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Bob Thompson is an international authority on customer-centric business management who has researched and shaped leading industry trends since 1998. He is founder and CEO of CustomerThink Corporation, an independent research and publishing firm, and founder and editor-in-chief of CustomerThink.com - the world’s largest online community dedicated to helping business leaders develop and implement customer-centric business strategies. His new book Hooked on Customers reveals the habits of leading customer-centric firms. We talked to Bob about why so many CRM projects fail and what can be done about it.


What CRM mistakes do you see companies make most often, other than not having CRM at all?

Probably the most common mistake is the perception that CRM is a technology project. Thinking that a software implementation is all that’s needed is a source of many CRM failures, because behind the technology are people being asked to change how they do their jobs.

Another big mistake is not thinking about how everyone “wins.” CRM projects tend to be focused on company and management goals. The sales rep or service agent can feel there’s not enough benefit for them to get behind the initiative, thus undermining it. Customers can feel the same way, if a CRM project is designed to make them the “target” of an efficiency effort, rather than a beneficiary of an improved experience.

Finally, “having” CRM is not a black or white proposition. Every company has some kind of process to acquire new customers, sell to them, and service them. Executives shouldn’t think that once they’ve installed software or launched a project that they’ve “done” CRM. Instead, think of CRM as a journey where there’s always room for improvement.

CRM implementation often fails because of human factor, not technical shortcoming of a particular solution. Why is that and what can be done, because the technical part is actually getting better and better, especially with marketing automation?

CustomerThink partnered with Forrester Research in 2013 in a study of CRM project risk. The top three problem areas were business processes (44%), people (42%) and strategy/deployment (40%). Technology as 4th at 35%, which is still significant.

I agree that technology is getting easier to implement and use, in part due to the shift to cloud-based solutions. Human factors are more difficult because people and organizations tend to develop “ruts” in their behaviors. These habits are hard to break, even when new tools are implemented.

CRM can help with great customer service but simply buying software won’t make your company customer centric. What are some non-tech tips you can share that help companies become fore customer focused?

Well, I wrote an entire book (Hooked on Customers) about this! In my research I identified five organization behaviors – habits – that drive customer-centric success. Briefly, they are:
· Listen: Understand What Customers Value; Act on Their Feedback
· Think: Make Smart, Fact-Based Decisions
· Empower: Give Employees Resources and Authority to Serve Customers
· Create: Produce New Value for Customers and the Company
· Delight: Exceed Expectations; Be Remarkable!

CRM systems are getting more ‘social’ and they are now frequently integrated with other tools that companies use (intranets, enterprise social networks, document management, etc.). What other big changes do you see for CRM in the next five years?

I think predictive analytics will increasingly be integrated into CRM solutions. Predictive lead scoring is a huge opportunity, because it’s difficult for humans to know which of the dozens of signals mean that a lead is worth pursuing. I think we’ll see more usage of predictive analytics in the sales arena, to help coach reps on the right “playbook” to use for each situation. And in customer service, analytics can help advise agents how best to resolve an issue and when to offer (or avoid) an upsell.

Can you share your favorite online customer relationship management resources?

My community www.customerthink.com is a great resource. We have over 1700 contributing authors blogging about marketing, sales, customer service, customer experience, and more.

Thank you Bob!

Bitrix24 is the a free CRM for marketing and sales professionals. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:

- 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Generate More Incoming Leads
- 5 Email trends that will affect you and your business
- Using Bitrix24 as free RingCentral alternative
- Practice vs. Flow, and How to Use Both for Greater Productivity
- Cold Calling Secrets, Part 2
- Free vTiger alternative 

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Procrastination is the deliberate act of delaying, unnecessarily, what needs to be done. Some delays are necessary: waiting on permission, waiting on information, waiting on collaboration. But many delays are optional We choose to delay because we are avoiding something else. If you are holding back on work that you are able of begin, you are procrastinating. And when you or others in your business procrastinate, the costs to your business start adding up.

The Potential Cost in Time

Time-cost is one of the first things that comes to mind when we think about procrastination. When we procrastinate, we may be doing useful things, such as organizing the files or returning phone calls. But useful things are not always important things. Time spent on non-important (but useful) tasks is time we do not spend on the important projects. Maybe you did reach inbox zero. Maybe you do have a really organized office. But how about those billable hours? Did you log any of those in by the end of the day? You know what makes money for your business: finished work and billable hours.

