Tag Archives: Customer Engagement

3 Ways Restaurants and Breweries Can Boost Marketing During COVID-19

3 Ways Restaurants and Breweries Can Boost Marketing During COVID-19

The restaurant and brewery industries are ones that COVID-19 has hit hardest as customers have literally been ordered to stay away from these establishments for months now. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to find ways to profit. Here are 3 ways to boost your restaurant and brewery marketing during COVID-19.

Update Your Online Assets

Your customers still want to eat your food and by now, they are most likely tired of cooking from home. They’re wondering whether you’re open and how they might benefit from one of your meals. Let your audience know how they can order from you by updating the following assets:

  • Website
  • Social media platforms
  • Google My Business

We have seen various methods of still serving customers, including curbside pickup, carryout, and home delivery. Update your website so it’s immediately clear that you’re open and offering one of these solutions. Provide your new hours and any specials that may be offered to help families in need during the pandemic.

Social media accounts can help highlight any new specials that you may be offering. Provide encouraging stories that point followers to the easiest way to get your food. In the “About” tab, make sure to reflect these added specials, new hours, and delivery methods.

Update these same changes on your Google My Business page so anyone looking you up online or in Google Maps discovers your new ways of doing business.

Be Empathetic About COVID-19

You know where every single one of your customers is right now. You know what each person is thinking because you are going through the same thing. You understand their fears and concerns about the future. Provide them empathy and comfort by personifying your business as much more than a business, but as people too. Marketing is not simply advertising; it is sharing your story with customers about why you are a business they should align themselves with.

You may fear that you’re taking advantage of a negative situation, but if you show value, customers will come. If you do it correctly, then you can become a shining light of hope for you customers.

Help customers understand that it’s acceptable to celebrate even during a pandemic. They simply should do so safely by social distancing. Help them understand that you’re here to provide comfort food and celebratory food to brighten their day a bit.

Offer Something Other Than Food & Beverages

We already know that margins are small in the food and beverage, so focus efforts on developing other avenues for revenue. Get creative and ask yourself what else you can offer. For example, how can you use gift cards or merchandise to increase overall profit during COVID-19?

Offer incentives for customers to purchase gift cards to give away to friends and family. It helps increase your revenue immediately and gets more awareness into the community that you’re open for business. In addition to giftcards, you can sell merchandise via an online store on your website.

There’s no need to see your restaurant or brewery suffer during COVID-19 if you get creative and proactive about your marketing. Don’t go on the defensive. Get on offense and become an inspiration for your local community.  

Socializing in a Socially Distanced World

Socializing in a Socially Distanced World by Evan Shirreffs

As young professionals, most of us are getting our careers started, attempting to make new friends outside of work, and networking for possible job opportunities that don’t involve surviving at the bottom of the totem poll at a 9-5. A lot of this socializing would typically come at happy hours and on weekends with visits to our favorite spots, but a huge disruption to the young professional lifestyle came with the onset of COVID-19. Our time to let loose became a time of added stress as we were pent up in our apartments, or even back home with our parents, as we waited for any sign of times returning to normal. One thing became clear as week after week brought new broken promises and spoiled expectations: the end of this mayhem was nowhere in sight, so we decided to make do in the meantime.

At first, this meant getting together with a small number of close friends for what normally would be pre-games. These gatherings still somewhat involved social distancing as our parents warned us that we couldn’t see them when we traveled back home if we were stupid enough to see other people, but the seed of times returning to normal was already planted.

At some point in the terrible reaction to the pandemic, the FOMO took over. Our cravings for those social settings that we so dearly missed slowly outgrew our fear of the pandemic. Naturally, we wanted to meet people and we wanted to try new things. As places began to re-open, we scrolled through social media, witnessing our friends start to go out again. Sparked by distrust of the conflicting news we received day in and day out, we were all soon flooding the doors of any place brave enough to host us. Whatever was open, we ran to with hopes of getting in before they reached capacity. We watched our favorite dance floor at Gin Mill reopen before regulations forced them to do table only seating. We saw an earlier last call at Sycamore with each passing evening, leaving us scrambling for a new place to go. We were devastated by a curfew put on the few thriving spots like Hoppin’ after a promise of brewery and bar re-openings that clearly came too soon.

