Tag Archives: Business Owner

Marketing Sales Automation Tech Stack

The Best Marketing and Sales Automation Tech Stack for B2B Businesses

Just about every company in America would publicly emphasize that they’re committed to revenue growth (this is more important than ever now). Yet simultaneously its common to try to cut corners and get cheap when it comes time to invest in tried and true resources that help them realize that goal. Further, these resources will easily pay for themselves and more by leading to significant ROI both monetarily and via efficiencies.

In 2019 I can’t believe companies still need to be convinced that they need things like CRM programs and marketing automation but here we are.

And let’s get one thing out of the way before going any further. No, having a free HubSpot account doesn’t count as investing in a CRM program. It may be slightly better than a Google Spreadsheet (yes some solely use that as their “CRM”) but it’s still a lame attempt at best (that’s not to knock them, they have a fine platform if you’re willing to pay the fees to upgrade it).

Fortunately, there is an upside whether you have a CRM and marketing automation system or not. Regardless if you have none, a poor/dysfunctional one, or even one that’s working decently well, now is a great time to make it even better. Take the time, make the investment, and ensure it’s a priority to get dialed in and implemented now to lead to massive dividends later.

Anything worth doing is worth doing right, so I’ve put together a list of the best tech stack in the game to work synergistically and seamlessly whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or a $100 million company with hundreds of employees.

To set the ground rules this piece is predominantly focused on marketing and sales automation. There are plenty of additional angles to take to assist with ERP, HR/recruiting, etc. (if there’s interest I’ll gladly do a follow up post). Also, there are a variety of effective approaches and platforms to pull this off so in some cases I’ll include secondary and tertiary options. If your favorite tool is omitted it doesn’t mean I’m not a fan, just trying to make this easier in a world with a vast amount of options to avoid analysis paralysis. I’m not going to let that be your excuse not to take action and execute.

Ok here we go.

Communication

This is obvious, but your base starts with communication, so email, mobile device, etc. Personally, my preference is overwhelmingly an Outlook and iOS base. However, Gmail/Google Suite or Android are just fine. I use both Outlook/Gmail and both accounts are connected/integrated with my CRM. If you’re working in teams, adding Slack to the mix is worthwhile as well. Price: $5-$10 per user per month.

CRM

This is really the major component that ties everything together and is the key to making everything else in your business work. If you’ve read anything I’ve written about CRM’s you know my #1 preference right now is Zoho One. It does so freaking much for your company for the price that it’s absurd. Their tagline is: “The Operating System for Your Business” and it’s 100% true. There are literally 40 applications that go along with it that could easily eliminate much of what you’re using right now. But if you love your other platforms and want to keep them it also integrates with them all.

A few steps allows you to sync and keep track of all your communication with clients and prospects, ensure you follow up with leads who fill out contact forms or simply visit your website (yes it includes a heat map and website analytics) and so much more. I also use it for project management.

Almost on equal footing (albeit it comes with a much higher price tag) is Salesforce, followed by HubSpot. These are both great platforms, they just cost a whole lot more to license and don’t come with the extra bells and whistles that Zoho One does. Price: $30-$40 per user per month.

Social Media

This section will be brief, your company has got to have at least the following accounts: LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. If you want to add others to the mix more power to you, but this is the base. I use Zoho to manage, automate, and track my posting (which is included) but you could easily use Hootsuite too. Price: Free (Zoho) – $30 per user per month for Hootsuite.

Email Marketing

Another quick section: you need to be incorporating email campaigns into your marketing activities. Email isn’t dead, that’s a lie (neither is direct mail, but that’s for another time). This is one where you could get away with Zoho to manage it, yet I stubbornly have stuck with MailChimp. I love the platform, the company, and what it stands for and have remained loyal. You can start with a free account for under 2,000 contacts, I have more in my list, so I pay a monthly fee (the fee staggers based on your amount of contacts). Constant Contact is a fine option too. Both integrate with Zoho. Price: Free (Zoho) – $30 per month and up for MailChimp.

