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3 Technologies to Help You Take Advantage of the Economic Recovery

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3 Technologies to Help You Take Advantage of the Economic Recovery

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: August 17, 2009 Updated: January 28, 2011
Twenty-seven economists polled by the Wall Street Journal said that the Great Recession is over*.

Maybe you agree with those economists - or maybe you don't. Perhaps it doesn't feel like it's over, to you.

I don't know whether these economists are right or wrong.

But I do know this: ALL recessions eventually end. At some point I assure you there will be an end ... and customer demand will pick up. Companies and consumers will loosen the purse strings.

When the recovery happens, you want to be ready to jump on opportunities. If the recession's been tough on your business, consider the recovery a time for a reboot. With that in mind, here are 3 tools that can help your small business sell more and do so profitably, as the recovery takes hold:

1) CRM Software

CRM stands for 'customer relationship management.' Now on the one hand managing your customer relationships sounds like motherhood and apple pie. It's hard to argue against it. The real question is, what does customer relationship management add to your bottom line? How important is it?

Let me drive the point home in dollars and cents. It's a lot cheaper to retain existing customers and sell more to them, than it is to go out and find new customers. According to Brent Leary, Principal of CRM Essentials*: 'Even in good economic conditions it can be 10 times more expensive to bring on new customers as it is to keep the ones we have. Small businesses are turning to CRM applications to help extend relationships with current customers, while increasing opportunities to connect with prospects more efficiently.'

In other words, CRM helps you do a better job at satisfying and retaining existing customers, and organizing your sales efforts so that you can cross-sell them additional products and services. CRM also helps you go after new customers efficiently. And you spend less money getting sales, because CRM automates routine functions and takes labor costs out of many activities.

One of the key metrics I urge you to start tracking if you don't already, is 'customer acquisition cost.' Know what it costs you to get a new customer. When you start tracking that metric, you will begin to appreciate the dollars-and-cents value of CRM.

2) Email Marketing Solution

Email marketing is a fantastic way to market to existing customers - at one-fifth or less of the cost of direct mail (snail mail). One website offers a side by side comparison of the cost of an email mailing versus a paper mailing. The results? According to their figures*, it would cost $48,620 and 17 days to execute a direct mail campaign to 50,000 addresses, versus $650 and 6 hours to execute an email marketing campaign.

Whether you agree those numbers are accurate or not, one thing you can't quibble with: there's a real cost advantage for email over snail mail. That's due largely to direct mail having high costs in paper and postage - with email you don't have that.

There are many email marketing software solutions on the market today that automate the entire process -->

However, I caution you not to assume that email marketing is right for every situation. Paper direct mail still is a far better way to get NEW customers. With email marketing, you must have permission before you can market to someone (usually through a double opt-in process where someone goes through 2 actions to sign up for an email list). That means it is much more difficult to use email to prospect for new customers with whom you have no existing relationship. Prospecting for new customers is one situation when email marketing has not replaced paper direct mail - here are some other situations*.

3) Website Analytics

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking that putting up a website is a one-time event. You get it launched - great! Other than refreshing the content now and then, you think you're off scott free and can go do other things.

No wonder so many companies end up dissatisfied with their Web presence. They're not doing anything to actively work it!

Websites are living breathing organisms. In fact, today you can think of your Web presence as an ecosystem. You have a presence in microcommunities (i.e., other websites, including social media sites) and those presences work together with your website. And then there are the search engines, which index your website's pages for various keywords, and bring potential customers to your virtual door when they search for those keywords. It's all dynamic and constantly changing and evolving.

It is crucial to know about your website traffic, if you want your website to help get sales. Because if you don't know what's happening on your website, how can you know what to improve?

Install a good analytics package. Google Analytics is free and is a solution that many small businesses start with. Examine the data it generates, regularly. It's a goldmine!

(1) It tells you where your traffic is coming from. You will see which sites or search engines are sending visitors; which keywords or search terms people used to get there; the links they clicked on. This can tell if you need to develop more inbound links, or do a better job with content for more relevant search terms, and so on.

(2) It tells you information about your visitors. You'll learn which countries they come from; which days and times they like to visit; which browsers they use; even what screen resolution they have. This tells you who you are appealing to, and provides design considerations for your website.

