Bertucci’s Files For Bankruptcy

The restaurant industry has faced another blow with Bertucci’s filing for bankruptcy, citing changing climate along with cheaper and faster alternatives as the main reasons for the failing business. But is that really the case? We recently published on strategic innovation and the changing retail environments as organizations focus more on cost reduction vs innovation; this, unfortunately, is another case to add to the long list of failures. Bertucci’s has self-identified faster and less expensive competition as the primary drivers of revenue loss; however, their only noted attempt at remedying the situation was to add a 15-minute lunch option. Is that really innovation, or is it just adding a band aid to cover up the root issue? Both retail and the restaurant industries have been crying foul and claiming new competition and millennial behaviors as the primary drivers of revenue loss. 3SixtySMB believes that it really comes down to true lack of strategic innovation, cost-cutting, and mismanagement at an executive level as the true drivers of revenue loss for both of these industries… With all of this said, it presents a clear advantage for smaller and more nimble startup organizations to break into markets where, for once, giants are failing to serve consumers. However, it has become apparent that it cannot be business as usual, and once a core value proposition is defined, strategic innovation needs a top strategy in order to continuously move the business forward.

https://www.pymnts.com/news/retail/2018/bertuccis-brick-and-mortar-bankruptcy/

The Importance Of Strategic Innovation

Why are icons of yesteryear failing at alarming rates? Some say that it is the introduction of Amazon and Netflix, or Millennial’s becoming more predominant consumers; others say it’s old leadership or old business models. Sure, you can easily point to those as a cause for the decline, but is that really the reason? We believe that there is a fundamental underlying reason these organizations are failing: Strategic Innovations. We wrote not too long ago about how the retail organization has become so calculator driven, and cutting as much cost as possible while completely losing sight of innovation. Looking across some of the most successful organizations today such as, Amazon, Google, Apple, Tesla and others, what they all have in common is that they are all constantly innovating and pushing the ball forward.

Tony Robbins says it best in this great Podcast on strategic innovation: https://open.spotify.com/episode/71sqZXDJQF2C8Wjz7Ec2rN?si=nOCB3pHOS_C9vuKoxzKTWw

How To Develop A Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your Business

Social Media Marketing Strategy For Your BusinessFor as long as social media has been around, there are still many small and medium-sized businesses that have not fully embraced social media marketing. It was estimated in 2017 that 81 percent of the US population has a social media profile, and globally people spend more than 3.7 hours per day on social media. Furthermore, it was estimated in 2015 that Facebook influenced 52 percent of consumers, which was a 36 percent increase from 2014, and that was three years ago… Social media has become so influential for better or worse, and it now plays critical roles in presidential races across the world. It has shown no signs of slowing down and has continued to grow exponentially over the years. It has begun to absolutely dominate the way people perceive brands and make purchasing decisions. With all of this in mind, it is absolutely critical for businesses of all shapes and sizes to develop a social media marketing strategy. In this article, we’ll cover some of the key tactics to developing a social media marketing strategy—more of a Social Media Marketing 101.

Before we get into tactics, the first thing to emphasize is that social media success does not happen overnight. Too many times we run into business owners and executives that believe social media can be turned on like a light switch; this couldn’t be further from the truth. Although social media is a free marketing channel, it takes time and effort to develop a true impact… However, social media marketing does have a snow ball effect, as over time, the effectiveness of the efforts put into social media marketing will continue to grow and yield better results. In some cases, we’ve seen social media become the number one traffic generator for websites within a year’s time, however, overall success depends on effort and strategy.

Here are a few key tactics to ramping up your social media marketing strategy:

Channel Selection

The first step to developing a social marketing strategy is to identify what social media channels your business should participate in. Yes, there is a very big difference between social media channels depending on who your ideal buyer is. An organization that sells to consumers should be focused on channels such as, Facebook, Pintrest, Youtube, and Yelp, and organizations that focus on businesses focus more on LinkedIn, SlideShare, and YouTube. It comes down to understanding who your ideal buyer is, and what social media channels they actively use.

Profile Setup

Once you’ve identified the channels, it is time to set them up. This happens to be an area where we see most organizations make their first key mistake. Essentially, we find that most do enough to get by; this means they set up their accounts, add a profile picture, and maybe an address, but that’s about it. Since so many potential customers are on these social channels, it is best to think about your profile page as a digital billboard—or better yet—an extension of your website. With this in mind, it is important to share as much as possible about your business, products, and services. The end goal of any social media profile should be a virtual representation of your business.

