Author Archives: bizlaunchadmin

6 Surprising and Innovative Ways to Use Customer Relationship Management Software

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More and more businesses are using customer relationship management (CRM) software to manage their client contact information and close more sales. In fact, a recent study shows that 50% of businesses with fewer than 10 employees use CRM, and 91% of companies with 11 or more employees use it. And while CRM is great at helping companies keep track of client conversations and preferences—as well as sending out emails and closing deals—it can do much more than that. Here are four unique ways brands can use (and are using) CRM.

1. Non-Profits Can Keep Up With Donors

Any director of a non-profit will tell you how much time and energy his team spends trying to get funding from donors. But that time is drastically reduced when CRM enters the picture. Suddenly, you’re not calling outdated phone numbers, and you can quickly see what a given donor gave last year as a point of reference.

Whether you’re a non-profit or not, if you don’t have “traditional customers” (like donors), CRM still provides an easy way to keep up with the contacts you do have.

 

2. Managers Can Better Work With Remote Teams

Disparate teams are a fact of today’s business world, but sometimes the challenge remains in making team members feel connected. CRM helps staff get access to the same client and project data (it’s cloud-based, so anyone can access it anywhere) and work together toward common goals.

Before you write off the possibility of working with a virtual team, try out CRM with a project management component and see if your team can operate smoothly, despite not being in the same physical location.

 

3. PR Pros Can Keep Up With Media Contacts

If you manage PR for your company, or otherwise work in public relations, it’s not your clients that you need data on, but journalists and media contacts. Cultivating a relationship with the media takes time and attention. CRM makes it easy to track the stories a given journalist is working on, take notes on past interactions, and track a pitch you’ve sent off via email.

Social and email are your best tools in today’s PR world. Find CRM that automatically links to the emails you’ve sent a contact, as well as connects to their social profiles.

 

4. Writers Can Track Submissions and Inquiries

Every magazine, newspaper, and publication has its own guidelines for submitting articles, and writers often struggle with unwieldy spreadsheets to keep up with all this data. Often, you can’t submit a duplicate piece of content to two publications, so it’s important to track where a writer has submitted a piece. CRM can house all those guidelines and track submissions so writers spend less time on the process.

That project management feature comes in handy here again. You might have to tailor the setup of your CRM (most track Sales, but you can substitute that with Writing Submissions), to get it working for this purpose.

 

5. Government Offices Can Keep Up With Legislation

CRM isn’t just for the private sector. Think of all the legislation, correspondence, and conversations that help laws pass. That information is ideal for CRM. Politicians often have multiple balls in the air, and need to be able to quickly access information about a given topic.

 

6. Teachers Can Add Innovation to Teaching

CRM with a project management slant can provide both students and teachers a unique platform to collaborate. Teachers can assign projects to specific students and set deadlines, and students can upload their homework when they’re done, eliminating the “dog ate my homework” classic excuse.

 

When it comes to your CRM, think outside the box. There are dozens of ways to creatively use CRM for your needs. If you’re thinking of implementing a CRM system, we recommend Insightly. Visit the site and sign up for a free account today!

 

3 Tips to Buying the Right Small Business Insurance

By Hunter Hoffmann, Guest Contributor

Starting a small business is an exciting time.  You have the pride that comes with seeing your vision come to life when you officially open the doors, or launch your website, mixed with the nervousness of the unknown.  You’re putting yourself out there and it’s a risk – but you’re doing it, and only with great risk can you reap great rewards.

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You have your company registered, your shop and/or website is up and running and maybe you’ve even hired some new staff.  But, don’t forget to protect yourself, and your company, with the right insurance.  Here are 3 simple tips to getting the insurance you need for your small business without breaking the bank.

 

  1. First, make sure you’re protected. The lists of things that seem more pressing than insurance for a new small business owner is nearly endless.  I won’t even try to make it exciting – but it is necessary.  All it takes is one unhappy customer or partner and you could be facing a potential lawsuit – even if you didn’t do anything wrong.  Unless you’re willing to stake the future of  your business on what you’ve learned from watching Law & Order repeats, you’re going to need a lawyer and those are expensive if you don’t have insurance to provide you the legal representation you need.

