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My last day at Epicom, My last blog post.

31 Aug

Today is my last day at Epicom.

As I reflect on Steve Job’s 2005 Commencement Address at Stanford, I can see the dots connecting themselves. As I look backwards, I can see how I have grown professionally and what I still need to learn.

The biggest dots from working at Epicom are learning CRM, this blog and actually learning CRM, using Hubspot and Pardot, growing into my “professional” self through networking, and ultimately discovered that I could run a business with the tools and trick from Epicom.

Aside from connecting the dots backwards, I have created the dots I want to place ahead of me. I discovered I need to push my creativity. I plan on getting into photography, Photoshop and InDesign for catalog and publication making, and to continue learning about marketing and merchandising.

The best part about Epicom is that I could learn and decide what I want to learn, and I had people there to support me, guide me, and talk to me about how to get there.

I am glad I trusted my gut, my destiny, my life, my karma. Without it, I would have never learned about CRM, marketing automation, business development, and most importantly how to learn more from my coworkers.

Top Tech Applications, Websites and Tools I Will Use After Epicom

26 Aug

These are in no particular order, but they are on here because they provide me the most use. I can’t wait to take the skills I gained from these great applications, websites, and tools with me in my career.

Pardot: www.pardot.com

Knowing how to use Pardot and learning about marketing automation is something that is going to get me other jobs. I am figuring how I can stay up-to-date with marketing automation software for when I leave Epicom. Pardot is the most hands-on and practical software I have ever used. It enables user to expand their marketing efforts, then gives important data to revise and continue communicating with more and more leads.

SugarCRM: www.sugarcrm.com

I mentioned this in my last post but I could run a business using only Sugar. It is easy to use. It showed me ways I never thought of to organize things. It also made everything simple with account-centric organization. Plus, Sugar give great insight into a business, which makes spotting strengths and weaknesses in a business plan easier, faster, and before it hurts the company.

Basecamp by 37 Signals: www.basecamphq.com

I’ve already signed up for a free account with Basecamp’s sister version Ta-Da for my next internship. I am looking for an Android app as I write this. Basically, it is the cleanest user interface I have ever used–uncomplicated. I like it because I can go into a meeting and add to-do items as they are being discussed so nothing gets lost in conversation. I can give my to-dos dates, and filter based on the due-dates I assigned.

Klout: www.klout.com

Klout is more of a “for now” tool. Klout connects different social media accounts and measures the user’s influence. I say “for now,” because it needs some improvement and is in a start-up stage. I am waiting to see what happens to Klout, but it is excellent at directing social media efforts towards communicating more.

Tweet-later: www.SocialOomph.com

SocialOomph is a tweet-later service. Facebook and Twitter can be set up under once account, and tweets and status updates can be made from the platform. It is really great for content generation, and allows me to not be plugged into Twitter all day. I can set up out tweets for the week, and with the Professional version I could set up a tweet schedule. It is a really great tool to get out content. However, it doesn’t replace interacting on Twitter and Facebook, because that is why people are on the sites.

Meet Up: www.meetup.com

I am disappointed about being college graduate. I don’t miss taking tests or writing (some) papers, but I do miss learning and discussing new ideas. I will continue to use Meet Up to find other people interested in the same things I am, and more importantly, find groups for new topics I am interested in learning about.

That wraps up the best tools I discovered at Epicom. Hope you find them just as useful.

My Favorite Part about SugarCRM

24 Aug

So, my all-time favorite thing about SugarCRM is…

The “AHA!” moments that happen when using Sugar. It is so easy to see a way to solve a problem or make something more efficient. Since Sugar is open-source, it is easy to modify to a new solution to a problem. The open API is what makes all of those things possible, and is my number one favorite thing about Sugar. It helps trigger and create the “AHAs” and the “I-can-do-mores” in this post.

That “AHA” moment definitely includes how I learned–and feel that I could run a business using only SugarCRM. I come from a liberal arts background, and there aren’t many Bachelor of Arts requirements that teach business management. If you are a small business owner and you are here because you are looking for your first CRM, check out the free-trial of Sugar. You don’t need to put any of your information into it first, but get a trial and look around. Just by doing that first step, I could connect a lot of little dots for how I can make my processes easier.

I know how to balance a check book. I thankfully learned that lesson in elementary school, but I never realized managing budgets can get tricky. In Sugar, I saw that I could create any possible expense and assign it to a customer, a campaign, anything. Any little administrative task is set up, right there, in the CRM, meaning all the little things I never learned with my liberal arts degree are set up for me to go “AHA.”

via

For example, I can create a contract from a quote. With an integration Epicom made, I can click a button and the information in the quote will be transferred to the contract template. Then, I can email it to the recipient. If I really want to get efficient I can get the EchoSign plug in, which allows the recipient to sign it electronically. Too easy.

