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CRM Myths and Truths

CRM

Setting up your first customer relationship management (CRM) system requires a significant investment of time and resources. In working with clients, we’ve learned that there are several misconceptions about exactly what a CRM system can do, and equally important, what it cannot do. We’ve taken some of these lessons learned to create the following Truths and Myths overview of the CRM world.

 

Myth #1: I’m Just a Small Business, I Don’t Need a CRM

Much like investing and orthodontia, the best time to start building a CRM system is as early as possible. The advantage of creating a CRM, even for small businesses, is that the initial setup and integration requires less time since there are few customers and therefore less data to convert or input. Equally important is the fact that, for many small businesses, the types of information that is stored in a CRM is often scattered about – in files, in Outlook, even the classic Rolodex. A CRM system allows small businesses to centralize their customer data in a single place.

 

Myth #2: A CRM Can’t Do Anything More Than My Current System

One of the key advantages of a CRM system is that it’s able to generate detailed information on your customers, providing insights that might otherwise be overlooked. Equally important, CRM systems help internal teams communicate more efficiently through shared knowledge as well as avoid the dreaded problem of requiring customers to re-enter data or be asked the same questions by different employees when they request information or status updates.

 

Myth #3: A CRM System Won’t Be Able to Grow With My Business

In the early days of CRMs, and computing in general, there were limitations on the amount of data that these systems could store. However, with the drastic increase in computing power as well as a drastic decrease in the cost of storage this is no longer an issue. In addition, using open source systems (such as SugarCRM) helps ensure that any CRM system will be fully scalable no matter how large (or how quickly) your business grows.

 


 

Truth 1: Setting Up a CRM System Will Take Time

Here at Shift One Labs we’ve worked with numerous clients that are setting up their very first CRM system. This experience has taught us that having a direct, straightforward conversation about the timeframes involved to create, or transition, a CRM system makes for a far more efficient process. We believe in providing accurate estimates and ongoing updates throughout the entire process. We also know that a well-built CRM system will provide significant and ongoing ROI.

 

Truth 2: Keeping a CRM System Up To Date Is Crucial

Much like gym memberships at the start of a new year the trick with a new CRM system is to create internal processes and systems that ensure that it continues to be updated even once that new CRM shine has worn off. Different clients handle this aspect in different ways – for example, making CRM updates a part of a specific job position or role, or setting aside a window of time each week to update the system. Which leads to…

 

Truth 3: Inputting Data Consistency Is Equally Important

It is an age old (computing) maxim, but the data you get from a system is only as good as the data you put in (or, more colloquially, garbage in, garbage out). For this reason, you will want to define (in writing) exactly how each field in the CRM system will be filled in. This way, no matter how the system is updated, it is done in a consistent, accurate manner.

We hope this has helped shed light on a few of the lessons we’ve learned during the initial creation and transition of CRM systems for our clients. If you’re interested in busting a few more myths, you might find this enlightening: Common Myth & Conceptions.

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Content Mapping for Fun and Profit

Content-Mapping-Header-2

Designing your first web site, or performing a long-overdue refresh of an existing site, requires a significant investment of time and resources. In order to make that process more efficient, taking time to create a content map will serve as an excellent foundation for the life of the project (we’re big fans of foundations here at the Weblog Blog). In web development a bit of planning goes a long way.

In school when it was time to write an essay (remember those?) teachers often beseech students to create an outline first. The more (seemingly) efficient of us may have skipped this step, reasoning that it makes a lot more sense to just write the essay than it does to write about writing the essay. What we inevitably ran into was the dreaded page count. We’d be through the first page, maybe even part of the second, and then realize we’d said everything we planned to say and still had three more pages to fill. Those who took the time to learn how to properly outline never felt this tinge of fear and panic, nor did they learn all of the tricks of the trade to hit that page count (increase font size, line spacing, margins, headers…and so forth).

In much the same vein, creating a content map for your site helps avoid many of these same problems. Even better, the process does not require technical knowledge. In fact, one of the easiest systems uses the humble index card. This system, known as card sorting, involves standard index cards, pens and some Post-It Notes if you have them. It can be used to create the initial conceptual framework for the site, as well as for a basic usability test. The process itself is very straightforward: Using the cards, you create different categories for the types of content and pages the new web site will contain. If this is done individually, you can then compare how you sorted your cards with other members of the team. If this is done in a team setting (in a conference room with a large table for example) you can discuss the best ways to present the information to potential visitors to your site and generate additional insight as specific cards and their ordering is discussed and analyzed.

