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It’s time to consider business process automation

Business Process Automation, also called Workflow Automation, is more accessible now than it ever has been with most businesses using some SaaS (software as a service) or web-enabled software. Automating routine processes can make you more efficient, improve accountability and standardize your customer interactions.

Where do you start? Practice Kaizen…start by making one small, impactful change. Determine one process you think is (1) time consuming, (2) time-sensitive, (3) requires multiple people, and/or (4) has a high volume in your organization.  Some examples are: managing incoming leads, approving expense reports, sending out product announcement emails, and lead nurturing.

As an example, I realized that managing my appointments via several calendars was becoming a challenge. I was using Notes, Act! and Google over 2-3 different devices. It was difficult to schedule appointments with clients because there was a lag in between emailing them and getting a response, and also because not all of my appointments were on all of my calendars since this was a manual process.

Think about how the process you want to automate would work in a perfect world. Now determine what steps should be taken to complete the task from start to finish (which may be different from what actually happens in your business today). Write those steps down in a spreadsheet, word processing document, mind map, note application or (gasp!) on paper. Just make sure you have a clear vision of each step that needs to occur to complete the task.

For my calendar automation process, I knew the best solution would be one where clients could see open times on my calendar and schedule a time that was convenient for both of us. Whatever system I chose would need to be able to update my Act!, Google and Notes calendars so that I could see everything that was scheduled on any of my devices, anywhere, any time.

The next step is to determine what tool or process you’ll use to automate.  This could require some research. You’ll need to find a feature or tool that is either within your current system(s) or possibly use an external tool or integration.  If you have a trusted advisor for your current software, this is the first person to contact for advice.  It is likely that they will save you time and money with their experience.

Being an Act! Premium user and consultant, I immediately started looking for an integration that was web-based and could integrate with Act!. Zapier offers many SaaS integrations between various software platforms, so I began searching their offerings to find a calendar service that I could integrate with Act!. I settled on Acuity Scheduling, and it had even more features than I’d originally been looking for.

Finally, we get to implementation. Implementation is going to vary from one tool/process to the next.  Having a clear outline to accomplish the goal for your automation process will greatly decrease the implementation time. I have also found that many programs have either a $0 tier level or a free trial period so that you can try the service before you commit to a monthly or annual fee.

For me, there was a short learning curve for Acuity Scheduling. There was set up involved to create appointment types and scheduled hours, but they included “walkthroughs” every step of the way. After that, the set up required creating the “zaps” in my Zapier account that would check for data at Acuity Scheduling and bring that into Act!. Acuity Scheduling will also read data from/to a Google calendar. Along the way, I discovered that I could send myself an SMS each morning that was a reminder of the day’s appointments. Bonus!

Don’t forget about training and analytics.  Yes, even if you are a solo-preneur, training is important.  Make sure you and anyone involved with the new process knows how it works – and – how to determine if something goes wrong.  Your process also needs to allow for “what ifs.” For example what happens if:

  • the data is not as expected?
  • Some data you count on in the process is missing?
  • Someone leaves the company?
  • The tool is inaccessible?

If you aren’t using some form of business automation, it’s time to get started. It will take some extra time to get your new process up and running, but the time it saves will be worth it.

If you use Act! and want to discuss automation for your business, use this link to schedule a 15-minute discovery call with me to discuss your needs.

Martech. Say what?

February 18th, 2019 • By: Patricia Egen ACT CRM, Business growth, Consulting, Email marketing, Marketing, Sales, Sales Automation

With v21, Act by Swiftpage released a new product called Act Marketing Automation (called AMA for short). Ok, cool. Now what?

Here’s why you care. Martech.

Martech, what is that you say. It’s the cool new buzz word for something we all want – a way to automate our marketing processes so we can go do what we do best – our business. It stands for Marketing Technology and it’s basically anything you use to reach your customers – using technology.

It could be as simple as an email marketing tool like Swiftpage and Act eMarketing, Constant Contact or Mail Chimp. Now let’s kick it up a notch to products like Hubspot and Marketo where they take the email piece of it and add “smarts” and build automated campaigns.