Contract/Proposal Management

If your company is like mine, you crank out a lot of proposals and contracts on a regular basis. While we customize each one there is still plenty of overlap and recurring content that we leverage often. Standardizing as much as possible with templates creates a HUGE advantage. It allows us to crank out much more in less time. Business is a numbers game, i.e. more activity leads to more volume, which leads to more sales and revenue. So being able to get more proposals and contracts out in a timelier fashion is going to make a tangible impact on your business alone. For this I use/recommend IntellyDoc. Adding this to your tech stack is going to make a major impact on your business. Price: Free (Freemium Model) – $150+ per month depending on your company’s situation.

Payment Processing

Not that your company is closing all this new business you’ve got to collect, right? I have an account set up with PayPal, Square, Stripe, Venmo, Zelle, Coinbase, and Gold Money to collect fees from clients. I recommend having them all nothing else in your business matters if you don’t collect the fees you charge. They all connect to your bank, which should connect to your bookkeeping platform, which then connects back to the CRM to tie in deal flow tracking and to assist with financial forecasting, etc. Price: Free aside from a percentage per transaction.

Bookkeeping

QuickBooks gets all the love, but I’ve been using Wave and it’s really great too (you’re probably sick of hearing this by now but Zoho has an application that comes with your Zoho One account too). QB integrates with Zoho, Wave doesn’t which is a minor annoyance, but I created a work flow to work around that.

Other recommendations:

Scheduling: Acuity is awesome to assist with scheduling meetings, demos, calls, etc. by allowing folks to see open times on your calendar and book appointments. They have a freemium model.

Ecommerce: Shopify.

WIMS Client Spotlight Robin Branstrom Fine Art

WIMS Client Spotlight: Robin Branstrom Fine Art

Robin Branstrom has been an art consultant for over eight years, working with both individual collectors and business clients. She was formerly a partner in Robin & Robbins Art Consultants before forming Robin Branstrom Fine Art. Her company primarily operates out of North Carolina (Charlotte and Wilmington) and South Florida (based in Palm Beach) however she often travels around the country for projects (she’s particularly found of New York of course).

Robin Branstrom Fine Art works with both individuals and their private collections, as well as in the corporate section, curating collections for commercial properties and businesses looking to add some culture to their office spaces. She also works with interior designers to find the perfect piece for their client. Events are another specialty of the company, whether they have a fundraising/nonprofit aspect or simply spicing up a corporate networker, adding fine art to the mix is always a hit.

Often times it takes a special eye to find a perfectly curated piece that cohesively fits with their new décor. From Site Review to Installation, Robin Branstrom Fine Art connects the client with high caliber art that suits their living space which often involves the following steps:

Evaluation

We schedule an initial consultation to discuss your project. Our aim is to understand your business, and your budget.

Site Review

We visit the site or review architectural drawings to get a clear understanding of the space and identify potential art locations.

Presentation

We provide a broad selection of art options: paintings, prints, sculpture, works on paper, textiles and photography… as your project requires.

Selection

We work closely with you and your design team to select the art and specify the placement.

Framing

We offer numerous framing, matting and glass options to protect and present your art.

Installation and Lighting

We will expertly and securely install your art with an eye for detail and suggest the correct lumens to bring out the best in your collection.

Documentation

Upon request, we can provide documentation for your collection, including photo images, media descriptions and valuation.

 

Robin Branstrom Fine Art is continuing to grow and evolve its focus and services. Check out https://www.robinbranstromfineart.com for more information about Robin and her company and to follow along in their journey.

Business Bootcamp: Entrepreneur

Weekend Business Bootcamp: An Entrepreneurial Prompt

If you’ve been thinking about starting a business, whether as a full-time entrepreneur or as a side hustle, consider this your challenge, you call to action, the catalyst you may have been waiting for.

Maybe you’ve been procrastinating for seven weeks (or 1 year and 7 weeks) since making an entrepreneurial new year resolution. Or you’ve just been overwhelmed and stuck in a never-ending analysis paralysis loop. Perhaps you can’t find the perfect idea that best suits you and your skill set (yes, “imposter syndrome” is real and a dream killer). Either way, the best and only cure for any of the above is to take action and get started.

So, wherever you’re at in the process, I’ve pulled together some resources to act as your quick start guide, leveraging advice from experts across the internet, to help you kick things off and be ready to launch your business by Monday (no joke, it really can be done and isn’t as hard as you’d think).

