Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Overcoming the Challenges of 2013

Overcoming the Challenges of 2013 

How a CRM Solution WILL generate more revenue and keep your business competitive. 

#1:  Take a look at this article published on

#2:  Read our answers below.

#3:  Call me so we can make sure your business in WINS in 2013!

Challenge #1 - Taxes
 First of all, if you are unfamiliar with the Section 179 deduction, I encourage you to get educated! An excellent resource is the website The most important qualification to note is: Basically, the Software Can't be Custom Code.

This means, an off-the-shelf CRM Tool (Salesforce, Microsoft CRM, Zoho, etc) will qualify for this tax-deduction! And, it's highly probable that retaining Brown Dog CRM Consulting to customize and implement this software can also qualify for Section 179.  If your CPA determines that our fees do not qualify, it's not a big deal... the work we do for you will help you generate more revenue, which will more than pay for those fees. Our customers regularly enjoy a 150-300% increase in revenue after implementing the Brown Dog CRM Strategy.

Challenge #2 - Healthcare
 This challenge only affects business who employ 50 people or more. If this affects you, you need to have a solid sales engine in place to ensure that you can afford the costs you will incur starting 2014. A CRM Tool is JUST that engine!

Yes, this mandate will be a significant adjustment to your business's bottomline and your personal profitability, but it doesn't have to devastate or destroy your business. Increased revenue is the only way for your business to address this challenge. Implement a CRM Tool today so you can afford to fulfill your obligation when the time comes.

Challenge #3 - Lending 
Getting a loan for your small business has been tough since the recession began. Even with excellent credit and plenty of collateral, banks do not have the resources to extend loans in this economy. That may be changing with a bill being introduced to the new Congress.

 One critical element to 'selling' your banker on the fact that you have the revenue necessary to pay back a loan is to provide legitimate reports from an independent system showing your Pipeline, Sales Cycle and Win Ratio. A CRM Tool provides you this and we can help you deliver a canned report that will surely impress your banker! 

Challenge #4 - Onshoring
Onshoring may not directly affect most small, local small businesses. But the cost of goods may be impacted by companies that are either off or onshoring. The expected trend is to see more manufacturing moved back to the US.

 If you are a business that sells manufactured products, a CRM Tool can help you manage those products as well as the manufacturing cycle. The Inventory Engine in most CRM Tools can alert you when products need to be reordered and, in most systems, can be integrated with your website to reflect accuracy when your customers place an order.

Challenge #5 - Skilled Worker Shortage
At the pay level most small businesses can offer, finding skilled workers will continue to be a problem. As you consider how to overcome this, look to technology to help. Seek technology to automate business processes to simplify the requirements of your open positions. Most CRM Tools can automate Lead Nurturing, the Sales & Retention Cycle, Accounting, Inventory Management, Customer Service (whether internal or external) and many other areas of your business.

Additionally, teaching your employees to use a CRM Tool is much easier than teaching them to perform specialized tasks.

By automating and streamlining the majority of your business processes, you free up your staff to perform critical activities - usually, these are revenue-generating. When you have time to perform more revenue-generating tasks... you generate more revenue. It's simply not accurate that CRM Tools are designed solely to manage your sales function. While, yes, all CRM Tools include a salesforce automation element, they also include modules to automate all facets of your business.

Brown Dog CRM Consulting always offers a FREE Reality Check. This is a 90 minute meeting with you and your key staff to determine whether or not a CRM Tool will make a difference in your business. Call me today to schedule!

 Here's to a happy and prosperous 2013!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Constant Confusion between Salesforce Automation and CRM

Every day I face the unfortunate opportunity to educate business owners and sales managers about the difference between salesforce automation and customer relationship management. There is a very significant difference between the two and it's not as simple as the industry would have you believe.

Salesforce automation is one piece of Customer Relationship Management; as is customer service, accounting, product management, product development and the ability to retrieve business intelligence by studying the data collected. CRM is the full integration of all areas of the business that affect your customers - internal and external.

Often the Sales Department opens the conversation of CRM while searching for a tool that allows them to efficiently gather leads and manage their sales process until the customer is sold and can be handed off to the Service Department. The truth is that all "off the shelf" CRM tools are really not much more than Salesforce Automation - especially the freeware and the low-cost solutions (from ACT! to Salesforce's Group and Professional versions). True CRM is seldom accomplished at the lowest level of deployment.

What excites the Sales Department about CRM is the possibility of automating many of their tasks, streamlining the process of proposal to invoice, easy access to monitor service issues registered by their own clients as well as the ability to easily report personal, team and department performance.

