Small businesses frequently rely on a haphazard assortment of tools to manage their CRM processes, such as email, contact managers and spreadsheets. However, such methods are usually not sustainable or scalable."Their customer data ends up fragmented across 10 different applications and physical locations," Dmitri Eroshenko, CEO of Relenta, told CRM Buyer.A good CRM solution can help small businesses tremendously by reducing data fragmentation and administrative tasks, he said. Team and individual productivity will then increase."A CRM that works for small business can be a game changer," J. Tyler Garns, director of marketing at Infusionsoft, told CRM Buyer.When a small business can automatically access accurate customer information and use it to tailor communication and build relationships, sales increase dramatically, he explained. However, training employees on a new system and convincing them to use it can prove to be a challenge. In order to reap the benefits of a CRM system, a … [Read more...] about CRM for the Small Biz: Turning Agony Into Ecstasy
Make small investments online
Given the powerful double-digit growth of e-commerce during the first decade of the industry, few merchants worried that a payment alternative to credit cards or the well-established PayPal was needed.More recently, however, as e-commerce growth rates slow, the fast-growing, credit card-free alternative Bill Me Later has proven that merchants and consumers alike are hungry for alternatives.Though it has focused mainly on the largest online merchants, Bill Me Later has seen rapid growth. Twenty-two percent of online buyers used Bill Me Later to make a purchase during the holiday shopping season, according to the Piper Jaffray eCommerce Survey for the fourth quarter of 2007."We knew there was a pain point for merchants around credit card fees," Bill Me Later Vice President of Corporate Development Mark Lavelle told the E-Commerce Times. "We also knew that consumers don't necessarily always want to use credit cards to make purchases."In fact, as much as 40 percent of brick-and-mortar … [Read more...] about SUCCESS STORY Bill Me Later: The ‘Frictionless’ Online Payment Alternative
When you conduct business online -- whether it's selling merchandise through a Web site or simply using email for company communication, there is some level of digital risk. The Web has enabled instant global access to conduct business remotely like never before in history.Personal meetings allow you to securely exchange physical documents and information, as well as positively identify the person with whom you're doing business. The downside of remote commerce is the inability to conduct business face to face. To address this risk, digital certificates were created. If you use the Web to transact business or communicate sensitive information with clients, then digital certificates are a must.A digital certificate, sometimes called a "digital ID," is a credential used on the Internet to identify people and machines. Not unlike a driver's license, it is issued by a reputable third-party source, called a "certificate authority." Because it contains cryptographic information, it can be … [Read more...] about EXPERT ADVICE Digital Certificates – Don’t Do Business Online Without Them
Relationships are the lifeblood of any business. As a small business achieves the success of a growing network, the question often turns to how to choose the best system for managing the information captured across multiple devices, digital files and scribbled notes. A contact management systems or full customer relationship management (CRM) software is the best way to keep tabs on the relationships contributing to the growth of the business.When preparing to make an investment in such a system, company leaders should ask, "What do I want to get out of it?" For example, full CRM software differs from basic contact management systems in that it enables you to assign prospective clients to sales staff, monitor progress and determine the results of marketing efforts. Just as every business is distinctive, so are its considerations for a contact management system. List the information you would like to have and prioritize your goals, which might include the following:Keep contact … [Read more...] about EXPERT ADVICE The Business of Personal Relationships: What SMBs Need to Know Before Investing in CRM
Part 1 of this two-part series explores the relatively new e-commerce practice of voluntary carbon-trading among businesses. This second installment takes a look at some of the online options for consumers who wish to reduce their carbon footprint.That the term "carbon offset provider" has become part of the business lexicon may be an indicator that companies are finally getting serious about neutralizing their impact on the environment. Consumers are finding that the Internet can be a valuable resource in their own smaller-scale efforts to follow suit.Indeed, organizations like 3Degrees, NativeEnergy and TerraPass have developed Internet portals that support thinking, living and buying "green" -- that encourage individuals to do their share to clean up the planet, even if it's something as small as driving less or powering down the thermostat.There are online funds for planting trees, and there are sites for purchasing eco-friendly toys and energy-miser appliances, to name just a few … [Read more...] about Carbon Trading Online, Part 2: Eco-Aware Consumers
This is the fifth in an ongoing series on buiding a Web site for your small business. Part 1 looks at essential elements of a business Web site. Part 2 offers basic site design guidelines. Part 3 tackles some advanced design issues.Part 4 examines social media tools for building traffic.Many small-business operators have been especially hard-hit when it comes to managing their IT resources -- including their Web sites. Those who want to keep up a professional front despite the recent economic woes might find they can do a lot more with less with some strategic outsourcing."The economy is making [small-business owners] jittery when it comes to committing dollars," Michael Schultz, director of marketing and product manager for Microsoft Office Live, told TechNewsWorld. "At the same time, they see Web design as a huge investment to worry about so are much more open to the idea of [outsourcing functions through] low cost or free services."According to a recently released … [Read more...] about How to Build a Small-Business Web Site, Part 5: Outsource or DIY?
