time on motivation.

And if they tell me one lesson made all the difference – great! I’ll promote that lesson more.”

You could take that feedback and simply use it to craft your future presentations, or, you can do what Culver does and share your findings with your client. Make sure your client knows of any evidence you have that what you are doing works.

You can assume that some people will naturally refer to you once they have seen you in action and had great feedback, but this is not something to leave to chance…

More referral gigs

Gather feedback from audiences and present that as success to your client #speakertips Click To Tweet

#2. Ask for the referral

Asking for the referral is an obvious step, but it’s important to know how to ask the right way. Joanne Black has become legendary among sales practitioners with her approach to proactively seeking out referrals. The No More Cold Calling founder believes that getting referrals shouldn’t be a lucky break or afterthought, but a key part of generating business.

Black says that many people in sales think that they have to wait until after closing the sale to ask, but this isn’t true. You can ask at any time, ideally after delivering some kind of value (see our first tip above!). You’ll know you’ve delivered something, because the person is probably saying “thank you.”

For many professional speakers, there is an aversion to the word “sales,” but in the end, you are running a business. This means that it is valid to look at the advice of sales professionals for building your business. Ask for that referral!

A good approach, rather than simply asking “do you know anyone who could benefit from my services?” is to be more specific. Who exactly is your ideal customer? Describe them to the client and ask if they know anyone who matches the description.

To take it a step further, do some homework on the client and find out what you can about who they are connected to already. For example, you might look at their connections on LinkedIn – are any of them a good match for your services? You may be able to work a warm referral to the person into your conversation.

#3. Keep in regular contact

You’ve got stacks of business cards from events and emails in a database, but are you optimizing your contact management to build your business and get referrals?

A common problem in many businesses is lack of consistency. They have a vast network of contacts, but they don’t stay in touch. Or, when they think of it (or suddenly have a need to book the work), they send an email out of the blue.

The problem is, if you don’t regularly stay in contact, the relationship easily fizzles out. When your email arrives in their inbox, they don’t remember who you are and mark it as spam.

There is a better way of ensuring that you keep up contact, and that’s by using a good CRM tool (check out KarmaCRM here) to manage those contacts. Develop a regular program of keeping in touch, such as through an email newsletter. At the same time, make sure you keep updated information on your contacts. Where did you meet? Where are they and what do they do? Try to keep information updated as anything changes.

#4. Make yourself shareable

What is it that makes people want to share your work or your content? Whether this is your social media posts, blog posts, or links to something else you have produced, think about what is most appealing to people.

The idea is that the more shares you get, the more visibility you have and the better the chance of those word-of-mouth referrals. Make it easy for people to share your content by producing posts regularly and engaging with people on your online channels.

Importantly, the idea is that you deliver value somehow, and aren’t afraid to give some away for free. For example, what if you had video snippets of yourself, delivering a quick message? This would serve to highlight your speaking ability as well as the content you deliver. Shareable quotes or thought-provoking articles might also be good options. You can experiment to see what appeals the most to your particular audience.

#5. Have a hook

Your “hook” is your point, or engaging ideas which reel in your audience. These might include exercises which get people involved, memorable stories, or thought-provoking ideas. You have to grab your audience within the first minute of your presentation so that you can keep them interested enough to stay tuned.

What does this have to do with getting referrals? Well, similar to making yourself shareable, having a hook that engages the audience or is relatable for them is a good way to spark word of mouth referrals.

If you have something that is provoking enough, people will tweet out your quotes and stories, or still be talking about them with others in the days after the event. Think about the “meat” of the presentation you deliver, but also consider the punchy lines which are easy to repeat and eminently shareable.

More referral gigs

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Final thoughts

What will you be doing to make sure that your referral pipeline remains stacked?

Sales is a critical aspect of a professional speaking business, and every decent salesperson will tell you that referrals need to be a focus. It’s not just about talking to anyone and everyone, you also want to make sure that you are being referred to people who are your ideal client.

Have you thought about exactly what that ideal client looks like? This might be a good place to start, to guide your referral strategy. Consider who it is you are looking for and be able to articulate that to your clients.

We’d love to hear any good strategies you use for landing referrals – let us know in the comments below…

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

Why Speakers Need a Business Owner Mindset

Speaking is a business, and the most successful professional speakers treat it that way.

In fact, you can be the most dazzling, engaging speaker there is up on stage, but still feel the pinch offstage if you’re not of the right mindset. Your business can fizzle if you’re not approaching it with an owner’s perspective.

As Hall of Fame speaker Shep Hyken said in a previous interview:

“The speaking business is two words: it’s speaking and it’s business. There are successful speakers who are just good at what they do. Then there are amazing speakers that will blow you away with their speaking ability, but they don’t get much work. The difference is that some people have figured out that the speaking business is two words, and others haven’t.”

What then, does having a business owner mindset involve?