Research shows that up to 64% of employees waste time daily on the Internet, using non-work related sites. Procrastination is nothing new, but the Internet has made it so easy - and so interesting - to procrastinate anytime. For your business, let’s estimate on the low end, and assume that you - and your employees - only waste 2 hours a week surfing the web. That’s 2 hours a week per person. How many people are involved in your business? 10? There’s 20 hours a week down the drain. Could your business have profited fr om those 20 hours being used to help clients, finish projects, and bill hours?

The Potential Cost in Money

A study conducted by management consulting firm Proudfoot Consulting found that the time cost of unproductive workers added up to a loss of around 33 days per worker, per year. The estimated monetary cost of lost productivity came in at $598 billion annually for U.S. companies alone. What is your piece of that very unpleasant pie? Divide your gross profit from last year by the number of days in your work year to get your daily profit average. Then think about the amount of time lost daily in your business due to unproductive habits. If there’s an average time loss of 2 hours per day, that’s 25% of an 8-hour workday. What could your daily profit average have reached if those 2 hours were spent productively? Not all lost productivity is due to procrastination, of course. There’s inefficiency, indecision, poor planning, and waiting on other people. It’s probably not surprising to you that waiting on other people is often due to procrastination on their end.

The Potential Cost in Creativity and Quality of Work

Procrastination creates stress, because by procrastinating we lim it the options and increase the pressure. Job stress has a consistently negative effect on work quality. Time diaries and work research have shown, again and again, that creativity hides when it is under an immediate deadline. When we have some room to breathe, however, we feel more relaxed and open, which gives our brains freedom to make creative connection and come up with unique solutions. If you or your team members procrastinate habitually, you will face looming deadlines and high-pressure scrambles to finish projects on time. The result will be less creative work, and lower-quality work.

The Potential Cost in Employee Satisfaction

Job stress is a key cause of employee dissatisfaction. If there is serial procrastination happening in your business, the stress on everyone is increasing in proportion to it. When overloaded, employees may tend to procrastinate more instead of less. They feel taken advantage of, and they feel simply incapable of doing all that is asked of them. So they give up. They doodle around. They surf the web. They procrastinate. And as a result, they get less done and their feeling of being stressed and overloaded grows. Even one person’s procrastination can negatively affect an entire business. You can’t eliminate procrastination entirely, but you can take it seriously. By refusing to let yourself procrastinate, and rewarding others who do the same, you set the tone for your entire business.

And that may just save your business thousands, in hours, dollars, and, well, happiness.

Bitrix24 is the a free CRM for marketing and sales professionals. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:

- Practice vs. Flow, and How to Use Both for Greater Productivity
- Cold Calling Secrets, Part 2
- 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Generate More Incoming Leads
- 5 Email trends that will affect you and your business
- Bob Thompson - why CRM is not a technology project
- Free Insightly alternative 

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Michael Leander as a direct marketing pro with over 20 years of experience. He also he is mostly known as a permission based email marketing guru, he is a firm believer in multi-channel promotion and a RoMI (Return on Marketing Investment) advocate. We caught up with Michael to ask him a few questions about email marketing, its past and the future.

What is the biggest email marketing mistake or mistakes that you see companies make every day?

Most of the mistakes email marketers make today are the same mistakes they have been making in the past 10 years. One mistake is to not align their messages (content) with the interests of their audience. More often than not email marketers are focused solely on the message they want to send, not the message recipients want to hear. As a result the interaction and CTR (Click through rates) are low. At the same time the ability to deliver a positive ROMI (Return on Marketing Investment) is highly questionable.

Another mistake is lack of focus and consistency. Succeeding with email marketing requires focus. There are many elements involved and each of these require dedicated focus. Take mobility, for example. The bulk of email marketers are not caring enough about how their messages appear when viewed on a mobility device. Since user habits are changing rapidly, email marketers need to understand how to deliver the best experience across all devices. And this goes far beyond responsive design. It has to do with understanding how we get attention, how we get recipients to react and ultimately convert to action. Not easy to do in an desktop environment. A lot harder to do in the mobility space.