 

  1. Get the insurance that’s right for you. Each business has very specific risks and should have insurance policies tailored to their needs.  Your wedding photography business is probably much lower risk than a company that offers skydiving on motorcycles or something else that’s inherently dangerous.  You should get protected, but only for the risks your company actually faces. Each small business is different and you can keep costs down by working with an insurer that understands that.

 

  1. You’re looking for a relationship. Hopefully you won’t need to file an insurance claim anytime soon, but when you do it’s important that you know who to reach out to and that they’re responsive.  Like with any relationship, this takes a bit of intuition.  Did you get the feeling that the company cared about you and really understood your business and the pressures you’re facing.  Did they respond to your questions quickly?  If the purchasing process didn’t leave you with the best feeling, imagine what it will be like if you have to file a claim.

 

Small businesses are the lifeblood of the economy and it’s only from people taking risks that the economy continues to develop and grow. These tips will help you get the right insurance for your business so you can worry about everything else and keep growing.

 

Hunter Hoffmann is Head of U.S. Communications at Hiscox Small Business Insurance and is responsible for media relations, social media, internal communications and executive messaging. Hunter lives in New York City with his wife and two sons – Walker and Otis. In his spare time, he moonlights as Chief Marketing Officer and deliveryman for Junior’s Fresh, a fresh baby and toddler food delivery service and pre-school meal provider in New York City founded by his wife, Michelle.

 

The Art of Entrepreneurship is Heading to Toronto

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Over 1200 like-minded business professionals are expected to attend The Art of Entrepreneurship, taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on October 7th, 2013.

Whether you’re just starting your own company or have been in business for years, this conference is sure to get those entrepreneurial juices flowing. Some of the key speakers on this day will include Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Guillebeau, Debbie Travis, Eric Ryan, Alexis Ohanian.

Small Businesses represent 98% of all business establishments in Ontario, this event aims to provide the entrepreneurs currently driving the Canadian economy with the tools and knowledge needed to scale their business.

SPECIAL OFFER:

The Art of Entrepreneurship and BizLaunch have partnered up this year to offer our blog readers an exclusive discount allowing you to save $50 per pass. To take advantage of this special offer, simply use promo code BIZLAUNCH32 at the checkout.

We hope to see you there!

Social Media Tools, Tips & Tricks

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By Jill Kennedy, Founder of That’s the Idea

It’s the beginning of the week and you want to post content on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. You post a status and a few tweets. Thursday rolls around and you realize you haven’t posted since. You had a lot of meetings this week and it was hard to schedule social media into your plan.

How do you adapt this rising and essential marketing tool without falling behind in your most important tasks?

1. Set aside some time early in the week.

Set three to four hours aside each week and research your industry’s news updates, stories and fun and interesting articles. Prepare thoughts and questions to go along with each article that can be used to engage your audience. Consider which hashtags you would use and who you could tag in your posts to spark a conversation.

2. Schedule your content. 

Using tools like Hootsuite to manage all of your major accounts from one platform will help you sort your content. Decide on two to three times a day when you would like to post content, focusing mainly on Monday-Friday. Think about when your audience is most engaged online and schedule posts at that time.

3. Get free market research.

If you have a company website, sign it up on Google Analytics. This super easy tool will provide you with statistical information on who is viewing your website. You can use these results to cater to your audience demographic. To set it up, check out this informative “how to” page.

4. Write your own content.

Do what comes naturally and write about your expertise once a week. Talk about trends in your industry, your own personal experiences in the industry, why it is good to invest in your industry’s products or services, guides on how to best use your product or service and general interest pieces that your audience will enjoy. Choose an interesting title that will make your audience curious and don’t forget to let them know you wrote it.

5. Always incorporate visuals.

As users scroll down their feeds, they will stop for captivating or moving images. If a relevant photo or video comes up in your research, share it with your audience. Even if your post is text-based, add a visual to draw in the audience.