In an attempt to extend its dominance of the video rental market to cyberspace, Blockbuster, Inc. has inked a deal with utility firm Enron to offer videos for rent over the Internet.Blockbuster, which is a subsidiary of entertainment company Viacom, Inc., said the service could be up and running in test markets by the end of this year. An expansion to additional U.S. cities and overseas is planned for early 2001.The service will require users to have a digital subscriber line (DSL) Internet connection and to buy or rent a set-top box that will give them access to the movies stored on Enron Broadband Service's high-speed network. Pricing has yet to be determined, the companies said, but one Blockbuster official indicated that per-video prices will be slightly higher than at the chain's stores.Blockbuster said the service will offer VHS-quality or better pictures, and unlike traditional cable pay-per-view movies, give consumers the ability to stop, rewind and pause movies as they watch … [Read more...] about Blockbuster To Rent Videos Online
The Obama administration has come up with a proposal for both improving and simplifying identity protection for consumers using the Internet, computers, and mobile devices. The plan would greatly reduce the need for consumers to use and remember multiple passwords or fill out separate privacy forms for multiple online accounts.The administration's National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) seeks to better protect consumers from fraud and identity theft, enhance individual privacy, and foster economic growth by enabling industry both to move more business online and to create innovative services."By making online transactions more trustworthy and better protecting privacy, we will prevent costly crime, we will give businesses and consumers new confidence, and we will foster growth and untold innovation. That's why this initiative is so important for our economy," said President Barack Obama when the administration rolled out the plan last month. The final NSTIC plan … [Read more...] about GOVERNMENT IT REPORT White House Gets the Ball Rolling on Single Credential Online ID System
Looking to raise money for a small online business? Experts say that in today's difficult economic environment, some basic tenets for securing financial backing remain -- but other rules have changed, and it is as important as ever to be abreast of those changes.For example, as far as presentation, a live or semi-live demonstration of the product that lets the client "do some of the driving" works best, said Jesse Reyes, vice president of global product management for Venture Economics, a NewYork-based capital research firm and a division of Thomson Financial."Be prepared to show something more than PowerPoint," Reyes told the E-Commerece Times.One also should pay close attention to the words chosen in the presentation, according to Reyes. Certain catchphrases lose their appeal very quickly."Don't be cute," Reyes said. "Avoid buzzwords. Everyone uses them, and no one believes them, and what's worse, it speaks of hype."Reyes added that once a potential backer is located, the best thing … [Read more...] about Raising Capital: Dos and Don’ts for Small E-Businesses
In the early days of e-commerce, small businesses flocked to the Web with grandiose visions of transforming mom-and-pop shops into mega retailers. Those visions turned out to be pipe dreams for most merchants, and the dawn of reality convinced many early adopters to retreat to the brick-and-mortar world.But small e-tailers are not finished, according to analysts. In fact, they are just beginning to gain momentum in a Web world that finally offers the necessary technology infrastructure to help them get off the ground. And the savvy ones have come to understand the real value of the Internet: It is a cost-effective means of supplementing sales by reaching customers who may have been inaccessible offline.Of course, small e-businesses still face challenges, including daunting competition from e-tail giants and well-known multichannel retailers.Online shopping malls like Yahoo! Shopping and Web-based auctioneers like eBay (Nasdaq: EBAY) are flourishing, and small e-tailers can gain an edge … [Read more...] about E-BUSINESS SPECIAL REPORT Are Small E-Tailers Finished?