I am a fan of how Sugar organized potential clients to customers. While playing with the system and the basic infrastructure inside of the crm, I got a lot of ideas to apply the same organization to my own projects. Applying it to Google+ was the most fun I had writing a blog entry. My only regret is that Google+ for businesses aren’t up-and-running yet.

There are tons of other things Sugar can do and tons of things to discover, which is why my favorite thing about SugarCRM is the “AHAs.”

Using Pardot to make Cold Calls

19 Aug
When I say I get to learn and experience every part of a business at Epicom, I mean it.Yesterday, I got to make cold calls. I have made cold calls before but it was to tell registrants of an event about a change in a conference schedule. It wasn’t so much pitching as it was a “hey, this is what happened, see you there.”


The literal cold call.

I am using Pardot behind the scenes. I recognize customer names, but I had never spoken to most of them. It is so easy to use email to communicate, a lot harder to engage some one on the phone with out the use of visuals.

When I was asked to make the calls, I was really anxious about it.

I read a few blog posts about how to get excited about making calls, and how to get over making calls. I wanted to know how to efficiently prioritize my efforts.

Let me tell you how I actually got over making calls and how I prioritized. We have a huge data base of prospects in Pardot. They are all given a score based on the amount of interaction they have with our marketing collateral.

This is me and my score in our Pardot.

Knowing those scores allowed me to start with customers that know us, that know the company, and most importantly, probably know the event I was calling them about.

It was much more comfortable for me to get going knowing I would be hearing “yeses” and “let me check my calendars.”

Once I called all of our high score customers, I moved on to lower scored. It was definitely more challenging calling the lower scored customers. I was used to calling people, which made it easier. But I had to go fast and make sure they knew what I was calling about.

Then, I called a few of our customers with a score of zero. In Pardot, I could see who was a more recent prospect based on their information.  How we went about selecting them was if they are assigned an account manager. Even more important, I could see who had previous knowledge of our event by who opened the email.

All of these things helped me maximize my efforts during my cold-call assignment.

Over all, I learned that once I started calling it became easier and easier. I even learned better ways to introduce myself of the phone, and where I should say things a bit slower.  I also know how to call effectively.

Klout

17 Aug
I discovered Klout a few months back. If you have never heard of Klout, it is an online, free resource that helps measure social media influence.
Klout links up Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr, Blogger, and more. Personally, I still think it feels weird to go to work and manage our Twitter. Even though I am communicating to thought leaders and people on twitter interested in our technology niche, I want to show a return on investment. I want to know I am on the right track. With Klout, I can see the progress I am making. I can see the influence sphere grow as I communicate with others online. Klout also tells me the influence rank of people I am friends with.

A problem with Klout is it encourages social media to be about communicating to those with higher rankings, putting out only content based on its re-tweet ability, and discourages adding other users.

I know that @Mashable, @HubSpot and even @Lord_Voldemort7 are going to have the highest ratings. I know my personal account and even the accounts of some of my employers are not going to have a score in the top 25 percentile, which is not a bad thing. It is something I can hope for, but it isn’t really something that monetarily makes sense–for a small business.

Sure, I want a re-tweet by somebody with a score of 88 (Klout scores from 1 – 100) but I hope this new tool doesn’t turn corporate social media into ranking competition.

However, using Klout scores with the add-on they offer to decide WHO is influential in niche markets, WHO is more likely to add you back, WHO will re-tweet messages and WHO is actually participating is one of the best parts about Klout.

Knowing who is participating is the most valuable information I can have as an online marketer—it also is nice reminder to participate as well.

Klout has major flaws, but it works nicely with my current marketing the tools and gives a satisfaction of a job well done.

Reporting / Reports in Pardot

12 Aug

I really love Pardot. I wrote part of my senior thesis about email campaigns, and I love learning to use the software I wrote about.

Yesterday, I learnt how to find the results from an email campaign. Here are the steps:

This is what the side navigation looks like, Click on Reports

Select Emails,

This is from the Pardot Help page, but these are the things Pardot measures from your campaigns:

