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Fa-la-la-la la: 5 Ways To Power Through The Day On Little To No Sleep

Getting adequate sleep is essential, but happens all too rarely for many busy entrepreneurs – especially during busy times like the Christmas season. The side effects associated with poor sleep habits are many, and include irritability, anxiety, and low productivity, all of which can make being a business owner all the more challenging. However, the fact of the matter is that with all of the things you need to do, getting sleep often falls on the back burner. When this happens, you need to be able to find effective strategies for making it through the work day. The following are five such tips:

#1 Start the Day with a Cold Shower

Before heading to the office, get into the shower for a quick, cool rinse. Even a mere 30 seconds spent in a cold shower will increase your body’s release of adrenaline and get you revved up for the day.

#2 Don’t Overdo the Coffee

When tired, your first response may be to stumble toward the coffee maker and continually pump yourself full of caffeine from the second you walk in the door until you leave the office. This can be quite counterproductive, as large amounts of caffeine can make you even more anxious and unable to focus. Try to keep your caffeine consumption between 50mg and 100mg, as this is the amount recommended to keep you alert. Any more, and you could end up making your day even harder to get through.

#3 Enjoy a Caffeine Nap

While we’re talking about coffee and caffeine, it’s the perfect time to discuss the wonder of the coffee nap. This may sound odd, but studies show that consuming a caffeinated beverage, such as a shot of espresso, and then taking a brief nap can be quite an effective way to increase brain function. Why exactly is this the case? Caffeine takes approximately 45 minutes to start working, so drinking a coffee and then taking a nap will allow you to rest until the caffeine kicks in. This can help you to push through the rest of the day while on your caffeine high.

#4 Let the Light In

When you’re at the office, keep the lights bright and the curtains open to let the sunlight in. Being exposed to sunlight will not only make your workspace more cheery, but will also keep your body from releasing more melatonin, the hormone that is associated with sleepiness. When you’re able, go for a walk outside in the sunlight as well.

#5 Increase Your Protein Consumption

For starters, you’ll want to avoid larger meals when you’re running on very little sleep. Eating large amounts of food requires that your organs put forth more effort to digest the food, leading you to feel even more tired. Keep your meals smaller, and make sure to pack in as much healthy protein as possible. While carbs may seem tempting, these foods only give you a short burst of energy, while proteins will keep you satisfied and give you a more sustained energy boost. Skip the muffin, and instead go for some yogurt, eggs, and meats.

For more small business tips for security entrepreneurs, please subscribe to our blog, or email newsletter. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from your friends at Ignite Security Marketing.

CRM’s & The Alarm Industry: Sales Automation Doesn’t Have To Be Scary

Customer relationship management (CRM) software is a contact list with a brain. It not only records your customers’ contact information, but it remembers the details of your relationship and every interaction—whether by phone or email, and nowadays across other channels such as social media or even your customer helpdesk. That information is a gold mine of opportunity, allowing you to identify prospects for up- or cross-sell, convert existing customers to new products or services, target new marketing, or even track invoices.

Choosing the right CRM software for your business can dramatically improve your team’s collaboration and productivity, increase sales, and heighten customer satisfaction.

The best CRM software can deliver those benefits because it organizes and records the institutional knowledge all businesses maintain about their customers. Employees might use a spreadsheet to pass on information about past sales or share email threads that show a customer has been a loyal patron. But such information is often left to casual word of mouth, which means it’s often missing when needed or entirely forgotten.

CRM software keeps this information in one place, efficiently organizes it, and makes it possible to take immediate action with it, such as sending a loyal customer a gift card on their birthday or offering an up-sell opportunity to a platform from which you know their business can benefit (based on previous conversations). It’s also a great way to woo back inactive customers.

The key is to select the software that’s right for the way your team works. The last thing you want is to see employees fighting new software instead of interacting with the customer.

CRM software isn’t just about tracking and maintaining contact information. While most look to CRM software as primarily a sales tool, it’s moved beyond that space. Marketing and customer service departments can dramatically improve their offerings and operations with CRM as well by using its data to more effectively segment demographics and record and reuse customer incident information. CRM software also helps coordinate interdepartmental actions.

