Head in the clouds Manage small business CRM activities with Salesforce Contact Manager Edition

Posted by maggie.hunsucker September 2, 2009 at 1:16 pm

salesforce_logoIn Ollie 180, we commented that most CRM software is geared towards the enterprise.   Small businesses were either paying for too much or left to their own devices.   Perhaps, we spoke too soon.

Salesforce just rolled out Contact Manager Edition, a lite beer version of their popular CRM cloud application.  Contact Manager is designed with the small guy in mind, giving him the essential tools for collecting, managing, and capitalizing on leads.  Here’s the highlights:

  • Contact & Account management
  • Email Integration (Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, etc)
  • Standard & customized reporting
  • Google Apps integration

What’s great about this feature set is it works with a small outfit’s existing CRM practices.   The majority of your contact and lead information is probably stashed in your email; automatic email integration means that data can be stored in the cloud and accessible by any team member.  If you’re using Google Docs to manage a sales pipeline or Calendar for your appointments (btw – highly recommended this), you have the added bonus of tying these into your CRM software.

Salesforce Contact Manager will run you $9/month for 1-2 user licenses, and there’s a 14-day free trial.   We think Contact Manager is a good choice on its own merits, but the fact that you can upgrade your package as your company and CRM needs grow is a real selling point.  Salesforce is an established player with a robust platform, not to mention, a whole suite of on-demand applications through their AppExchange program (e.g. Adwords, Facebook, Vertical Response, and Hoovers mash-ups).

Cloud computing refers to a style of computing where users access common software or applications from the web. Software is installed on a network server, so there's no hardware or maintenance required for the individual computers that use the cloud.

Force.com is Salesforce's open development platform. To date, over 100,000 applications have been developed to complement Salesforce functionality. Several companies have found that opening their technology to the public allows for innovation and new product development at no cost to them.

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  Insert Scotty joke here Exchange virtual business cards with any phone or computer with the beamME iPhone App

Posted by maggie.hunsucker September 1, 2009 at 12:57 pm

beamME logoVirtual business cards have been around for awhile.   iPhone apps may be paving the way (an idea we discussed in It’s all in the reflexes), but how do you exchange information with someone who doesn’t have the same phone as you?

BeamME might have the answer.   This iPhone app lets you “beam” a virtual business card – and more – to any SMS or email-enabled device.  This includes Blackberry, Palm, and Android phones, as well as Mac and PC computers. Instead of reinventing the wheel (or the platform), beamME takes advantage of the popular vCard format.  This means you can sync beamME cards with your existing address book and CRM software.

BeamME comes loaded with features too.  You can create more than one vCard and even exchange other people’s vCards.  If you’ve ever had to pass along a vendor’s information or recommend a colleague, you can imagine how handy this would be.   You can also tag your contacts with the iPhone’s built-in geo-locator.  Can’t remember where you met someone?  Want to make the most of a sales trip by hitting all the leads in a certain area?  BeamME tells you when, where, and how you met someone and creates a contact map for you.

BeamME may be a front-runner in the virtual business card app market.  We’re not the betting type, but where others are limited or exclusive in nature, BeamME is universal.  The only drawback is the subscription fee.  The app, itself, costs $1.99 to download, but you have to pay $4.99/month ($29.99/year) for beamME support and services.

BeamMe has a semi-open API (developers can access it but have to request first). While third parties can't make their own products or applications (which makes this open API a novel concept), they can offer improvements or build new functionality for BeamME.

BeamME offers a lot of customization options. Within the app, you can edit your card or tailor your greeting for the recipient. You can also create a more dynamic online version of your card that includes images and links to social media profiles.

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  Decent Exposure Stream your social activity in a Flash-based widget with BloggyBits

Posted by maggie.hunsucker August 31, 2009 at 12:23 pm

bloggybits logo

The trick with social media is learning how to advertise yourself in order to advertise your company and products.  If no one knows you’re blogging, tweeting, and digging, what’s the point?

An easy way to promote your social media presence is to add a widget to your site. BloggyBits is a free, Flash-based widget that streams your Twitter, Digg, Stumbleupon, Flickr, and Delicious activities.  Of course, you don’t have to use all those services, but it’s nice to have some variety.  You can also add a custom feed, which comes in handy if you maintain a company blog in addition to your main site.

Plus, a BloggyBits widget is dead simple to create. Check the social services you want to feature.  Plug in your username (or the RSS feed) and arrange the services in the order you want them to appear. Push a button, and your widget is instantly generated with a preview window and embed code.   That’s it.

bloggybits blog BloggyBits flickr

The widget, itself, is nothing fancy, but it is clean and simple to navigate.  A user can toggle your social profiles by clicking on a service icon.   Arrows at the bottom of the widget let them page back and forth for older content.