Monitoring

Another key social media mistake businesses make is that once they setup their social media profiles, they walk away thinking their jobs are done. This couldn’t be further from the truth as prospects and customers will find your business’s profile and will interact with it; they’ll ask questions, look for additional information about your business and/or products, or post about their experiences with your business. This is a key opportunity to take advantage of the channels to directly interact with customers and prospects as they are researching for a possible purchasing decision. Indirect communication via social media is quickly becoming one of the most popular methods consumers are now using to learn more about businesses, products, or services before making a final decision.

Furthermore, what most businesses do not know is that regardless of whether an organization sets up their social profile or not, social media channels allow people to comment about these businesses. This means by not setting up and monitoring your social media presence, your business is missing out on possible customers wanting to learn more about your business and/or solutions—or worse—allowing them to complain about your business without a response. Quite honestly, you are missing out on business if you do not monitor these channels.

Sharing

Now that you’ve set up and started monitoring your social media profiles, the next item on the list is to start sharing content. Content can be anything from showcasing your products and/or services to providing opportunities that go beyond these things. We recommend sharing information about the industry, highlight. The key is to be social and educate customers and prospects while attempting to not be disingenuous. Almost all purchases today start with some type of online or social media search which means, if you are not educating your buyers, most likely someone else is (quite possibly, your competition).

Another key thing to understand is that social media posts have a very short shelf life; this means that from the minute you make a post, it becomes less relevant as others post their own content. For example, since there are so many people on twitter, the shelf life of a tweet is only minutes. With this in mind, it is important to post content several times a day. As a rule of thumb, we suggest posting at a minimum of once an hour in your respective social channels. We also recommend taking advantage of tools available (some for free) that make this task easier. We at 3SixtySMB use HootSuite.

Company Involvement

One social media marketing tactic that we’ve seen used to significantly enhance a strategy is to get the entire business involved. Social media is a numbers game, and there is only so much one person can do. As an example, one organization we worked with had a main corporate twitter profile with roughly 2,000 followers. However, due to the work we did with the rest of the organization, their CEO grew their own twitter profile to more than 14,000 followers. This led the organization, as a whole, to having more than 28,000 followers. This meant that as a company they had an exponentially higher follower count and reach that was far greater than the corporate profile alone.

This strategy required the person responsible for social media to create “lazy posts” and share them with the team daily. A lazy post was essentially a set of pre-canned social posts that the team could simply copy and paste into their own profiles. This guaranteed that, even at the basic level, the team was posting content. However, some took their social media profile to the next level and grew their follower base significantly by posting their own content as well.

Social Effectiveness

Once your organization has the basics down, it is important to find ways of improvement. This is done by measuring the effectiveness of all the social media effort by testing different tactics. There are some paid tools available, but even at the basic level, you can track follower and traffic levels month-over-month. Follower levels are easily captured from the channels themselves, and with Google Analytics, you can see what referral sources brought traffic to your site. Tracking both of these statistics month-over-month can give your team a fairly good indication of success from your social marketing. After a few months of developing a baseline for follower growth and website traffic, it is then important to try new tactics to improve the performance of your campaigns.

Again, in order for a social media marketing strategy to be effective, it’s important to remember it does not happen overnight. It takes a true commitment of time and effort in order to be successful. However, as mentioned earlier, when successfully deployed, we’ve seen it take as little as a year’s time for social media to become the #1 traffic generator for websites. Social media has become a marketing channel that just cannot be ignored; halfhearted approaches to this channel will not help your business be successful, and it must be approached with the same effort put into it as other more traditional marketing efforts.

Good luck, and we look forward to hearing about your tips and success stories regarding your social media experiences.

Sources:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile/

https://www.dreamgrow.com/21-social-media-marketing-statistics

 

Digital Age Of Personal Information

There is a huge debate going on around personal data and how organizations such as Facebook, Apple, and Google use that data…. Let us first say, for better or for worse, that when you agree to the terms and services to use these sites, you agree that they can virtually do anything they want with your data. Furthermore, because most of these services are free, the real cost of admission is your data and your ability to be marketed. We do not necessarily agree with the way organizations use this data, and they absolutely need to do more to protect improper use of it. However, what people forget is that we are still in the infancy of the digital age, and it is almost impossible to predict how one may improperly use personal digital data. Organizations like Facebook, Apple, and Google are all trying harder to protect people’s personal data, but they can never be absolute. Furthermore, let’s not forget that regardless of how organizations “properly” use this data, there are always hackers trying to gain access to this information as well. With all of that said, it is critically important to take your data protection into your own hands and be cautious of how and what data you share with any digital organization (not just Facebook, Apple, and Google). Unfortunately, if you use social media, have a cellphone, or use the internet for that matter, your data will always be at risk the less personal information you share on/with digital entities, the less likely you will have issues in the end.