For example, the sales team can take advantage of something a customer service representative discovered in a separate transaction. Depending upon the software you choose, you can set and measure sales goals, deliver and track email marketing campaigns, or keep an eye on what people are saying on social media.

Pricing and Add-ons

Price can be a significant factor when evaluating CRM software but that analysis should focus on more than just the upfront costs. Most of the CRM software we looked at offers per-user pricing but it’s important to check what’s included in that price and which features you actually need.

Training can eat up a chunk of the budget as can upgrades and ongoing support. Consider how much it would cost to integrate the software with existing systems and whether or not you would need additional equipment. That mobile implementation looks slick on the vendor’s website but will it still look that slick once you’ve designed the customized CRM forms your business will use every day? Does it mean the sales or customer service teams need new smartphones or maybe even tablets? These costs can quickly add up.

Third-party integration means not only added licensing dollars but also new integration costs.

 

Taking into consideration the time investment is why trying out more than one program is key so that you can choose the software that will be most effective for your company. If you have the resources to train and onboard staff and customize the software yourself, then eventually it will start to work for you. But smaller teams can’t afford to invest in software that asks a lot upfront; you need something that will be up and running in a day in most cases.

Read the support documentation and you’ll get an idea of setup complexity and any issues you might bump into with the software you already have. Use the free evaluation period to try out important features: import data, add information manually, connect accounts, and assign tasks to other users. Take note of how helpful the software is and whether it creates more work. Keep track of how often you have to consult the Help system in order to complete a basic task.

As CRM software has grown more sophisticated, it’s branched out into many different directions. There are plenty of options for implementing your CRM in a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model or for deploying it on-premises by using your own server. Cloud-based CRM is rapidly growing in popularity because it means you can quickly get up to speed and don’t have to worry about managing software on your own servers, which adds complexity and cost. You can look for the software that has deep hooks into social media management and analytics platforms so you can record customer interactions on Facebook or Twitter.

Plus, you should definitely consider CRM software that integrates with your business phone system so you can capture call and conversation information. Look closely at your business processes, discuss with employees what they need and want, and contrast that with your bottom line; you’ll quickly have an accurate picture of the right CRM software for you.

It’s tempting to forgo this homework and simply pay for one of the big, all-inclusive CRM software packages just to have access to every feature you might need now or in the future. But that approach will almost certainly wind up costing you more in both time and money, while probably delivering less flexibility than you’d expect. That’s because these large CRM software packages are often platforms rather than tools, which means those myriad features they advertise are really the product of integrating with a host of third-party solution providers, not options you can simply turn on. Third-party integration means not only added licensing dollars but also new integration costs.

A better approach is to understand how your employees have to use the software as well as how they want to use it. Think about what tools your team is currently using and what processes they follow. Figure out how those tasks map to the CRM software you’re evaluating. Consider what some of the most common tasks are. For example, if the users have to dig through menus and submenus every single time they want to log a call or email, then the tool will actually complicate their jobs instead of simplify them. Form a small group of users who understand these day-to-day issues to help you in your evaluation—front-line salespeople and

Form a small group of users who understand these day-to-day issues to help you in your evaluation—front-line salespeople and managers, as well as IT managers, are a good start. You don’t want to impose a tool that actually makes key tasks more difficult or complex just so you can pay a premium for features those same employees may never touch. More and more CRM tools are also combining the email and sales experience into a single smart inbox or centralized dashboard view to manage all or most daily communications and tasks, without leaving the CRM tool.

As with any piece of software, it’s essential to take advantage of free trials when available. No matter how many reviews you read or demos you watch, you can’t get a real sense of how the CRM software works until you use it yourself. Be sure to have colleagues from different departments try out the software, too, so you can understand how successful it is in different situations and business processes. This way, you can eliminate programs with too many or too few features as well as understand how much training will be necessary.