  • Total sent represents the total number of emails sent.
  • Total queued is the number of emails that are waiting to be sent. These emails have been submitted but have not reached the inbox of the prospect.
  • soft bounce is an email that is recognized by the recipient’s mail server but is returned to the sender because the recipient’s mailbox is full or the mail server is temporarily unavailable. A soft bounce message may be deliverable at another time or may be forwarded manually by the network administrator in charge of redirecting mail on the recipient’s domain. After five soft bounces, the prospect is opted out of emails.
  • Hard bounce is an email that permanently bounced back to the sender because the address is invalid. A hard bounce might occur because the domain name doesn’t exist or because the recipient is unknown.
  • Total delivered is the total number of emails minus hard and soft bounces delivered. The delivery rate is the percentage of the emails that were delivered compared to the number that bounced (soft and hard).
  • HTML opens represent the total number of times prospects loaded the images in the HTML version of the email. Many email programs (Outlook, Apple Mail, Thunderbird) do not display images unless the viewer elects to see these images. The recipient can view the email (and even click on links) without the images loaded and not be counted in this number. In order to be counted in HTML opens, the viewer must load the images. Each open is counted separately, so if a prospect loads the images more than once, that will count as two opens. Review How are HTML opens measured?for more details.
  • HTML open rate is the percentage of emails opened (with images, see above) compared to the total number of emails sent.
  • Total clicks represent the total number of clicks for all the links in an email. Each link click is counted separately. For example, if a prospect clicks on two separate links in the same message, it will count as two clicks. If a prospect clicks on the same link on two separate occasions, that will also count as two clicks. Clicks on the unsubscribe link are not counted toward Total clicks; neither are clicks on the email preference center variable tag.
  • Unique clicks represents the number of prospects that clicked on a link in the email. The Unique clicks category counts each recipient only once, so even if a prospect clicks on two separate links in the same message, or clicks the same link on two separate occasions, it will only be counted as one Unique click. Clicks on the unsubscribe link are not counted toward Unique clicks; neither are clicks on the email preference center variable tag.
  • Total CTR (Click-through-rate) is the percentage of visitors who click on links contained in emails sent to them. With Total CTR, multiple clicks for a same link are counted.
  • Unique CTR (Click-through-rate) is the percentage of visitors who clicked on a link (no more than once) contained in an email that was sent to them.
  • Total opt-outs are the total number of prospects that no longer wish to receive emails from your company. They are automatically removed from future mailings. They are however kept on the list they are associated with. A user can be resubscribed if they visit the unsubscribe page or manually in PI. Clicks on the unsubscribe link are not counted toward Total or Unique clicks; neither are clicks on the email preference center variable tag.
  • Opt-out rate is the percentage of users that have asked to be opted out of future mailings compared to the total number of emails sent.
  • Total spam complaints are the total number users that have reported the email as spam. AOL and Comcast automatically opt them out of future mailings, while Gmail and Yahoo do not. If a prospect reports spam in these clients, they are not opted out and do not display in this report. They will however send any future mailing to their spam folder.
  • Spam complaint rate is the percentage of spam complaints compared to the total number emails sent. Clicks per URL are displayed at the bottom of the report. Click the hyperlinked number to view a list of prospects who clicked each specific URL

It is amazing what I can learn, plan and do with this information.

CRM and the AHA! Moment

10 Aug

I am starting to see the value of CRM behind contact and data-based services. I talked about my first step of using CRM as a Rolodex. This expands on that post.

Recently, I used different platforms for information and organizational collaboration, and had a technology “AHA!” moment. I can’t even imagine how our engineer’s brains work. Our engineers impress me with the solutions they develop, and the creativity behind the solution.

This is what was going on in my head,

I used two products that triggered this thought, an email list builder and a media/journalist email finder.
Both have tons, if not millions of contacts. Both need a clean CRM and database.
They need accurate information that can be updated or flagged by users. A way for users to know the last update time of the information. The updated content needs value. Both need simple and relevant searching ability. Above all, the information needs to reach its destination, and to have the opportunity for tweaks and growth.
My “AHA!” moment was that a CRM helps solve all the issues a data-based contact service faces, and that there are companies like Epicom that help solve these problems. Behind every great online service is a great, well-thought out, planned CRM.
And this doesn’t just apply to contact-based services. It is for small, online boutiques and stores to manage descriptions of merchandise. All possibilities can materialize with a great engineer and CRM.

VoIP and How We Communicate

4 Aug
I have been editing blog entries at Epicom for two and a half months now, and I just learned what VoIP means. For those of you also learning CRM, it means Voice over Internet Protocol or voice communication using the Internet.

So, why is VoIP important?

VoIP allows users to call nationally and internationally for cheap, since users only need an Internet connection and a computer. VoIP is not limited to voice communication. Most VoIP services incorporate video and text.

For example at Epicom, we partner with Twilio, a cloud communications platform. We recently used their voice and phone application to build a Click-to-Call plugin for SugarCRM. This plugin allows users to click on any phone number and initiate the call from their CRM system.

VoIP is important because it changes the way our society–our world communicates. It is becoming easier for all-sized businesses to work with people across the country and overseas.

It is a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.

I was surprised to learn how VoIP applications are changing our lives. Technology is advancing what we are capable of as employees, as businesses and as people. It allows us to make life easier. better. cheaper.

Being able to click-to-call from the CRM reduces wasted time for sales, marketing and operations teams. It may seem silly but those little things improve the quality of life.

By cutting that time out of a persons day, there is more time for innovation and advancement.