https://gizmodo.com/these-giant-scrolls-are-the-hellish-user-agreements-you-1825822690

Following The “Sales Taught” Process Isn’t Always A Good Thing

Sales processes are fantastic guidelines to ensure that you are doing the proper things to be successful in your sales career. However, it is important to pay attention to the customer and make on-the-fly modifications to your process as the situation changes. As an example, the other day we had a consultation for some work to be completed around our house, and it was a very uncomfortable process. The sales rep was a 30-year industry professional that at some point in time made the switch to sales… It was clear during this consultation that this rep was using the Sandler Sales Process, taking me down the Sandler Pain Funnel. He was following the process to a tee, which wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he was so focused on the process and the questions within the process, he forgot the most critical item in sales or any customer-facing role: listening. While he was asking questions, he would look to his notebook and scribble notes as I was answering them. But, it became apparent that although he was taking notes, he wasn’t really listening. Instead, he was focusing on the next question in the process. As a result, we found ourselves giving him the exact same information multiple times—information that was shared as part of an answer to a previous question. This grew frustrating overtime because it didn’t just happen once or twice; it got to a point where we were repeating ourselves after every other question.

When Terminating An Employee Is Necessary

termination of an employeeFiring an employee is a difficult and sensitive subject for most. It is something to never be taken lightly as personal ramifications always go much further than we may know. With that said, it is a necessary evil in the business world; employees that are left to their own accords while not carrying their own weight can have significant negative impacts on the business. Unfortunately in today’s age, we see many employers holding on to employees much longer than they should, and their businesses suffer as a result. Now, if your business is doing well and/or you have no aspirations to aggressively grow your business, this article is not for you… However, if your business has been flat or struggling to grow over the past few years, it could be a result of a bad egg or two. In this article, we’ll cover common scenarios of when a business should consider terminating an employee.

Even the best employees can have slumps, family situations, or other situations that affect their work productivity. Before an employee is even considered for termination, there needs to be multiple attempts to work with the employee to help get them on track. Start with having a real one-on-one with the employee to understand their situation. To help make it personal, take the discussion out of the office and make it more informal (maybe over a cup of coffee, a walk, or just sitting outside). The goal is to help break down the formal barriers and truly attempt to understand the situation at hand… The hope is to uncover a root cause and help develop steps to help improve the employee’s ability to be successful.

Hopefully, understanding the employee’s situation and putting a plan in place will be exactly what is needed to get them back on track. However, if not, we suggest some type of performance plan that aligns goals to success. Everyone knows of these types of plans, but unfortunately, many get them wrong by making goals impossible to obtain. This is setting the employee up for failure, and worse, all of the other employees know this. This situation can really hurt organizational morale. Instead, goals should be fair and manageable, with a timetable to match. This gives the employee actual obtainable goals and an opportunity to turn themselves around. It is also a clear indicator that if they cannot turn themselves around in a situation set up to give them every opportunity to be successful, it’s time to let them go.

Here are some cases that may cause you to consider the possible termination of an employee:

Poor Performance

This happens to be the most obvious of reasons to let someone go, however, it is not as cut and dry as you think. Like mentioned earlier, before it comes to termination, first you need to truly assess the situation to understand what is causing the poor performance. At times, one may discover that the employee is not the root cause of the problem and that there are outside factors that need to be addressed. However, if it is uncovered that the employee is the root cause and they show no improvement, it’s time to begin the transitioning process.

Negative Nancies

Negativity breeds negativity—there is no way around it. In every organization, there is always at least one aggressively negative person that is not only negative about their situations, but directly imposes their negativity on others. We’re not talking about the person that tends to get frustrated from time to time, but the person that is negative toward just about everything and not afraid to speak their mind (all the time). Again, it’s important to explore any underlying issues that can be causing such negativity in the employee and find ways to fix. However, we find that in most situations these people are just programmed that way, and unfortunately, nothing can be done to improve the situation at hand—they just do more harm than good.

Ivory Tower Employee

These are some of the hardest of all situations. We all have that one former all-star employee that had their glory years many years ago, however, progressively over time, their performance continues a downward spiral. But it doesn’t stop there. Because of their prior success, they find most tasks beneath them or treat coworkers as peasants that should kiss the ring in order to get them to do their jobs. This is always a difficult situation as they have street credit from their prior successes and may have been a model employee at one point in time, but at the end of the day, there is a lot to be said about humbleness. If their performance is subpar and they refuse to work in a professional manner with co-workers, it’s time to move on.