After hearing news the other day of an additional 5 weeks being added to the Phase 2 protocol in North Carolina, I thought of how everything has unfolded over the past few months and pondered the next moves for some of these affected restaurants, bars, and breweries. In my research, I came across this excerpt regarding the “Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed to Survive (Restaurants) Act of 2020” that truly puts into perspective what these businesses have been going through and why relief is needed:

“Recent surveys found that COVID-19 has forced operators to lay off 91% of the hourly workforce and 70% of salaried employees. Only one in five restaurant owners subjected to state mandated dine-in shutdowns said they felt confident they could keep their restaurants running. The National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that only 15% of restaurants will be able to stay open if the COVID-19 pandemic lasts six months. All of this in an industry that already runs on extremely thin margins.”

While the circumstances appear dire, there is always hope and opportunities hidden within even the most chaotic of crises. There are strategies business owners and operators in this space can and are taking to make the best of the situation.

Following online research into the subject, I wanted to take things a step further to develop a better approach in which to help these businesses. I decided to reach out to a few business owners (primarily in Charlotte) to see how they maneuvered the past few months, learn how imposed laws have affected their businesses, determine what tactics are working, and hear about their expectations for the future. More to come soon…

Evan Shirreffs, MBA is a Business Analyst with WIMS Consulting a full-service marketing and sales agency operating primarily in Charlotte, NC and Miami, FL. WIMS has a service line dedicated to assisting restaurants, breweries, and bars with growing and scaling called LDR BRD.

WIMS Consulting Logo Blue

The WIMS Consulting 2020 Rebrand

There is just something about transition, a new decade (even though January 1st seems like it was already another decade ago), and a new mission to undergo a massive scaling of one’s company that requires a bit of a shakeup. Huge transformative shifts force all involved to level up and evolve for the better. They demand a heightened sense of commitment to excellence and discipline.

As they say, the things that got you here will rarely get you there.

The first 6 years of WIMS Consulting have been great, the company has grown double digits every single year (with 2 years at triple), and despite the state of the market, this year is already on track to achieve exponential growth compared to last year (in fact it economy appears to be helping it along even more as companies go all-in on digital). That said, I have still been playing too small and remain far from where I want the company to be yet. It is time to ramp things way up and kick things up another notch.

A rebrand is often mostly symbolic, it is a way to re-engineer how you would like the public to see and perceive your company, and to re-calibrate the first impression for those that do not know you yet. It also allows you to set the tone for current and future employees, partners, and clients. It is an opportunity to recommit and reestablish your values of who you are and who you aspire to be.

Up until this point we have been far from perfect and have certainly underdone some growing pains along the way. As difficult as it is to admit, not every single client project has exceeded expectations for one reason or another. On the flip side plenty of them have gone really well too. Regardless of which side the responsibility lies solely with us for better or worse. Moving forward, that level of accountability and transparency must be the standard. A rebrand is a way to draw a line in the sand, a demarcation to demonstrate that whatever happened before going forward this is the way we will do business no matter what.

Now for a little background and insight on the creative. The spartan warrior is a deeply personal symbol to me since I was young. For one, I grew up attending a school called Milton Hershey (from kindergarten to graduation), and it was our mascot. We learned about their culture and their values (mostly the romanticized and positive version, not as much of the negatives side of it).

Then when I watched the movie 300, wow what an impact it made. To see a group of soldiers, and a King no less, willingly sacrifice themselves with such honor and grace for the good of their tribe, it really stuck with me. I know it was embellished a bit as all movies are, but that didn’t take away from the impression it left.

Between Milton Hershey and the culture resonating so much throughout my life I even got a tattoo of the spartan helmet. For those reasons and others, it sounded like a great place to start when considering what I wanted my company to look like.

