Timothy Vasko

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Boot Camp Step 1: Trimming Down Your Technology Tangle

January 13, 2011 08:15

Every month, every day, I hear about or am invited to use a "new tool" my business can't do without. Personally, I've had ENOUGH with this gluttony of software. We have enough software to run the planet right from our iPhones and Blackberries! All these programs are doing is distracting us from what should be our primary task - running an efficient business.

What happened? How did we get into this mess? Firstly developers love to, well, develop. It's fun, exciting and enthralling to develop new gadgets. However, too many of these gadgets are just technological junk food - they fill up your system, but they don't really do anything for you. Just like real junk food, these programs don't give your business real - nutrition" and if you indulge in too much junk food you get bloated and sick.

So, the first thing we're doing for Business fitness month? Cutting out the junk and untangling your technology!

Just like we have the four food groups, there are Four Pillars of good tech use that lead to Connected Success. I'll introduce you to the Four Pillars of Connected Success next week. (Just like going to the gym, business boot camp won't get you fit in one week. You'll have to keep coming back!) For now however, let's look at the typical diet of technology that most entrepreneurial businesses are eating in one form or another to manage their business: tracking and speaking to contacts, working as a team, that sort of thing.Abusing these programs is basically like eating too many candy bars – initially satisfying, but not a good way to stay productive or healthy.

1. CRM (Salesforce, Sugar, MS CRM Dynamics, etc) These programs are all full of features, but are you actually using them? Do they really add value to what you need to do to, or are they just empty calories?

2. Email Marketing (Constant Contact, Mailchimp, etc) Ah yes, generic emails and mailing lists. Not only are we doing badly as managing our own flows of email and information, but we're pushing too much onto our clients and contacts. Email marketing is great - when it's personalized and relevant, but spam isn't good for your technology or your diet!

3. File Storage (Dropbox, etc) We have a huge need to share files and information online, but if you can't connect files to the people who need to have them and you need to use one program to share the files and another to collaborate, you're not working very efficiently.

4. Notes (Evernote, Onenote, etc) Once again, notes are great, but connecting your notes to contacts, files or discussion groups is time consuming. Notes aren't collaborative either, which means you're back to using several tools to do one job.

5. Project Management (Basecamp, etc) Project management is a huge part of business today - especially since you need a project management tool to keep track of the notes and files you have to share among your team.

So what we have here are 5 sets of tools. The problem is that these tools all do a small part of the one job you actually need them to do - manage contacts, collaborate and share files and notes. Each type of program has a clear single function, but none of them work together. Instead of eating one sandwich to satisfy your business needs, you're eating 5 different candy bars. They fill you up when you're hungry for a function, but there's no long term nutritional value for your business.

A well place set of integrated tools is like a well balanced diet. It keeps you lean, mean and energetic. Putting the right nutrients into your body is a huge part of being a high performance athlete, and using the right programs is what it takes to be a top performing business - lean, efficient and successful.To be successful today management, marketing and messaging are all equally important. It's a well rounded, holistic approach that recognizes it takes more than sales to drive an efficient company. We call this the M3 of CRM.

So, when we designed 1to1Real™ and the Connected Market Coach™ solutions for the "cloud" we decided we'd be like a well established gym. A "circuit" of business and training tools that you need to stay in top shape and get into the zone; focusing not just on one small aspect of what a business needs to do, but the whole picture.

So what's Step 1 for 2011? Trim down the disconnected tools, and get your business technology "mind" in line with your core business body - look at what you do, and how that's different from what you need to do.

Next week we'll cover Step Two: Organizing your Business Brain.

Picture: Candy and junk food might be delicious, but they're not what your body, or your business needs! Photo by Snippy Snippy Crab Kristine.

January is Business Fitness Month & You're Invited to Boot Camp!

January 6, 2011 08:14

It's always a bit melancholy to say goodbye to the holidays - helping put away the decorations while thinking about all the family, friends and smiles that make this time of year so special to us. This past year my family received more cards than ever from our loved ones - cards about triumphs, about struggles in work and health, but all laced with hope, strength and love.

Many of us have been faced with challenges from the economic downturn for a few years now. In our family, like so many others, health struggles surprised us and added to the stress. For me, connecting with family, friends and associates during the holiday, and finding the time to reflect on the things we thought we wouldn't have been able to handle, yet did, provides a great source of personal growth and strength. The year past always seems to have many more bright spots than we saw at the time. Perhaps this is why December always seems like such a wonderful month - the holidays let us reflect and anticipate.

As a lifetime entrepreneur I always find reflecting on these close connections, along with the holiday cheer and food to be a great springboard for new ideas, innovation and transformation. This is the time of year I look back at our business and the businesses we support in the Connected Market and say - "what can we. should we. will we do better, differently, more effectively in the coming year?" It's resolution time.