Busy Body

There is always that one person that is so “busy” that they never have time to take on new work, and they struggle to complete the work that has already been assigned. Much like in the case of poor performing employees, there needs to be an assessment of what exactly is causing the issue. Are they truly overworked? Is there an outside factor causing things to be backed up? Is there a broken process somewhere? There is a case where the issue of workload (aka busyness) can be fixed. However, if the employee is the root cause, it’s time to transition them out.

The Example

Boy, is this is a tough one. In some cases, you may have an entire team underperforming, but it would be impossible to terminate an entire team. In this case, it may make sense to find the worst of the bunch to terminate as an example to the rest of the team of what fate lies ahead should their performance not change. This one is a tough one, as it may not always have the desired effect. However, some action is better than no action when an entire team is making mistakes.

The Fumbler

There are some people out there that have a great heart and mean well, but no matter how many times they try, they always tend to royally screw things up. This is another hard situation, as they really may be a great person. If their fumbles are having significant negative impacts on the business, it’s time to either find a role where they will have a smaller impact on the business, or remove them completely

A few additional tips:

Never terminate an employee out of anger. Let’s face it, we spend more time with our employees than our own families and closest friends; you are not always going to agree. At times, an employee can anger you to a point where you want to terminate them on the spot. Instead, take a breath and remove yourself from the equation and have another manager or executive step in to review the situation. There may be a time where emotions get the best of you, and after a cool down period, you’ll be happy that the employee is still with you.

Once an employee is identified as “questionable”, begin documenting everything. One of the key reasons why employers are holding on to employees longer than they should these days, is the fear of litigation. What is worse, is we are finding terminated employees (rightfully or not) are more often seeking litigation for termination. The best thing for yourself and the business is to ensure you have everything you need to back up the decision.

Whether you terminate an employee or they leave on their own, once they leave, there is a gap left in their wake. Recruiting is hard at times, and it can take weeks or months to fill an open position. This can have significant impacts on the business. We recommend to be “always recruiting”. This means always talking to possible candidates for the business. This allows both you and the candidate to get to know each other longer, helping both parties feel more comfortable when it comes to bringing them on to the business. This strategy can significantly reduce the downtime when you find yourself in need of filling a position.

We may sound harsh with what we shared in this article, however when it comes to your business, these hard decisions need to be made in order to be successful. Now, we always look at termination as being the last resort in the employee journey. We are strongly suggesting that employees are given every fair opportunity to turn their situations around, but some just can’t. Good luck, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

What is Social Selling Really, Six Tips to Social Selling

What is Social SellingEvery time we read a new article on increasing sales from sales coaches, consultants, or the media, we see them hyping up social selling. This is a great suggestion, as we couldn’t agree more. Why? Because social selling does lead to an increase in sales. Here is the problem: a majority of sales reps and leadership have no clue what social selling really is or how to properly employ social selling tactics. Furthermore, most organizations as a whole have no clue how to sell socially or provide any real training around the topic. So, while everyone is hyping social selling, there is little about how to actually socially sell. In this article, we plan on reviewing Social Selling 101 techniques.

The first thing to understand when it comes to social selling or social media is that this stuff does not happen overnight. Social media is a process that takes time in order to develop a true online presence and impact revenue. We point this out because even at the executive level, we find that social media at its core is not properly understood. This leads to people being quickly discouraged when they do not see immediate results. Social media is an intangible marketing channel as it takes time to build up an online presence, and those results are not as directly trackable as traditional lead generation campaigns. Like TV or magazine advertising for example, it is understood that the ad is making an impression, and that those impressions lead to sales. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to track which specific ad led to which specific sale. There are tools that can be used for social media that will make tracking of social campaigns easier, but that’s for another article.

How does social selling work? Traditionally, the only way to educate prospects or clients is to be in direct communication with them via phone, email, or face-to-face meetings. Social media breaks into a new dimension of indirect selling. When social media is done properly, it becomes a new channel to educate your prospects about you, your company, products, success stories, and the industry at their own pace. Essentially, it is a new channel for brand education and impressions, which eventually leads to more educated and confident buyers. Another aspect is that people buy from people. Again, you only traditionally interact with your prospects and clients in a very limited window of time, which does not give them time to really get to know you. Social media gives them more exposure to you as a person, and overtime, it helps them become more comfortable with who you really are and builds up a trusted advisor status. It’s all about breaking down the traditional selling barriers.