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Taking a proactive stance

Most professional speakers don’t “just” speak. If they have any team members, that usually consists of one other person, such as a virtual assistant for helping them to stay organized. Whether you’re a small team or flying solo, your job is still to proactively guide strategy.

Even if you’ve got a huge network of contacts and potential sources for referrals, the gigs don’t just happen, it takes active management to keep your calendar booked.

Jeff Bush, a speaker whom we interviewed recently, estimates that he lost up to 20 opportunities per year just because his inbox wasn’t proactively managed. We get it! There’s only so much time in a day and inboxes have a habit of being crowded places.

Luckily, Bush is a speaker who understands the value of a holistic approach in managing a business. He took a step back, examined what was going on, and realized he needed a tool to help with long-term nurturing of prospective clients. In this way, he is proactively managing his business, rather than simply hoping that someone will book and responding in an ad hoc fashion.

This definition of a proactive business is a good one for speakers to consider:

“A proactive company is one that places greater emphasis on forward-thinking strategic planning as opposed to reactive strategies to deal with problems, or to approach opportunities as they arise.”

You get to actively create your own opportunities – that’s what tends to separate the most successful professional speakers from the rest. What can you do to adopt a growth strategy for your business?

Business owner mindset

Willingness to learn

“Every act of conscious learning requires the willingness to suffer an injury to one’s self-esteem. That is why young children, before they are aware of their own self-importance, learn so easily.” – Thomas Szasz

Learning can be humbling and a bit scary, but successful speakers know that in order to grow themselves and their businesses, a willingness to learn is a must. This often means having to get a bit uncomfortable, to tread unfamiliar waters in a quest to make improvements to your own business.

A common area that many speakers express discomfort with is getting sales. You’ll hear some variation of “oh, I’m not into sales,” and yet, without sales, how would you have a business? Whether it’s sales, implementing new business software, researching new topics to meet market demand or any other area that may be “new” to you, having that simple willingness to learn is part of the owner mindset.

You’re in charge of strategy, and adopting new practices or learning new things can be a key part of keeping a business thriving. Remember, your clients, the business market, and the world in general aren’t remaining stagnant, so neither should you.

From our speaker interview series, Diane DiResta says:

Most speakers love speaking, and that is where they may be putting all their effort, but it’s really a sales and marketing business.”

If these areas are unfamiliar territory to you, then they should be learning priorities. On keeping your business thriving for the long-term DiResta says:

“You also have to be a lifelong learner. You have to stay relevant. The market has changed so much that you have to continue to learn new skills, new technology, and new ways of doing business.”

Willingness to learn can be humbling, but it’s part of a business mindset for professional speakers Click To Tweet

Getting to know customers deeply

Customers are the heart of any business, and the savvy business owner knows it. For professional speakers, like any other type of business out there, being able to deliver value is a key to success.

In order to develop the content and packages that will deliver the best value to clients, top professional speakers do their homework. They get to know their customers deeply.

Michael Hoffman, CSP, a motivational sales and customer-service expert, discusses part of his preparation process:

“I listen for the words they use: what they call themselves, what they say when they complain about their jobs, how they talk about their clients. Then, I will pepper these words into my presentation.”

It’s not just about your preparation for the gigs you have already booked though, it’s the research and preparation that you do in-between. Staying up-to-date with the common issues in the industries of your clients and understanding where their typical needs are helps to put you in a better position to book the next opportunity. This is another part of being proactive – deliberately seeking issues which you can deliver help on.

One thing that can help to get you into the right mindset is to have clearly developed “avatars” or “personas” for your clients. These help you to create a clear picture of who your target client usually is, what their interests and problems are, and how you can help them. You may have more than one customer type, so sometimes it makes sense to develop a few different avatars.

Being a doer

“Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down.”

-Charles F. Kettering

For a professional speaker, being a “doer” is about maintaining momentum. It’s about grit, tenacity and finding ways to move your business forward.

via GIPHY

This doesn’t mean you have to actually “do” everything. In fact, this might not be the wisest use of your time. However, you do look for ways to ensure those key tasks in your business still get done, with or without your input.

Neen James, a professional speaker whom we interviewed, is a great example of a “doer” who ensures that her time is well-spent. She operates a virtual team and says:

“I outsource as much as I can so that I can focus.”

Part of the secret to this is systemizing everything that she can. It might initially take you some time to document processes, create templates and automate what you can, but in the end, this allows you greater time-freedom.

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Final thoughts

You can rock the stage every time you’re up there, but that alone is not what keeps a successful speaking business going. You need to take care of the “business” part and operate with a business owner’s mindset.

This might mean heading out of your comfort zone, needing to learn new skills or develop systems that support your business. Willingness to learn and being proactive are key traits that will help you to maintain momentum.

Be sure to check out our professional speaker interview series for more nuggets from successful speakers.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

What Does a Great Business Workflow Look Like for a Speaker?

What separates a speaker at the top of their game from one who is kind of middling or just getting by?

