How Small Businesses Can Improve Their Relations With Customers Through Social Media

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? Continue reading “How Small Businesses Can Improve Their Relations With Customers Through Social Media”

How Small Businesses Can Improve Their Relations With Customers Through Social Media

When was the last time you reinvented your company?

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. Continue reading “When was the last time you reinvented your company?”

When was the last time you reinvented your company?

Financing an ERP product does not equal financing a car

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. Continue reading “Financing an ERP product does not equal financing a car”

Financing an ERP product does not equal financing a car

Machine gun approach to the economical crisis

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.  Continue reading “Machine gun approach to the economical crisis”

Machine gun approach to the economical crisis

Going 100% SaaS

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) Continue reading “Going 100% SaaS”
Going 100% SaaS

Small is not an excuse

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 biggerContinue reading “Small is not an excuse”
Small is not an excuse

Commiting to Zero

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. Continue reading “Commiting to Zero”

Commiting to Zero