With all of that said, here are a few tips to get you started:

Choose Social Channels – The first thing to figure out is which channels should be included in your strategy. LinkedIn and Twitter are pretty much a given for most professionals, but then there is Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. In reality, if your business is heavy B2B, it is best to stick with LinkedIn and avoid the others. If your business is heavily consumer-focused, I’d put more emphasis on channels like Facebook, Instagram, and others. The key is to put yourself into the seat of your consumer to figure out what channels they may be using.

Set Up Social Accounts – This should sound basic, but as a next step, set up social accounts across the different channels you picked. Ensure that usernames are either your real name, a similar variation of your name, or something related to the industry. They need to be professional and convey exactly who you are. Also, this is the time to pick a profile picture that is actually you and a bio that makes sense. Again, people buy from people, so you want your community to know who you are professionally.

Start Following – Avoid following random people that have nothing to do with your industry. Start by focusing on people that are key influencers in the space, competitors, industry news outlets, your account base, and people within your accounts. People buy from people, and the more connected you can be with your industry, prospects, and accounts, the more familiar they become with “you” as a person. The key thing to remember is that this is not a onetime activity. Personally, every time I meet someone new, they get a LinkedIn and Twitter follow request. This is where the time aspect comes into play; you will start out with zero followers, and it will take a while to build up more followers.

Start Sharing – The second step to becoming social is to actually share content… This is also where the rubber meets the road when it comes to “social selling”. The first thing to note when it comes to sharing content is that under no circumstances should you directly message prospect sales pitches, or really anything; this tactic does not work (it pisses people off more than anything). Sharing content on social media should be educational; typically, we recommend sharing content, such as case studies, press releases, marketing content, trade articles, industry news, and other material such as that. The shelf life of a social post is usually minutes within certain channels—once you share content, after some time has passed, the likelihood someone will see it drops significantly. With that in mind, you want to continuously share content. We typically recommend sharing a minimum of 3 – 6 pieces of information a day.

Start Communicating – The third step to social selling is interacting with your connections. This does not mean sending a LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter sales message (as mentioned earlier, this does not work). Instead, read the various feeds to see what your community is sharing. If you see something interesting, Like, Share, or Comment on it. Another option is if you see some news on one of your accounts and/or contacts, you can mention them when you post content. Again, people buy from people, and this just helps bring in the human element back into the picture. There are tools available, such as HooteSuite or TweetDeck, that are free and can help with the monitoring aspect.

Recruit New Departments ­– Social selling is not limited to just the sales team—get other teams involved too. The companies that do it right have executive leadership, marketing, product, and other teams involved as well.

The key with social selling is to actually be social and educational without being a typical sales person. Also, it’s important to note again that social media takes time, and results are not seen overnight. Furthermore, social media is not a one-and-done event. The main mistake we see all too often is someone setting up their various profiles and walking away thinking people will magically come to them. Instead, dedicate a few minutes a day to social media; it truly doesn’t take much more effort than that. There are a few organizational examples to check out, such as @Drift and @HubSpot. They have some of the most socially-minded employees out there, and much can be learned from their use of social media.

One additional note: there is a byproduct of becoming social. It is that you begin to build your own personal brand in the market. The more information you share, the more people will take note. Future employers may take note on how influential you’ve become. Your community also becomes an additional asset that can come into play regarding how valuable a company may believe you are. Plus, social media is not easy, so it shows that you know how to put in effort.

Good luck and message us with any questions and/or tips!

Busy Isn’t Always Productive – 10 Tips To Becoming More Productive

busy-vs-productive-peopleBusy isn’t always productive… Let that sink in a bit.

How many times has someone told you about how busy they are, or how they can’t complete a new task because they have so much on their plates? We hear it all the time, but being busy doesn’t always equate to being productive. It is extremely easy for someone to have the appearance of being busy, but it is actually hard to be productive. In this article, I wanted to share a few tips for converting busy into productive.

Let us first say that there are some people out there that are always going to be “busy” and completely unproductive. No amount of training, education, and guidance will fix their habits; it is their way of life. In these cases, it really comes down to analyzing their work output to understand if they are net positive or negative to the business as a whole. If they are net positive to the business, then great, let them continue to add to the business in their own way. However, if they are net negative to the business, it might be time to remove them from the equation.

With all of that said, there are absolutely some easy steps to becoming productive:

Make a to-do list – A running list of items to do is an absolute must in today’s work environment. It is very rare that someone is working on only one task at any given time; for most, the amount of items needed to be completed is endless. By having a list of items, it allows for a visualization of what needs to be accomplished. This helps with movement from different tasks without taking up additional cycles figuring out what needs to be done next. As an added bonus, it always feels nice to strikeout completed items.