Fortunately, when leveraging history to inspire the future you can learn from, and remove, the negatives in order to improve upon an ideal, allowing you to adopt the things that translate. Further, WIMS Consulting is not adopting ALL their values after all (for one we are very much capitalists). “The word “spartan” means self-restrained, simple, frugal, and austere” plus they were clearly pretty violent and brutal. So again, it is not exactly a direct comparison.

The positive side, such as their discipline, commitment, team-oriented collaboration and community are things you build a company around. Others include being strategic, thoughtful, well organized, and assertive. They were creative in their approach to problem solving. The soldiers in their army were only as strong as the person standing next to them and the collective unit as a whole. They tempered the potentially corrosive nature of outsized individual egos. They played offense and defense equally well. They had an unwavering obligation to do whatever necessary to achieve a desired outcome.

Now THAT is what I want the WIMS Consulting cultural values to represent and embody. I want the company to uphold its commitment and dedication to its community (clients, employees, and partners) to that standard of excellence every single day and in every single project and task. This is the mindset required that will subsequently lead to producing outstanding work and deliverables for our clients. It certainly won’t be easy, but nothing worth doing really is.

Hopefully, we nailed that impression and give this perception with the logo and throughout the supplemental components of the branding. More importantly however, is that we maintain the standards and values in a clear and tangible way. Stay tuned for more, but I would love to hear what you think so far!

WIMS Consulting Logo Blue     WIMS Consulting Logo Gold

LDR BRD Level Up Your Business

Level Up Your Business: Introducing the Launch of LDR BRD

The LDR BRD Mission:

We help your business understand and connect with your customers by providing actionable intelligence on consumer behavior. We want you to really know your customers and your market. We give you the power to increase revenue, brand exposure, and increase market penetration by deepening your relationships with your customers.

Whether you’re in the early stages of the concept, have been around for a while, or are currently experiencing a wave of growth, we understand each business has its own unique set of challenges and opportunities and customize our approach accordingly.

We work with you to help reach your destination, while keeping in line with your unique brand, mission, and everything else that makes your restaurant, brewery, coffee shop, winery, retail location, etc. stand out!

What sets LDR BRD apart?

  • Created for the food, beverage, brewery, winery, hospitality, and retail industries.

  • Integrates with your existing systems (or we can help you create them).

    • Data collected from Web, Email, POS, Social Media, CRM, referrals, etc.

  • Tracks customer activity on-site and off-site.

    • ​Financial, Online, In-Person, etc.​

  • Data is then measured, run through filters, and used to identify your most valuable and loyal customers, how they interact with your business, and keeping them engaged with your brand long-term.

 

We have much more to come, but if you’re interested in learning more please visit our website and reach out to discuss!

LDR BRD

Leveling-Up the Loyalty Game – Welcome to LDR BRD By: Tom Schaefer, Jr.

What are those letters? We’ll get to that later, I promise it’s worth the wait. In my previous post, I went on and on about how Loyalty systems don’t work.  At the end of that piece, I explained that loyalty does work, it just seems the retail application was broken. They’re rewarding existing loyalty (which reduces the Lifetime Value, or LTV, of a customer that wasn’t going anywhere) but failing to convert new customers to loyal ones. If there’s something we’ve learned from Star Trek/Wars, Marvel, and even the gaming community, its that consumers crave something they can connect with. The obstacle here is translating what other mediums do well, into a retail or B2C environment.

Janet Robinson, former CEO of the New York Times Company, said it best –

“Repeat business or behavior can be bribed, Loyalty has to be earned”

But what inspires loyalty with your customers? First, we need to separate Customer Loyalty from Brand Loyalty. Customer loyalty comes from the buyer’s power on their own personal spending. They’re likely motivated by lower prices and competitive deals. The loyalty Ms. Robinson is talking about is Brand Loyalty, which is based on perception of the Brand and its value. Brands that focus on excellent quality in product, service, and a cohesive message, are much more likely to inspire loyalty in their customer base.