Most of these companies offer at least a 14-day trial (and we consider that fairly short as 30 days is better) and some, including Apptivo, Bitrix24, Insightly, and Zoho CRM offer free plans, albeit with limited features or users. These can either serve as a full-time solution for small companies or as a long-term trial for larger companies. Apptivo, Insightly, and Zoho CRM also offer free trials as do Base CRM, PipeDrive CRM, PipelineDeals, and Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional.

Ease of Use and Support

CRM software must be intuitive or you’ll never want to use it. Make a note of how many clicks it takes to conduct a basic task and how easy or difficult it is to find the features you need. Beyond being easy to use, CRM software should be able to manage user error. For example, if you try to conduct a task on the wrong screen or input the wrong data, then the best software will identify your error and suggest the right way to do it. On the other hand, poorly designed software will either let you make the error unchecked or will throw up an unhelpful error message.

One way to figure out if CRM software is really easy to use is by training others on how to use it. If you get stuck while training someone else, then that’s worth noting. Think about the time it will take to get your team up to speed and whether or not it’s worth that investment.

Finally, when you run into problems, whether it’s a software bug or a problem using a feature, you’ll need a responsive support team. Verify what type of support is included with your subscription and the hours of availability. If available, read through the support documentation, FAQs, and other self-service Help (options include blog entries, public knowledge bases, and even online training videos).

If there aren’t any self-service options, then consider that you’ll have to contact support whenever you get stuck. That said, you should contact support while you’re trying out software and make a note of the response time. Ask a lot of questions; this will also help you familiarize yourself with the product. CRM software is complicated but support shouldn’t be.

And watch out for gaps in the support plan. Many of these solutions, especially the SaaS entries, have tiered, subscription-based pricing. That often means different levels of support depending on the subscription you choose. If your business process requires access to the CRM on weekends, for example, then make sure you’ve got access to support during those hours.

Email, Mobile, and Social Features

Don’t get distracted by CRM capabilities you won’t use. Make sure the software you ultimately select captures the information that’s essential for your business, allows effective follow-up, and is easy enough to use that your team will work with it, not around it.

Remember that new technologies, while slick, aren’t automatically pervasive. For example, social media is a game-changing technology for interacting with customers. But as much as social and collaboration applications such as Slack are catching on, that doesn’t mean email is dead. Most customers still expect to interact with you via email, and an email can still capture much more data than a Facebook post or a tweet can. Understand how your company interacts with customers over email and make sure your CRM software acts as a complement to that relationship, not as a hindrance.

CRM software should automatically capture data from email interactions, not force your employees to manually enter email data. Similarly, integrating your CRM software into your email platform means that entering the customer’s name or ID in one platform automatically brings up data from the other.

Take the time to also properly evaluate the mobile app; this should be considered a separate app, not just as a mobile “capability,” and you also shouldn’t be asked to pay anything extra for it. Mobile devices are an entirely different breed from desktops or notebooks. Employees use them differently and software renders them differently, which means that business processes that involve them will behave differently.

Make sure your CRM software of choice can support the mobile device platform your team uses and carefully evaluate what the app can do.

Some apps offer a read-only view of your sales pipeline or contacts so that you can look up the relevant information while out and about. Those apps won’t let you make updates until you get back to a computer. Others offer a seamless and responsive experience, letting you do everything you would do on a mobile device that you would on a computer (but usually presenting tools and features differently, which can be difficult for some users to get used to). Don’t commit to CRM software until you’ve actually used the mobile app in a way you and your team would on a day-to-day basis.

Marketing Automation

Automation is perhaps the most valuable aspect of CRM software and it’s a shame that not all software packages offer it—though most are beginning to get there. Marketing automation is a popular term these days and it refers to the software’s ability to remind sales and marketing representatives to follow up with customers at the right time. Automation reminds you—or, in some cases, actually, handles the task for you—of needed activities such as following up 30 days after a sales purchase with a coupon or calling the sales prospect 14 days after the individual signed up for a trial of the software. It can also extend to other software, such as kicking off an email marketing promotion based on criteria that are reached during a phone call with the customer, even if that call was initiated with the CRM system.