Here are as many ideas as you can handle, along with some success stories for additional inspiration. After you settle on THE big idea, we move onto the initial steps to kick things off, including running some numbers and what you need to do to make it legit.

 

10 of the Highest-Paying Gig Economy Jobs of 2019

Artificial Intelligence/Deep Learning – $115.06/hour, Blockchain Architecture – $87.05/hour, Robotics – $77.46/hour, Ethical Hacking – $66.33/hour, Cryptocurrency – $65.37/hour, Amazon Web Services Lambda Coding – $51/hour, Virtual Reality – $50.18/hour, React.js Developers – $40.75/hour, Final Cut Pro Editors – $37.12/hour, Instagram Marketing – $31.23/hour”

The 20 Hottest Job Skills in 2019 That Will Get You Hired (Editor’s Note: This list doesn’t just make sense for a job, but as an Entrepreneur as well)

  • “A majority of the 20 hottest skills in the US job market are tech-related, according to a new list from freelancing platform Upwork.
  • In-demand tech skills are changing rapidly: 75 percent of the tech trends leading to job opportunities are new to the list.
  • Demand for mobile optimization, the rise in cybercrime and increasing investment in big data solutions are driving corporate hiring.”

Need a Business Idea? Here Are 55

100 Businesses You Can Start with Less Than $100

15 Businesses You Can Start for $10,000 or Less

“Daycare, Lawn Care Specialist, Court Transcript Proofreader, Bookkeeper, Real Estate Agent, Freelance Writer, Natural Childbirth Educator, Retail Arbitrageur, Blogger, Photographer/Videographer, Virtual Assistant, Info Product Salesperson, Dog Walker/Sitter, Personal Trainer, Estate Sale Manager”

7 Realistic Ways to Make Money Online

“Leverage the app economy, Use existing websites, Sell your own stuff, Sell as an affiliate, Start a blog, Email marketing, Webinars trainings”

9 Ways These People Make Money at Home with Nothing but Their Laptops

 

After you decide what business(es) you want to launch the next step is to read this article from Tim Ferriss and follow through on the exercises. How to Create a Million-Dollar Business This Weekend

Next, review this one: A Simple 6-Step Process to Starting a Small Business, and follow it up with How to Start a Small Business Online: “Seven tried and true steps for attracting visitors to your small business’ site — and getting them to buy.”

 

After you get through your weekend grind session and you’ve taken one of the hardest steps in becoming an entrepreneur, give me a call on Monday and let’s start building your website, marketing plan, and get you some clients. By this time next week, you’ll truly have something to celebrate. TGIF!

Seed Round Capital

Notes on Raising Seed Round Capital

Throughout the past year I’ve helped lead a couple of seed round funding for company’s that I’m a co-founder of. While I’ve assisted and consulted many startups prior to that with raising money, doing it from this perspective was quite different. I won’t admit to knowing absolutely everything, but I’ve certainly learned a few things along the way that are worth sharing if you’re in a similar situation or considering it.

Seed round funding takes significantly longer than you think it will, even if you’re just going after “friends and family”. Start reaching out to potential investors at least 6-9 months before you think you’ll need the funds as it can easily take that long to close the deal and collect the check.

How are you going to structure your company, and the investment? Delaware C-Corp’s are a common favorite structure and get a ton of attention, but you don’t necessarily need to structure it that way. Do you want to offer a convertible note or do a straight equity investment (or equity crowd funding – which is a whole other game)? There are pros and cons to each of these decisions, so it really just comes down to preference and seeking expert counsel.

Get serious about documentation as there’s a ton of it required. These deals are a negation, so anticipate there to be red lining for edits on a term sheet contract, additional concessions will be asked for, etc. Secure an attorney to assist you with this side of things. While you can start with a template, always get approval from a professional before executing the deal and finalizing documentation. It will help you later.

Your valuation is likely too optimistic. But even then, a valuation is always subjective. Your true valuation is essentially what you can convince someone your company’s worth. Remember no business plan or pitch book in the history of the world was 100% accurate with their projections. Make sure your work comes across as thoughtful and realistic however to show the potential investor that you did the work and aren’t just flying by the seat of your pants.

