Technology For Business Sake Blog

How a Nice Tie Can Help You Avoid Customer Relationship Mis-management

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Feb 19, 2007 @ 11:40 AM

Tags: marketing, smallbusiness, entrepreneur, email

Recently I wrote an article for the 2007 Direct Marketing News' Essential Guide to Lists, Database Marketing and Data Services.  The article was about how the Web 2.0 phenomenon was changing how companies interacted with their customers and prospects.  It was a short article that only touched at the surface of changes, but it was pretty well received.  I received a couple of nice emails from folks who read it and thought it was interesting.  And then I got this email from someone who basically wanted me to hire them to do public relations work. 

I really have no problem with this, as I use this strategy from time to time if I run across something that makes sense for me to approach.  And when I do this,  I try to make sure up front that I make a positive statement about whatever it is they wrote about, spoke about or presented on.  It shows that I've at least did a little homework and paid some attention to what they did.  This just makes good sense....and I'm not even in public relations.  So here's what I get from the PR person who wants me to hire them based off of the contact he's initiating with this email.....

Hi Brent:

Seeing your article in the DM News Guide to Lists & Database Marketing, I wanted to drop you a line and introduce myself. As a public relations consultant specializing in the database marketing & CRM space, I deal with marketing services and numerous industry publications every day. As a matter of fact, I helped create and placed two articles in the same Guide in which your article appeared.

This was the opening paragraph. You don't need to see the rest and I didn't either as I pretty much stopped reading after that.  Well typically that would have been it for me but I did check the rest of the email just to see if my assumption was correct.  And it was.  This person only talked about themselves and what they've done in the past.  What set me off in the first place was how it was pretty apparent to me that this person didn't even take the time to read my article.  He "saw" it, but he definitely didn't read it.  If he had, and if he really wanted my business, don't you think he would have complimented me before going full bore into his sales pitch?  My co-host Michael Thomas refers to this as the "nice tie" approach, where you find something to compliment your intended target on before hitting them up.  This person, who claims to be a public relations specialist, didn't even give me a nice tie before singing their own praises (and anyone who knows me knows I could really use a nice tie).  Needless to say, I didn't reply to the email.  In fact I'd probably hire Terrell Owens' old PR lady before hiring this person, and we know what kind of job she did under fire

It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode where George asks Jerry to act like his former employer and be a reference for the job he's going for as a latex salesman.  George has the company call Jerry's house, but instead of Jerry answering the phone Kramer does and totally screws it up for George.  George, in the bathroom, here's Kramer messing it up and comes tearing out of the bathroom with his pants down around his ankles, then falls face first right at Jerry's feet.  Jerry looks at George, and says those famous words...."and you want to be my latex salesman......"  And this person what to be my public relations consultant.......

To me, it's just another tragic case of customer relationship mis-management.  Please learn from this before sending that next email out.  And also learn how to say and spell "Nice Tie!"

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The 5 Don'ts of Business Networking 1.0

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Feb 05, 2007 @ 07:59 PM

Tags: marketing, social, networking

There's a lot of hype (and deservedly so) about leveraging the Web 2.0 world to build wider social and business networks.  I myself have accounts on YouTube, LinkedIn, JumpUp and a few others that have actually been pretty helpful in a number of ways.  And I expect these tools will become an even more important way to grow my business network in the years to come.  But even as I rely more and more on the web to widen the pool of prospects to draw from, nothing still does the trick like face to face communications.... otherwise known as Business Networking 1.0 style.  And no matter how Web 2.0 you go with building your network, you'll always have to do some old fashioned, meet-and-greets, chamber meetings and other forms of "hand-to-hand" networking events.  When you do hit the "circuit", please remember these few rules.....