What should excite the business owner about CRM is the possibility of managing his/her entire business from one dashboard - at a glance, the CEO and other company leadership can monitor the performance of sales, service, accounting, R&D and Production.

We welcome the opportunity to visit with you about your company's needs to see how we can help your company find the right tool and move your business toward faster growth!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What is the Value of CRM for Small Businesses?

CRM Tools have been a hot commodity for about a decade. Originally, only the largest corporations could afford to have such a luxury. But through desire comes innovation and visionaries like those who founded Salesforce and Zoho rose to the occasion.

Today, a CRM system can be as manual or automated as a business expects... the decision usually lies in the cost to automate. While one can purchase a database for as little as a few hundred dollars, the tool is manual upon implementation. To customize, a specialist must be retained - and all too often, the business keeps the manual tool because they are fearful that their investment will not pay off.

Here's how it will.

2010 - A start-up business installs Salesforce Group Edition, a CRM Expert is brought in to "train" them on usage. Because the Group Edition does not provide for automation, all processes are defined and handled manually. The company grew from a few thousand a month in sales to a consistent $5,000/month.

2011 - This second year business desired automation so their business would grow more quickly. ZohoCRM Enterprise Editions is installed and a CRM Expert is retained to customize and automate many processes. The company grew from $5,000/month in sales to $30,000/month between May and November!

Run the numbers... This business grew 3X . The cost of their system implementation was a mere $8,000 with all licenses, customization, automation, training and support provided by Brown Dog CRM Consulting. Their investment was paid back within the first 6 months!

Brown Dog CRM Consulting automates the Lead Generation, Sales and Client Retention Processes of your business. We can also automate billing, client support, project management and inventory management.

So, yes, having a CRM tool is half the battle and it will help you grow. But, the real value of a CRM tool is in the "future" revenues that will be generated as a result of customizing the tool to fit your business needs and automating processes so that opportunities do not fall through the cracks.

I'd like to help your business grow - call me at 615-429-6184 to schedule a Complimentary 90 minute Consultation.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Retaining the Groupon Buyer

So, Groupon is getting a ton of negative publicity. Merchant participants say that the program is a "loss leader". Well, I'm sure it is... if those merchants aren't taking steps to proactively retain the Groupon buyer.

Programs like Groupon are excellent Acquisition Marketing Strategies. But a small, locally owned business will not survive unless the "new" customer becomes a repeat customer. This is where having a Customer Retention Strategy becomes critical. Here are eight things you should be doing to retain the "Groupon" buyer.

1. Provide excellent service from the moment they enter your business.
2. Engage them in a meaningful conversation while shopping.
3. Capture their contact information - name, email, address and phone.
4. Ask for their feedback at the end of their experience.
5. Track what they purchased and what they had interest in.
6. Use the information tracked to create meaningful conversations in the future.
7. Send a "thank you" - by email, mail or by phone.
8. Create a Retention Marketing Strategy and execute it!

And, there are a few things you should not do:

1. Do not immediately add them to your email list. Wait until after you've reconnected with them three times.
2. Do not treat them like a "discount shopper". While they are entering your business because of a great deal, this first experience will determine whether or not they come back. Assume that everyone will come back!
3. Do not expect that they will come back without you having to "work" for it. While a great experience heightens the desire for a shopper to return, people are busy today and need to be reminded.
4. Don't judge a book by its cover. Not all discount shoppers are "financially strapped". Many are incredibly wealthy, but not all dress like a million-bucks. Set your visual filters aside when interacting with these shoppers.

A Retention Marketing Strategy is a set of communications strategically crafted and executed to foster loyalty. It's more than just sending email blasts and direct mail pieces. A solid Retention Marketing Strategy will create conversations and foster loyalty to your brand. If you want help creating an effective Retention Marketing Strategy, call me!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Business from a Dog's Perspective

Business really should be easier than it is. Perhaps if we took our cues from the pups in our life, we’d see that it’s really not that hard afterall. I’ll share a few things that have helped me stay focused on keeping business simple!

Sales – it’s all about negotiation. My dog wants a treat… I want him to behave. “Sit and stay,” I say. He does, he gets a cookie. Eventually, we graduate to “Sit and stay.” He does and I tell him he’s a good dog. In business… “Mr. Customer, won’t you buy my service and I’ll give you this wonderful item?” And, after they’ve continued to purchase, the reward becomes appreciation and intangible items rather than stuff.

Operations – I learned recently that a happy and well-behaved dog is achieved by giving them exercise, discipline and affection – in that order. If I demonstrate the behavior I want to see, manage it within guidelines, then reward when the proper behavior is executed… my operations run smoothly.