There are a lot of factors we could point to – connections, marketing, global footprint…but one less talked about is the workflow the speaker uses to keep their business ticking.

Managing the “business side” is often less appealing to a speaker, or perhaps outside of your usual wheelhouse. However, having a well-managed business workflow is what keeps the opportunities coming and your profile growing.

Let’s break this down, beginning with…

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What do you mean by “workflow?”

We like to keep it simple (much more simple than what you’ll find with a dictionary definition anyway!). A workflow is how you get your work done. Usually, you create a process map or series of steps which outline what you need to do in the order that you need to get it done.

The term workflow dates back to early in the twentieth century, where it is thought to have originated with Frederick Taylor, Henry Gantt and the Scientific Management movement. Workflow and the process management ideas developed within this theory are closely intertwined.

Workflows are involved with any process that is necessary to keep your business running optimally and might involve just one person, multiple people, or interacting with some kind of tool to get the work done.

As an example for a speaker, let’s say you have a workflow for following up with your leads or contacts (an important workflow to have!). At a very basic level it might look something like:

Workflow for a speaker

Workflow automation

One of the cool things about the tools that we now have available to us is that there are plenty of opportunities to automate either entire workflows, or key parts of workflows so that you don’t have a “human” bottleneck.

In fact, where possible, we would put workflow automation in place as a best practice. Anywhere you can replace manual processes or actions within processes with an automated response makes it less likely that you miss important tasks. For example, if you had to individually write an email to each lead in your database, how soon would it be before you couldn’t keep up with the job?

Workflow automation helps you to improve your everyday business practices by not only getting important tasks done, but freeing you up to focus on the most important things. For example, rather than sending individual emails to everyone who is top of funnel in your sales cycle, you can be focusing on making the booking with those who are already at the bottom of your funnel.

Speakers: you can improve your business practices through workflow automation Click To Tweet

What makes an effective workflow?

Effective workflows come down to a couple specific questions:

  1. What do I need to achieve?
  2. What is the most efficient way to get this done?

Getting back to Henry Gantt and Scientific Management, he broke down that question of efficiency by looking at:

  • The exact jobs that needed doing
  • Who was responsible for the task
  • The time taken to complete each task.

The answers to those questions can help you to structure a chart or process map (Gantt was the inventor of the Gantt Chart), giving you a basic workflow.  With those factors in mind, let’s now look at a few best practices for creating those workflows:

Brainstorm the workflow

Are you working on your own, or do you have team members who work with you? Either way, getting the elements of the workflow down on paper (or a shared tool) helps you to stand back and examine it for efficiency. Be sure to involve your team members if you have them.

Are there any parts of the process that are ineffective or clumsy? Is there someone else who can look at your processes and give a perspective as to what might make them more efficient? What parts typically cause bottlenecks or other issues?

One of the secrets to building a business that is scalable is to have processes in place that are clearly defined. This includes anything that you need to have going to keep your business running – marketing, sales, accounting, customer support, etc. When you brainstorm your workflows, don’t leave out any steps. For example, if there’s often a holdup at some particular point, what happens then as a result? You need the bigger picture to look for improvements.

Many speakers don’t have any processes for their business. If you’re starting from scratch with formalizing processes, that’s a good place to get going from anyway. Top workflows which we suggest a speaker needs include:

  • Obtaining leads
  • Nurturing those leads / keeping your networks “warm”
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Gathering feedback
  • Planning presentations and/or events.

Examine any flaws

Where do the inefficiencies or flaws lie in your processes? As an example, a typical issue in a speaker’s business might be that their referral pipeline has gone quiet or completely dried up. On closer inspection, you might find that there is little follow-up with those contacts. Perhaps they are entered into a contact database but then rarely hear from the speaker, putting them out of sight and out of mind.

Some other typical flaws you might find include:

  • Time-consuming, manual processes that could be automated
  • Degradation of information transfer, meaning that something gets lost along the way. A typical example is when you call a customer service line, then have to repeat your problem every time you get transferred. In your business, are you recording key information about contacts, such as where you met them, what their interests are and who they work for?
  • Following that last point; information that is kept in different places, making it difficult to bring together. For example, contacts, history, and customers.
  • Steps that are duplicated or unnecessary
  • Steps that aren’t clearly assigned to a person (where you have a team)
  • Lack of oversight or reporting on progress.
  • Tasks that can be completed simultaneously being recorded in the process as being sequential. If it’s just you in the business, this isn’t such a big deal, but in teams this can create unnecessary bottlenecks.

Streamline and document the processes

With all the parts of your processes laid out in front of you, what can you now do to streamline them? As a first step, we would look to automate anything that possibly can be taken care of that way.

This may mean investing in the right tools for your business; for example, if you’ve been managing contacts via a spreadsheet and a scratched-together system with email, you might consider putting in place a CRM software which keeps all of that information in one place, and can automate sequences for you.

