Tag Archives: small business

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.

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.


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.

Tips for Hiring Your First Employee and Growing Your Team

The early stages of growth in a company can feel a lot like riding a bike blind – you’re going fast, need help steering, and might faceplant into a pole at any point.

Going from a solo operation to a team is infinitely more complex than going from 100 to 101. Hiring slouches early on is downright ruinous, while getting it right … (singing) the clouds part as light pours onto your paper-steeped desk.

Your first new hire is an integral “can’t-live-without” cog in your growth machine, your #2. (The same goes for #3 and #4.) Your very sanity depends on it. It’s VERY expensive to get this wrong. Trust me, I have.

I’m not going to lie, hiring is tough. The entire process is lengthy, and you never really know if you’ve found “the one.” Even knowing when the right time to hire is a challenge.

Here are a few things to consider.

When is the right time

It’s easy to look at your revenue and think “I can’t afford anyone else.” Early expansion can be painful, but it’s like starting a family – once you’ve done it, you can’t imagine how you lived without them.

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of trying to do everything themselves. I mean EVERYTHING. You are actually losing money by doing this, no question. Sure, as the owner of a small company, you’ll wear a lot of hats. But you don’t have to wear every hat. Balancing 30,000 things on your head might be a cool Cirque du Soleil trick, but it’s a major drawback in running a small business.

Side note: If you ever want to consider selling your company, the superhero “nobody-can-do-it-better” founder is a huge deal breaker. You need to show robustness and distributed dependence on more than one person.

How I decide to hire (and whom)

To decide if I need to hire someone, I start by valuing my time at an hourly rate, based on what I could get working for someone else. Then, I look at all of the tasks that I consider outside of my core competency. Since I’m a developer, I look at things like how much time I’m spending on admin, bookkeeping, and customer support.

Then, I consider the potential upside. If I was able to focus more on the thing I do best – coding – could I positively affect growth? If the answer is yes, then I hire.

The single most important hire I’ve ever made was my customer success person, Shirley Robinson. She has a magical knack for solving problems and a deep, genuine care for our customers. She has a patience and disposition that I could only dream of.

I started karmaCRM doing both development and support, but quickly realized that by focusing on one the other suffered. Shirley solved that and has quickly become a cornerstone of my company’s foundation.

Think what would have happened if I had tried to save money and keep doing it myself. I’d be swamp wading through support requests, doing a mediocre job, while watching my product slowly die.

Before you hop over to post a job on Craigslist, take some time to really think about what type of person you want. Not their skills but their essence. Are you hiring a superstar “ninja” with an ego the size of a hot air balloon, or do you want someone with humility, energy, and hunger to learn?

At this stage, experience matters a whole lot less than essence and raw talent.

Hiring for experience or talent

The first step is deciding what you’re looking for – raw talent or specific skills. They both have a place, but personally I’ve had much better luck hiring for raw talent instead of a specific skillset.

What I mean when I say “raw talent” is that the person you are hiring is intelligent, capable of learning fast, and is hungry to learn. They might not have done the specific job before, but because they have talent, they can learn fast.

They’re clay, waiting to be sculpted (and excited about it).

I’ve hired “seasoned” employees before, and let me tell ya, they come with a lot of baggage. I once hired a 100k senior project manager who professed his “cold lunch” project management style. This meant he kept people so busy that they didn’t have time to eat their lunch warm.

The first week, he took two-hour lunches every day and was caught reading a magazine at his desk multiple times.

He came with a jaded, enterprise-entrenched sense of work ethic. While this may have worked at Acme Corp X with a billion employees, it certainly wasn’t going to cut it in my team of 5.

Sometimes the seasoning is too strong and the food is best with just a little salt and pepper.

People with raw talent are hungry and moldable. They are also inherently versatile and can help fill a lot of cracks. I typically seek out people who are comfortable being “thrown in the fire” instead of those who expect manuals and procedures.

Let’s be honest, if you’re anything like I was, you have no employee handbook, your processes are scribbled on napkins, and you need a firefighter, not a gas station attendant for your #2 hire.

Know thyself

With every new hire, we have everyone on our team do a personality test. This helps us understand our current dynamic and how the new hire might fit in. Culture cannot be an afterthought while growing your team, and investing in understanding what makes each person tick can be paramount to getting stuff done.

We took the free version of the Myers-Briggs test (but there are plenty of other options out there) and analyzed the results. Then we discussed our results as a team. We were sure to highlight aspects of the results that were accurate, and others that were not.

These tests have some very useful insights, but it’s important not to put yourself in a box. Personality tests can help you understand the current dynamics powering your decisions, but since you’re dynamic, so are your results. My long-term team members and I have taken the test multiple times, and our results have changed over time.

How powerful it is to work, change, and grow with others.

Ok, so now you know what you’re looking for and you have a solid understanding of your team’s genetic makeup. Now it’s time to decide what this new hire looks like. Is it an individual, a group of people, or a robot? Are they sitting next to you, or across the ocean?

These days, you’ve got options!

Consider contracting instead of hiring

As a bootstrapped small business owner, you learn to think outside of the box. Does it need to be a real-deal W-2 employee, or could it be a 1099 contractor? Does it even need to be one person, or would the job be done better by a few part-time people.

Don’t pigeonhole yourself when making this huge hiring leap. I’ve had businesses run entirely on a crew of contractors, hired mostly from sites like www.upwork.com. It’s affordable, and you can hire much better talent when location isn’t as important.

This can’t work for every company, but it’s important to at least consider a contractor instead of an employee, especially to start. They are less expensive from a tax perspective, and you can do a contract-to-hire, giving you a trial period with the person.

Please consult your lawyer and HR person before pulling the trigger. The contractor vs. employee lines can be quite blurry.

Once you make this determination, you’re off to the races to write your shiny new job posting. DON’T SKIMP on this part. If you write a zombie-inspired job description, you’re going to get zombie applicants. Spend the time and write a zingy job application that has personality. You’re fighting for the smartest, most versatile people. Show them why they should pick you.

So with the post up, how do you actually go about the hiring process. Everyone probably has their own opinions here, but we’ve shared a peek into our process for your enjoyment.


Hiring is a daunting, yet rewarding, process, but don’t rush it! Budget some time for a little introspection. What do things look like right now, what’s your culture like, what are you like? Each hire will make a resounding and definitive stamp on your company’s culture, so it’s best to be intentional. Otherwise, your culture will grow wild like weeds.

It’s almost a guarantee that while growing, the vision you have for your company will get foggy. I’ve found it a very healthy practice to do a personal retreat at least once a year and make sure my “why” is secret-island-mountain-spring clear.

Continuously revisit your passion, and course correct when necessary. If you do, it will be easier to identify who you need alongside you to actualize your vision.

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 🙂


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.