Imagine an email blast going out and instead of you waiting on replies to send the next email, one goes out automatically. Or even better, an activity is put on your calendar to call the person who opened your email 7 times. Or…a visitor to your website sends in a “please call me I want to talk” form and they get added to your CRM, a reply thanking them is sent back, and an Opportunity is opened in your CRM? All without you doing anything except your normal daily job. Unless of course it is to respond to these items. If that’s the case, you may need to look for something else to do.

Have we got your attention now? We thought so.

TechTarget says: “Martech is the area of customer relationship management (CRM) concerned with creating, managing and using digital tools that make it possible for marketers to automate tasks and make data-driven decisions. An important goal of Martech is to help marketers find and nurture customers, personalize customer interaction and measure the effectiveness of campaigns.”

This is exactly what the new Act Marketing Automation (AMA) from Swiftpage does. It is now something you and your organization need to consider to add to your marketing arsenal. We live in a digital age. The customers are a lot more savvy. They are looking for slick marketing pieces, sent often, that they can read on their phones during dinner. I know. Sounds sad. Have you been to a restaurant lately. Quiet, aren’t they. Your organization can leverage that and reach that young crowd to look at your product or service. It’s the new frontier.

We are now helping clients implement AMA and can help you as well. Whether you do this by yourself or work with a marketing agency we can help get this automation in place. Rather than sit back and watch the competition get with the program, let us help you move ahead of them.

More information can be found on these great sites:

https://searchcrm.techtarget.com/definition/martech-marketing-technology
https://www.act.com/products/marketing-automation

A Beginner’s Guide to MarTech


https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescommunicationscouncil/2018/04/27/the-origin-of-the-martech-stack-and-how-to-build-one-that-drives-growth/#5fdf242f4524

Sales Process? What sales Process?

February 13th, 2019 • By: Patricia Egen ACT CRM, Business growth, Consulting, Sales, Sales management

5 w's of CRMMany of you know we are a computer consulting practice. We also do process improvement (on a small scale) and give advice on sales processes (again on a small scale).

We do not in any way claim to be experts in selling. We are however pretty knowledgeable about what sales people will or will not do when it comes to using technology in their daily life. Boy are we experts. We have heard every single moan, groan, complaint, lament there is to why someone should not need to use a CRM or tool in their business. After all it’s just big brother watching over them to make sure they make their numbers. Or we will hear them say “we don’t need training – we know how to sell.” Which then leads me to ask “then why are you calling us to help you fix things.”

Yes, big brother and management is watching. And for a good reason. No numbers, no paychecks. Period. And yes a good sales person probably does know how to sell. Is that information available to others in the organization. If something happens to them, can someone else pick up the projects and continue? Is there continuity at all?

Knowing some of this, what we tend to try to do is help them understand the whys and them help them also understand that having a good sales process in place along with a good tool to keep track of it is a good thing. It empowers them to actually do their job better and with better results. Well, mostly. That’s if there is a sales process in place at all.

We can not tell you how often we have heard “what process” when we have asked what is your sales process today. There probably is one in place but for many reasons either doesn’t work or has not been properly articulated to the people who actually have to implement it. And occasionally there is not one at all. It’s the “hey here is our product – go learn it. Here’s how much it costs – go sell it. Oh, and here’s a tool to keep track of how you did and what you said.” Sound familiar? Sadly it probably does for many organizations.

When we start a project this is one of the first questions we ask. Without a process any form of CRM implementation is going to either fail or be a glorified Rolodex providing no value whatsoever. And a good CRM can help you understand all the W’s – the why, what, who, when, where’s of a client. All in one place. Have a good sales process together with a good CRM, and you are well on your way to increased sales and customer relationship management.

There are lots of ways to put in place good sales methods. And you don’t always necessarily need one of the expensive “you have to attend xx meetings before we get to the bottom line” methods. If your organization is making money then something must be going right. Finding out what works and what doesn’t is part of the first step to figuring out a good sales process for your company. Look inside your company first. Evaluate your success stories and write down what worked. Evaluate the flops and do the same thing. What’s different between the two.