Documenting processes is also an important step if you have goals for growing your business or delegating more tasks to team members. This helps to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that team members can pick up where someone else left off. You reduce back-and-forth, or training time needed when processes are clear and accessible.

Lastly, be clear about who is assigned to what wherever there is a task that requires review or cannot be automated. This leaves nothing up to chance within your system.

Review processes

As a final best practice, to ensure that you keep your business running as efficiently as possible, review your processes every now and then. Sometimes you will find a new technology has arrived which will help to automate something that you couldn’t previously. Sometimes processes become obsolete or unnecessary (paper-based files have fairly rapidly been replaced by cloud solutions).

Sales workflows

Let’s talk briefly about sales workflows. If there’s any particular workflow that a lot of speakers need to improve, it would be sales. Specifically, often there is an issue with following up with leads and ensuring that people remember who you are. Sometimes this happens when the sales system is an ad hoc activity, or sometimes it’s because the workflow is not set up well, or does not have automation where it could.

What do you have to lose when you do things ad hoc? Well, speaking gigs for one! If you’re not managing your leads and continuing a strategic program of following up, then you are potentially missing out on a lot of opportunities.

An effective sales workflow is about smarter selling of yourself. It’s about having an understanding of the right timing to reach out to people and how to market yourself to capture their attention. The thing that a good sales workflow delivers is consistency. You can systemize your sales process so that your pipeline is kept busy.

If you’re looking for a place to start with assessing the efficiency of workflows in your business, we’d suggest that sales and lead follow-up is it. Don’t let those opportunities go begging!

 

via GIPHY

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Final thoughts

At a glance, the very word “workflow” sounds like, well, work! In breaking it down however, it’s an efficient way to ensure that you have clear processes in your business that keep it powering forward.

A common worry for speakers is that they aren’t managing leads and contacts as they could be, which potentially means they’re missing good opportunities. A sales workflow might sound a little daunting, but it is a friend to the scalability of your business.

If you’d like to know more about a scalable sales process for speakers, we wrote a brief ebook on the subject. You can download The Professional Speaker’s Sales Blueprint for free here.

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

The #1 Reason CRM Implementations Fail

Over 60% of all CRM implementations fail. Crazy, right?

There are many, many, many articles out there that explore why this may be. Continue reading The #1 Reason CRM Implementations Fail

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

New Features and Updates: Scheduled Emails, URL Support for Custom Fields, and More

You asked, we listened! And we’ll keep on listening…

A few months ago, we sent a survey to all of our customers asking what they thought about karmaCRM and what we could do to make it better. We received a treasure trove of information, and, over the past several weeks, we’ve been hard at work putting that feedback into action.

We’re very excited to share the first round of new functionalities with you today.

Without further ado, here’s they are!

Print the calendar as a calendar

One of the bigger feature requests we is the ability to print out the calendar in calendar format.  Now you can do just that!

Schedule emails to send later

Drafting that perfect email at 3 am, but don’t want your prospects to know you’re neurotic? You can now use the “Send Later” feature to schedule your emails to go out at a more reasonable time.

This feature is available to customers on the per-user plan. (If you’re not on this plan, contact us so we can set you up with a demo.)

Have a clickable URL as a custom field

You can now insert a properly formatted URL within a custom text field, and it will automatically become clickable.

Export more task info to your CSV

When you create a task export or backup, you’ll now see completed_at and completion_notes included in the exported CSV.

Access MailChimp and email templates, even if you’re not an admin

In the past, only the admin who added the MailChimp integration could use it. Now, all users on an account will be able to see MailChimp information.

Similarly, all users can access and create email templates. If you’re a user, you’ll just see your own, but if you’re an admin, you’ll see all.

Wish your customers “Happy Birthday”

OK, so this one isn’t from the survey, but everyone likes to feel special on their birthday. Simply add the “Birthday” field to your contact form, and the system will even auto-calculate your contact’s age.

(This is just the “birthday” beginning. We have secret future plans to help make you the hero on your contacts’ birthdays. Stay tuned!)

_______________________________

Thanks to all of our customers who requested these improvements. We hope they will benefit all karmaCRM users.

We’re continuing to develop our software based on user feedback. Be sure to check back in a month for the next installment.

Not a karmaCRM user yet? Give it a test drive for free.

I am a passionate inbound and content marketer. My goal is to create content that educates, engages, and helps people do their jobs better. In my offline life, you can almost always find me attending live theatre.

Must-Have CRM Features for Small Businesses

Small businesses are scrappy. Nine times out of ten, they’re made up tough, creative go-getters who aren’t afraid of hard work.

Okay, I made up that stat.

But not this one: Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million new jobs. While big businesses are toppling like bloated Goliaths, small businesses are rising like scrappy little Davids.

And the little guys have different needs from their big competitors and colleagues. Here are the must-have CRM features for small businesses.

