3 posts categorized "Highrise"

09/05/2017

How and When to Choose the Right Software Solutions For Your Business

Digital Workplace Infographic Final - reduced

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series on digital workplace transformation. Part 1 and Part 2 are also available on this website.

There’s a problem with how most small businesses choose their technology solutions, and we see it far too often. First the owner or manager purchases a product that solves a particular perceived pain or problem. Then they try to make it work within their existing business model and organizational structure. We feel that this approach is backwards, and your business ends up not getting the real value from the tools you choose. It’s not the technology that small businesses need first, but rather core knowledge and capabilities in the areas of business, market, content marketing, design/usability and implementation.

Ideally, you should know the key activities that will expand and sustain your business, and the key resources you’ll need to execute those key activities. In the Business Model Canvas (the one-page business model generator that we use and recommend), these two elements appear on the left-hand side of the model or the “backstage” area of your business.

From working with so many small businesses over the years, we have become adept at helping businesses identify their key activities and resources (business objectives), as well as the technology solutions that can support those activities implemented by your key resources. In the following infographic, we’ve organized our favourite technology tools and services around six different business objectives (the concentric circles), building up from the five core knowledge areas in the middle.

NewPath Consulting Technology Stack

The productivity tools in the infographic are indicated by their company logos, and are arranged in concentric circles according to the business objective(s) of each tool. These circles radiate from the core capabilities and also correlate to the size and maturity level of an organization. We believe that businesses of every size can benefit from assessing their core capabilities and having a well-curated technology “stack,” a combination of software services used by staff and customers to achieve various business objectives.

For more details about NewPath’s technology “stack” (combination of software services) and the services we use and recommend the most, please see our post about software integration.

The five core capability areas are:

  1. Business - clarifying your business model and business objectives, and your professional ethics and legal practices such as contracting and intellectual property.
  2. Market - understanding the customer and what motivates them to engage, and defining your value proposition and the 4 Ps of marketing (product, price, promotion, place).
  3. Design and usability - creating the necessary online environment to deliver value to customers, which includes branding, graphic design, security and privacy.
  4. Implementation - developing or acquiring technical knowledge and fundamental capabilities of digital workplace software services
  5. Content marketing - combining capabilities 1 through 4 to publish and distribute content that will help you find and retain customers and business partners

For reference, here is the full set of subtopics for each of the five core capabilities:

Web Management Professional Body of Knowledge
Web Management Professional Body of Knowledge c/o Web Management Institute

 

Of course, you may be thinking, how can I be awesome at all of these core capabilities?!? Be assured, no single business owner can be equally good at all these areas of knowledge. In fact, MBA (Masters of Business Administration) graduates focus on only two of these core capabilities - Business and Marketing. Many companies are started by a ‘technician’ who does not likely have many business or marketing skills, or a business whiz who doesn’t have the implementation skills to deliver on the value proposition by performing the core service offering.

What you need is to invest in getting help to bridge the gaps, yet we rarely see businesses doing this well. We get it; it’s intimidating. But there are resources out there to help you learn, and people you can hire to help. In fact, we hope you’ll let us help you.

Going outwards from the centre of the diagram we focus on the “orbits” that surround the core knowledge areas. We believe the software tools you choose must be aligned with the maturity of your business - how long you’ve been in business, how many people work for you, and your revenue.

We begin, as most small businesses do, with the content and experience band - a website and lead generation program. Unfortunately, most organizations stop here, but as your company grows you will need more tools and services. The next band is advertising and promotion, where you start making more direct and outbound offers.

As your business grows, you might want to start selling online, and you’ll need services that support your commerce and sales process. As we go further out, you’ll need to build awareness with a larger audience through social media and relationship building.

When you grow to the data layer, specifically if you are a larger organization, this is where you’ll need things like analytics, invoice and billing, and data aggregation services. At the management band, you will need human resource management products, training and project management tools that have  a broader scope.

What’s important is not just which products you choose, but what business objectives each tool serves and how they work together. As your organization grows, you should be adopting these products based on your needs and level of maturity. The more mature your business, the more tools you will have to adopt and integrate. Yet if you start loading up on software too soon, you’ll create chaos and confusion while wasting money and time.

