You don’t need CRM

Customer Relationship Management

“The software world never ceases to amaze me, Watson,” The Effective Detective started out sounding just a tad negative as I entered the room.

“That surprises me sir, considering you were in the industry for so long, I didn’t think anything would amaze you,” I replied, expecting a certain reaction, and receiving it.

The Detective gave me his sideways look before answering, “Droll, Watson. I of course was using a figure of speech. I am well aware of the good points and the warts of the software industry. Rather than belaboring that point, may I continue?”

“Of course sir, what aspect of the software world has amazed you?” I somberly replied, snickering inwardly.

The Detective paused ever so briefly, as if contemplating another verbal jab, but thinking better of it. “One part in particular, Watson, Customer Relationship Management.”

“CRM, sir? I would think that you would be most in favor of CRM giving your attitude towards maintaining contact with prospects and customers,” I exclaimed, with some concern.

The Detective smiled, and I realized he had returned my initial favor, by eliciting a strong reaction from me. Honor having been served, he continued, “Yes CRM, Watson, and yes you are quite correct I am an advocate of maintaining contact with prospects and customers. However, the trend in this part of the industry is to go to vastly overblown and complex systems that ill serve the average user. Both in complexity and in cost.”

The Detective paused to give me my chance to interject, but I was still confused,  so I could only give a meek reply, “Please sir, continue.”

The Detective lifted an eyebrow, and perhaps a slight smile. “Watson, I do believe I have confounded you a bit. Let me explain. One of the mistakes people make is to think if a little data is a good thing, a lot of data is a great thing. This basic misunderstanding is encouraged by the breathless coverage of Big Data. It is true that in some cases masses of data can be useful, but in the case of the average small business, the emphasis should be on fewer key data points.”

“And how does this relate to CRM?” I asked, still a little puzzled.

“In the first place Customer Relationship Management is hardly an accurate term for what most small businesses need, Watson. To deserve such a lofty title as Customer Relationship Management System, a program should not only schedule and track phone conversations, but manage all of the emails you send – both mass emails and individual, coordinate sending out sales literature, note progress through the sales cycle, and provide tools for sales management to monitor and evaluate the progress of their staff.

“The reality is that most of us require the following pieces of information to have an effective follow-up system: A list of who we should call today, notes about the last contact we had, and when should we call them back, and perhaps a few keywords that can be used to search contacts. We used to call the process contact management, before the industry decided we needed all sorts of fancy features, and wanted to save detailed information that most of us can’t get from our prospects, and for the most part, don’t need or care about.

“When looking at your needs in sales, think realistically about what is needed, and how you truly interact with your prospects and customers. I think you will find that you are actually doing simple contact management, not true CRM. Look for the program with the LEAST numbers of features. That will be the one you will truly use,” The Detective paused, waiting for my response.

“So less truly is better, sir?”

“Precisely Watson! Shall we move on?” The Detective responded, ending our conversation.

We don’t need no stinking autoresponders

Public Relations Meaning News Media Press Communication“Sir, are you up for a little Q and A today?” I enquired of The Effective Detective to launch this episode of our weekly talks.

“What? Eh Watson? I suppose so… not as much chance to lecture of course,” replied The Detective with a slight smile on his face.

“Perhaps the answer to every question does not require a lecture sir,” I answered, then continuing on before The Detective could offer a rejoinder, “the question is simple sir, what is an autoresponder, and why do you make them sound so important?”

“Watson, the direct answer is quite simple: an autoresponder is simply a process where a set of emails are sent out to a member of your list that the autoresponder is assigned to. The timing of the emails can be set by you so that there are certain intervals of time before the next email is sent out. The emails are the same for each member of your list who receives the autoresponder emails. That much is fairly simple. Where it gets interesting, is why they are so important,” The Detective paused in his characteristic way. Sometimes I believe he is just winding up in those pauses.

“Please continue sir,” I provided an opening without opening a can of worms by making a comment or perhaps sending the conversation in another direction.

“Quite, Watson. As I was saying, autoresponders are important, although you can work a list without them. They are important in that they give you a chance to respond consistently to every single prospect that comes into your funnel. Their introduction to you can be your best stuff. If they are simply thrust into the world of your e-zines or other content, they may hit something that doesn’t immediately interest them. Or perhaps, perish the thought, you might have a bad day, and simply not be on the top of your game with your content. Whatever the reason, you could start out on the wrong foot with a new potential client. Autoresponder content can be tailored to the promised message. Perhaps it is a multiple part video course. The page that attracted your prospect enticed them with that content. They get what they expect to get, and you gain credibility,” The Detective stopped again. This time, looking at me like he expected more than a perfunctory response.

“It would seem to me sir that is also less work for you. Once the content is done, it is done – well perhaps except for some tweaking here and there. Freeing you up for both your other business responsibilities and more content.”