Ease of use

Ease of use is the kingpin of features — it’s what you need to make all your other features fall into place. It means speedy adoption, streamlined interfaces, and intuitive design. Rockstar usability improves user adoption, software satisfaction, and your team’s productivity.

But beware! Just because a CRM is well known doesn’t mean it’s easy to use. Imagine a world in which octopuses and monkeys ran the show (stick with me). If you were a monkey and the most popular computer system was built for an octopus (waterproof, with four keyboards, etc.), you and your monkey team would waste an amazing amount of time trying to adapt to that industry-standard piece of equipment.

 

To be easy to use, your software needs to be the right size. A CRM with every feature under the sun is probably too bloated to be the most user-friendly tool for your small business. Chances are, your team would use just a small fraction of an enterprise system and lose a lot of time navigating around inessential features. Instead, go with a CRM that’s made just for you and your team’s needs.

Customization

Speaking of made for you, nothing quite says “perfect fit” like the ability to customize.

Moving into a new CRM is like moving into a new home. Your data fields, your dashboard, and your task list need to be just so. Any aspect that can’t be adjusted for the way you work will just get in the way. You’ll constantly be tripping over it.

This is especially true for small businesses. Your sales processes, follow-up strategies, and contacts will likely change as you evolve. Larger businesses may be able to get by with fixed strategies and platforms, but you need CRM that grows with you.

Contact information tracking

This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s essential that your CRM can, you know, track your customer info. Like every other feature, your CRM’s contact info tracking should work with you, be easily accessible, and enhance — not impede — the way you work.

If you track very specific fields, such as fiscal year start date or hat size, look for a CRM with customizable customer data fields.

Email templates

Think of the number of emails your team sends in a week. Now, think of how many nearly identical emails your team sends in a week. It’s a lot, right?

You’re repeating sales techniques across customers and repeating appointment-setting emails with small tweaks across clients. You’re even sending similar emails to your team . . . over and over again.

When you have a small team, efficiency is the name of the game. Without templates, you’re reinventing the wheel every time for no reason. Tighten up your ship with a CRM with built-in email templates.

Follow-up tracking

The beauty of a CRM is you can see the big picture that emerges out of all the pieces that make your business work. The interactions you have with your customers — the emails, the phone calls — these are the small, steady, daily tasks that lead to big wins.

Your CRM should let you track all of that hard work over time so you can better understand what’s working for your business. A good CRM will be your virtual assistant, giving you a daily plan for where your energy will be best spent.

With follow-up tracking, you can systematize your outreach efforts:

  • Schedule regular email and phone call reminders to help you nurture your leads
  • Remind you of contacts who haven’t heard from you for a bit
  • Pinpoint exactly when you should contact your customers and leads, which will increase your chances of hearing back from them
  • Help you figure out whether your contacts like text, email, or phone best

When you’re working with a small team, this kind of virtual assistant can spell the difference between scraping by and knocking it out of the park.

Looking for more? Check out our blog on everything you need to know about CRMs, for newbies.

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

Why “Ease of Use” is the Most Important Feature of CRM Software

What are the most important features of your CRM? You’re probably thinking customizable contact fields, analytics, or being able to email from right inside your contact screen. But you’d be wrong. The single most important feature of your CRM is ease of use.

A little over 70% of senior executives would trade functionality for ease of use. Too many features can be overwhelming. We may think we need the app with all the bells and whistles, but when we look practically at how we use our software, extra features can really get in the way. Muck up the works.

Ease of use, on the other hand, is one feature that will help make your team’s day-to-day workflow simpler, happier, and frustration-free.

So, just what are we talking about when we talk about ease of use?

Here’s a great breakdown of some of the hallmarks of primo usability:

  • Simplicity. Is it so straightforward your technophobe uncle could use it?
  • Speed. Is it quick as a bunny after downing a shot of espresso?
  • Lack of Disruptions. Is it a smooth operator?
  • Ease of Integration. Is it BFFs with your favorite sales tools?
  • Consistency. Is it as reliable as Old Faithful?

With those things in mind, it’s a little clearer why ease of use is so important. That list is pretty much everything you could dream of in a new tool for your team.

But there’s more!

Here are three big benefits of top-notch usability.

User adoption

When a CRM is easy to use, it’s its own best advertisement. It sells itself to your team so they want to use it. This helps you get over the initial hurdle of convincing your team that they need a new system to begin with.

The tools your team uses should make their job easier. And if learning your CRM is a job in itself, your team is going to take to it as willingly as a kitten to water.

An easy-to-learn, intuitive CRM, on the other hand, makes for smooth and happy sailing.

Satisfaction

And speaking of happy, an easy-to-use CRM is integral to your team’s overall job satisfaction. Your team will spend a lot of their time each day interacting with your CRM. For most teams, especially in client-facing businesses, their CRM is one window on their computer that’s  always open.