The customer is the most important thing

We believe the most important thing to any small business is its customer, and that today’s online customer requires that you have the high quality digital workplace we have outlined here. From that solid foundation you can get more customers, deliver more value, to then be able to charge more and earn more revenue.

This article concludes our blog post series on digital transformation for small businesses. First we covered the need for building a digital workplace. Then we revealed the importance of creating and evaluating your business model, a must for digital transformation. In this article we addressed how to choose the right software for your business, based on NewPath's own software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology stack and how we’ve used these tools to help our customers grow.

Click here to download a free one-page visual summary of our digital transformation model.

The important question now is what do YOU think is the most important thing to your business? If you’re still juggling time and money as your top priorities, instead of your customer, we invite you to make this business paradigm shift to focusing on your customers.

NewPath’s SMB experts are here to help you choose, implement and use new technology in order to benefit your business and find you more time. Business Success Plans start at $239.00/month for all-inclusive technology, service and support with no contracts or start-up fees. Contact us today for your free consultation!

04/05/2017

Software Overload? Integration Brings Relief

There are almost 4,000 cloud-based marketing services on the market today (UPDATE: As of May 2017, there are now over 5,000 martech services), many of which are free or cost only a few dollars a month. With such a low barrier to entry, many small and medium-sized business owners are tempted to keep adding more and more tools and services until they’re too overwhelmed to use any of them effectively.

NewPath's guiding principle is to choose the software services just right for your business size and maturity, rather than buying into a monolithic "do all" software platform. Our two primary evaluation criteria are quite simple: Can the core value of the tool be demonstrated in 30 minutes and does the underlying service vendor have outstanding support?

The trick is to get your software products to work together, integrating them to effectively talk to each other. You will get the best benefit when your tools work together to accomplish business requirements that each cannot accomplish on its own.  

For example, any online form has the ability to notify you that someone has filled it out, which generally happens via email. But imagine the possibilities within an integrated set of tools, e.g., as soon as a form is submitted, a business process is activated depending on the fields filled out, an automated response is sent to the website visitor, and a new account is created in your customer database. A specific employee is assigned to the account and receives follow-up reminders to stay in touch. This is all possible when cloud services are properly set up with your business’s model and requirements in mind.

Some SaaS (software as a service) products integrate better than others, with built-in functionality that business users can apply with a bit of time and effort, with no coding required or the need to reinvent the wheel.

NewPath Consulting has evaluated a wide range of SaaS products over the past four years for their effectiveness, ease of use and interoperability. In the infographic below, we’ve highlighted our favourites, and demonstrated how they correspond with five core capabilities of all businesses, outlined in the centre of the diagram:

NewPath Consulting SMB Martech Stack

  1. Business - business modeling and operational planning
  2. Market - understanding the customer and what motivates them to engage
  3. Design and usability - creating the necessary environment to deliver value to customers
  4. Implementation - understanding the fundamental capabilities of cloud-based tools and services
  5. Content marketing - combining capabilities 1 through 4 to find and retain customers and business partners in the digital realm

Each business must acquire these capabilities over time as they mature and grow. These capabilities are required to understand and validate your business objectives, your sales and marketing techniques, and which tools to use and when.

At NewPath we believe that as a business becomes more capable and experienced at these five core knowledge areas, they also become ready to transform into a digital workplace. 

For example, most businesses need an online presence (ie a website or mobile app) but not every business requires a formal customer relationship management (CRM) tool since many don’t employ large groups of outbound sales people. If you’re just starting out and don’t have many prospects or customers, then a shared cloud-based spreadsheet with some basic analytics can be as effective and has a lower cost and complexity than a CRM.

The productivity tools in the infographic above are indicated by their company logos, and are arranged in concentric circles according to the business objective(s) of each tool. These circles radiate from the core capabilities and also correlate to the size and maturity level of an organization. We believe that businesses of every size can benefit from assessing their core capabilities and having a well-curated technology “stack,” a combination of software services used by staff and customers to achieve various business objectives.

Tool set #1: Content and experience

The first objective every business is to develop a modern and interactive website on a capable content management platform. NewPath supports the easy-to-use yet fully extensible WordPress platform. WordPress is best in class for template-based sites, with extensibility via plugins and themes to handle any requirement you may need. Couple this with the easy yet powerful form builder Formstack to enable your prospects and customers to interact with you 24/7. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Serving the customer.”

