Archive: February, 2012
CRM solutions are fast becoming ubiquitous these days as even small businesses adopt CRM to enhance their service delivery. There are generally two types of CRM solutions; hosted and web- based. While the former are installed on and operated via the enterprise’s local network, the latter is hosted on the Application Service Provider’s server and accessed via the internet. Online CRM which is web-based is also known as OnDemand CRM, Browser Based CRM, Hosted CRM and more recently as SaaS (Software as Service).
Online CRM solutions have some distinct advantages that accrue to the user. Its use is also dependent on the peculiar needs of the enterprise. The advantages that online CRM offers include the following:
i. Speed of implementation.
ii. Ability to get automatic updates.
iii. Comparatively less cost of procurement and complete acquisition
iv. Swift sharing of information within the enterprise
v. Reduction in procedure as backend systems are not required
vi. Easy accessibility as it is internet based
There are also many online CRM solutions in the market but then some are more proven than others. Some of those outstanding CRM solutions include the following:
i. InfusionCRM: This CRM solution is well suited to small and medium sized enterprises as it offers reliability, comprehensiveness and sophistication. Tracking and consolidation of sales information within the single system is one of the key incentives to use InfusionCRM. It includes autoresponders, product information, order history, payment plans, lead tracking, customer details and much more.
ii. ACT: ACT is classified more as a contact software but then when viewed from its capability to help enterprises keep in touch with its customers and also track orders, it falls within the CRM class. It also compatible with many mobile phones, supports customization as well as third party software thus adaptable for many small businesses.
iii. Zoho CRM: This CRM solution is cloud based and offers features very useful to small businesses. Some of these features include sales forecast, role-based security, reports and dashboards, sales and marketing integration, inventory management. This CRM solution also supports third party software such as Microsoft Outlook. This works very well with small businesses that are just starting out because of its ease of use and adaptability. It is also quite cost effective as it is usually free for the first three users and payment commences from the fourth user at a reasonable rate.
iv. Relenta: This is a relatively new solution and has a lot of features that would integrate easily with a small enterprise’ business process. It incorporates email marketing with its core CRM solutions and for internet marketing firms, it could be very ideal. It also integrates with popular applications like Aweber, Salesforce, Outlook and Constant Contact.
v. iContact Pro: This solution combines contact management with email marketing functions. It very easily makes the tasks inherent in small internet marketing businesses like email newsletters distribution, email marketing and sales lead monitoring much easier. The price is also quite affordable, starting at $9.95 monthly depending on how large your email list is.
E-Business is a natural extension of the internet. The concept refers to the transaction of business via an electronic means, usually the internet or any of its mediums. E-business has certain characteristics and these include the following:
i. The use of the internet for the full transaction of its business.
ii. The combination of traditional model of running an enterprise with actionable business information obtained via the internet.
iii. Combination of traditional means of running an enterprise with an online selling platform.
iv. Business models that work to compile data on various customer and market segments and then make this information available to third parties for a fee.
v. The use of technological devices to facilitate financial exchanges or other kinds of exchanges.
vi. The adaptation and modification of traditional models with IT facilities.
E-marketing is a subset of e-business. It is the means through which a business promotes the products or services that it is offering on the internet. The practice of running an enterprise on the internet and promoting its services or products using e-marketing tools or resources presents that enterprise with distinct advantages. These include:
i. Reduction of overheads as the enterprise does not have to invest huge funds in warehousing or high office rents.
ii. Potential increase in sales
iii. Access to global markets and presenting the firm’s products and services to the market across the clock
iv. Opportunity to carry out market segmentation
v. Provision of convenience for customers and seller alike
We will take a close look at a few businesses that have successfully implemented e-marketing.
1. Anthony Nicholas Group: This company deals in jewels and having discovered that the internet presents a veritable means for showing its products to its target audience, the company decided to invest in the necessary infrastructure to make this possible. The challenge was in providing a reliable full back office system to replace the existing one. Two websites also had to be designed to cater separately for the Irish customers and the American customers. A web-based interface for customer interaction had to be developed and then supported with an accounting system that replaced the existing one, all technology based. The websites were also built to serve as marketing tools for the promotion of the products of the firm.
2. Dubarry: This company specializes in footwear designed for sailing. It decided to delve into the e-business world in order to leverage on the opportunities provided by the internet to bond with its customers. The company succeeded in its objectives as a result of three factors; a critical assessment of its internal operations and how it can work as a an e-business model, the possible challenges it will face as it alters its traditional business model to suit the internet and then how it can harness the opportunities therein. The website it built and uses as a platform to reach out and interact with its customers and target market has now served to reduce the administrative load involved in dealing with its various distributors. Customer interaction and also been an advantage of this switch to the new model as well as streamlining the process of ordering products from the company.
The internet has come a long way since its early days when almost anything could be accommodated by the internet due to lack of choice. These days, the choices have simply exploded and now users have to have an incentive to visit a site. It is no longer sufficient that the site exists but from concept to content, a site must demonstrate sufficient value for the users to visit, remain or even return. It is has therefore become imperative for businesses to incorporate the very latest trends in web design in order to provide enough incentive for internet users to stay on their sites.
1. Online Videos: Pictures have for long been used to produce graphic representations for the internet users. Although the pictures have been quite effective, videos have proven to be far more effective. Whatever a picture can say, a video can say far more. Apart from being more graphic, videos actually speak and provide far more information in far less time. The advent of video sharing sites has made it possible for site owners to create and upload promotional videos to the site and drive traffic to their site from there. Additionally, video editing software are easily obtainable and easy to use. For the SEO purposes, Google now indexes videos while Youtube has added close captioning and transcripts for their videos. This has had a very positive effect on video optimization.
2. Interactive Designs: The ability of a user to interact with the site is a big plus. It helps the user stay on the site and get a positive experience. Interactive elements are normally created using flash or jQuery. Flash has been around much longer and website designers are more familiar with it although jQuery works just as well. In all, any package that is chosen, if well implemented, is likely to provide users with an engaging experience.
3. Typography: The font type used on a site is very important and even with this the use of non-system font types was difficult previously. These days however, it has become possible to use non-system even with the cross browser compatibility issues. Now, website designers can make use of font replacement methods in order to create great looking fonts. These replacement methods include Cufon, Typekit and @fontface.
4. Mobile Websites: There has been a gradual shift from desktop internet surfing to mobile browsing. People now take the internet with them in their hands. It has become imperative for upwardly mobile websites to have that mobile capability. New devices like the Google Android phone and the iPhone have gained widespread popularity which is still increasing. Mobile e-marketing, text messaging as well as location based marketing are just a few things that will continue to dominate the market for a long time.
5. Podcasting: This is the audio version of online videos. These are easily recordable and allow the users to hear a recording of an interview or production description or even a promotional message. It can be incorporated with the RSS feed thus making it easier for users to follow.