Essentially email marketing should be a regularly occurring conversation. A two way street where senders provide value to recipients one at a time. Understanding that and finding a way to execute on that premise is key to successful email marketing. Add to that the need for a one customer view approach. Consolidating data in a marketing database or CRM is essential. Especially looking at the value of getting behavioral data fr om email marketing activities structured in a way that enables better targeting seems to be highly relevant. It is a mistake that the one data repository approach seems to be ignored by the majority of marketers.

There have been a lot of changes this past decade – CAN-SPAM act, mass migration of personal communications fr om email to social networks, meteoric rise of mobile messaging apps and so on. Which email marketing strategies still work despite these changes, and which ones are now obsolete?

In spite of all these changes, I find that the basics of email marketing haven’t changed. Sure there are a few more obstacles, but serious marketers will know how to deal with those effectively. As mentioned, successful email marketing requires a good-to-great value proposition. But it clearly also need to be permission (opt-in) based. Sending email communication without permission is less effective, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is obsolete. It may be illegal in many countries, but it apparently still works for some aggressive senders. Sadly. Providing value with a well designed content concept still works. Getting frequency and timing right still works. It is indeed very much business as usual but with mobility, deliverability and a few other components added to the mix.

How do you see email marketing change during the next 10 years?

I don’t know what will happen 10 years from now. But I wouldn’t be surprised if email marketing is still alive and doing well. Over the coming years I expect significant changes on the ISP side of things. Data privacy and consumer protection is still important and will become even more important in the coming years. ISP’s will continue to seek new ways to protect consumers from unwanted communication. There will be changes in how consumers and business buyers interact with their inbox. And hopefully we will see some new developments that will empower our ability to convert from message to action - especially in the mobility space. I think the audience will become increasingly better at understanding when and wh ere to give permission to receive email communication. Perhaps we will see more brands offer to sign-up for a time limited period. When the time is up, the permission is automatically withdrawn. This form makes sense for many categories. The intersection of notifications on mobility devices and emails will also become smarter allowing consumers to turn off email communication if they prefer notifications on their tablets instead – and vice versa.

Self-restraint is probably one of the most important traits for email marketers. Do you have any tips how to resist the urge to send emails to clients or prospects too frequently?

Frequency is the most misunderstood part of any form of communication. Highly educated people actually believe that there is a right or wrong formula for good frequency. That is of course not so. Frequency is related to relevancy and value. So if a brand is able to be relevant and add value to a given recipient 2 times each day, then that frequency is great. But if you cannot add value and be relevant to your audience then any frequency is wrong. As a highly frequent traveler, I naturally receive a lot of email newsletters from airlines. And in spite of being a Gold or Diamond member with many of them, they still consistently send me irrelevant offers several times each week. They don’t add value to me. In fact it irritates me. Ultimately they damage their reputation one customer at a time.

What resources should email marketers use/read to stay on top of their game?

There are many good resources out there. Generally my advice is to read as much as possible. Watch webinars. Attend seminars and workshops. Dave Chaffey runs SmartInsights (www.smartinsights.com) which is a good resource for marketing Markedu is about to launch a new series of free webinars (www.markedu.com) Anyone whom wants to know more about email marketing and how to stay abreast the latest developments, are also welcome to get in touch with me via LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelleandernielsen

Thank you, Mike!

Bitrix24 is the a free CRM for email marketing and sales professionals. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB.

See also:

- Practice vs. Flow, and How to Use Both for Greater Productivity
- Cold Calling Secrets, Part 2
- 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Generate More Incoming Leads
- 5 Email trends that will affect you and your business
- Bob Thompson - why CRM is not a technology project
- What Is Procrastination Costing Your Business?
- Free Salesforce alternative 

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Your team works well together, solves problems, and comes up with innovative, unique ideas. Except when they don’t. If your team is in a creative slump, here are five ways you can end it.

1. Identify the Blocks

Denial is your enemy. Awareness is your friend. If everybody is sitting around, pretending like everything is going just fine, you need to step in. Open the discussion so that they can be open about their difficulties. Ask questions and listen to their answers. Chances are, they already know a few issues - or, perhaps, many - that are causing blocks. Set up a team meeting and talk about what is blocking the normal creative flow you have come to expect from them. The goal of the meeting should not be to destroy all creative blocks, but to figure out what they are. Sometimes, talking through the issue will prove to the solution. If communication problems, personality conflicts, or internal stress is the source of reduced creativity, an open and supportive discussion can do a lot to resolve it. If, however, the issues are different, you will know how to start addressing them once you know what they are.