Tool set #2: Advertising and promotion

The tools NewPath recommends are AppSheet, Wild Apricot and Mad Mimi. AppSheet allows you to build mobile apps from spreadsheets, using your own data to deliver a branded experience to your customers. It's easy, free, and there is no coding involved. Wild Apricot is a cloud-based service that includes website management, membership renewals, email marketing and donations for membership-based organizations (nonprofits, clubs and associations). Mad Mimi is NewPath’s choice for email marketing. Read more about why Mad Mimi is still our choice after all these years. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Attracting the customer.”

Currently, at NewPath we don’t recommend any online advertising ad platforms. We recognize this is a controversial position, yet content marketing simply provides a better return on investment for most SMBs over online ads. Here’s some proof based on our own experience with content marketing and spending on ads. Online ads can work, though, for certain product sectors, to boost an already well-known brand, or for local advertising of local services.

Tool set #3: Commerce and sales

For commerce and sales, NewPath recommends PayPal, WooCommerce and Stripe. Everyone’s heard of PayPal and the service remains easy to use for secure online payment processing. WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to set up an online store to sell directly from your website - why pay for an ecommerce platform when you can have more power for less cost? Stripe makes it even easier to do business online by offering recurring and one-time credit card payment processing. Stripe checks out the transaction, makes sure it is legitimate, and if all looks good, they send the money automatically over to your business bank account, without the need for a merchant account. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Making it easy sell and buy services and products.”

Tool set #4: Social and relationships

Social media and the cultivation of relationships is an important step in the sales cycle. Some aspects can be automated and other parts must be handled directly, but in each scenario, business acumen and technology can help. At NewPath Consulting we use the following social and relationship management tools: 

  • Slack.com is our internal communications and collaboration tool, which we use as an alternative to inter-office emails so everyone remains on the same page and informed of internal projects and delivery of customer service.
  • Highrise is our customer and partner database that keeps us abreast of all interactions between our sales and marketing team and our prospects and customers, and allows us to schedule touchpoints and keep notes and to-dos in order. Highrise integrates seamlessly with your email inbox, important since after phone calls, email is the primary communication channel between staff and customers.
  • Zoom is our recommended service for video meetings, which can be recorded and scheduled ahead of time for up to 50 participants via phone and video.
  • Appointlet helps us automate the process of scheduling meetings between team members, prospective customers, and customers, eliminating the back and forth of trying to find a mutually available time in people’s busy schedules. 
  • Hootsuite lets us monitor social media and schedule new and popular content when the intended audience is most likely to be online.

The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Staying organized while keeping in touch with prospects and customers.”

Tool set #5: Data & Management

As an organization matures to the point where it needs to effectively manage a lot of data and personnel, NewPath uses and recommends these products to use analytical insights to drive business decisions:

  • The Business Model Canvas helps a business owner clarify and iterate a business model that may not be complete or functional.
  • Stitch Data, WebHooks, Zapier and SuperMetrics help integrate and automate data integration between various services.
  • FreshBooks is a cloud-based accounting tool that keeps track of invoices, expenses and taxes, and offers recurring billing. And your business will get paid faster when you can deliver invoices electronically and get paid electronically!
  • Google Analytics allows you to track website traffic, events and the return on investment of marketing efforts.
  • LastPass provides secure password management for all staff.
  • GoDaddy offers secure, reliable domain name management and managed WordPress hosting.
  • Safari Books online and Lynda.com provide ongoing business education for your staff and customers.
  • G Suite from Google allows for cloud storage and instant, collaborative editing of documents, illustrations and spreadsheets.

Do you have a mismatched collection of productivity tools that aren’t working together to help your business grow? Step back and look at the big picture of how your business is evolving, which core capabilities you have and which you need to build, and which set of services will help you reach your business goals.

07/21/2016

How to Expertly Manage More Small Business Leads with a CRM

Highrise is a key service in NewPath Consulting’s service plans as well as the CRM it uses in its business.

Put yourself in a prospective client’s shoes for a moment. Imagine how it would feel to hear, “Hey, congratulations on that award, that’s terrific! What would you say was the key thing you did to move that project along?” or “I saw that link you shared about the [industry news]. How do you think that’s going to change things in the industry?” or “I see you’re a [sports team] fan. What did you think about that [call, penalty, trade, announcement, etc.]?”