A “yes” isn’t really a yes until the money has been transferred. Don’t count your chickens and start deploying capital until you have received it. You can get a yes (or what you perceive to be a yes) on a deal but then when it comes time to complete a wire transfer the investor can get a little gun shy. Things happen, whether they get push back from their spouse, the market takes a downturn, or perhaps it’s some other random unexpected occurrence, a deal isn’t truly closed until you have the money in hand.

Collecting the funds isn’t where it ends, rather it’s just the beginning. After you receive the investment capital, then you have to execute the vision, deliver on what you said you were going to, provide further documentation along the way, communicate progress regularly, and ideally turn a profit so you can return the capital back along with a sizable return on their investment. Not sure which is the hard part? They all are.

What are some of the things you’ve learned along the way? There are so many others to consider. I always love hearing, and learning from, a good case study about your personal experience raising funds if you’re willing to share.

SMALL BUSINESS WEEK 2018

WIMS Celebrates National Small Business Week 2018!

In honor of Small Business Week I’ve put together a collection of resources, information, articles, etc. for you to check out whether you’re currently an entrepreneur, if you’re considering becoming one, or if you simply want to support your local crazy roller coaster rider like myself. Also, to celebrate WIMS Consulting is offering a 20% on all services/projects for other small business owners. Just reach out and mention it during your consultation!

What is SBW?

From April 29th to May 5th, 2018, it’s National Small Business Week where the SBA (Small Business Association) recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs and small business owners from all across the 50 states and U.S. territories.

About: “Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has issued a proclamation announcing National Small Business Week, which recognizes the critical contributions of America’s entrepreneurs and small business owners.

More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

As part of National Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration takes the opportunity to highlight the impact of outstanding entrepreneurs, small business owners, and others from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Every day, they’re working to grow small businesses, create 21st century jobs, drive innovation, and increase America’s global competitiveness.”

 

For North Carolina Companies:

Charlotte Business Resources – it’s Small Business MONTH for the CBR and the city of Charlotte (thanks Mayor Vi Lyles)! Check out everything going on. They’re using #31DaysofBiz too if you want to follow along.

Check out NC IDEA, they’re expanding the long-standing NC IDEA SEED grant program by introducing a Micro-Grant Pilot Program to award micro-grants to deserving companies not yet positioned for their traditional $50K seed grants. “The NC IDEA SEED Micro-Grant Pilot Program will award project-based, micro-grants in the amount of $1K – $10K to young companies looking to validate and advance their idea; or if further along, validate scalability where a small amount of funding would make a significant impact. Grant recipients will also receive mentorship and assistance from NC IDEA, as well as access to its wide network of advisors, partners and investors.”

 

Other SBW2018 Resources Worth Checking Out:

Entrepreneur Magazine SBW2018 HQ

Amazon Business Small Business Week Page

They also created: The Small Business Office Playbook is a resource endorsed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce as part of its commitment to continually support small businesses’ needs and growth opportunities.

Vista Print 33% off entire site with code SMALLBIZ

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Program

Top TedTalks for when you want to start a business.

Consider These 9 New Ideas For Small Business Week PR (Forbes)

Why National Small Business Week Matters Now More Than Ever (Business.com)

Small Business Week 2018: Need money to get started? We’ve got you. (USA Today)

43 Reasons You Should Support Small And Independent Businesses (Forbes)

Market Contraction

The Coming Market Contraction & What it Means for Your Business

After a nearly decade long recovery period, it’s starting to look and feel like the time for an economic contraction is on the horizon. It likely won’t come for another year or so yet (if we’re lucky), but based on the history of our country, it’s certainly inevitable at some point.

A lot of the experts, economists, and pundits are starting to sound the alarm already. Things like the student loan debt crisis, 2018 interest rate hikes, the collapse of retail, and the toxic political climate, are all going to come to a head and likely trigger it. Forbes, Inc. Magazine, CNBC, Bloomberg, Seeking Alpha, and Newsmax are just a sampling of publications that have had a relatively recent article about it.