But how do you get from some index cards on a conference table to a polished, well-designed website? First, you’ll want to photograph the final layouts for future reference. From there, you can use any manner of software you are comfortable with – even basic word processing or presentation programs can be used to create the layout. Once the cards have been digitized, you can start to fill in the various categories with the content that will appear on each page. Another advantage of this system is that it allows you to quickly delegate tasks to specific departments/individuals based on the topic of the page and who is best suited for writing the content itself.

From there, working with your web developer, you can select a content management system that helps you create, maintain and update the website going forward. The good news is that this system will help your business grow and expand and, at the very least, will be much more interesting than that essay you had to write on the War of 1812 all those years ago. Should you have any questions about this (creating a content management strategy that is, not the War of 1812 or the Continental System) feel free to contact us and we’d be happy to help you. We might even have some index cards you can use.

A (Brief) History of Web Development

web development history

It’s often been said that the best way to know where the future is headed is to look at the past. Though in the technology field, as we are constantly facing forward, always trying to determine what the “Next Big Thing” will be, it helps to stop and take a moment and see just how far things have come in a relatively short amount time. It’s of particular interest to note how much has changed, but also, how much has not.

No tour (even a brief one) of the web would be complete without a stop where it all began – the very first web site. It went live on August 6th, 1991. In it, we see many of the same links that appear on modern web sites – a help section, an FAQ, policies, even a link to help with ongoing projects, likely one of the very first reference to open source projects online (we’re big fans of open source at Shift One Labs). From there, the web developed at an uneven pace, punctuated by dramatic moments in advancement followed up by slower times of little significant change to outside users. Some major milestones include:

  • 1992: The first ever photo is posted to the web. One could argue that web photography has not vastly improved since that date.
  • 1993: Easily one of the most important moments in the development both of open source software, as well as the internet itself, CERN (the research organization generally credited with inventing the World Wide Web) puts the technology and software into the public domain. Also in 1993, a kid named Marc Andreessen creates the first web browser called Mosaic. He would go on to found Netscape one of the very first dotcom companies that helped set off the IPO boom of the mid to late 1990’s.
  • 1994: PHP is invented. PHP has proved to be one of the core technologies of the web – Shift One Labs, for example, currently offers PHP hosting.
  • 1995: JavaScript is created.
  • 1996-1997: Some of the web’s largest players are founded, including Amazon and eBay in 1996, and Google in 1997.
  • 2000: The much-hyped Y2K bug ended up being mostly inconsequential.
  • 2003: WordPress is founded. Much like PHP, WordPress continues to be a key player in web development.
  • 2004: Some kid named Mark Zuckerberg creates a web site at Harvard called thefacebook.com
  • 2005: YouTube is founded.
  • 2006: Twitter is created. It gained a huge following in 2007 at the South by Southwest Festival.
  • 2008: HTML 5 is introduced. The significance of this is highlighted by the fact that the previous version, HTML 4, was announced in 1997.
  • 2010: Shift One Labs was founded!
  • 2011: The second generation of social media websites are launched, including Pinterest and Instragram.
  • 2012: E-commerce sales top $1 trillion dollars for the first time.
  • 2013: SugarCRM releases their latest version of their customer engagement platform Sugar 7.
  • 2014: Though it has been many years in the making, 2014 was the first year that people spent more time accessing the internet on mobile devices than desktops. This has particular implications for companies as they begin to focus greater time and attention on their mobile web development strategy. Clearly this trend will continue as the number of smartphones, tablets, and even watches allows greater mobile connectivity wherever users happen to be.

Despite these developments, some sites – at least visually – appear to have changed very little from the early days of the web. Perhaps most famously, Craigslist still looks nearly identical to its original layout, though many people have offered suggestions on how to update it. Google’s homepage is still much the same as it was during the earliest days of the web, in fact, the number of words appearing on their famously sparse home page is closely monitored and tracked.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this walk down (virtual) memory lane. We’d love to hear from you on some of the things you remember most about the early days of the web. Reach out to us any time!