BloggyBits makes a nice addition to any site or blog sidebar.  It’s an easy way to tie-in your company or brand’s social media activities without adding the ubiquitous “follow me” icons.

BloggyBits drops public feeds in an existing shell. There's no styling options or customization, which means no need for user accounts. However, if you want to manage your widget (i.e. change up some of the services), you can give BloggyBits your email address, and it will create a URL specifically for your widget.

Curious why Facebook didn't make the cut? We were. Then, we stumbled upon this tidbit on KillerStartups, which hints to BloggyBits's monetization strategy.

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  Through the grapevine Organize and promote your event with tweetup management tool, Twtvite

Posted by maggie.hunsucker August 28, 2009 at 1:27 pm

twtvite logoLooking for a quick and easy way to spread the word about your next event?   Consider holding a Tweetup.  Tweetups are like Meetups (an idea we discussed in Swim, swap, and sweet), except you’re using Twitter to promote your event.

Thing is, a tweetup can get out of hand quickly.   It only takes one person retweeting the location and #freebeer, and your event turns into that house party you had senior year when your parents were on vacation.

That’s where Twtvite comes in.  Twtvite is a free tweetup management tool.  It’s simple to use and comes with several great features:

  • RSVP – yes, no, maybe
  • Waiting List – manages guest list for full events
  • Add to calendar (Google Calendar, Outlook, iCal, Yahoo! Calendar)
  • Maps -  shows location of venue
  • Printable name tags – based on people who RSVP’d Yes or Maybe
  • Comments

Here’s how it works:  Fill out a Twtvite form with your event details and Twitter name.  Don’t forget to add a #hashtag, which makes it easier for the service to see who is tweeting about your event.   After your Twtvite is created, you can tweet the URL or post a message to social sites like Facebook.  People who click on your link will be directed to the invite, where they can RSVP, see who else is going, leave comments, and more.

twtvite twitter event manager

You can also use Twtvite to find tweetups in your area.   If you’re leery about holding a tweetup or want to see a tweetup before committing, browse your local listings.

Twtvite provides a widget you can embed on your website to promote your event. The widget includes event details and a way to RSVP.

Need some tips on organizing a successful Tweetup? Mashable put out this Do's & Don't's list with helpful hints like provide food, checkout the location, make sure wi-fi is available, and more.

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  Macro Management Stay connected to your corporate social network with the Yammer iPhone app

Posted by maggie.hunsucker August 27, 2009 at 12:44 pm

yammer-logo

Mobile workforces are a reality for most businesses today.   People are spread between offices, meetings, and commutes, making it tough to manage your worker bees, let alone centralize operations.

In Everything looks like a nail, we discussed how Twitter-esque corporate tool, Yammer, can help.   Yammer keeps everyone in the loop through a “what are you working on?” live update.  As the platform increases in popularity, so have the features.   In particular, the Yammer iPhone App.

The app is free and does a nice job of mimicking the look and feel of the browser-based version.  As employees update their status, it streams across your iPhone screen.  You can reply to another worker’s status, offer feedback, or update your own status.   If you’re frequently out of the office (client meetings, travel, whatever), you don’t have to miss a beat.   You know exactly what everyone is working on and what they’re talking about.

yammer iphone app2
The Yammer iPhone app has been around for awhile, so why talk about it now?  Well, they’ve released a new version with some excellent upgrades.  Most notably, push notifications.  Push notifications operate like text messages with the added bonus of not being charged for a text message.  When someone updates their status, you get a pop-up notification, and if you choose, a sound.    You can also pick and choose which feeds you want to get push notifications for.   We see this coming in handy if you need to closely monitor the status of a project and the workers connected to it.

Other updates include the separation of master feed and received messages and cached feeds.  The latter gives you the ability to view updates offline, based on the last time the app connected to your Yammer network.   A time stamp lets you know exactly when that was too.

If you’re already using Yammer in your office, and have an iPhone, this one is a no-brainer.  It’s an app for the true “mobile worker”.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated Yammer update is conversation threads. You now have the option of toggling between stream-view and thread-view, which means you can view comments connected to a particular update, a la Facebook.

Despite the industry accolades, many feared Yammer was just a Twitter wannabe, and it would struggle to find a place in corporate culture. Platform adopters actually argue that Yammer has improved their communications, eliminating superfluous emailing and crowdsourcing new ideas and feedback.

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