Prioritize – Hate to say it, but not all to-do items are created equal. As a list is created, assign a prioritization to each item as you go along. This will allow for identification of which items to tackle first.

Plan ahead – Use the final minutes of a day to plan the day ahead. Typically, towards the end of the day is when things tend to wind down. Use this time to reflect on the day’s activities of what was accomplished vs items that still need to be completed. Then, work to create a plan of action for the next day for tackling tasks that still need to be completed. This allows for structure in the early morning and helps get a jump start on the daily activities.

Start calendaring – Use your calendar like a daily planner and block out time for accomplishing tasks throughout the day. This allows for structure around items that need the most attention, while giving yourself a virtual timeline for completing each item. One tip: I’ve seen people attempt to do this a month (or months) ahead of time. This almost never works out the way it is intended. Because other priorities come into play over time, only look a day or so in advance.

Group related tasks – It seems like commonsense, but sometimes without taking a step back, you may not recognize the pattern of items in front of you. Grouping similar items together will allow your brain to take advantage of the patterns that begin to emerge, and you will accomplish tasks in a shorter amount of time.

STOP – We’ve all been stuck on a difficult task or something where the answer may not be coming to us. In these cases, instead of banging your head against the wall, stop, move on to another task, and come back to it later. The mind works in mysterious ways, and it will continue to work on the issue subconsciously while you move on to other items.

Limit distractions – Even the best of us can become distracted with e-mails, IM, phone calls, etc. when working on a task that is either time intensive or requires concentration. Turn distractions off: this means close down email, turn off IM, flip your phone over, and close the office door. Distractions cannot always be taken completely out of the picture, but they can absolutely be mitigated.

Work from home – This goes in line with distractions, but sometimes the office in general is distracting, especially with many organizations moving to open concept. When struggling with tasks, sometimes you’re best-served to work from home. Keep in mind that when working from home, you have to be self-motivated, and the home needs to be distraction-free as well.

Keep tabs on breaks – Breaks are a good thing but can quickly become a bad habit. Some people find themselves getting up from their desk to talk to a co-worker, hit the kitchen, or whatever else they can find to take their mind off the task at hand. Taking a break from a project is always recommended, but if you’re taking a break every 15 – 20 minutes, that could be more of a distraction than productive.

Delegate – It’s okay to delegate. Some people attempt to take on tasks that are completely foreign to them, or they overload their plates with too many projects at once. It’s okay to delegate tasks to people that may be better suited for them. At the end of the day, how productive is it taking three hours to complete a task that someone else can do in one?

Busy isn’t always productive, and over time, it can lead to burnout… Furthermore, employees and coworkers can always tell when someone is always “busy” but never really gets anything done. No one wants to get burnt out at their jobs or be known as the person that never gets anything accomplished. The tips we shared above have been proven many times over to help people become more productive… It only takes a few small steps. Have tips of your own, we would love to hear them!

 

How To Make CRM Play A More Important Role In Your Small Business

How To Make CRM Play A More Important Role In Your Small BusinessMost CRM systems these days such as: Salesfore.com, Zoho, SugarCRM, Infusionsoft, and HubSpot are highly customizable, yet, even at their bases, they have enough capability to have significant impact on your business and efficiencies within it. In spite of this, you wouldn’t believe how many small businesses still run their firms with a piece of paper or Excel spreadsheet! What is even more unbelievable is that most small businesses have some type of CRM within their organization, but it sits to the side like some leftover desktop computer from the 90’s collecting dust. When used properly, CRMs can be one of the most useful and time saving tools within your business. In this article, we will cover how a CRM can be used to optimize your small business, and we’ll cover one of the most challenging topics when it comes to CRM in any organization—usage.

While CRM implies a tool for the sales team, when properly implemented, a CRM can be used as a single point of reference throughout the organization. However, at its base, a CRM is only as effective as how it’s being used and the data quality inputted. When it comes to CRMs, the expression that I like to refer to the most is “garbage in, garbage out,” and a CRM is pretty much useless without the various teams using it properly. Before we get into the mechanics and usefulness of a CRM, we need to first talk about usage.

When it comes to CRM implementation, especially when first being implemented into an organization, usage is typically the biggest hurdle. Most people see it as an additional step to their already busy and packed daily schedules as they are not aware of the downstream effects of a system like a CRM. The first step to usage is to implement a system that measures the team utilizing the reporting capabilities of the system and keeping the mindset of “what gets measured, gets done”. This means that essentially every team connected to the CRM needs to have some type of measurement: sales – pipeline and connections, marketing – lead counts, customer service – call resolution count, etc.