And as with any window you gaze through day in and day out, your team will notice the little imperfections in your CRM. The little daily frustrations, hiccups, and confusions in a difficult-to-use CRM are like the cracks, nicks, and bug guts on your car windshield. They make you a little less adept at getting where you need to go, they impede your ability to see the whole picture accurately, and they make the job of going places less fun.

With an easy-to-use CRM, your team can just cruise on through their work days. An easy-to-use CRM, like a spotless windshield, facilitates a big-picture view, helps your team focus on what’s most important (your clients and contacts), and makes them that much happier at their job.

Productivity

Happiness isn’t all you have to gain from a simple CRM. Your productivity will increase as well, because happy people work harder.

In a recent study, 70% of staff said poorly performing technology is a drain on their productivity rates. Poor technology is also demotivating and results in higher employee churn.

You may not think a complex piece of software would trip up your team’s smooth functioning or even contribute to turnover. But technology is, in many ways, another member of every business team. Overly complex tools impede performance — much in the same way a difficult teammate would.

An easy-to-use CRM is a team player. It does what a CRM does best, and it does it well: it speeds connection, streamlines workflow, and keeps your team organized. Above all, it supports your team to focus on what it does best: grow your business, build relationships, and get stuff done.

There you have it — the power of ease of use in a nutshell!

Looking to get down to basics? Check out our blog on all you need to know about CRM, geared right toward CRM newbies.

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

The One Thing Everyone Gets Wrong about CRM

I’m about to say the unthinkable – that a primitive, cell-toting spreadsheet can be just as effective as any million-dollar-a-month CRM.

“WHAT?” you say? “Aren’t you the founder of a CRM company? Blasphemy!

It really doesn’t matter if you use a spreadsheet, a Rolodex, or a complex CRM; without the right strategy, you won’t make it far. It’s the development of this overall strategy that most people miss. If you rush this journey by jump right into picking a CRM, you’ll end up with a lack of clarity that usually spirals into angry salespeople, unused products, and general chaos in the streets.

Let’s consider an all-too-typical story.

Meet Biff Jones.

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He’s the sales manager at Goats-for-Pets LLC. He’s been tasked with finding a CRM. Why? He doesn’t really know, he’s just been told by his boss / wife / coach that he needs one. Biff is pressed for time, so he Googles “Best CRM for (Insert Industry Here)” and signs up for a trial for the first 5 he finds.
Before he has time to say “Jimmy Crickets,” he’s neck-deep in a powerful deluge of trial emails, all equally eager to close the deal.

The products are all starting to bleed together.

He’s getting 17 onboarding emails a day, all screaming for his attention.

Finally the trials expire and it’s time for a decision. On a tight deadline, he picks one, Russian-roulette style and sashays out an email out to the team, fingers crossed, whimpering, “Here’s our new CRM; use it.”

And that’s that.

Without any shared strategy, no one is communicating, and the CRM starts to resemble the Tower of Babel. Through sheer grit, a few salespeople manage to salvage the CRM and trudge on. Everyone else fades, like your favorite blue shirt when it was washed with that pesky generic detergent.

Soon, most people are back to notes on cocktail napkins. The red-faced manager is trying to get the team to use the system again, and can’t understand why this shiny new $500-a-month tool is gathering dust.
Eventually the company decides to cancel the CRM because no one is using it, and they start the whole process over. Rinse, repeat, and guess what happens about 6 months later … rinse, and repeat again!

Sound familiar?

You’re not alone – CRM initiatives currently have a 63% fail rate, according to a new study by Merkle Group Inc.

A major contributor to CRM failure is that companies skip the less glamorous planning phase and jump right into trialing software. We’d argue that trialing software doesn’t come into play until step three. After onboarding countless people to CRM, we’ve seen the same confusion and lack of clarity arise time and time again.

Based on this insight, we’ve developed a few steps that can be your lighthouse in the angry sea of CRM.

  • Understand your goals
  • Make the commitment
  • Pick the tool (hint: one is better than none)
  • Define your processes
  • Develop your personal CRM routine
  • Measure and optimize

Understand your Goals

Bring your whole team in, and discuss what you want to accomplish by having a CRM. Is it to increase referrals, close bigger deals, or just better organize your existing customers? Each of these might have very different implications when it comes to picking the right tool. There are a LOT of options out there, so having some criteria to narrow it down really helps.

This clarity on your CRM objectives will also help you measure success later!
Once you know what you are searching for, and BEFORE you start finding software, do some internal soul searching. How serious are you about making this CRM work? This is the single most important aspect of being successful with CRM.

Make the Commitment

I hear from people all the time, who are interested in CRM, but won’t commit. They are overworked, overwhelmed, and constantly dropping the ball, but haven’t made the firm commitment to change.
To be at the top of your game, you have to escape the rat race and invest your time in the right areas. It’s not just a commitment to use CRM regularly, it’s a commitment to growth, and being better than you were last year.

Make the commitment: Dive in and don’t look back. If you don’t make the commitment, do yourself a favor and stick to gmail chaos. You’ll just end up back there, a few months later, and a few hundred dollars poorer.