  1. Don’t Go Into Combat with Out-of-Whack Expectations

If you’re at a networking event, most likely you are there to try to sell yourself, your company and your services to the people you talk with there. Well chances are the people you end up talking to are trying to do the same. So you are trying to sell to someone who is trying to sell to you at the same time. Or maybe you go to an event hoping to connect with the one or two executives with companies you’d love to do business with. Unfortunately fifty other people have targeted the same two people and you may only get a quick “hello” out. You’ve just invested two hours in a thirty second sound bite – and the worst part is your sound bite most likely was sandwiched between others. Does this sound all too familiar?

Hey we’d all like to walk out of every event we attend with a contract in hand, but let’s get real. It doesn’t happen too often, if at all. But that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a waste of time. You have to be more realistic and look for opportunities to build relationships with folks who may help you, in time, get business. By attending a few events I met people who have been valuable sources of information that put me on the right path. So money is the obvious measure of how good a networking event is, but don’t discount the importance of information that can lead to cash somewhere down the line.

  1. Don’t Oversell Yourself

I don’t know about you, but when I meet someone at an event who’s really coming on strong talking about what they’ve done, I do two things. I ask people I know if they’ve ever heard of this person. But the first thing I end up doing is putting them through The Google Test. Because I figure is you’re going to be woofing so hard about what you’ve done in the business world, I better be able to find some of this great work in a search on your name (or company name). And if Google comes up dry, you fail the test, and that pretty much ends my interest in cultivating a business relationship.

  1. Don’t Equate An Exchange of Business Cards as an Opt-in To Your Newsletters

This one really gets me. I’m not a big business card passer-outer. But when I do hand it over it’s because I had a good conversation and would like to keep an open dialogue going. That means doing a phone call or maybe some back and forth emails. The one thing it absolutely doesn’t mean is that I am giving anyone permission to add me to their email newsletter list. Like everybody else, I already get way too much email and am really looking for ways to cut it down, not add to it. But it never fails that as soon as I hand over the card, before I even get home from the event I’m getting an email newsletter from the person I just met. Please whatever you do, if you do a card exchange with someone after a good conversation, ask if it would be ok to add them to your newsletter list BEFORE you do so. It’s the only humane thing to do…..

  1. Don’t Have a Messed Up Email Address on Business Cards You’re Handing Out

Some people think I’m picky about this, but part of that first impression you make at an event includes the card exchange. And nothing can ruin the makings of a good impression than a jacked-up email address. No offense to the Hotmails, AOLs and Yahoos! of the world, but if you’re serious about business, get your own domain, even if its just to be able to send out more professional emails. I have a Hotmail address and a GMail account, but I hardly ever pass those out, and I certainly don’t have it on business cards. And please….PLEASE don’t hand me a card with an email address starting with the following:

        • SugarDaddy5@

        • BlessedWoman24@

        • IGetsMine@

        • BearsFan34@ (especially not after yesterday’s Super Bowl)

These are fine email address for sharing with friends and family, but people you just meet at workshops and conferences can’t be considered your friend. Upon further review, do you really want a stranger you’re trying to impress to know you as SugarDaddy5? I didn’t think so.

  1. Don’t Forget to Follow Up

I struggle with this one at times. If you meet someone at a networking event who’s interested enough to ask you to send more information their way, try to do so. And if you offer it up, you really better follow through. You just never know what could come from this. Or who may talk about you when you don’t follow through….or who they talk to, as it could be one of those two or three people you wanted to talk to in the first place. It happened to me……

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Slideshare.net: A website you should know about

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Jan 04, 2007 @ 01:05 PM

Tags: smb, marketing, smallbusiness, web, slideshare.net


By now most people have heard of YouTube.  It has become extremely popular because people can view all different kinds of videos.  They can also comment on them, email links to friends and add their own videos to the site for public consumption.  Another popular but lesser known site is Flickr, whose popularity is built on sharing photos in the same way YouTube does videos.  And there are a host of other sites built on the same social premises of allowing anyone to view, comment on and add content for all to see on the web. 