However, it doesn’t stop there; management needs to adapt a policy of then tracking these metrics on a consistent basis and using them for corporate reporting & meetings (not Excel Spreadsheets). Too many times, we see leadership defaulting to Excel spreadsheets, emails, or a piece of paper for tracking details, and this will frustrate employees. The question of why take the time to input information into a system that is not even being used by management always gets asked. Furthermore, another fix to ensure usage of a CRM is to directly tie compensation to stats and usage. As an example, no sales rep should ever receive commission if an opportunity is not in the system and doesn’t have proper documentation. Similarly, if your Customer Service team has a call resolution quota attached to their bonus, this information should be pulled via the CRM and not by other methods like Excel. At the end of the day, to ensure proper CRM usage throughout the organization, it truly does need a top down approach reflecting on the actions of management in what gets measured, gets done. As a tip, we have a habit of pulling up our CRM reporting in meetings and forcing the team to talk to their stats based on the reporting in the system.

As mentioned earlier, CRM is not just for sales. A properly implemented CRM can be incorporated throughout an organization making it a single point of reference for the organizations and improving efficiencies across the board. Remember, at its base, CRM is not meant for “oversight”, it’s just a byproduct of proper usage. Below we’ll review some of the departments and use cases for proper CRM implementation.

Sales

The sales department is clearly the best use case for a CRM; however, to ensure you are getting the most out of the system, do not limit usage to just sales opportunities or contacts. Sales should be using their CRM as the sole system of record and ensuring that they are transcribing all conversations, connections, and actions in the system. This will allow sales to ensure that they have a working knowledge of all their activities within each account—and most important of all, a proper pipeline. With so many conversations happening within a sales person’s day, it is fairly easy to forget conversations that happen earlier in the morning or throughout the week. With proper usage, they can use a CRM as that system of record, which allows them to keep tabs on past conversations and actions needed. Furthermore, as other departments interact with these same accounts, the sales notes become equally important to understanding the history of an account.

Marketing

Marketing has changed over the years from being completely independent from sales, tending now to being fully integrated with sales, and in some cases, having the same leadership teams. Years ago, Sales had their CRM, and Marketing had their Marketing Automation Platform where they were two completely separate systems. However, as an example with Salesforce’s purchase of Pardot, marketing capabilities are now being built directly into CRMs. Especially with small businesses, this means that there is no need to purchase expensive marketing automation software anymore. This integration also allows sales to have a complete view of prospect and account activities leading to more efficient sales cycles.

Customer Service / Tech Support

Most organizations look to deploy separate systems for these departments, which might work for larger enterprise type organizations, but in small businesses, it is a key mistake. Small Businesses should look to take advantage of their existing CRM which may already have these capabilities out of the box. As an example, Saleforce.com has “Cases”, a complete section built out of the box for Customer Service or Tech Support. A few key advantages of using your CRM for these teams starts at simplicity, where there is no need to duplicate information across multiple systems. Not having to purchase a separate system keeps software and software management costs down as well. However, another advantage is that these teams now have access to critical sales notes to understand more about the history of an account. This leads to faster and higher quality closed calls ratios, as well as an overall better customer experience. Also, as sales is interacting with these notes, it gives them the ability to see call history which also leads to better customer experience from a sales perspective.

Product Development

Most likely, one of the most overlooked departments from a CRM perspective is Product Development. However, companies like HubSpot have fully integrated their product teams into their CRM. Why? It’s simple: within their CRM, they actively track each and every customer’s usage and apply a score to that usage. This score can then measure how active or inactive each client is; this allows for sales and support teams to take actionable steps within each account to improve customer experience as it relates to their software. The overall effect is more customer usage and happier customers. There is also another byproduct; this view gives HubSpot’s entire product team access to usage data allowing them to pivot and make changes within the software. Although this information can be pulled from the software itself, the benefit of having it tied to the CRM is that they can have visibility into the specific accounts and history, giving them a more holistic view.

Finance

Finance is another overlooked department for CRM usage. Typically, like Customer Services and Support, organizations will deploy additional financial software. However, within a Small Business, it is not necessary. Although most out-of-the-box CRMs are not built for the financial department, small customization or plugins can offer solutions. For example, FinancialForce will give most financial teams the full capabilities needed in order to do their jobs. Again, this leads to a single system of record and decreased software cost.