Those two words, innovation and advancement, are the core of business. I just learned the meaning of VoIP, but as I read, I started thinking of the possibilities. I encourage you to think of how VoIP and technology can help your business. You never know what you could be over looking.

How to Use Google+ for Marketing

28 Jul

I have been thinking about SocialCRM a lot. I wrote earlier this week about Google+ vs. LinkedIn. As I was writing that entry, I started to think about Google+ circles as a lead nurturing platform. These are pretty basic thoughts. It is a little difficult to dive deep in since Google+ doesn’t have a base as large or active as Facebook yet.

Okay lets do this.

Consumers are increasingly tapping into their networks to make purchasing decisions and communicate. You know this. So, if Google+ succeeds in establishing an active community, here is how circles can be used.

B2B:

This is how SugarCRM has Opportunities set up, so I figured I would follow the same model my company already uses. Also, if you work in B2C but you have a longer sales cycle and/or you sell high price items following a B2B model might be better for you. Like I said, this is the model my company uses so create your Google+ marketing circles around your current sales model. The key to B2B working is adding CEO, CIO, COO and other decision makers to your Google+ circles and hopefully they will add your company back–just make sure they have shown interest in your products.

B2C:

Like above, if you have a current model that is successful, then try out those categories as you marketing circles. If you own a small business, it might be difficult to figure out who is a suspect or a customer. If you have a CRM system, then try looking them up—by email or name. Every business should know their repeat customers. This circle can be broke down even further if you have a groups of customers that all buy the same goods. The key to B2C is paying attention to how your followers interact with the brand and what they post to know what category to put them in.

All of the B2C pictures need to be in both B2B and B2C marketing strategy circles. The B2B is more focused on lead nurturing, but what works for you is the most important.

Customers that repost, media/bloggers/voice, company partners and company rivals are important people to follow and send target messages to. Voice means anybody that has a large following or interacts more than the average person. People that are a Voice might not be a customer that reposts, (and that is the nice thing about Google+ circles, people can go in multiple groups) but they are important to getting your message out.

The key to getting this to work is to repurpose materials for each group. All sales and marketing representatives know that not all customers need the same information. You can even make tailored specials based on products groups might want or need.

If I can easily select which groups hear my message, then I can avoid over stimulating my audiences. This is something that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn lack. I am sure all of you here have blocked a user for over posting. This allows better messages and less shotgun-effect in online communities.

Once your circles are defined and set up, here are some great marketing papers on targeting audiences, social media and campaigns.(Disclaimer: HubSpot is a partner of ours, but they have some of the best marketing resources)

Hubspot Main Marketing Page

Hubspot’s Ultimate How to Marketing Guide

Prospect to Evangelist with Social Media

StartUp Marketing Plan Blueprint

If you have any other ideas please share them so Google+ can be a more effective place for consumers and businesses to make decisions.

LinkedIn vs. Google+

26 Jul

I was invited to Google+ by one of my coworkers at Epicom before I left for vacation. At that point, Google+ was still full/completely closed. Yesterday, I finally registered my account.

Most of the Google+ articles I read discuss Google+ as Facebook’s rival. And Google is Facebook’s rival. However, the real loser in the launch of Google+ is LinkedIn.

LinkedIn‘s Jeff Weiner, who recently complained that both social networks could not “coexist.

Based off my first experiences, I believe him.

The brilliant part about social media is that it allows the company to interact with the consumer at every stage of a company’s development. However, the practices that work extremely well for B2C most of the time don’t hold up as well for B2B.

Before the launch of Google+, many people I know complained about LinkedIn. For a social network that is based around the idea of connecting professionals or social media for B2B, it does a mediocre job.

Most of the LinkedIn profiles are not “as complete” as they could be.

Most people do not check their LinkedIn accounts as frequently as they check Facebook, Twitter and their mail.

It is easy to build a network on LinkedIn, but for social media, LinkedIn offers such limited ways to interact with people. Google+ new marketing tool known as circles puts LinkedIn ages behind.

I am more than likely not the first person to note the benefit of circles for professional connections, targeted B2B and B2C marketing for small businesses.

  1. Google+ circles allows users to put professional connections based off of certain criteria in specific groups. Why LinkedIn loses, users can interact with their best friends and their boss on one platform.
  2. Circles allows smart small businesses to target certain campaigns and group customers into would like this or would like that groups. Small businesses can define the customer characteristics and launch campaigns fitting the customer’s buyer persona. This is B2B and B2C.
  3. Video conferencing creates a new stage for interaction. Where LinkedIn’s discussion boards are filled with sales pitches and not-to-active conversations. Video conferencing with Google+ works for answering customer concerns, virtual board meetings, and of course, talking to friends.
Newt Gingrich holds a Press Conference using Google+ video conferencing:

These three things make Google+ better than LinkedIn for B2B and social media for professionals. Even if Google+ doesn’t usurp Facebook, Google+ for business is looking promising.

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