6. Allot time once a day to respond to audience feedback.

Humans are prone to check their social media regularly. To avoid getting caught up in it, choose a time at the end of your work day to answer any comments or questions the audience has given you about your shared content. Make sure your answers are honest and personable. Social media allows you to connect with new leads so always be prepared to converse with the audience.

 

There you have it: social media is manageable! Once you establish a rhythm, a lot can be accomplished in online marketing. Incorporating social media into your business will keep you educated and updated on industry discussion and more involved with potential customers.

 

About the Author:

Jill Kennedy is the owner of a start-up called, That’s the Idea, a social media management and content creation company in the Greater Toronto Area. Jill’s background in visual culture, professional writing and management, affords her the opportunity to educate business owners on the importance of social media marketing and provide content for their web platforms. Contact her through www.thatstheidea.ca.

Why You Should Be Investing More In Design and Less in Strategy

 

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Photo credit: The Art Of

By Eric Ryan, Co-Founder & Chief Brand Architect, Method & Author of The Method Method

In our MBA-saturated culture, strategy-based thinking tends to overshadow design- and idea-based thinking. Wary of the big idea, investors would rather bet on the big strategy, no matter how unoriginal it is. We’ve seen companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on strategic reports from big consultancies like Bain or McKinsey, only to balk when the same experts advise investing fifty grand on new product outside their comfort range. But a poor strategy well executed is always better than a great strategy poorly executed. After all, consumers don’t see the strategy; they see the execution.

What consumers see, feel, taste, and experience is what they remember. And this is the result of what we do, what we execute, not the strategy behind it. For example, Virgin America’s strategy is probably no different from that of Alaska Airlines; the difference is the creative execution of the brand and in flight experience—and what a huge difference. After all, consumers don’t buy PowerPoint documents. They buy the product, the result of all the design decisions that have gone into it. Imagine a wife yelling to her husband during the commercials, “Honey, quick get in here! There’s a great strategy on TV!” Don’t get us wrong, we’re definitely guilty of occasionally dropping a simple thought into the middle of a triangle on a PowerPoint slide and calling it “strategic thinking,” but there’s a limit.

The good news is that we live in the design age. But we also live in the age of information and accountability. Today, no business decision gets made without in-depth analytical data and clear proof points about its impact on the bottom line. The new corporate mantra is “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” It’s hard to assess the emotional impact of design on the success of a business, but we believe design drives return on investment, making it one of the few tools that create a tangible statement for your brand or business with every dollar you spend. A common thread in any company that successfully uses design as a competitive advantage is the unwavering belief that design makes good business sense.

Over the years, there has been some compelling data that we may be guilty of overusing to justify design expenditures. The London School of Economics found that on average, every $1 spent on design yielded a $3 ROI, and packaging design guru Rob Wallace has preached that on average, every dollar invested in package design generates over $400 of incremental profit within CPG companies. Whichever number you believe, our proof is empirical; Method has vaulted to leadership status in one of the biggest industries on the planet by investing in design—and we’ve done it profitably.

Understanding ROI from design is challenging because great design has an emotional impact on consumers that is inherently hard to measure. Great design is also about great consumer experiences through every touch point, so pulling apart different aspects of a design for testing is inherently flawed. For years, we debated the role of design, and often some among us would argue that design is not needed everywhere. For example, team members understood the value of design on a hand wash that assumes a decorative role on the sink, but less so its value on a toilet bowl cleaner, which will probably get shoved in a cabinet no matter how beautiful the bottle. Our argument is that if we are going to be design driven, we need to take every opportunity to elevate design for a higher experience for the consumer. If you break that promise in any one spot, the entire design experience of your brand falls apart. Great design is in the details.

Don’t miss Eric at this year’s Art of Entrepreneurship conference on October 7th at Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre, where he’ll discuss how to take advantage of your business’s small size by bringing innovations to market faster than your large bureaucratic rivals.

