Tag Archives: Business

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.

Sport Business Spotlight

The world is fascinated with sports. Interest in sports spurs massive economic and cultural influences that can be felt at regional and national levels. During the Olympics, it seems as if the world is collectively holding its breath waiting to see how the world’s greatest athletes perform on the top stage. The World Cup takes the hopes and aspirations of countries and puts them on the back of a national soccer team. These global sporting events do not just attract fans but also catch the attention of marketing departments of Multinational corporations. In the United States, the media and advertising hype surrounding the Super Bowl becomes an annual winter tradition where the moves made by league executives and marketing companies is just as important and dramatic as the play on the football field in early February.

 

The business angle of sports is far reaching and goes well beyond the field of play. From sports contracts, licensing agreements, and major development around stadiums the world of sports has a major economic impact. Sports is an industry that is extremely visible and in the 24-hour news cycle the ability of influencer athletes has only grown and will continue to grow in coming years.

 

The world of sports is massive with impacts ranging from local spending at stadiums to global campaigns behind some of the largest products in the world. Sports is so much more than what is seen through the athletic fields of competition. The business side of the sports world influences everything from developing new stadiums to the wide world of sports broadcasting. Above all else sports is a major economic player that is here to stay.

 

Sports teams and annual sporting events often serve as the platforms of regional tourism and identity. For many people the first thought they have about Kentucky is of big hats, mint juleps, and the early May running of the Kentucky Derby. The state of Kentucky uses horse racing to symbolize the values and attitudes which the state wants to share on the national and international stage to draw in tourists year-round. Large sporting events draw in many tourists and can attract international interest.

 

Many regional and city governments are forced to make difficult decisions about stadium financing and put the tax payers on the hook to finance renovation and development of new stadiums. The money and role of public financing behind stadiums raises many questions about access, affordability, and what role the government should have in financing projects. Sports do provide a boost for the economy, but a deeper dive is needed to understand the complexities behind the economic impact sports provide and accountability must be taken on behalf of tax payers who subsidize these large projects.

 

The world of sports combines so many different businesses and is as unique as the difference between major sports. From the huge influence sports media has, as one of the key broadcasts followed by people in today’s fragmented media landscape to the team executives who run the operations behind top teams the influence of sports is massive and goes far beyond the results from the playing field.

 

Sports will continue to garner interest around the globe and large amounts of money from sponsors and consumers alike. The sports industry sits at an intersection of public interest, politics, and business making it a vital aspect of identity and culture for a region.

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!

WIMS Client Spotlight: IntellyDoc (AI Contract Management/Automation for Lawyers)

Meet IntellyDoc (website/platform is going live this week): The platform designed specifically for lawyers that serves all your end-to-end contract management needs, and will soon leverage artificial intelligence (AI) technology as well. IntellyDoc easily solves every lawyer’s greatest problem – time management.

You can manage your contracts – from start to finish – without having to leave the IntellyDoc platform. IntellyDoc empowers you to leverage and take back the greatest commodity in the practice of law – your time. Which means you’ll draft contracts, automate document review and approvals (including e-signature functionality), gain critical insight with contract analytics, and close deals faster and more efficiently than ever before.

On the IntellyDoc platform, you get access to the following powerful capabilities:

  1. Smart Contract Template Design
  2. Automated Contract Review
  3. Custom Workflows
  4. Collaboration
  5. E-Signatures
  6. Data Analytics/Reporting and Extraction

The Real Benefits of IntellyDoc:

  • Less email tra­ffic
  • Less legal grid-lock and pressure
  • Less time in the weeds
  • More time to practice high value, meaningful work
  • More efficient workflows
  • More metrics to inform decisions & ensure compliance.

Here’s how it works:

  • Create, review, negotiate, execute, and store a document without leaving the cloud-based platform.
  • The built-in, smart workflows automate document review and approval, enhancing speed and accuracy of your workload.
  • Collaborate securely within the platform to edit and track changes, manage several versions of documents, and execute documents with electronic signatures.
  • Gain powerful insight into your contract repository with real-time reporting and analytics.

Why it works:

  • Our simple set up with on-going, hands-on support means zero installation rigmarole but on-boarding training support is here, if needed.
  • The platform supports various file types you interact with daily on Macs or PCs including: doc, docx, and pdf.
  • The secure and compliant cloud-based approach delivers metrics and transparency.

The website is being finalized this week, but if you’re interested in learning more about the platform, please email sales@intellydoc.com or click here to schedule your demo today.

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.

Total Human Optimization

The Pursuit of “Total Human Optimization”

Over the past few months I’ve been obsessed with the idea of learning about, and implementing, daily routines and practices to simply get better. The main goal is optimization to be more effective, efficient, productive, and increase stamina to go harder for longer. I’ve always been conscious of needing to do this, but like with many things, it’s always easier said than done.

Then while listening to The Tim Ferriss Show podcast I stumbled upon a guy named Aubrey Marcus who coined a phrase that made it all click. Then this dude shows up on Lewis Howes’ The School of Greatness, then Gary Vee. I start noticing this guy everywhere. Aubrey is the CEO of a health and wellness company called Onnit, and he recently wrote a book called, “Own The Day, Own Your Life.” One of the key tenants he preaches, and the mission of his company, is the pursuit of “Total Human Optimization.”

That whole concept really resonated with me and was a catalyst to start applying some of these things into my life with more consistency. Now I’m FAR from perfect in this regard, and I have a long way to go in this pursuit (not too mention my recent vacation and business traveling made it even tougher) but I’m certainly getting better and better.

If nothing else, it helped me to identity some core exercises to try and make sure I hit the key areas of my life that I want to improve. Things like faith, fitness, mental health, self-study and education, goal setting, hygiene, etc. Note that I didn’t include two of the most important things here as they’re covered in a separate bucket entirely, those being family time and business.

Anyway, the following are things I’ve been trying to do every single day to as Aubrey say, “own my life”.

  • Faith/Spiritual
    • Pray
    • Read a daily devotional
    • Meditate (10-15 minutes) – Here is one of my favorite’s if you’re interested.
  • Physical
  • Mental
    • Duolingo (Spanish Lesson)
    • Read (an actual book)
    • Review my “Statement of Desire” (if you don’t know what this is read “Think and Grow Rich“)
    • Listen to a podcast/audio book during my commute

There’s not much of a better feeling than hitting those perfect days where you fit it all in. And it’s even better when you get into a nice streak. Not only is it empowering but it also helps you to get into that zone that creates momentum and compounds on itself. And I’m sure as I master these I’ll start adding more to the list.

What’s on your daily list to optimize yourself?

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.