Now I’m very much an optimist, so I don’t want you to interpret my prediction of a market downturn as me being pessimistic. On the contrary, I think recessions can be an incredible opportunity for those who are prepared for them. Historically, a lot of fortunes were made in the years during and shortly after economic recessions. Not to mention, regardless of whether the stock market goes up or down, someone is always making a lot of money.

While I’m no economist, I am fortunate to be able to work with a lot of people with brilliant business minds and insight into the mysterious world of macro market forces. My suggestion (if you made it this far I’m guessing you care enough to read it) is to keep an open mind to start being proactive before it’s too late. I know a lot of you might be a bit too young to really remember 2008, but if you think back to past recessions they always seem to abruptly appear to come out of nowhere and catch people off guard. One day everyone is riding high with exuberance and the next day the bottom falls out. Clearly, it’s possible and likely that it happens this way again.

I’m not saying to run around being worried or dwelling on this. I’m simply recommending that you start tightening your belt a bit now while you can. Rein in those spending habits that may have gotten a little out of control lately. Perhaps consider cashing out on a few things while values are high and take some chips off the table. Otherwise, you could end up falling into the preventable trap of being forced to sell assets at the bottom.

Simultaneously you should also be going all-in on growing your business too. I know that may sound contradictory but investing in revenue/income generating activities is and always will be a wise move. A lot of people will be out of the game when the day comes and being able to perform a land grab because your business is dialed in can be a life changing opportunity.

Start thinking strategically about the next 1-3 years and what they could mean for you and your business. Instead of hiring several full-time employees consider leveraging a consulting firm so you have more flexibility. Make the commitment to increase your emphasis on sales and marketing even more. It’s tax season right now, so it’s a great time to really look at your numbers and analyze your financial data to identify weak spots or areas for improvement.

Hey, perhaps myself and others will end up being wrong about the timing of it. Maybe the next recession doesn’t come for another 3 to 5 years instead. Either way, would your business not be better off be taking those steps sooner rather than later?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject! If you agree with me I’d be interested to hear what steps you’re currently taking. And if you think I’m crazy, I’d still like to hear why you think we have nothing but blue skies ahead.

Santa Tierra Mezcal

WIMS Client Spotlight: Santa Tierra Mezcal

Santa Tierra Mezcal is officially making its debut to sunny South Florida in Q2 2018! After dominating the ultra-competitive Mexican market and emerging as one of the best premium mezcales on the market, it was certainly time to expand to the U.S. The U.S. operation will be based in Miami, FL which will serve as the jump off point of the U.S. takeover.

The popularity of mezcal has exploded recently and the formally mysterious libation is now experiencing it’s time in the sun. Whether sipped on neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a tasty craft cocktail, mezcal always provides a full-on experience.

We’re excited to bring Santa Tierra Mezcal here for the people of South Florida to enjoy followed by several other key markets shortly thereafter. If you’re interested in carrying our brand in your restaurant, bar, club, or hotel, please let us know!

The Story of Santa Tierra Mezcal

Santa Tierra is a 100% Mexican company made by friends and now partners who decided to move forward in the fascinating world of mezcal. They now take this venture very seriously and focus on one sole objective; to make Santa Tierra the best mezcal ever produced, not just because of the flavor, but also for the dedication to premium quality.

Every bottle is made by hand in Oaxaca, Mexico. They chose the location of Sola de Vega in Oaxaca, because it was there where they found the best agave plants to produce their mezcal due to the nutrient-rich soil. Sola de Vega is also home to the masters of the handmade mezcal production, the “mezcaleros.”

Santa Tierra is manufactured from four different species of agave plant; el espadín (angustifolia), the arroqueño (americana var americana), coyote (americana oaxacensis) and Tobalá (potatorum succ), all of which are wild in the heart of the Sola de Vega. The agave grow for a period of 6 to 20 years depending on the variety. Santa Tierra utilizes the waters of local natural flowing rivers to help enrich their magueyes before being cut to provide a smooth and distinct agave flavor unique to the mezcal of Santa Tierra. They have an organic certification, so there are no fillers, added sugars, or worms, their mezcal is pure and ultra-smooth.

