On the dotted line Send, sign, track, and store contracts with EchoSign

Posted by tom klein November 13, 2008 at 3:27 pm

There is only so much marketing can do to “sell” a product or service. Often, it comes down to the speed and acuity of your sales force to close the deal.

That’s where a service like EchoSign comes in handy. EchoSign is a web-based, signature workflow solution, which is really a fancy way of saying you can execute contracts digitally (and fast). EchoSign is part e-fax, part document repository, letting you send, sign, track, and store sales documents in a single system.

To get started, upload an electronic copy of your document to EchoSign. EchoSign supports Microsoft .doc & .xls, as well as text and PDF files. Then, enter the email address of the recipient(s) and click send. When your document arrives, they can e-sign instantly or print, sign, and fax back. EchoSign supplies a free fax number and special coversheet with your document. This coversheet contains a barcode, which EcoSign uses to route and store the document when it comes back to their system. When all parties have signed, EchoSign automatically sends a PDF copy to you, the signee, and your designated contact list (e.g. you may want to send a copy to the legal department or your assistant). The beauty of the system is you can always see the status of any document or quickly pull up a contract that has been executed and archived.

EchoSign offers free accounts for the occasional user and $29.95/month for unlimited sending and signing. However, the true value here is removing the obstacles that stand between you and that signature. The longer a contract lingers, the less chance you have of making the sale.

Greenies can see a real benefit with using EchoSign (maybe it should be eco-sign) - the entirely electronic operation eliminates the need for paper documents. Not to mention, you don't have to deal with the hassle of filing all these contracts.

Salesforce users can integrate EchoSign into their sales activities. This add-on solution lets you send client contracts and track their execution status from the Salesforce system. A PDF copy of the signed document is automatically attached to the Contact and the Opportunity.



  Eagle Scout? Let customers contact your in-house experts directly with Google Chatback Badge

Posted by tom klein July 17, 2008 at 10:50 am

Your website may do a good job of pitching your product, but in the end, nothing beats a personal connection with your customer. While website chat applications are nothing new, they’re generally just web versions of the old call center. Given that most of your company is probably already on an instant messenger, why not let prospects or customers contact your in-house experts directly.

Google Talk Chatback Badge is a fast and easy way to do just that. It’s a free feature with a Google Talk or Gmail account (both happen to be free too). To add the badge, simply copy a line of code and paste in the html of your website. You can customize the appearance of your badge with a simple drop down menu, and Chatback will generate an updated code. Ideally, the badge should be placed by your name on your company bio page, like we have done here.

Once embedded, the badge appears as a tiny bubble beside your name, displaying your availability status, which updates as your Google Talk status updates. Site visitors don’t need a Google Talk account to use the application. By clicking on your chat bubble, Google Talk will launch in a separate browser window and send you a notification with a link to the conversation.

If you’re looking for a way to engage customers or prospects while they are on your site, try adding a Chatback Badge.

Google Talk can be run through its own chat client or any Jabber/XMPP -supported system. Google Talk is an open-source offering, so developers can create and customize their own XMPP chat client and use Google Talk and all of its features, including the Chatback Badge.

Everyone has a preference when it comes to communication. Some customers prefer to hear a friendly voice; others are happy to send an email or submit a web form. It's smart to accommodate all customer preferences, especially with so many free tools at your disposal.


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  Me Tarzan, You Jane? Connect with customers on your site with Meebo rooms

Posted by tom klein May 13, 2008 at 7:44 am

Most customers have a simple question or two before they are ready to buy. If they don’t want to hunt for the answer on your web site, download a digital brochure, or call the 800 number, you are in trouble.

That’s where Meebo rooms come in handy. Meebo is a free, multi-media chat application that you can embed directly in your website or blog. It lets you talk one-on-one with your customers, addressing any questions they may have and engaging them during the purchasing process. To get started, go to the Meebo site and click “create a room”. The service will prompt you to name your room, give it a description, and personalize it with basic colors and icons. Once your room is created, you can chat directly on the Meebo site or generate the embed code for your site. Surprisingly, Meebo doesn’t require a user account and will do most of the grunt work for you (hosting, managing, and moderating the rooms).

There’s no such thing as being “too available” for your customers. You can easily run a Meebo chat room in the background as you go about your normal business and address customer concerns as they crop up. The very real and very immediate connection you will have with your customers may well be worth it.

Meebo offers a suite of products, but their core business is consolidating web chat into one application. You can integrate your AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, Google Talk, ICQ, and Jabber accounts into a Meebo chat without downloads or additional software.

Chat is one of the oldest community tools but, with widgetized services like Meebo, what’s old is new again. Think about the standard steps of your customer buying process - and no doubt chat can play a role in closing the deal, or just providing instant customer service even after the deal’s done.


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  Who goes there? Target buyers with vertical search tools like Roost

Posted by tom klein January 28, 2008 at 2:30 am

While most people start the buying process with Google or Yahoo!, these tools aren’t the right ones to use for many categories of things. Accordingly, they’re not always the right place to put your advertising, either.

Take homebuyers for example. When it comes to targeting them, you’re better off advertising with Roost. This real-estate search engine provides comprehensive listings (not yet nationally), including for-sale-by-owner listings. Search results feature photos, mapping, and summary information. In addition, users can adjust results using sliders, a handy tool for narrowing results by price, location, or even year built.

Roost makes money by hosting a directory of real-estate broker sites and delivering traffic to them. One thing for sure, Roost search users are definitely interested buyers. When it comes to going to the next level of search advertising, have you explored what vertical search tools exist for your industry?

Vertical search engines represent the real competition for Google and its ilk. Or, maybe just acquisition targets. No one knows what to do with 10,000 search results. These vertical tools get you just the information you want.

The question to consider for a vertical search tool - are there enough users to make advertising or a relationship interesting. Because Roost is a startup and not yet a national site, it won’t have many users. Still, you don’t have to sell too many houses to make some kind of advertising worthwhile.


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  Faceman Pull Facebook data into Salesforce.com with Faceforce

Posted by tom klein December 10, 2007 at 2:30 am

There are so many people who buy a CRM system, like Salesforce, only to realize that it’s a real chore to complete customer profiles beyond the most rudimentary contact information.

Now, for Salesforce.com users, much of that chore has disappeared thanks to the mashup called FaceForce. With very little effort, this system lets you insert Facebook profiles directly in your Salesforce customer or prospect records. Instead of just seeing name, title and address, now you can see things like home town, birthday, and importantly, friends. FaceForce will even search for Facebook profiles that match your existing clients and compile all company contacts with a profile in your Accounts detail.

If you’re wondering how to be customer-centric, why don’t you start with gathering information that your customers have already provided in their Facebook profiles? Oh, and don’t forget this is all free (given that you’re already paying for SalesForce.com).

Faceforce is part of SalesForce.com’s AppExchange, where it has received several positive ratings. To use Faceforce, you will also need to create a (free) Facebook account, so the system can recognize you.

You may not be prepared for all of the implications of having access to such rich information about your prospects and customers - so be careful, especially when it comes to networking with or contacting “friends” of your prospective customers.


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