2. Take an Enforced Break

Walking stimulates creativity. Sleeping stimulates creativity.

Most likely, neither of those things is happening when your team is actively working on a creative project. If the pressure is on and the deadline is looming, your team members are focused and stressed. And that stance is kind of the opposite of what creativity needs. Enforce a break, of a few hours, a half day, or more if you can afford it. Require no work during the break: team members should take personal time, take a walk, take a nap. After the break, your team will be able to get back to work with refreshed minds and new creative energy.

3. Work on a Different Project

The magic of creativity is in the diverse connections made. Inventiveness doesn’t usually happen from stumbling across brand-new knowledge, but in combining well-known facts in new ways. In order to do that, though, the brain needs input from a variety of sources. Stimulation is important. If your team has been hunkered down, working on a single task or on very similar projects, their brains are starved for new input, different input, a variety of sources. Move the team to something completely different for a while, then come back later with fodder for fresh connections.

4. Take the Pressure Off

There’s another thing creativity doesn’t like very much: pressure. People might feel like they are being creative when they come up with solutions under stress, but research shows that both the quality and creativity of work plummets when stress is high. Remove or extend deadlines. Give your team some breathing space. Bring in more team members so that tasks and responsibilities can be spread out. Add more resources. Creativity is a function of growth, not survival. If the brain interprets the environment as a threatening one, it will not be searching for new and novel ways to respond. It will be coming up with quick, defensive measure to end the threat (or stress) as quickly as possible.

5. Impose Limits

Generality does not heighten creativity. There’s a reason that Hallmark cards don’t go down in the annals of great poetry: generalities do not make powerful images. Generalities do not produce powerful creativity, either. Creativity responds to challenges (not pressure) when there is a particular need to be met. If you’ve asked your team to “be creative” about a broad area or request, try tightening the scope. Define the lines. Set boundaries. Name the problem, as specifically as possible, and then work on a single, focused solution.

Bitrix24 is a free online team productivity and collaboration platform. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB

See also:

- 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity
- Intranet review checklist – seven must-have features for ANY intranet
- Social HR 101: What is social intranet?
- Mobile Productivity Dos and Don’ts
- Michael Leander - People still make the same email marketing mistakes they did ten years ago
- Free Asana alternative 

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Martin White is one of the most respected intranet experts who founded IntranetFocus.com in 1999. An information scientist by profession he has been a Visiting Professor at the Information School, the University of Sheffield since 2002 and authored 12 different books, including The Intranet Management Handbook. We talked to Martin about why so many people choose Microsoft products for their intranets, what happens when you treat your intranet as information dumping ground and why intranet is morphing into a digital workspace portal that includes clients and suppliers. 

When it comes to intranet, ’social’ is the buzzword that’s mentioned most often with it. Is ’social intranet’ a rebirth of intranet in the workplace or is classic idea of intranet dead for good and enterprise social networking going to replace traditional intranet as we knew it? 

Social networking is a good concept and needs to be supported. However networking is not a solution to finding out what the vacation policy is for unpaid leave, the list of new customers signed up in the previous two months or the account code for travel outside of the EU. An intranet may in regarded as a ‘dumping ground’ for information that does not fit easily into other enterprise applications but at least it is a structured dumping ground and (assuming there is effective content governance) users can trust the validity and quality of the information they find. A social network in the enterprise is a response to the way in which people network outside the office and often blurs the boundaries. For example, when employees use their LinkedIn membership to track down contacts of value to the business. It should complement an existing intranet but I don’t see it replacing what might be seen as the traditional information-centric role of the intranet. 

Microsoft is the biggest intranet vendor on the market by far. They’ve made their big bet by acquiring Yammer. Some say this is major miscalculation, because SharePoint is going to lose users to Google Apps, Dropbox, Box, Slack and the like, not ESNs. How do you see the future of current intranet leader(s)? 