Executive & Leadership

Executives are hit and miss when it comes to CRM usage, however, most are unfortunately a miss. Typically, you’ll find CEOs and Leadership running around at the end of the quarter with a piece of paper or some type of Excel spreadsheet looking for “real time” updates from their teams on opportunities to close or other stats. However, with a properly motivated team, a CRM can be updated in real time along with reporting functionality displaying real time updates directly to the CRM. Some areas included, but not limited to, are total pipeline, pipeline age, average close time, average deal size, average collections outstanding, call resolution times, etc. Many executives believe there is a need for an expensive EPM system in order to obtain cross-organizational insight, however with a properly set up CRM, a Small Business can get all this information and more in one spot.

Again, it is staggering the amount of businesses that do not have a CRM, and the ones that do barely scratch the surface of functionality. With a small amount of customization, a CRM can become an extremely powerful tool to optimize the performance of a business and get everyone on the same page. Most importantly, remember that “what gets measured, gets done”; your CRM should not be a set-and-forget system. Finally, management, once your system is set up, drop the Excel spreadsheets!

 

AOTMP Acquires Blue Hill Research

AOTMP Blue Hill Research

On Wednesday, January 10, 2018, AOTMP entered into an agreement to purchase Blue Hill Research and all of its assets, including existing employees: https://aotmp.com/aotmp-acquires-blue-hill-research. This is an interesting acquisition as AOTMP historically has been 100% focused on the Telecom Expense Management industry practitioners. In contrast, Blue Hill Research has a much wider focus on additional markets and the vendor community. The firm’s coverage includes areas beyond Telecom Expense Management, such as the Internet of Things, Mobility, Enterprise Analytics, Financial Operations, Governance Risk & Compliance, and Legal Technologies; Blue Hill Research clearly has a wider industry focus.  Along with this wider industrial focus, Blue Hill Research also has a strong focus on marketers within the vendor community as a key buyer with a product set to match in areas like marketing content, infographics, Pod and Webcast.

Where Blue Hill Research has a strong vendor focus, AOTMP has a focus on industry practitioners (end-users). There are several ways that AOTMP can approach this acquisition as they merge the two organizations. As an example, over the years, the Telecom Expense Management industry has seen drastic changes and a push to move beyond data & telecommunications expense management. Telecom Expense Management originally started when organizations needed to get a grip on the rising cost of their overall landline communications expenses; they later shifted into data, wireless, and then wireless management. However, massive industry consolidation and fierce competition has essentially commoditized the market, and forced industry players to find the next frontier of industry growth. As part of this dynamic change, some have gone deeper into management, oversight, and procurement of mobile devices. Others have ventured into expanding deeper into IT departments looking to manage overall network assets and expense. As an example, the major industry organization TEMIA recently changed their names from “Telecom” Expense Management Industry Association to “Technology” Expense Management Industry Association. However, the jury is still out on whether this is the right direction or not for the industry as a whole. Some have even questioned the viability of the industry in future years for growth. With all of that said, the Blue Hill Research acquisition now gives AOTMP the flexibility to grow beyond the Telecom Expense Management industry into higher demand, faster paced industries.

Beyond the question of industry, the next area of focus is where to now draw their attention and business model. Again, AOTMP has historically had a focus on educating practitioners, where Blue Hill has been focusing on the vendor community with emphasis on marketers educating around the changing decision-making process in technology. In 2009, the IT industry went through a dramatic change in the way they purchased technology. Before the economic downturn of 2009, most IT departments were given their budget, and they made the decisions on what they thought was best for the overall organization. However, since then, power has shifted to the office of the CFO to make the final overall decisions, forcing the need for stronger ROI and business use-cases as part of the sales process. With this change, even with better business cases, you still ended up with financial decision-makers making decisions on items they have limited knowledge on. Furthermore, line of business who previously were not part of the decision process are now coming to the table with solutions of their own, bringing in IT to the decision-making process last minute. With this now complicated purchasing process, technology providers are struggling with this new buying process, and it’s leading to increased decision-making times and a growing list of lost opportunities. Blue Hill Research directed its attention on creating a research methodology focusing on these key decision-making groups, and helping to educate on the overall technological and financial benefits of a solution, along with guidance on the decision-making process. Integrating Blue Hill’s research methodology gives AOTMP a key advantage to move beyond the practitioners and further into vendor communities. They can do this while widening their focus to issues around the technology decision-making process—an area where traditional research firms seem to struggle in.

In summary, with the Telecom Expense Management industry struggling, the acquisition of Blue Hill Research may prove to be timely. This will ultimately allow AOTMP to expand beyond TEM, while widening its research portfolio and incorporating Blue Hill’s vendor and decision-making education methodology. The question is: what will they really do with the acquired assets?