After all of this research into loyalty/reward programs, I went and did something about it. I created a loyalty platform that ties into the basic fundamentals of building strong brand loyalty. I could tell you all about Aristotle’s 7 causes of human action, defining the 7 ways we make decisions and take actions, or go through some other psychological triggers, but the answer is much simpler than that. Create a quality product or service, provide excellent customer experience, and unify under a strong message. Once that is in place, the rest is as easy as paint by numbers.

My system plays into 4 areas that help grow customer loyalty: Trust, Character, Excitement, and Community. First, we extend the excellent customer experience outside of the standard financial transactions. Using a common platform like a CRM program, helps us stay in touch with our customers, understand their actions, and allows them to provide us with feedback to make their next visit that much better!

 

Enter LDR BRD (but where’d the vowels go?)

I’ve been so excited to share this with everyone! I’ve spent most of my professional life in Sales and Marketing, and leaned on quantitative data for most of my decision making. We use tools like Lead Scoring to determine which people are more likely to buy, and which are just window shopping. Then it hit me…what if we could do the same with loyalty? It’s a messy, qualitative, emotional category that isn’t easy to track. So how do we do it? I took a sample group of people who self-identify as “Brand Loyal” and interviewed them over a couple weeks.  Turns out their actions oftentimes spoke louder than their words. They were more likely to make large purchases from their preferred brand, share with friends and family through word of mouth/social media/online reviews, and fall into the habit of making regular purchases. Loyal customers should make up at least 20% of your base, but will account for 80% of future profits. It’s time to find out who they are (and what they care deeply about)!

 

Ready Player

We took the traditional lead scoring model, and made is public facing. This effectively turns loyalty into a game that adds a competition component to a system that doesn’t separate the loyal customers from passive return business. We have a system in place to track activity both inside and outside the traditional financial transaction. Did someone share a post on social media and tag your business? Get Points! Did someone invite their coworkers or friends to your bar for happy hour? Reward them! Did someone make a large purchase? Don’t let it go unnoticed! Our system also incorporates Feedback Loops (similar to popular games like Fortnite, with each new season giving players a reason to re-engage), so everyone gets a chance to shine, regardless of the previous activity. This allows new customers to feel like they have a chance to benefit in the system, while longer tenured customers continue to benefit from past activities. The purpose of this system is to identify and reward loyal business, all while turning your customer base into your own personal marketing army!

What about the name? I was inspired by the classic video game displays that list the current high scores. The leader board gives new players a number to beat, driving competitive behavior. At the end, you can only use three initials to describe what you are.

Leader Board became LDR BRD.

Are you ready to play?

If you have any questions about LDR BRD or would like to discuss how this platform can transform your business and drive revenues, fill out the form here or email me and let’s talk: tschaefer@wims-consulting.com.

 

reconnecting with your network

Reconnecting With Your Network

4 min. read (too long? Scroll down to the bottom for the bullet points)

You did it. You went dark.  You ghosted. Pulled a professional Irish Goodbye.  You haven’t spoken or been in touch with the majority of your network for some time.  Could be a couple months, or even over a year.  I know I’m guilty of it.  You change careers/jobs, move to a different part of town or new city, or experience a major life-changing event like a new relationship, marriage, or have your first child.  For one reason or another, you lost touch and some people got left behind.

 

This is completely normal.  Things happen, and priorities change.  But what do you do when you want to reconnect to some, or all, of your old network?  Well realizing you want to reconnect is the first step.  We went around asking others who have been in that same predicament, what they did that worked for them.  Below we compiled a list of the steps they took to warm up their own networks and get “reintroduced to the wild”.

 

  1. Just do it.

Sometimes we over think things, and talk ourselves out of doing something that will ultimately benefit us.  Maybe you only reach out to a couple people you still stay in contact with, or you limit the amount of outreach when trying to get back in touch with your network.  Ultimately, those who want to stay in touch will respond to your efforts, and those who don’t will ignore the effort.  Save yourself the time and worry and reach out to everyone.