There are several good places to go and look for sales advice. Search on Sales Process Implementation in Google. At least try to put one in place. You can also read some of our Reese’s Southern Wisdom posts. Good sales advice from a great sales person, who has been there done that.

If you’d like more information on how to implement your CRM with a good sales process, give us a call. We know CRM. We know good sales consultants. We can help. Email us today at support@egenconsulting.com.

Welcome 2019 – Time for New Year’s Goals

December 31st, 2018 • By: Patricia Egen ACT CRM, Business growth, business intelligence, Consulting

It’s a new year and time for new year’s resolutions. A few years ago I started calling  them “goals” because a goal has, hopefully, a finite deadline. Resolutions often don’t.

As I sat here pondering what were my 2019 personal goals, I also starting putting together my business goals. And I came up with a fun way to match up common terms we use when creating personal goals and relating them to business. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Managing weight. Just like we personally want to control our diet and weight, we want to do the same with our business. Are we too heavily invested in one product or service? Are we too light in new customers? Think about putting in place some goals to fix those areas.

2. Save money. Ah, that one is always on my list. Applying it to business is also a good idea. Are you spending monies on services you no longer need? Put in a goal to talk to your utility providers for reduced rates or plans. Doing an analysis of your spending is always a good idea.

3. Get healthier. Just as we want our bodies to stay healthy we want the same for our business. Go back into your CRM and look at trends in your business. Is one area being neglected? Are certain products or services on the decline? Look at what your customers have been requesting and adjust your marketing plan to address those needs.

4. Learn a new skill. As part of idea 3, learning a new skill can provide a new revenue source and aid in getting the business healthier. Look for trends in your industry. Is there a niche you can fill easily? Once you have found that niche, use your CRM to send out marketing blasts to share the knowledge. 

5. Read more. Again, this will help idea 4 above. Go out to websites that pertain to your industry and read up on new products, services and trends. You want to stay ahead of both your competition and your customers. They too are reading the same articles. When they call, be ready.

We can help you mine your CRM data for trends – we are doing that exact thing in our own data.  Call our offices today (423-875-2652) to set up time to show you what we can do.

Happy new year and may 2019 be prosperous for us all.

 

Act! Software Licensing issue

November 6th, 2018 • By: dpegen ACT CRM, Sage ACT, Swiftpage ACT

We have been notified today about an issue with the third-party software component that supports the licensing of all Act! versions between Act! 2005 and Act! v20.

This may affect your ability to take certain common actions with the Act! software and your future ability to access your Act! database.

First off, please see the official announcements from SwiftPage.  These are specific to the versions of Act! being addressed.

  • For currently supported versions v19 and v20, go here.
  • For version 17 and older (versions Act! 2005 to v17), go here.
  • For the announcement specific to version 18, go here.

For the latest information please see this article in the Act! KnowledgeBase.

Now, as always, we are here to assist you.  If you have questions about your specific situation or want to discuss your options please feel free to call us at 423-875-2652 or contact us via our Contact Us page.

Update:  We have been notified of the following anticipated release schedule for fixes for this issue.  As the fixes are actually released we will link to appropriate download pages and installation instructions.

  • For Act! v21.0 – November 20, 2018 (as Update 2)
  • For Act! v20.1 – December 6, 2018 (as Update 8)
  • For Act! v20.0 – December 13, 2018 (as Update 9)
  • For Act! v19.2 – December 20, 2018 (as Update 5)
    • The update for Act! Premuim v19.2 is now available at this page on www.act.com
    • The update for Act! Pro v19.2 is now available at this page on www.act.com.
      • If you are running version 19.0 or 19.1 of Act! Premium or Pro, you are required to upgrade to version 19.2 before installing the licensing update.  The installers to upgrade you to v19.2 are on the same pages linked above.  Just scroll down.
  • For Act! v18.2 – January 8, 2019 (as Update 7)
    • The update is scheduled to be available January 8, 2019
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