Going Streaking Gym Health

We’re Going Streaking! 29 Days Straight in the Gym (and Counting)

Don’t worry, this isn’t a, “you have to go to the gym or else type of post.” I assure you it’s business related. I want to speak more to the journey of becoming a better entrepreneur, the process of leveling up and what is required to make the quantum leap as a business person.

So, I’m currently in the middle of the longest consecutive day streak of going to the gym in my life (my program is below if you’re interested). It’s not like I haven’t been on a solid long-term routine before, there were just always at least one or two rest days each week. This time my whole approach and mindset is different. The actual working out part is important of course, I very much want to get into great physical shape. But it’s equally (or more) about the mental aspect.

As someone hyper focused on continuing to grow and scale multiple businesses, the level of discipline required to do so increases dramatically. For most of my career I’ve been able to get by and thrive with enthusiasm, spontaneity, and shear determination to put in whatever amount of time and effort was required. There comes a time when brute force, a little charm, and some passion doesn’t quite cut it anymore.

To make the jump to the next level you need to be disciplined, thoughtful, proactive, focused, and truly master time management, productivity, and efficiency. Thus, this streak of mine has been more about building up these skill-sets. I wanted to make a substantial commitment to something very difficult and challenging, and yet stick to it nonetheless.

I’m only accountable to myself in this endeavor, so it would be easier to quit, but knowing that and still progressing has been invaluable. Practicing making hard choices over and over again will eventually make them become easier to make, and without even allowing myself to consider the option of not doing it.

It’s not just the gym I’m doing this with either, it’s other subtler things too, like my 21-day streak of taking my Spanish lessons on Duolingo, practicing mindfulness, reading a daily devotional and chapters from books, and even flossing.

These things may appear trivial, but it’s about getting back to the basics and mastering the small things. This will make the bigger, high stakes business decisions of the near future become easier to make. It’s about building more confidence and self-assurance along the way. It’s about focusing more on, being more mindful of, and enjoying the journey along the way.

What kind of daily habits are you building to become a better entrepreneur/professional?

 

My Current Workout Program:

Monday – Chest/Bi Super-set

Tuesday – Back/Tri Super-set

Wednesday – Legs/Abs

Thursday – Shoulders

Friday – Arms/”Guido Pump” Bi/Tri Superset

Saturday – Legs/Abs (All different exercises than Wednesday)

Sunday – Cardio

Daily: Stretch, Push-ups, & Plank. I also do cardio every day as a warm up and cool down too. Yes, I know this hinders my “gainz” a bit all you workout warriors, but personally I find it worth it for the sustainability.

Supplements: Whey Protein, BCAA’s, Creatine (all from MRM), and Topical Magnesium Gel (Absolute Game Changer! Use code: Claire for 15% off).

Charlotte

Doing a Charlotte Deep Dive this February

While I’m fortunate that my business often takes me all over the country, every now and then it’s crucial to do a deep dive into my own HQ city, Charlotte, NC. I’ve made a lot of progress with growing my network here, but it’s still far from where I want and need it to be. And I don’t have nearly the client base that I’d like here yet either, and building it is one of my primary objectives for 2018.

Over the next couple weeks (while simultaneously continuing to run the business) I’m going to be back on the local networking grind with a vengeance. Below is the scheduled itinerary with links if you’re interested in joining me. Also, if there’s any events/organizations I’m missing please let me know!

February 7th; 6:00 pm – StartupGrindCLT

February 8th; 7:30 am – Bisnow’s 8th Annual Charlotte State of the Market (Commercial Real Estate)

February 9th; 8:30 am – Monthly BIG Ideas Exchange: Big Data (BIG – Business Innovation Growth)

February 14th; 8:00 am – PitchBreakfast

February 14th; 11:30am – Charlotte Chamber YP’s (CCYPs) Non-Profit Luncheon (Volunteer Matchmaker)

February 16th; 12:00 pm – Skookum TechTalks: Blockchain Technology: Uses Beyond Bitcoin and Cryptocurrency

February 22nd; 4:00 pm – NextGen Charlotte Business Journal – 2018 Money Management

If you’re in Charlotte, and planning to attend one of these, I hope to see you and to get to know you and your business better!