While not nearly as popular, Slideshare.net can sort of be viewed as the YouTube for Powerpoint presentations.  If you are looking for information you can incorporate into your website or blog, there's a good chance you can find it on Slideshare.  If you put together some interesting presentation you can upload it to Slideshare and have people view, comment on it.  Slideshare even makes it easy for those people who like your presentation to incorporate it into their blog or website.  And each time someone views your presentation SlideShare keeps track of it.  If it's really popular your presentations can show up on the Slideshare.net homepage, bringing your site a whole bunch of traffic, and potential customers. 

This is a great way for you to expand your presence on the web by showing off your knowledge and experience by using a tool you're already familiar with.  And don't be worried about someone "stealing your good ideas".  The more you are able to create and publish on the web the bigger the pool of prospects becomes.  This will far outweigh any negatives you may think of.  So do yourself a favor and check out Slideshare.net.
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Gmail Dilemna

Posted by Brent Leary on Wed, Dec 27, 2006 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: smb, marketing, smallbusiness, email, google, gmail



I've been using Gmail for about 10 months now. The only reason I started using it was because my Outlook crashed and I got fed up. I had a Hotmail account and Yahoo! account but they didn't do it for me. Even though I did get Outlook back up and running and need to use it for its rich feature set, I continue to use Gmail for basic emailing functions. It's easy to use interface and 3G of free space won me over. And apparently it's winning over a growing number of email users. In fact, according to a recent article in Direct magazine, unlike AOL email accounts which are typically popular with consumers only, professional types seem to be signing up. It even appears that having a Gmail account makes a better impression to prospective employers than having an AOL account.....Sorry AOL (I guess I was right to ditch my AOL account eight years ago!).
With more and more people using Gmail, an interesting quandary is beginning to face email marketers. Google serves of contextual ads in Gmail. So if you send a nice HTML email with graphics out to customers and prospects, by default the graphics are turned off and will have to manually be turned on by recipients. But Gmail will read the text of the message and then will place text ads in the margins of the email, and those ads could be from your competitors who have bought keywords with Google Adwords. Your content gets blocked while your competitors ads come in nice in clear. That's bad. Because of this you'd probably think it's not worth sending to gmail accounts because you might be drumming up business for your competition. But......
Here's why you may want to think twice about not sending to Gmail accounts:
  • According to email management firm Return Path, overall response rates for their May mailing campaigns was just over 2.8%, but Gmail users responded at a 5.6% rate, or double the average.
  • Gmail users are generally viewed as more sophisticated and more responsive
  • Gmail users are viewed as more active

So that puts email marketers in an interesting dilemma: Do I send to Gmailers since they are more likely to respond to my emails or do I not send to them because I could be putting them on the doorstep of my competition?
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Quick Takes on Software-as-a-Service for Small Business

Posted by Brent Leary on Mon, Dec 18, 2006 @ 06:19 PM

Tags: smb, crm, saas, sherylkingstone, marketing, smallbusiness, email




Small businesses are really starting to embrace Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) in 2006. And it is truly a great way to quickly incorporate functionality that in the past would have been too expensive, too difficult to learn and too long for benefits to be realized. SaaS truly makes sense for small businesses to use in a number of ways.

Our company, CRM Essentials, was among the first certified implementation partners of on-demand CRM pioneer Salesforce.com when we signed on back in 2003, and have been following the rise of SaaS since then. In fact, I’ve been following traffic patterns of some of the better known SaaS providers of CRM with my “Alexa CRM On Demand Ratings” posts on my blog for the past six months. So you can definitely call me a strong proponent of it, especially for small businesses who need to get up and running quickly and cheaply to compete, thrive and survive.

Now with all the hype surrounding SaaS you would think that buying traditional software has gone the way of the do-do bird, or relegated to history books…”Remember back in the 1990’s when we used to Comp USA to buy software?). But just keep in mind that the majority of software is still acquired the old-fashioned way. And that it still makes sense to do so for many uses.