Chances are, you would feel like the other person understands something about who you are and what interests you, and you would probably enjoy the chance to talk about yourself, your opinions, and your accomplishments. That would put you in a much warmer frame of mind to explore potential opportunities.

To build a successful business it’s not enough just to meet a lot of people or collect names in a database; you need to develop those relationships. What’s most important is how often people hear from you, and how they feel about those interactions.

 

What is CRM software?

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a tool designed to help you structure and advance your ongoing communications with everyone who comes in contact with your business - potential customers (leads), prospective customers (leads you’ve qualified as prospects), and existing customers.

Some CRM programs are downloaded as software onto your computer, and others are in the cloud and you can access them from any device with an internet connection including, in most cases, a mobile app, so you can stay connected and up to date from anywhere.

 

Why use CRM software?

You may have good intentions about following up with people, but be honest: How well are you doing this on your own? Without a system in place, are people and potential opportunities falling through the cracks?

When you do reach out, are you armed with enough background information about the person on the other end? Can you trust your memory of what you’ve already discussed in previous calls, emails, or social networking messages?

Highrise, for example, is a cloud-based CRM service that allows you to quickly and easily scan a history of notes you’ve taken during or after phone calls, as well as emails sent back and forth with this person. You’ll never have to rely on your memory again!

You can also browse your prospect’s recent Twitter updates or their latest job moves from LinkedIn to bring more context into your conversation. (Click on screen shot to see full size image)

Highrise with integrated twitter stream in profile


When is it time to use CRM software?

Many businesses start using CRM software when they get serious about direct sales; when more than one person is involved and coordination and collaboration is required. You’ll know you’re at this point when you’re attending trade shows, giving presentations, and in other situations where you’re collecting a lot of leads.

The CRM provides a shared view of where your company is at with its sales and marketing process. Any number of people can move forward a relationship with a contact as needed and no one will be lost. Of course ideally a relationship is built with the same person over time, but it’s wise to have checks and balances in place for the inevitable hiccups your team will go through.

In Highrise, the business owner can designate which team members can access which areas of the account, and choose which parts of the sales process to outsource and how.

This screenshot shows assignment of a task to one of the NewPath Consulting staff. (Click on screen shot to see full size image)

Highrise task assignment

What else can you do with CRM software?

Use your CRM as a help desk

Sales and marketing aren’t the only functions that benefit from a systematic approach that’s documented and housed in a central location. Good customer support also depends on having a clear line of communication and dedicated follow up.

The Highrise team came up with a way to use their CRM for customer support. It starts by funneling customer support emails into Highrise. They outlined the process in this blog post: How we do incredible customer support (and run a support help desk).

 

Use your CRM to email a group of people and track responses

When you think of pre-written emails sent en masse to a specific group, newsletters probably come to mind. “Folks are numb to the gloss of email newsletters,” writes Chris Gallo of Highrise. He equates newsletters to “a blast of email to a group of people you don’t know or a list of emails you bought somewhere.”

The Highrise Broadcast tool, on the other hand, “is conversational. It’s for sending email to a group of people who really want to hear from you. People you do business with. Or people who’ve opted in to receive messages from you.”

For example, people who’ve just joined Highrise receive a note from CEO Nathan Kontny. “Our team averages almost a 60% open rate on all welcome emails using Broadcast. Lots of customers even reply to them, and start conversations with our support team.”

See Chris’s article: Send Emails that You Would Want to Receive.

To use this group emailing strategy effectively, you must get into the habit of creating a new record immediately after meeting someone. Depending on the tools you’re using, you can type the data into your computer, scan the business card using your smartphone, or merge the contact right from your email program.  

Assign one or more tags to your new contact. You can create tags for where you met the person, how they came into your pipeline, where they live, which service they need, or whatever makes sense for your business.

Here is a screenshot of filtering contacts by  tags in Highrise (Click on screen shot to see full size image):

Highrise filtering by tags


Customer relationship management is about far more than serving your current customers. It is a powerful way to build and maintain strong ties with everyone who comes in contact with your business. When you show people that you remember, know, and understand them, they will feel cared for and motivated to stay connected with you.