This also extends to lead management, which is a core capability of all CRM platforms. Lead management tracks and manages prospective customers (often called leads or “opportunities”) across lead generation and acquisition and throughout the sales pipeline. Lead management can be executed in more of a hands-on manner through tracking progression in a sales pipeline dashboard or reports. Some CRM software providers use a greater degree of marketing automation to trigger actions and sales stages based on lead progression. Lead management is a part of all CRM platforms but how the provider handles it can make a big difference.

Third-Party Integrations

It’s important, as we’ve noted, to determine which features are included with your subscription and which require a third-party add-on. However, it’s also worth looking at the software you already use to see if it’s compatible with the CRM software you’re considering. Maybe you already have email marketing software that you love or you want to connect your cloud storage service, accounting tool, or customer service management platform. As we’ve mentioned, you’ll definitely want to be able to connect your email account and perhaps your calendar, too.

Integration today takes two basic forms. The easiest is if the CRM system or the system to which you’re trying to connect supports the other as a “native” integration. That simply means that the company in question has a prebuilt integration module you can simply select, download, and implement as needed. You’ll have the best luck with big-name targets here as many companies pre-build integrations for companies such as Netsuite or Salesforce, for example. The other method is that, if both system support an open application programming interface (API), usually one based on Representational State Transfer (REST). With an API, you can have your in-house IT staff (provided they can do some coding) or an out-of-house contract programmer build a custom integration for you. That option certainly provides the most flexibility and customization but it can also add significant cost depending on the level of your coding talent.

Reporting and Analytics

Once you’ve been using CRM software to manage your leads and deals, you can see how successful you’ve been and where you’re falling short. Look for CRM software with reporting features that can be customized so that you can see how employees are performing and which types of customers are responding. Look for a tool that lets you export reports if you need to present high-level data to company stakeholders.

Next, take that API or native integration and plug it into whatever business intelligence (BI) tool your organization likes best. That’s because BI can turn that humdrum CSV or PDF file reporting data into live data visualizations and dashboards. These can keep you, your sales team, and anyone else with access to the CRM data completely current on sales statistics, demographic information, product popularity, and any number of other metrics. Additionally, only today’s BI tools let you combine data from multiple sources—such as your CRM database on one side of the business and your warehouse and supply chain on the other—and ask complex queries that take multiple data sources into account to provide new insights that any one data source simply couldn’t.

Don’t Forget Security

Invest in security. There’s no simple way to put it. When you’re working with the sales pipeline and customer data, make sure security is top of mind—especially if you’re using a SaaS-deployed CRM solution (which means not only the app but likely also a big chunk, if not all, of your customer data resides in the cloud). You should feel comfortable with the company’s security requirements. It is a warning sign if your CRM software lets you select a password but doesn’t generate an audit trail whenever someone makes a change, or if it doesn’t let you define the access controls for each user. Customer data is an extremely valuable commodity especially now that customers are more reluctant to part with it. Securing it isn’t just about maintaining privacy; it’s about protecting profitable relationships that directly impact your bottom line.

Integration plays a role here but it’s mostly about research. From an integration standpoint, you can make sure your chosen CRM software can integrate with as much of your current IT security software as possible, such as your identity management system, for example, so your employees can take advantage of single sign-on authentication. But even more important than that is doing your homework. That means digging deep into the vendor’s service level agreement (SLA) and ascertaining exactly where your data resides, who is responsible for its safety, and what happens if there’s a problem. Doing some Google surfing to see whether this vendor has been breached in the past and what their response was is another good indicator of just what you’re getting your data into.