Recently we had one of the leading experts on the SaaS market, Sheryl Kingstone of Yankee Group, on the show to discuss the whole “Buy vs. Rent” dilemma with respect to SMBs. Here are a few quick hits (90 seconds or less) you should check out before you completely go the “no software” route.

1. Installed software will be here for awhile, and might be cheaper for what you need it for


2. Email marketing is probably the best way to get started with SaaS to see quick results



3. Make sure you add everything in when doing Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) comparison between SaaS vs. installed software for a 3-5 year timeframe


4. SaaS will help make it easier to use functionality from one service provider from within another service providers application. This has created a new term called “intelligent mashups”.



Software-as-a-Service really can allow small business to “look like a big guy” while paying like a little guy. But there will probably be things that you’ll always want to install directly on you machines. Just take the time to figure out when it’s appropriate to use one or the other.







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Do You Have A Web Presence, or Presence on the Web?

Posted by Brent Leary on Thu, Dec 14, 2006 @ 10:36 PM

Tags: smb, marketing, blogging, smallbusiness, entrepreneur



Recently I had an interesting conversation with customer relationship management guru Paul Greenberg about small businesses and their lack of corporate websites. According to a recent AMI Partners study of businesses with fewer than one hundred employees, only 56% had a website. With the growing dependence on Internet search as the primary means for information discovery, I think it's important for even the smallest of businesses to have some sort of web presence. But Paul brought up an interesting point - he doesn't have a web presence (meaning no website) but he has a whole lot of presence on the web based upon the 109,000 or so links returned by Google in a search on his name.
Now not everybody has written a best selling book in their field of expertise like Paul, but he was onto something. Your business doesn't necessarily need a website to pass "The Google Test" - meaning people can find you on the web when they are looking for products or services they require which you provide. You can make your presence felt in all sorts of ways. One quick way is by reviewing popular books in your field on Amazon.com. You’d be surprised at the contacts you can make be writing thoughtful, concise reviews to important books in your industry. Another proven tactic is to write a press release for newsworthy topics and distribute them on www.prweb.com or www.prnewswire.com. If written correctly news outlets and industry websites may include your release and generate a great deal of web exposure. Participating in popular industry forums and creating a profile on business networking sites like LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com) and Spoke (www.spoke.com) can definitely help. Writing articles and submitting them to extremely popular sites like Digg (www.digg.com) where users vote on which articles get posted on the front page can make you a “star” overnight. You can also submit articles to the sites below to raise your GQ (Google Quotient) dramatically:

• Ezine Articles - http://ezinearticles.com
• SearchWarp -http://searchwarp.com
• Buzzle  - http://www.buzzle.com
• IdeaMarketers - http://www.ideamarketers.com
• eBooks N’ Bytes - http://www.ebooksnbytes.com
• Article Central - http://thewhir.com/find/articlecentral/

These are all great ways to gain a degree of prominence on the web, but I believe the best way to begin building your presence on the web is to use a service like TypePad (www.typepad.com) or Blogger (www.blogger.com) to blog about what's going on in your industry and share your experience and knowledge. Because of the ease of getting started and adding new entries, you may even find using your blog as your corporate website will work for a while. Blogs really make sense if you are a consultant or need to bill yourself as a subject matter expert. There are even tools and services like Blurb (www.blurb.com) that make it possible to turn your blog into an actual printed book.  Use free services like Slideshare (www.slideshare.net) and YouTube (www.youtube.com) to easily add slide presentations and video to your blog to create compelling content. And if you have enough of the right people commenting and linking to your blog, nothing can be better in terms of branding.
Blogs are great, but at some point you will probably need a fully functionalized corporate website to create a grander image for your company and to transact business. And nowadays it's easier than ever to do this. So I think Paul and I are both right. You will need both a web presence, and presence on the web to really make some headway. After all when it comes to the web, it's not just who you know, but who knows you AND what they know about you that makes the difference.
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Online Marketing for the Offline Small Business

Posted by Brent Leary on Wed, Dec 13, 2006 @ 03:16 PM

Tags: smb, quickbooks, marketing, adsense, smallbusiness, email, google, adwords



I recently had the pleasure of delivering the keynote presentation at a small business CRM/Call Center/Contact Management conference in Louisville, Ky last week. There were approximately one hundred or so folks in attendance and I would say the majority of them worked in or owned business employing less than fifty employees. A good number of them had businesses participating in traditional, boring, “low-tech” industries. You know, the kind that built (and is still building) this country.