Accounting- no matter how many biscuits I say I have – he always knows there is one more in my pocket! Always know your critical numbers! Know what indicates that your business is healthy as well as what tells you it’s sick.

Customer Retention – To retain a customer is much like “retaining a pet”… Feed them, exercise them, discipline them, talk to them, reward them… it’s a process. If you’re not paying attention to them, they will find someone who does – and, so will your customers.

Business Philosophy – the philosophy of a dog is simple – get as much lovin’ and food as possible everyday! Business is really the same…it’s all about how much appreciate your internal and external customers and what you feed them (or the knowledge you give). After all, garbage in makes for garbage out – so feed your employees, customers and partners that “high-quality food”.

Research & Development – no matter how perfect you think it is – there is always room for improvement! Whether learning a new trick or perfecting the art of securing a belly rub… Processes can improve, products can improve and so can service offerings. Constantly evaluate the “tricks” of your trade.

I hope you chuckled a little, but most importantly, I hope it causes you to say “aha”… we could all use more “aha” moments in life! Just like we could all use more dogs in our life… here’s wishing you sloppy, wet puppy kisses and customers as loyal as a big brown dog!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The CRM Toolbox

I believe that for every job, there is a toolbox. And, in this toolbox, there are tools that can be used to achieve success. Some tools are small and take longer to accomplish the task. Other tools are more powerful and achieve results more quickly. But, regardless - they are all tools in a toolbox.

Take, for example, the CRM Toolbox... in some businesses the toolbox is the CRM software package and its many features are utilized to accomplish tasks at hand. In other businesses, those who do not have a CRM software package installed, the toolbox is made up of disparate communication vehicles through which tasks are accomplished. Let's talk about the tools specifically, since the toolbox itself is irrelevant.

The tools in a CRM Toolbox are communication mediums through which the business builds and strengthens a relationship with its customer. They are:

The Telephone: The telephone call will always be the single most efficient and most effective method of communicating with your customers. They always appreciate hearing your voice, especially when the call isn't always about selling them something! Find reasons to talk with your customer from time to time without making a sales pitch... you'll be surprised just how far that effort goes toward their loyalty to your business.

Direct Mail: Often considered the worst communication medium in today's hyper-paced business world. Again, when designed correctly and used to communicate ideas and information that are not always pushing a sale - direct mail is an integral piece of your communication strategy. What, besides the latest new product or "discount offer", can you communicate via a direct mail piece? Letters from the President, Testimonials by other customers, etc. are just a few ideas.

Email: The method everyone loves - rejection doesn't sting quite as much and most feel it's the fastest, easiest way to communicate. It has also become so overwhelming that many recipients delete or ignore emails they perceive are "selling" something. Again, a company must leverage this medium to do the most good possible, which means... at minimum, alternate the type of message communicated through email. Impersonal emails, form emails and other "short-cuts" can be spotted a mile away... Be sure to always add an element of something personal to each form-email you send.

Website: If your website is not interactive, then it can not do much in the way of building a relationship with your customer. However, if you can create a community where you capture their thoughts and feedback, allow them to recommend products/services, engage them in discussions on how to get more out of your products and services - you will win!

Social Networking Tools: LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter... they all have their place, strengths and weaknesses. LinkedIn is an excellent tool for business professionals to expand their sphere of influence, while Facebook and MySpace are excellent entertainment-business tools. At first brush, Twitter appeared to be a tool for the younger generation and entertainment industries, although recently professional service industries have found professional applications for it. These spaces are an excellent forum in which to re-connect with your customers and demonstrate that there is more to your business than just selling!

Blog & Article Posts: Blogging about your business - your whole business - gives your customer an opportunity to learn in bite-sized chunks. And, it's an opportunity for their feedback and, when the content is invaluable, an opportunity for your customer to evangelize about you! Take advantage of the blogging sites and article repositories.

The best CRM strategy utilizes all of these mediums and pushes communication through the channel(s) most preferred by each customer. However, just because your customer says that he/she prefers to receive email, doesn't mean that you cease communicating through other mediums (unless specifically requested) - you just minimize the information disseminated through alternative mediums.

I'd like to hear from you... What tools are in your CRM Toolbox? How are you leveraging today's communication methods to build relationships with your customers?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

What My Dog Taught Me About Life & Business

On April 24, 2009, Cumberland University's Delta Mu Delta Honor Society inducted me as an Honorary Member. I was asked to address the inductees and their guests - this is my speech...