Putting Top CRMs to the Test

In this roundup, we tested some of the most popular CRM software packages on the market today. The packages include Apptivo CRM, Base CRM, Bitrix24 CRM, bpm’online CRM, Insightly CRM, Less Annoying CRM, Oracle NetSuite OneWorld, Pipedrive CRM, ProsperWorks CRM, Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, and Zoho CRM. We’ve worked hard to evaluate this CRM software with the aforementioned criteria in mind, so check out each of the reviews below to figure out which package is right for you. All have their strengths and weaknesses—some are geared more toward small to midsize businesses (SMBs) while others have broader email marketing capabilities [or, in Oracle NetSuite OneWorld’s case, enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities] for enterprise-scale businesses. Some CRM systems are easier to use out of the box, with simple navigations and standard workflows, while others offer deeper and more complicated degrees of customization. Some are dirt cheap while others can be quite expensive when you start moving up tiers, scaling up your sales workforce, or adding premium functionality.

Our three favorites are Pipedrive CRM, PApptivo CRM, Salesforce Sales Cloud Lightning Professional, and Zoho CRM. However, depending on your business needs, the size and scope of your sales team, and the means by which your organization aims to engage and grow its lead and customer base, any one of these CRM platforms might have the right combination of price and features to work for you.

Looking For An Effective and Affordable CRM For Your Security Business?

Ignite Security Marketing is an inbound marketing agency that specializes in marketing and sales force automation for the security industry. Since 2008, we have been the marketing partner of choice for SDM 100 corporations and small to medium security companies around the nation. Contact us today to discuss your inbound marketing requirements. We can help you choose the CRM that is right for your security business, and help with set up and integration.

 

 

5 Ways Security Companies Can Save Money On Business Travel

Whether you’re traveling to major trade shows like ISC, ESX, GSX or to branch offices for sales training this year, chances are the C-Level will want to get the best bang for their corporate buck. When it comes to business-travel though, many security companies tend to overlook the planning phase or leave decisions up to their employees, who may or may not have enough travel experience to make sound judgment.

According to reports, companies spend nearly $112 billion per year in domestic travel. Meanwhile, their employees incur almost $1,000 worth of expenses on travel items and services. With this much money on the line, it is only wise to educate your employees and provide them with the tools needed to make savvy decisions.

Utilize Templates

Getting started is often the hard part when trying to construct your own business travel policy. Fortunately, there are various templates available online that are free to use. These templates can be used as a reference to start creating your own corporate policy when it comes to business travel. Your template can start off with details of the process which employees must follow to get approved.

Assign a Savvy Trip Manager

Companies with limited finances may find it difficult to hire a full-time travel manager who can ensure effective oversight of business-travel plans. Take advantage of freelancing portals that bridge employers with the manpower they need at a more economical price. Outsourcing your need for business-travel management to websites like Upwork can yield savings while giving you access to a broader range of talent from around the world.

Conduct Some Research

Housing your employees in 5-star hotel chains may seem like a good move as a manager or employer. However, the costs of staying at a hotel, such as room service or WiFi, can get out of hand very quickly. Doing some research regarding affordable business-travel lodging will bring you towards the doors of the hot startup, Airbnb. The rooms and houses you can find in Airbnb’s large listing are more affordable. Although, the trade-off is, sometimes you’ll be stuck in an apartment or house that has weak and unreliable WiFi.

Simplify the Process

Booking flights, lodging, and transportation through various service providers can be a more economical option, yet tends to be a stressful process due to the handful of things that need managing. Use travel apps like Concur to streamline all activities involved, from booking flights to getting your employees to wherever they need to go. These apps automate tracking of business-travel expenditures and allows you to save receipts and spreadsheets through an intuitive software platform.

Maximize Your Money’s Value

Capitalize on programs that accrue reward points every time you or your employees travel. Companies are often given special offers for frequently flying with a certain airline or staying at a specific hotel. These points should accumulate fairly quickly if you and your employees travel regularly. Take the time to compare different rewards programs and carefully read the fine print to get the best deal for your money.

Having a sound travel policy in place can protect your business from costly travel expenses while simultaneously streamlining the stressful process of traditional business, which ultimately increase your workforce’s efficiency and productivity.

About Us

Ignite Security Marketing is a specialized agency that partners with SDM 100 corporations, and provides scalable BPO marketing solutions for small to medium dealers an integrators. Contact us today for a complimentary consultation.