 

  1. Get Active

Now this can be vague, but its actually really simple.  Get active in the same circles as your old contacts.  Whether its posting more on social media, attending the same networking groups, or professional organizations.  Getting active will put you back in front of those people. We need to stay in front of those we want to keep us top of mind.

 

  1. Own up to it (but not too much)

It’s been a while since you’ve spoken.  Odds are, you won’t be able to just pick up the conversation where you last left it like nothing happened.  A brief acknowledgement of the passing of time will add some context to the rest of the email.  However, be careful not to sound overly apologetic.  Include any pertinent information, like a change in career, major move, or family addition.  Avoid anything that sounds overly apologetic like “I’m so sorry I haven’t been around.” Or “I hope you’ll reconnect with me again.”

 

  1. Be Transparent about your motives

This one should be rather straightforward; you want to reconnect.  Make sure this is in the message somewhere.  Whether you haven’t spoken in a while, you changed careers or positions, or whatever the reason.  If you want to remind them of who you are, it would be smart to include your previous position, place of work, or where you were when you first met.

 

  1. Don’t sell anything or ask for a favor

Clearly there is a reason you want to reconnect with this group of people, but this isn’t the time to ask.  Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said it best,

If I make deposits into an Emotional Bank Account with you through courtesy, kindness, honesty, and keeping my commitments to you, I build up a reserve. Your trust toward me becomes higher, and I can call upon that trust many times if I need to.

If you haven’t spoken to these individuals in some time, odds are you don’t have the trust built up to ask anything of them.  Use this as an opportunity to give something of value.

 

-Ask them what you can do to help them.

-Congratulate them on a recent accolade.

-Offer some information or research that may be useful to them professionally or personally.

 

Sharing with them something new you’re working on is ok, but stop short of asking them to buy or become a client.  If they’re interested, they’ll ask you for more information.  This is the first step of a marathon, building a relationship doesn’t happen in a sprint.

 

  1. Write like a human/ Make it personal

You’re trying to reconnect, which means putting yourself first and actually connecting.  You may represent a brand or company, but people connect with other people.  Greet them by first name “Hi Christy,” or if you don’t have their first name a simple “Hi!” or “Hi there,” will be ok.  Keep the tone conversational, as if you were talking to a friend.  A rigid tone can be confused for bulk email, and make it seem impersonal.  Lastly, avoid any banners, images or special fonts.  Plain Text works best, as that’s the default look for most of our personal emails.

 

  1. Follow Up!!!

Congratulations!  You did it! You put in all the hard work and reached back out to your network.  When you get responses to your message, thank them.  Gratitude goes a long way to keeping the relationship going.

Now you have to keep it warm.  The fortune is in the follow up! Stay consistent with your outreach and keep in front of them using whatever platform works best for you.  Keep active in whatever in-person groups make the most impact.  If you join a non-profit, make sure its one you have a genuine interest in (we can tell if you’re faking it or using the group for other reasons).

 

General Do’s and Don’ts

 

Do

-it.  Seriously, just put an email together or even just walk into an event.  Do something.

-Be transparent and own up to the lapse.

-Remind them who you are and where you met.

-Give something of value.  Real value. Try to benefit them personally or professionally.

-Keep it friendly and personal.

-Be genuine in your efforts. We can all spot a fake.

-Use plain text.

-Follow Up. Stay Consistent. Show Gratitude.

 

Don’t

-sit on your ass.

-be overly apologetic.

-assume they remember you.

-Sell them something or ask a favor.  I cannot over emphasize this enough.

-give them anything cheap.  People recognize and appreciate value.

-send a bulk mailer with fluff (fancy borders, fonts, images)

-let another year go by before you reach back out again.

 

Hope this helps get you back out there!