I was very happy with the reception my presentation received from the folks, but I could tell that many of the things I talked about were not too familiar to the audience. So my whole Web 2.0/Social Media Optimization/Business Web spin on finding, catching and keeping good customers may have been a little over the top. But I think it did help some attendees understand an important message they needed hear: Even though your business is not “high tech”, you still can benefit greatly by using Web 2.0 technologies.

That theme really resonated with one business owner who runs a manufacturing operation with thirty employees. Currently she has no website, but realizes the value of having one as she is doing more and more networking, and feels that having a site to point people to will generate more interest. But what about those folks she doesn’t meet face to face who are looking for the services she provides? Don’t they have just as much potential to become customers as those she meets at the trade shows and networking events? These questions can also be posed to printers, cleaning services, lawn care providers and other traditional businesses. But many of these “traditionalists” don’t think tools like search engine marketing are really for them. I beg to differ……

So I had the traditionalists in mind when we had Emily White, Google’s director on online sales and operations, on the show to discuss search engine marketing (SEM) and its usefulness to small businesses. Below are a few quick snippets from the thirty minute interview that should change a few minds.
  1. SEM is definitely not just for high-tech businesses

  1. How using SEM working inside Quickbooks can help get you online faster

  1. How CRM + SEM = $$$ for small businesses

  1. A few short tips for converting online leads to offline deals


Now it’s easier than ever for your offline business to get big benefits from online tools and services like SEM. And it will get easier and easier as time goes by, but it’s important to get started now, or fall further behind as more and more businesses beat you to the punch.

To hear the whole interview with Emily, click here.
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Email Tips from Entrepreneur.com's Email Marketing Coach

Posted by Brent Leary on Fri, Dec 08, 2006 @ 10:08 AM

Tags: gail, marketing, constantcontact.com, goodman, email



Our interview with Constant Contact's CEO Gail Goodman was filled with a great deal on information that small businesses really need to know about effectively using email marketing to grow their businesses. If you have a chance please check out the whole conversation by going to the show page. For those who don't have time to check out the whole show, here are a few quick hits (clips range from twenty-four seconds to ninety-two seconds) that should be more successful with email marketing:

  1. Proper target for email marketing campaigns is your current customer base, NOT prospects .

Many small businesses use email campaigns as a way to initiate contact with prospects. Gail explains why its best use is aimed at your current customer base, not people who don’t know who you are. Listen below:

  1. It’s easy to get yourself “blacklisted” for bad email campaign execution practices


Be safe rather than sorry and check out Gail’s tips for keeping in good standing with the email police and staying of the black list. Listen below:

  1. Second thoughts on using Outlook or other email client software for executing email campaigns


Outlook is a great application for sending emails to individuals and small groups of people. Gail explains why you may want to reconsider using email clients to execute full blown email campaigns. Listen below:

  1. MIME-ing for Success!


This isn’t about Marcel Marceau , but about making sure your email campaigns can be read on mobile devices like the BlackBerry. It's about making sure you're sending a Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension (MIME) message. Don't get too excited about this, as Gail explains most email marketing services can handle this for you. This is important because roughly half of all emails are read first on these devices, and if your campaign isn’t formatted correctly, it definitely won’t be read. Listen below:
 

These are just a few of the great tips and insights from our conversation with Gail.  To hear the whole interview, just click here.
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