“I think you have the concept Watson. There are some email services out there that offer you a free version or level. Unfortunately, if autoresponders are one of the features they deny you for free, you are better off spending a little money with them to get the autoresponders. Those first few weeks after they subscribe are critical in getting your prospects to follow you. Best to bring your A game and start the relationship off right,” The Detective concluded.

“You sound like you speak from experience, sir” I said, raising an eyebrow.

“A story for another day Watson.”

Why are you limiting your audience?

Oops Word on Big Red Button Correct Mistake“Sir, were we away for a while?” I asked, kicking off the latest conversation between myself and The Effective Detective.

The Detective paused for several seconds before responding, “Yes, Watson, as a matter of fact yes we were.”

“Was there a reason?” I asked, my curiosity piqued.

“Not a particularly good one Watson.” He paused before continuing, “I suppose you won’t be satisfied until I expound on this?” he ended with a sigh.

“Sorry sir, but no, I won’t.”

“You are nothing if not persistent Watson. Very well. Once I decided to include video in the weekly e-zine, I essentially doubled my work. There were my discussions with you, and writing a video script, which is not quite as simple as others might think. Plus I had to actually record the videos which created complications as well. At some point – I don’t remember exactly when – I decided I needed to back away from something, and my discussions with you were chosen to get the proverbial axe.” The Detective paused, inviting me to jump in.

“What changed that we are back with our discussions sir?” I asked, more curious than hurt that I had been ignored for a while.

“Ahh Watson, you have your fans! I was often asked why I wasn’t publishing our talks anymore. It seems that more than a few people enjoy reading over watching video,” he answered. “Not only that, sometimes it just isn’t possible or appropriate to watch a video. In the end I realized I was cutting off a percentage of my audience, just so I could create content the way I wanted to. A classic example of not listening to your audience!”

“Are you admitting to a mistake sir?” I pushed.

“Watson, I believe we have more important issues to discuss, can we move on please?” The Detective shot back, perhaps a bit too quickly.

I smiled. “Always good to recognize the error in your ways sir. I for one am glad to be back, and we can leave it at that.”

“Thank you Watson. It is good to be back. Shall we get back to work?”

“With pleasure sir.”

More Than Just a Piece of the Pie

pie_chart“Sir, why is it that you don’t sign up as an affiliate for some of the software we discuss?” I launched our discussion quickly, feeling rushed since we had not met on yesterday’s holiday.

“By affiliate, I assume you mean promoting and selling someone else’s product for some percentage of the sales price as compensation, Watson,” The Detective replied.

“”Quite so, sir. It strikes me that it could be quite profitable.”

“You might be correct in your impressions Watson, and I must admit it is sometimes tempting. In fact, I would say in general if someone believes in the product, and has the marketing wherewithal to properly promote and sell such a product, affiliate marketing does have distinct advantages over trying to write your own product,” The Detective replied.

“I am confused sir. If there are advantages for these arrangements, then why are we not pursuing them?” I asked.

“Ah Watson, an excellent question. Let’s look at some of those advantages,” The Detective began, indicating he was warming up to the subject, and I should probably just sit back and go for the ride.

“The big advantage of course is that you do not need specific domain knowledge, you can utilize the knowledge of the author of the product. This also means (often) that you do not need to be concerned about support. Of course the big thing is you don’t have to create the product. That can be a ton of work.

“That said, you still need to be pretty skillful at copy-writing, since you need to interest people, and you need to know as many traffic drawing tricks as possible. However, if you have the skill, there can be a decent source of income in affiliate programs.

“But, the copy and the traffic aren’t the things that concern me,” The Detective paused, and gave me his customary look to ensure I was paying attention.

“So what does concern you sir?” I asked, reassuring him that I was indeed paying attention.

“Elementary my dear Watson. There is an appearance and a commodity that I must always be aware of: lack of bias, and time.

“Bias is something that most likely few others need to worry about. However when you are in the business of coming up with solutions  that sometimes involve using software, having a profit bias to one software package or another could be, let us say, a  limiting factor in your ability to propose the most effective solution for a particular problem. You know what they say Watson, when the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

“I could look past that issue, since often the feature sets of various software packages are quite similar, and with proper procedures most operational glitches can be worked around.

“There is an issue I cannot ignore though, and that is time. Any decent marketing campaign must be conceived, written, tested, measured, and tweaked. I cannot afford to take time away from the work I perform for my clients, and my own marketing, to do the requisite work to make an affiliate program truly successful. It is difficult to just dip your toe into a marketing campaign. Either you are looking to win, or you are just dabbling.

“Being an affiliate marketer can be quite lucrative, and if your joy is in the marketing of things rather than the creation of said things, then by all means, take that challenge on. But as one of my mentors once said to me you cannot be both fish and fowl. Are you an affiliate marketer, or are you a life coach, a personal trainer, a marketing detective, or whatever your passion is?”

“So we keep the options open for our clients, so they can choose what best suits their needs.” I offered.

“And the same for ourselves. Quite so Watson, quite so.”