 

If you liked this, sign up for the newsletter and keep an eye out for the next posts in this series:

Email etiquette: Anti-Spam and keeping out of Junk folders & Networking: Following up with a new connection.

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.

Entrepreneurs Zoho CRM

Entrepreneurs! Are You Aware of the Latest Offerings from Zoho CRM?

Forget what you think you know about CRM programs. It’s time for you to rethink the entire idea that you’ve been holding onto for years now. You know, that they’re too expensive, too complicated, and not useful enough to justify tackling those challenges. It’s just not true anymore. I understand why you think that way, but until you’ve seen the latest software package that Zoho CRM has been rolling out it’s simply misguided. Allow me to enlighten you a bit.

While I remain a raving Salesforce fan, I’m not going to suggest you take on a CRM program of that magnitude (unless your enterprise fits a certain set of criteria). I still love HubSpot as well but will save that for another post. Right now, I’m here to inform you about the crazy new suite from Zoho that you must at least take a few minutes to check out. If you’re a solo entrepreneur/freelancer, or you have all the way up to 25 employees it will help revolutionize and scale your business like crazy.

Now I was already geeking out a couple months ago when they launched Zoho One. But then they went ahead and added too more applications the other day which literally blew my mind. Zoho Flow “automates business workflows by connecting your apps. You can build smart integrations to break the information silos in your business.” This works for both internal Zoho apps and external ones as well, think Zapier or IFTTT. The other is Zoho PageSense, which is “the Complete A/B Testing and Website Optimization Software. Get ready to increase website conversions and skyrocket your revenue.”

Now, for transparency purposes I must inform you that a large part of my business is built around assisting companies of all sizes and industries to build and implement CRM programs like these. BUT, I legitimately use this one for my own business. It not only has helped me to get better organized with project management and more efficient and streamlined from an operations perspective but leveraging it has tangibly helped me to grow the revenue of my business significantly as well. I’m all about automating as much as possible and these new features allow you to do just that.

If you want to explore what incorporating a CRM program would look like for your business, reach out to me and I’d be thrilled to assist. Whether it’s Zoho or one of the many other incredible programs out there, we can certainly get you on the right track to implementing it correctly to start demonstrating ROI asap.

Before moving forward, to get a better idea of what all they have to offer, take a look at how they articulate it:

Zoho One is a revolutionary all-in-one suite to run your entire business—an unprecedented 35+ integrated applications on one account, with complete administrative control—for a price that will change the way you think about buying software.

Zoho One includes applications with complementary mobile apps so you can run your entire business on one suite. This is the real deal here: You’re getting full-featured, enterprise editions of the entire Zoho suite. That means being able to reach customers, grow sales, balance your books, and work in productive and collaborative ways from any device—all with a single login and password.

Zoho One connects your sales, marketing, customer support, accounting, and more, while also giving you contextual integrations to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, customers, and vendors. With an integrated suite like Zoho One, you’ll always have the right information in the right places, empowering your employees to do great work. Traditionally, this has required an astronomical IT budget and an army of consultants to force everything together. Zoho One makes all that cost and complexity a thing of the past.

Zoho One is enhanced by Zoho’s growing developer ecosystem, marketplace extensions, and global partner network. We’ve made Zoho One extendable so our technology partners can customize our applications to meet your unique needs, across a broad set of industries. These custom apps and extensions of our already powerful applications are made available to you through our Marketplace. Meanwhile, our 1,000+ implementation and training partners are available to help you locally as needs arise.

CRM Revisited (Again): It Should be Your #1 2018 Priority

I’ve been harping on the importance of CRM programs for about a decade now (here’s the last time), yet it still hasn’t caught on the way it should. This is the year that changes. Like with most technology, competition, economies of scale, and innovation have driven costs down significantly. Not only are they cheaper, but the functionality and value has simultaneously increased dramatically. Now, you can even get basic versions of a CRM program for free. It’s why acquiring and implementing a CRM program is my #1 recommendation for every business, regardless of industry or target market, if you’re looking to increase revenue.