Microsoft is not an intranet vendor. It sells an information management platform that has CMS and search functionality. It is certainly used for intranets and so competes with intranet product vendors, stand-alone CMS vendors (commercial and open source) and other enterprise platforms from IBM, Oracle and Open Text. For the CIO Microsoft is a safe bet, with a global support network of Microsoft Partners and it owns the desktop through Office. Yammer is a side show compared to Office 365. There is room in the market for a wide range of intranet offerings but Microsoft is increasingly the default option so every other vendor needs to position themselves to promote a) the benefits they offer and b) how they can integrate with SharePoint. Another benefit of Microsoft is that the company has a roadmap and will back-support legacy applications for a number of years. You cannot say the same about Google. 

Year 2014 is when the share of mobile internet traffic from phones and tablets exceeds that of traditional PC traffic. Yet most intranets are still not mobile friendly. What can/should be done about that and which intranet vendors in your view got the mobile part right? 

Although even Microsoft SharePoint does provide mobile support the problems lie in two main directions. The first is that it’s not about ‘mobile’ but about providing integration from the desktop through tablet to mobile in both directions. The second is that no attention has been paid to how search is carried out on a mobile, and indeed in general how mobile devices are used to support tasks and decision making. Intranet teams are always under-resourced and do not have the time, and probably the skills, to undertake ethnographic research into tasks being carried out by field-force employees. Providing a ‘mobile view’ of an intranet using responsive design is a totally inadequate approach. Organisations need to determine how mobile devices are being used, and then provide content and a UX that supports the tasks. There might well be a ‘mobile’ version of part of the intranet but architected in such a way that at the back end it is a single platform. 

It’s no secret that most intranets have to be ‘forced’ onto employees. This is why intranet consultants talk about ‘engagement’, ‘management support’ and so on. What simple things can intranet administrators do to promote organic intranet adoption within their organizations? 

Deliver information that makes tasks easier to complete and decisions less risky to make. One of my clients has a set of five ”use cases” 

· Can I handle this?

· What is the implication?

· Can I find out sooner?

· Will it work?

· Have I chosen wisely?

These are typical of the challenges that employees face every day and to which the intranet needs to be able to provide solutions. 

But the bigger problem is that organisations do not treat information as a corporate asset. Information quality is usually appalling, mainly because information creation and curation are positioned as hobbies. If these organizations had an information management policy and strategy then the intranet would be seen as a business-critical application and not as a communications channel for news and social networking. 

A few years ago I developed an information charter . My position is that if the organization cannot make a commitment to even this simple charter then information is not regarded as an asset. An organisation will know how many hand-driers it has, how many employees work for it and how much money is in the bank. But will it know how much information it has and what the quality is of that information? 

If there is no commitment from the senior management team to information management then the intranet manager has an impossible task. How would the finance manager cope if the senior management team did not support the use of standard invoice or expenses forms? 

In the final analysis if employees have to ‘forced’ to use the intranet it is because the information in it is not relevant, and not of an adequate quality, to support them in achieving business and personal objectives. That’s the responsibility of the Board, not of the intranet manager. 

The biggest intranet trends of this decade have been social and mobile. What other changes do you see coming in the next 10 years? 

I disagree. As you highlight in Q3 most intranets are not mobile friendly. Social is a trend, even if for no good business objective. The major trend has been the rise of SharePoint as the default intranet platform, which means that it is owned by IT. Moreover in many respects SharePoint has limitations for intranet design as in effect it is a web view of a collaborative document management application. 

I see three trends. The first is towards providing a seamless integration of content delivery to any device. The second is to understand that search is a core application for an intranet and not an add on. The third is that the intranet will morph into a digital workplace portal that supports interaction with suppliers and customers. In ten years intranets will not exist, just as word processors do not exist. It will just be the way that people work. 

Bitrix24 is free online team productivity and social intranet platform. Use promocode TIP10 when registering your free Bitrix24 account to get extra 10GB 

See also: 

5 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Workplace Productivity 
Intranet review checklist – seven must-have features for ANY intranet 
Social HR 101: What is social intranet? 
Mobile Productivity Dos and Don’ts 
Michael Leander - People still make the same email marketing mistakes they did ten years ago 
Creativity Slump? What to Do When Your Team Gets Stuck
- Free SharePoint Alternative

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