To do CRM right, you’re going to need to invest time, period. If you’re not committed, stop here.

If you’ve dug deep and decided enough is enough – then you can proceed to picking the right tool for the job.

Pick the Tool

So now you’re on a roll. You have clarity on your goals; you’re committed to kicking ass.

Awesome.

Now it’s time to apply these goals to the selection process. If you’ve decided that increasing referrals is your number one priority, then you want to look for a CRM that focuses there, like karmaCRM or Contactually. If you have the leads and want to increase your daily output capacity, you might pick a transactional selling tool like Close.io.

You can see how having this clarity helps you dramatically reduce potential options, and allows you to refine your search to specifics.

Here are a few things to consider when picking a CRM:

  • How is their support?
    Do they respond quickly? Do you feel like they actually answer your questions, instead of responding with canned gobbledygook?
  • Do they have a mobile app?
    With so much of sales happening on the road, you want to make sure you can get to your data anywhere.
  • How much of the product will you actually … actually use
    They might have a ton of bells and whistles, but when it comes down to it, what features do you need, day in and day out? The more bloat, the more unlikely you’ll be to put this tool to effective use.
  • What integrations do they have?
    It’s important that you don’t have to change too much of how you do things already, in order to accommodate a CRM. The higher the friction, the lower the adoption.
  • How long have they been around?
    Do they have Capterra reviews, do they have a twitter following, have they published recent blog posts? CRM is a highly competitive market, and tools come and go with the wind. Make sure you’re buying into a product that’s here to stay

This phase can last a long time, so don’t be intimidated. It’s important you give trial periods time to breathe, so you can see how they align with your vision. Once you’ve found that alignment in a product, it’s time to craft processes to define how this thing will be used on a daily basis.

Define your Processes

Think through the workflow. How will the team interact with this product? Who’s going to do what, and what parts of the tool should we ignore? Be proactive and ensure everyone is using the tool the same way. You might consider nominating a process-oriented team member to help craft the CRM strategy.

We’ve seen entire teams passionately using in their CRM … in 30 very different ways.

Avoid building a CRM Slum; it’s not fun to clean up after.

Proactively ask your team these questions:

  • What does our sales process look like?
  • Will we use the system fields, or do we need to create our own?
  • What features will we use?
  • What features won’t we use? (Then, ideally, these can be hidden from view.)
  • If we’re using open tagging, can we agree in advance what tags to use?
  • How will lead assignment work?
  • Who’s going to be the CRM manager?
  • What integrations will we be using?

This process paves the way to how you as an individual will be using the platform. Despite what marketing jargon says about “automatic, automated, save time, shave time,” you still need to spend good ol’-fashioned human hours in your CRM to keep things clean-shaven and relevant.

Build a Personal CRM Routine

Beyond defining how you’ll use CRM in general, you should consider crafting your own personal CRM routine. True, the better CRMs will do a lot of heavy lifting for you, but you’re still going to have to talk with it, to maintain a relationship.

While this isn’t an exact science, here’s a general idea of how to invest your time with CRM:

  • Spend at least 15 minutes a day reviewing and updating the status of current leads.
  • Take a few hours a week nurturing relationships, sharing articles, sending emails and doing follow-up.
  • Once a week, do a full review to make sure people are in the right stages, new contacts are properly categorized, and your tasks are getting done.

By doing this, you learn to trust the data in your CRM. This trust becomes the foundation for growth as you start to have more relationships than you can keep straight all by yourself.

And you’re done, right? Now, the profits will start rolling in! No, don’t stop here. You’re doing great, but don’t get too complacent. You got to constantly measure, optimize, and push to stay ahead of the Joneses.

Measure and Optimize

By following these steps, you’ve definitely increased the likelihood of succeeding with your CRM initiative – See there, Biff! You’re not done, though; it’s not a one-time deal. Success requires constant review and optimization. Being the best is a constant effort, but at least you’ll start on the right foot. You might even consider a quarterly review of your CRM to see how it’s helping you get closer to your company goals.

You could look into what sort of internal features the CRM has for goal setting and measurement. Figure out ways to keep you and your team accountable.

What do you think?

Each step in this process is a great blue whale, and warrants its own deep dive. We’re going to be publishing separate posts on each of these topics, and eventually putting it all together in an eBook. I’d love to hear your experiences, and how we can improve the CRM adoption experience together.

Whew, there it is. We’d love to hear about your experience in embarking on the CRM journey. Did we miss a step?

I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.

The 11 Essential Types of Software You Need For Your Business To Succeed

At KarmaCRM, we’re all about helping you become more productive with your business. Here are the 11 essential types of business software you need to do better, make more sales, and achieve business success:

1 – Call automation

When you’re a small business, you want to leave a phone number around. In fact, having a phone number present increases paying customers and user interaction, perhaps a sign that your company is reputable and ready to do business at any time. How do you deal with all those calls streaming in though?

