Archives for category: SMB

Also published by Search Engine Watch on September 2 2010

he big question for small business owners five years ago was, “Should I use Google instead of yellow pages to attract new customers?” NowGoogle is commonly used by SMBs and that question gave way to a new one: “Do I need to be using social media?

Social media is a much more complex issue than the Google versus yellow pages debate. With dozens of options, most small businesses can’t decide where to invest their limited time. Many become overwhelmed and end up doing nothing. So, what to do?

Do You Need to Use Social Media? Read the rest of this entry »

The only advice CEOs are getting nowadays is to cut costs and be more frugal. This is a good advice but I don’t think there is any CEO with a pulse that hasn’t heard it before. The other issue with cutting costs is that at best, it will allow you to survive 2009 and show vital signs when the economy is back on track. It would not create a competitive advantage nor will it help you deal with the next crisis or external change in the market place. The real test for a CEO is not cutting costs in time of crisis but rather finding a repetitive way to reinvent her company as market conditions change.

Take Salesforce.com. Not too many companies were able to grow from zero to billion dollars a year in less than a decade. Even mighty SAP took 20 years or so to touch the billion dollar marker. Do you remember how it all started? Salesforce.com started as, yes, sales force Automation company with a very narrow focus and commitment. Later it has expended to become a full CRM package (and picked “CRM” as its NYSE ticker). Nevertheless, in the last 3 years salesforce is becoming a platform company and pushing initiatives like force.com and App Exchange. Without judging the wisdom behind the changes, Mark Benioff built a company with “change” in its DNA. Not only does it want to change every few years, the company knows how to change and it is doing it enough to get really good at it. Read the rest of this entry »

Microsoft offers zero percent financing on Dynamics ERP and CRM. Given the economy and the credit crunch, it must make a lot of sense, right? Not really. In ERP, licensing the product is far from being the most significant cost. Training, implementation, change management, additional hardware, additional software (like database), third party software components that goes with the new package (add ons are common addition to ERP implementations) make the money you spend with Microsoft the smallest part of your investment. Read the rest of this entry »

There is plenty of good advice out there for start-ups and small and medium businesses (SMBs) and most of it is: slow down, save cash, go back to basics, put on hold expansion plans, be careful- it is dangerous out there. By now, everyone read the Sequoia Capital’s 56 Slide Presentation Of Doom or read the variety of e-mails sent to start-up CEOs by their investors. Today on my way to lunch I caught a glimpse of Todd McCracken, president of the National Small Business Association, talking on NPR and advising small businesses to put growth plans on hold. It is all good advice, but I have an issue with the way it is delivered.  Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday I moderated a panel titled “Going 100% SaaS” during Office 2.0 conference.  There is a full video so if you have 40 min to spare you can see it all. It was also covered in Ben Kepes blog

The panelist were 3 SaaS vendors (Dan Druker from Intacct,  Rob Holl from Adaptive Planning and Jeff Schultz from Bill.com) and one near 100% SaaS customer, Doug Harr from Ingres. Although we didn’t get to talk much about the future of SaaS, several interesting takeaways came out of the event:

  • 100% SaaS is real- Companies like Ingres made strategic decision to become 100% SaaS and they move programmatically toward that. If it was not for Exchange and Office, Ingres would be 100% in the cloud) Read the rest of this entry »

Should small business whine? This is how Seth Godin titled his very telling blog post this morning. No- they should not. Small businesses have every reason in the world to out preform any large company with a bit of common sense and a personal touch. When I remodeled my house, I tried to buy almost everything I could online, mainly from small businesses. In one stressful day the plumber came to install all the faucets and discovered we got the wrong part. He wanted a replacement by the end of the next day, so he can install it on time before he leaves to his summer vacation. I emailed the company I bought the item from (small business out of Louisiana) and few minutes later I got a tracking number for an next day air shipment of the right piece. No excuses, no whining- amazing service by one committed business. I ended up buying all other plumbing materials from them. Investing in personal customer service is your safest bet- you are either the boss or close to her, there is no bureaucracy and decisions can be made in minutes. In addition, you can use some of the rules I published last year that will help you appear large and professional. Look as professional as Amazon but with a better/faster/personal customer service can be your ultimate competitive weapon.

  • Presence: save on coffee, dining out or anything else but don’t save on your public presence. Glossy product brochures and a shiny website are essential to look impressive (Seth Godin just published a useful guide on how to create a good enough website). Make sure you hire a good marketing agency (there are many small firms of young and smart guys that will make you look brilliant). This is one of the areas where quantity doesn’t count as much as quality. I know many people don’t think it is important–but trust me, it is as bad as coming to a sales meeting unshaved and in your DYI outfit.
  • Use technology to appear biggerRead the rest of this entry »

In his fascinating book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely describes the lure of the zero priced item. Dan provides examples from the real life: in his experiments, people selected Lindt truffles for 30 cents over Hershey kisses for 3 cents, but when given a choice, preferred a now free Hershey kiss over 27 cents truffle. The conclusion from this experiment and many other is clear: we love free.
No other place as the Silicon Valley has ever produced more free stuff: we have a free search, free reviews, free price comparison and free web conferencing. Almost everything is offered for free, in an attempt to win us over and break our old paying habits. In a rational world, we would have carefully considered the benefits of each option and select the best for us, no matter if it is free or not. In Ariely’s predictably irrational world, we will always go for the free option. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week I wrote about measuring customer satisfaction using only one powerful question. Between then and now I was approached by two companies to gauge mine: Netflix and Telenav. I like both services a lot but Netflix proves time and again that they have mastered the web 2.0 techniques of measuring satisfaction and performance whileTelenav looks like it outsourced customer engagement to an agency from the 90s… Read the rest of this entry »

We all know that companies that offer superb customer experience and enjoy high customer satisfaction are more successful and competitive in the long run. Often when I meet managers in for Small and Medium Businesses (SMB) companies, I hear that they are convinced that their customers love them. When I ask for a “proof,” they say that they just know it: they don’t need to measure it since they talk with their customers all the time. When I dig more, I usually discover that they think that measuring customer satisfaction is too hard and expensive for a small company. In this post I will try to offer an easy way to measure and compare customer satisfaction for SMB companies.

Why measure? You should measure customer satisfaction for the same reason you measure sales. When you want a number to go up you ought to measure it so you can establish a baseline and a way to measure the impact of business strategy on customer satisfaction. Imagine investing in marketing without checking the sales impact, and you will get the idea. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week I wrote the first part of the Is SaaS for me post. It talked about two important distinctions of the SaaS model: It changes the power play between the customer and the vendor and assures that the vendors work for the customers every day. This part will cover some more distinctions like simplicity, security and maintenance. Read the rest of this entry »

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