BizLaunch has partnered with The Art of Entrepreneurship to offer our blog readers an exclusive discount allowing you to save $50 per pass. To take advantage of this special offer, simply use promo code BIZLAUNCH32 at the checkout. 

We hope to see you there!

Top 5 Reasons Startups Should Invest In Public Relations

By Amanda Sutton, Guest Contributor

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1. There is never a better time to tell your story.

The most exciting and newsworthy aspect of launching a new business, is you. So it’s a good idea to get used to talking about; your start, your experiences, what drives you, what brought you here – personal stories in the media have never been so desired or beneficial to a new company. The sooner you can get comfortable with telling your story, the more opportunities you will open up.

Your story may not only appeal to industry or business outlets, but a lifestyle focused approach could introduce your product or service an audience that you never thought of targeting. PR people know journalists, and they know how to tell a good story. Get out there.

2. You have a limited budget.

In this over segmented age of marketing services, how is one company to know in which basket to put all of their hard earned eggs: Copywriting? Online marketing? Video? Social media? It is the greatest time of opportunity, but also one of the most overwhelming undertakings to access these “free marketing” tools – and as we all know by now, none of them is truly free. Investing in a copywriter as an example, that’s great for content – but knowing how to leverage that content into multiple opportunities to support your vision, partners, sales, events, news, while delivering a strong corporate message? That takes a broader skill set.

Luckily, PR pros are the Swiss army knife of marketers, blurring the lines between writer, sales and brand champions. Not only will a well-done PR campaign live forever online, but the affects can be quantified in social sharing, blog content, web traffic, Google rankings as well as boosting strategic partnerships, industry credibility, community impact and internal morale. There is no better investment of your money than that.

3. You need investors.

Today’s angel investors are looking for a well rounded portfolio of clients – this could just as easily be you. On the flip side, your company may want the benefit of multiple investors and the diverse knowledge and experience that comes with that. But how would they begin to find you? While the world of tweeting and sharing may go a long way to build your fan base and support your brand – these VIPs are also looking to their own industry (and local) news sources to expand their horizons and seek out companies that are serious about success.

This can include trusted and relevant sources from MoneySense to Globe & Mail, CBC to BNN, and the like. What exposure from these sources can do is lend to your credibility from third party experts and give insight into why you or your product may be something to consider investing in long-term. It is not an easy task to entice these outlets to feature your story or your product. You will need help. Angels are everywhere.

4. Innovation is always news.

Let’s face it – some business sections of your favourite publication can get a little… cynical. I’ve once heard the business section of the New York Times be referred to as the (anti) business section by a well known investor and serial entrepreneur. To this end, it’s not that journalists are looking for negative or disheartening stories, I just really think not as many positive ones come across their desk.

Journalists will always be open to discussing the positive or innovative developments happening in areas of technology, environment, business, health, finance and elsewhere. If you feel your product has gone a long way to advance or improve an old system and you are tired of handing out sell sheets, PR can be your number one ally.

 

5. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Some may no longer think this applies in today’s ‘here today-gone tomorrow-back again next week’ society. Instant gratification combined with access to a wide audience is an enticing thing for a new CEO or President. You have the power to attract, retract, rephrase, paraphrase at whatever interval and whatever mood suits you. But know this – smart people will always flock to the truth. “If you can get people to buy into your vision and they can trust that vision …they will trust you and give you business.” Harris Diamond

 

PR should be a skill used to help businesses hone in on their truth and articulate their core key messages. This is what you can stand on when going public. This will launch you on the right foot and solidify a strong foundation of followers.

For information on Catalyst CCs ‘PR Launch Kit’ for Starts Ups click here.

 

About the author:

Amanda Sutton is an entrepreneur, mother, wife and owner of Catalyst communications choreography. With 15 years in PR working with SMB clients, including BizLaunch, Amanda helps companies gain clarity and direction with their brand message and creates news and engagement through PR using media, community and social channels. Her blog has amassed a strong following and is a great source for the small business owner including tips, advice and industry insights into the ever-evolving world of PR and marketing. Contact her through www.catalystcc.ca or follower her at @catalystpr.