(3) It tells you what's working in your website - and what isn't. You will see how long people stay, which pages they abandon, or whether they are converting to paying customers from particular online ads but not others. This will help you improve your website, your graphics and content, and your online ad campaigns. Sometimes a small change (moving a graphic from one spot to another, or a change in wording) makes a big improvement.

In conclusion, the above 3 tools are not the only ones, but they are worth their weight in gold. They will not only help you sell more, but do so cost effectively and efficiently.

*This hyperlink goes to a non-governmental web site.

About the Author:

Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

Comments:

Anita, Thanks for your reply. Good points to think about. I will look into Zoho a bit more as Tavis Schriefer suggested. I remember that you had an interview with a guy from Soho at your radio show some time ago.
Anita, Have you seen software packages that integrates all of the above mentioned tools, so you could use it in one place and have a good overview?
There is no doubt that email marketing is cost effective after those stats you have listed.  Wow, what a difference.  A business can't deny that email marketing doesn't make sense.  I mean, what business would not want to save thousands of dollars?  I think it is also a draw for consumers, they prefer to be emailed so you may attract a new crowd of clients.
Hi Martin, The closest I have seen are tools like Infusionsoft and Hubspot. Their software is powerful and manages to bring some of all 3 kinds of functionality together. I would suggest that for most small businesses, crawl before you try to run. Most small businesses I know are beginners when it comes to these 3 tools. For instance, if you do no email marketing today, it would be a big advancement if you'd just starting building a house email list and getting a newsletter out once a month. Later you can layer on mailings with special offers and other marketing messages. For CRM -- if today you don't do any sales follow-up or it's hit or miss, implement a simple CRM tool and then USE it -- that's the first step. And so on. After you get into a process in your business where you actually use these tools and have a better feel for what you're doing you can evaluate more powerful tools to then advance to the next level. -- Anita
This post is a great resource to small business owners everywhere. As the 'Great Recession' ends and business begins to pick up, businesses are going to need some way to manage and leverage the increasing demand. I can suggest an addition to your list of useful tools: marketing automation software.This would be a great compliment to the list as you will need an Email Marketing client to generate a lot of leads, the CRM software would contain and manage all the data, and the Analytics program would allow you to track the effects on the business. With marketing automation, the first step of generating all the leads would be done for you, leaving you with just qualified prospects on which to spend your time.
I've been trying out Zoho CRM (zoho.com). So far, it seems to be very complete and it's free. It is a web-based application, so no download or install. This is my first venture into CRM - definitely need it. Just hope I can keep up!Message Edited by NicoleD on 09-30-2009 12:31 PM
Hi just a small Q on CRM ... My cient wants CRM and I would like to learn too. I have heard of ACT and SUGAR, both free to some extent. However what they need is to be able to access the CRM from different locations. As they dont own a server, this might mean they need an internet version of the CRM and ACT version is pretty expensive when you want to be able to use CRM on one persons computer (everyone else logging on to that one point). The ZOHO app sound good, but i am concerned about privacy issues etc if you put all of your data on some free apps server. I guess this is what you do with the latest Google Office apps, however I am concerned about the security of putting all of your clients details on a free apps server (for a smaller app company too). Sure my client doesnt want to pay huge license fees each year, just wondering if there is an alternative, or if everyone here is happy to run a serious internet based business using free CRM and putting details on the apps server. Yes or no ... and do you have reasons?!
haljordan5, try Zoho.com. They offer all those.
Anita, Have you seen software packages that integrates all of the above mentioned tools, so you could use it in one place and have a good overview?
Hi Martin, The closest I have seen are tools like Infusionsoft and Hubspot. Their software is powerful and manages to bring some of all 3 kinds of functionality together. I would suggest that for most small businesses, crawl before you try to run. Most small businesses I know are beginners when it comes to these 3 tools. For instance, if you do no email marketing today, it would be a big advancement if you'd just starting building a house email list and getting a newsletter out once a month. Later you can layer on mailings with special offers and other marketing messages. For CRM -- if today you don't do any sales follow-up or it's hit or miss, implement a simple CRM tool and then USE it -- that's the first step. And so on. After you get into a process in your business where you actually use these tools and have a better feel for what you're doing you can evaluate more powerful tools to then advance to the next level. -- Anita

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