In just a few short years being a first-time pet parent to a lab named Chocolate Chip, I learned more about life, career and entrepreneurship than I ever expected to learn!
First, there are overarching attributes a dog displays that we humans could learn from:

There is always an Alpha Dog – the Alpha Dog is the pack leader. And even when you think you’re it, someone will challenge you. We learn from leaders. Hopefully, we learn to lead someday. Get to know your “Alpha Dog”. Watch their actions, their decision-making process, watch how they handle challenges thrown their way.

Loyalty – a dog is always loyal to his/her master. This loyalty is unwavering – he/she doesn’t hesitate for a second to decide, “do I like my momma enough today to do what she wants?” I’ve heard complaints that loyalty no longer exists – but, I don’t believe it… I see loyalty between companies and employees –it seems to be lacking but that’s because most people don’t want to stay in a position for 20+ years. So, I encourage you to be loyal – even if you’re only there for 2 years. Be loyal to the hand that feeds you.

Exuberance for life – have you ever noticed that a dog meets every situation with sheer joy and exuberance? The first trip to the dog park was unnerving for me, but my dog had the time of his life! Meet the challenges of your life and career with exuberance. Have no fear! Just dive right in and enjoy the journey. Because at the end of the day – that’s what this is… a journey.

Enjoy the moment – We get so caught up in the rat-race that we forget to enjoy the moment. Not a dog… he finds sheer pleasure in sniffing the grass! He finds elation in that fleeting pat on the head. Oh, and Dear God… if you give him a Kong filled with peanut butter and a cookie… well, he can make that moment last for hours! We need to find more moments throughout our life to enjoy. Celebrate your “wins”! Take a moment to “smell the flowers.” Find pleasure in that moment of recognition, or the determination it took to solve a problem … breathe deeply and enjoy the moment.

Never meet a stranger – Over my 18 year career, I have amassed quite a database of people I’ve met and known. Don’t be afraid to talk to the person next to you waiting for the plane. Don’t be afraid to get to know your co-worker and your clients. Those contacts will serve you well down the road. Don’t forget them.
And, now that we’ve enjoyed a silly analogy, onto the more serious elements of starting your career. My five favorite quips are:

You will learn more from failure than any success you enjoy.
If no one’s mad at you, then you’re probably not doing enough.
Become a student of life – never stop learning.
Work hard, play harder.
And, the Nike motto… Just do it!

I share these thoughts with you today in hopes they help you as much as they’ve helped shaped my outlook on success and career.

The first one taught me that it’s okay to fail, so long as I learn from my mistakes. And, boy do I learn – I dissect and autopsy everything that doesn’t end in success – whether it’s a marketing strategy, a potential sale or something in my personal life. So, when the first 3 businesses I was involved in didn’t succeed, I didn’t get down… I got back on the horse. I learned from the mistakes I made and today I am enjoying the fruits of those labors with a business that is winning. Each start-up business I was involved in taught me a little more that has helped me achieve more success in the next venture.

The second thought has gotten me through the past 2 and half years. We can never please everyone all the time. There will be people who don’t like what you’re doing or how you do it – don’t worry about that. If what you’re doing is right, there will be folks sitting in judgment. The fact that they are talking about it tells you that you’re doing something! If you’re making things happen, people are going to talk about it – good and bad! I have learned to enjoy the positives and assess the negatives – is there any merit? Can thinking about this make me better? If not – I throw it away and press on.

Never stop learning – learn from anyone and everyone you come in contact with, learn from mistakes – yours and the mistakes of others and most importantly expect to learn something from everyone – everyday. If we’re really open to learning – it’s amazing how much we can improve… what can a 2-year old teach me? How about my grandmother, my superior, my subordinate and my peer? What can your dog teach you? There are lessons all around us – listen for them!

I work hard, so I can justify playtime! Enjoy your life. Find and keep the balance between work and play. Never let one become more important than the other – it’s the balance that allows you to achieve success. The biggest mistake I’ve ever made was to stop exercising. Creativity diminished, tolerance was reduced and the ability to dissect and solve a problem was lost. When I balance my health (mind, body and spirit) with my career – I’m happier and I accomplish more.

And, when all else fails – Just do it! Don’t wait for someone else to do what needs to be done – just do it! Don’t wait to see what tomorrow brings – just do it! Don’t wait to see if others approve – just do it! I have learned that it’s always better to ask for forgiveness than to wait for permission – our superiors are busy… what’s hot on your plate, is not even on their radar. So… sweep the floor, clean the bathroom, buy a ream of paper, make the coffee and when you are called to lead – just do it!

In today’s competitive business landscape the big question is “what can you do for me?” Solve the problem, be the answer! I wish for you a path that’s challenging, because I’ve learned that the easy path bears no reward. Work hard, play hard and just do it!