Whether you work for a large and complex company, or if you’re an independent freelancer, or if you’re a sales mercenary who is compensated by getting to “eat what you kill,” there is a CRM program out there for you. Regardless of your budget (or lack thereof), you can customize the level of sophistication of your CRM program, as they all have various subscription levels. Further, there was recently an absolutely game changing announcement from one of my CRM platform preferences (and the one I personally use for my business).

Zoho One – An Operating System for Business

“Zoho One is a broad and cohesive set of applications that work collectively to run an entire business on the cloud. It includes more than 35 web applications and an equal number of mobile apps—under a single sign-on, with centralized administration and provisioning—making it a true operating system for any business. While each application punches above its weight against the competition, collectively they deliver a knockout punch.

With Zoho One, we’ve put together all the applications a company needs to acquire and serve its customers (marketing, sales, and support apps); run its operations (finance, recruiting, and HR apps); and provide all the tools for its employees to work collaboratively and get their work done (office suite, mail, personal productivity, and collaboration apps). Almost any company has these same needs. With Creator, our drag-and-drop app builder, customers can even build custom apps for unique business needs—like logistics scheduling—and put them under the same umbrella that forms the single operating system for their business.

Zoho One is available at $30 a month—or just about a dollar a day, per employee. ($35 if you pay on a month-to-month basis).”

While WIMS, Inc. is platform agnostic (we work with all of them, including Salesforce, HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, and Insightly among others) it’s getting more difficult not to refer my clients and prospects straight to Zoho right now. There are of course exceptions, but they’ve built something special, particularly for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Now, back to the more general CRM theme.

They all integrate with your email provider of choice, along with most social media channels, so tracking communications is easy (and automated). There are an incredible number of third-party add-ons you can incorporate depending on how robust your operations processes are to add additional functionality too.

Most importantly however, is that the ROI (return on investment) will more than make up for the expense.

CRMs help you automate your sales process. The more automated your sales cycle and follow up efforts can be, the greater volume of deals your business will be able to close. Further, the more accurate data you have about your sales cycle, the more deeply you can analyze it to gain insight that will not only help increase revenue, but ultimately help you improve:

  • Close rates,
  • Customer service and retention,
  • Length of sales cycle, and
  • Forecasting efforts and projections.

While implementing a CRM program can be a significant commitment initially, if you do it right, the benefit to your business is invaluable. With just over two months left in 2017, now is the perfect time to start planning and conduct your due diligence to start 2018 with yet another New Year’s resolution.

We’re here to help if you need it!

WIMS Client Spotlight: Custom Consortium

Custom Consortium is an e-commerce, and soon brick-and-mortar retail company as well, operating out of New York and Los Angeles. The company curates the world’s finest bespoke and customizable fashion brands so that individuals can discover and design them to create their own style. Their tagline is “Empower Your Individuality Through Our World of Customization.”

It works like this. You can discover products in their growing collection of brands. Next you design your favorite fashion items to express your individual tastes and needs. Then your products are custom-made and shipped to your door.

Their current brands include:

  • Saintly – Fully customizable, highly functional, and gorgeous leather weekenders and fine goods handmade in the heart of New York City.
  • Impish Lee – A sister-owned, NY-made lingerie brand that enables women to design their own intimate and lounge apparel online.
  • Awl & Sundry – Handcrafted custom shoes.
  • Black Lapel Custom Clothiers – Flawlessly fitting suits, shirts and blazers crafted individually to perfection.
  • Martenero – Customized mechanical watches.

They’ve recently partnered with Share a Sale to launch one of the highest commission affiliate programs in the fashion space. Plus, they also created an innovative twist via their Custom Style Ambassador program which allows you to create design collaborations with their customizable brands to generate a long-term revenue stream from them. They are looking to partner with influencers to help spread the word.

Take a look at the site and let us know what you think, we’d appreciate the feedback! If you see something you like, use promo code “DesignMyOwnStyle” to take 10% off your first order.