How to Best Utilize Your Brand’s Twitter Analytics to Discover Essential Data

By Hilary Smith, Guest Contributor

10073432733_86c9f55212_cThese days, social media services have a lot more to offer brands than just another way to engage with their audience. Be it Facebook, Google Plus, or Twitter—all major social media services offer organizations access to detailed analytics tools in order to determine what works best with their audience, as well as what will maximize brand engagement.

Though this is most useful to small businesses with limited resources, it has also proven to be reassuring to executives who previously worried about transparency in social media.

Today, we’ll show you how to leverage Twitter’s built-in analytics tools to up your tweeting game and increase user engagement and brand identification.

Accessing Twitter Analytics

Getting access to Twitter’s built-in analytics tool is a bit more complicated than it might seem. If you don’t already have a Twitter advertiser’s account, you need to:

  1.     Set one up by going to their easy-to-use business advertising page.
  2.     After you complete the steps in the wizard, (you’ll need to provide some payment information—don’t worry, you won’t have to pay anything) you’ll be all set to begin working on your ad campaign.
  3.     Set it to start a few weeks in the future (you can cancel this later). Creating the ad campaign this way will give you access to Twitter Analytics.
  4.     Don’t forget to cancel the ad campaign you created before the start date, or it will run and you will be charged!

Getting around in Twitter Analytics

Twitter Analytics has four sections: Tweets, Followers, Twitter Cards, and a Settings menu where you can switch between accounts, edit the access privileges to the account, and other general functions.

Tweets Dashboard

Under the Tweets heading, you will be able to find information about —you guessed it—your tweets. Any messages you send here will be compiled and analyzed based on their performance. You can check out the month’s best-performing tweets and look at charts of your account’s performance over time.

Further down the page, your Tweets are broken down by three key analytic measurements: impressions (the number of times your tweet was seen), engagements (the number of users who interacted with your tweet in some way), and engagement rate (simply the number of engagements divided by the number of impressions). You basically want all of these numbers to be as big as possible.

Using the statistics here, you can find out a lot of really useful information. Ever wonder which day of the week is best for you? Or wanted to figure out your month-over-month improvement? This is the place to do that.

Followers Dashboard

Here is where it gets really interesting. Though some third-party services offer analytics of your tweets, the Followers Dashboard offers something that was unavailable until now: related topics. Now you can find out other things your followers are interested in, allowing you to tailor your tweets to appeal to your followers even more. What’s more, you can even see the top ten accounts that your fans also follow. Maybe some of these accounts would be a useful partner in a cross-promotion? The possibilities are endless.

Twitter Cards Dashboard

A relatively minor part of the analytics platform, this part helps you track the performance of your Twitter Cards—if you use them. Twitter Cards are a way to embed rich data like videos, app links, or photo galleries into single tweets without cramming cumbersome and ugly links into the short 140 characters you’re allowed. The dashboard for Twitter Cards is similar to the Tweets Dashboard.It also allows you to see impressions and engagement for your recent Twitter Cards.

Settings Menu

The Settings menu is a straightforward place where you can do a few vital things. You can adjust who has access to your Twitter account, which is important if you have a lot of employees working in your organization who might need to pull information from Analytics. Alternatively, if you’re the type of person who manages Twitter accounts for multiple clients, you can switch between the different Twitter Analytics accounts you’re granted access to.

Analytics: The Key to Twitter Success

Using Analytics, you have access to more information about your Twitter account’s performance than ever before. This introduction should get you started on Analytics and help you make the most of your Tweets. If and when you decide to spend money on promoting your tweets, you will be better suited to make decisions about how to spend that money to maximise impressions and engagement. Happy tweeting!

Hilary Smith is an online journalist, tech enthusiast, and entrepreneur. In addition to sharing her research on how brands can best utilize Twitter Analytics, her writing also covers eCommerce marketing, social media, globalization, and business communications.