Grasshopper can help by setting that phone number through a virtual management layer that helps a call leap through the cell phones of your employees. Customers call the main line you display and then the call hops from one mobile phone to another until somebody can pick up and talk, ensuring that your promise of caring for your customer comes true.

2 – Customer Relationship Management

You want to know as much as possible about your customers. There’s no better way to do that than to store notes and insights in a customer relationship management software. Think of it as a living database that gets updated every time your team contacts a customer. A CRM helps frame a collaborative effort for everybody on your team to nurture relationships together.

We’re a bit biased, but we believe you’ll quickly see that KarmaCRM is the best value on the market. You can have up to 15 users collaborate together for $41/month–a per user cost of $2.75 a month, a fraction of most CRM systems out there.

3 – Email management

Do you feel like you’re drowning in email? One of the ills of the digital age has been the increase in unwanted communication because of how easy it is to email. Sometimes, it feels like there’s just not enough time to open your inbox, nevermind respond to it!

Missed emails can be the death of your business. Each email could represent a new growth opportunity that you haven’t seized. To be on top of your inbox, you’ll need a business software tool like Boomerang that can automatically tag your emails and resurface them if either you or the sender doesn’t follow up within a certain amount of time.

4 – Freelancer management

Need somebody to step in and help you out for a bit? It can be hard finding the right freelancers that can help get you to the next level, or can help you with a task you’ve been dreading.

Fortunately, services like Fiverr help you get people for creative tasks for $5 or slightly more, and platforms like Upwork can help you locate quality freelancers willing to work for you on a hourly rate. You can grow quickly with other people working for you.

5 – Payment processing

Have you ever needed to take credit card payments? Jack Dorsey of Square founded the company to help process payments seamlessly. With a wireless square hardware piece that can attach to any tablet, the company helps you collect payment at a fraction of the price of regular credit card processing. It handles all your receipts as well.

If you’re looking for online credit card collection, look no further than Stripe. This business software tool will help you process credit cards in the blink of an eye and automate away all the pesky security and communications issues that usually come with customer payment. You’ll be able to collect credit card payments for online services provided you have some friendly developers to help you out.

6 – E-Commerce

Have you ever wanted to sell your goods online? Take a look at Shopify, the full suite e-commerce solution that makes building an online store as simple as blogging.

Go from having no web presence at all to a website dedicated to selling your wares online.

You might want to have some help with this, but you don’t need to hire technical people. The Shopify interface is set up so you can build everything yourself even if you have never written a line of code.

7 – Accounting

Accounting is always a pain point. You need to record how your business is doing, but it can be a mess of a paper trail. Web accounting platforms like Freshbooks and Wave help simplify that pain by offering you a seamless way to record invoices, payments, and more. By giving you analytics and allowing for collaboration between different team members, accounting software can make sure that you’re not too busy counting your sales to make even more.

8 – Internal Communications

Ever wished you had a central place where all your team could get together and talk with one another? Slack is as close as you’ll get. The super chatroom allows people to interact with one another seamlessly, allowing everybody on the team to reach out to one another individually or as a group. Chat channels can be curated to talk about general, random or business-specific topics.

You can integrate a whole bunch of business software solutions so that the Slack chat room becomes populated not only with your team’s communications, but also its actions. Imagine a searchable dashboard that could show you what your team was thinking and doing, a stream of Google documents being made along with the communication and context around it. This is what Slack and internal communications platforms offer now.

9 – Social Media Management

You should be on social media. It’s one of the most important channels for a business to differentiate itself and reach new customers. How do you manage all those different social outlets though?

A business software tool like Buffer can help you schedule all your posts at once. You can then analyze exactly what results they’re bringing for engagement and clicks.

10 – Social Media Monitoring

With all the traffic that’s happening around your brand online, you need to analyze different customer conversations and engage with people.

Check to see what people are saying with monitoring tools like Mention. These business software tools pull in conversations around the web into an easy-to-view dashboard with easy export capability so you can analyze exactly what’s happening around your brand online.

11 – Swag management

Every small business needs swag for different reasons. Maybe you want to do local events. Maybe you want to hand them out as gifts. Whatever the reason, company t-shirts and pens are often one way to say that you’ve made it as a company and as a brand.

It can get cumbersome dealing with individual orders, especially if you don’t know where to start. Fortunately, services like Printification help you manage everything from design to order fulfillment so you can get to handing out swag faster.

With software for call automation, customer relationship management, email management, freelancer management, payment processing, e-commerce, accounting, internal communications, social media management, social media monitoring and swag management, you’ll be well on your way to business success!

What kind of business software do you think is essential to your business? Comment below 🙂








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I’ve been hacking at various business ideas since I was 16. I’m a full stack developer and love crafting user experiences. I’ve been nose deep in code since I put the legos down, and built several successful businesses in the process. I’ve lost some hair, gained some experience and throughly enjoyed the journey.