Creating the Perfect Voicemail Greeting For Your Security Company

Taking time off? Before you leave for a few leisurely days of well deserved R&R, take a few minutes to review your voicemail greeting. It can make a big difference in giving the right first impression to your prospects and a professional image for your current subscribers.

Believe it or not, your voicemail greeting is a powerful tool in establishing a relationship with prospective customers. It probably has more influence than you, or even the listener may realize. A voicemail greeting tells the listener something very specific about your communication and sensitivity to the customer. The assumption is that your voicemail is your best effort to make a good impression— and it should be!

Are you using your voicemail to its full potential? If not, here are some ways to create a voicemail message that positively reflects your business and moves the listener from caller to customer.

Record the Message in a Quiet Place

Background noise in a recorded greeting is not only distracting to the caller, it also distracts from your professional image. A noisy background communicates to callers that you are too busy and may make them feel unimportant.

Here is the simple fix. Record your greeting in your office or another quiet place. Turn off anything that could be a distraction, such as other phones or devices.

Be Creative

Customers have choices so it is always important to stand out from among the throng. Generic greetings such as “I’m away from my desk right now but if you leave your name and number I will be happy to return your call,” are so common that it resonates about as well as the generic computer generated voicemail prompts. Your voicemail is one way to stand out and be memorable, and creating one does not have to be intimidating.

Try something that includes a few details of your business. Something like “Hi You have reached Blue Jean Security, we believe that customer service is the fabric of our business. Please leave us a message so we can help you leave the security blues behind.” 

Make it Fun

First impressions are everything, but even in business they do not always need to stiffly professional. Adding your own wit will help callers know you are human and makes you more relatable. You can even involve the caller in the fun. For example, you can ask the callers to leave their message “Mission Impossible” style. After all, the message could self-destruct if not answered promptly.

Engage the Caller

When you create a voicemail greeting, do it keeping in mind that you are really having a conversation. When you create the opportunity for dialogue you present the opportunity for the caller to be engaged with you and your brand.

The easiest way to engage the caller is by asking a question. For example, you could tell customers you will get back to them ASAP if they share their favorite movie explosion.

Smile!

Smiling is so powerful that it cannot help making an impression, even if it is over the phone. Think about it: you have probably have probably heard someone smiling through the phone and it made a lasting impression on you.

Let your smile help you create a positive and enthusiastic tone for your message that will resonate with the caller.

Write it Out and Rehearse

Not all of us excel at public speaking. In voicemail greetings, it is important to avoid pitfalls such as “like”, “um”, and “uh” so it helps to know what you will say prior to recording. Write it out and practice it aloud a few times until you are comfortable, but not over rehearsed. You’ll sound much more confident which will go a long way in projecting professionalism.

Identify Yourself and the Business

Unless you know the person well, when you call someone you do not have a way to know if you actually called the right number. Even worse, if you call a number and it is not identified as a business, you assume you’ve reached a wrong number. Take the pressure off the caller and identify yourself and the business immediately. Not only will this reduce the number of hang-ups, it will capture customers that could have been lost.

Give Your Callers a Checklist of Information to Provide

When you make and receive numerous calls in a day, it can get a little chaotic. If you want to streamline the calls let the caller know exactly what information you need from them, especially is you need more than a name and phone number. This will allow you to get back to each person more quickly which customers appreciate.

Update the Greeting Regularly

The very things that make your greeting interesting and timely also make them time sensitive. Update your voicemail frequently to include new information. The fact that your greeting is not evergreen and up-to-date means you are on top of your game and that will not be missed by the caller.

 Keep It Positive

Words are powerful and convey much more than the message itself. Avoiding negative words like sorry, can’t, and unfortunately will go a long way in keeping what you intend to be a positive message, positive.

For example, try “leave a message and I will get right back to you!” over, “I’m sorry, I can’t take your call right now.” The change is small but the impact is huge.

Now…take these tips and go craft the perfect voicemail greeting. We will be calling you!

About Us

Ignite Security Marketing is a leading digital marketing resource for security companies nationwide. Contact us today for a complimentary 30 minute consultation on how to generate new leads for your security business.