This year I've decided to create the first annual Business Fitness Month - after all, fitness resolutions shouldn't just be about eating too many Christmas cookies! Get Ready for Business Boot Camp with the Connected Market Coach!

Here the seven exercises we'll work through together over the next few weeks as we drive the "resolution challenge" to get your business and our Connected Market Solutions to you. 2011 is the year we get on track, in business and in our personal lives (I'll be running, stand up paddling and working out every week to get myself into great shape along with our businesses.)

Let's get started - here's our work-out schedule, the 2011 seven step Connected Market Ladder!

Step 1: Trim Down your Technology Tangle

Businesses across the board have a glut of unneeded technology tools clogging up their system and reducing efficiency. Like high cholesterol, we're going to show you how to get the good stuff into your system, and connect the "mind" of your business with the "body" of your team. The goal of this step is to stop wasting time and duplicating work.

Step 2: Organize your Business Brain

Your customer data is like the internal organs of your business. The problem with internal organs is that if you ignore them, eventually they'll wear out. Data that is poorly handled, cluttered, hidden or disorganized won't just hold you back - in today's Connected Market it could kill your business.

"When data is sitting in pockets, and not transparent to the whole organization, decisions are not understood that well. If everybody has the same data, they'll generally come to the same decision." Jack Welch, former CEO GE

The goal of this step is to help you understand why your Data Depot is the most critical part of your unique position in the market.

Step 3: Cut out the "Junk" and Focus on the Good Stuff

Just like cutting out junk food, tabloid magazines and junk mail, we're going to get your communications in order, streamlining everything from social media to websites to newsletters. The best way to succeed is to get your message heard. The goal of this step is to gather your Unique Content and put in a place where your market will get your message.

Step 4: Get your Business Body (your team) Fully Engaged and Connected with your Core Value Proposition (your customers)

Buddhist philosophy calls this being mindful: Two Feet, One Mind. How your "mind" of technology works either for or against your business will ultimately determine the effectiveness of your connections to your market and your success. The goal of the he Connection Analyzer step is about changing your business "perception of reality", i.e. getting focused on building and driving success.

Step 5: Get Away From Bad Habits and Create Great Habits

What are your business habits? Like everyone, you've probably developed a set of both good and bad habits - some of them are your best processes, and some are outdated, repetitive and bloated; simply put, they're overweight. The goal of this step is take a step back, trim, streamline and focus how you work, and develop healthy new automated, connected processes to replace the old broken ones.

Step 6: Embrace Communications and Find your Friends

Where do you stand in the constantly evolving Social Hub of communication as a business? Can you manage all your connections and your presence, or do you find it cumbersome and difficult to understand? The goal of this step is to work with you to clear all messy communications with solutions and structure that flows perfectly toward your business and lets you get your message heard.

Step 7: Constant Improvement for a True Transformation

Becoming number 1 in your market. even becoming number 2 or number 10 won't just happen easily. Nobody gets six pack abs or have more energy after going to the gym once. Getting your business fit - getting more customers through your door and more productive, profitable operations - is about constantly working at it, and finding ways to improve. The goal of this step will be to set up a constant feedback process - to help you continue to improve your business fitness and master your market.

So, welcome to the Connected Market Coach 2011 Tim's Boot Camp. We'll be here every week if you really want to focus and get going call The Connected Market Coach and start shaping up your business.

Happy New Year,

Tim, The Connected Market Coach Team, PedBot and 1to1Real.

Not All Leads are Created Equal

October 26, 2010 08:08
not equalAccording to most sales experts, no matter how many leads you receive only 2% of them are ready to buy right away. At least 25% of your leads will turn out to be no good, and the other 73% will need a whole lot of nurturing, coaching and maybe even cajoling to get them to a point where you'll know if they'll convert to sales.
Nobody ever said the business of selling was easy - so how can you make your lead management more efficient and cut down the amount of time your sales staff (or you) are wasting on go-nowhere leads? Here are the top 4 tips to improve your lead management and fine tune your sales processes!
1. Start with better leads
That's not just a glib piece of advice! Which is more efficient -trawling the entire ocean floor and spending hours picking garbage out of your nets, or only hooking the specific the type of fish you want by using the bait they like best? By pursuing quality leads and making sure they're qualified buyers ahead of time, the quantity of leads you bring in might be lower, but you'll spend far less effort trying to convert them. That's the iQ3 Rule.
2.Talk it Out & Lead the Discussion
People usually don't know what they want right away. Don't just present them with your sales options; take the time to ask a lead what they think they need from you, and what they want as the ultimate goal. Don't turn yourself into a free consulting service - become a trusted advisor and a thought leader in your area of expertise. If they're still researching their options, give them the advice they need and see if they come back. Chances are, if you look like the experts in your field, they will.
3.Pay attention to what they're doing.
With the tools available to you today, there's no reason to be in the dark about what your clients are thinking. It's easy to know if they're downloading your white papers, clicking your links and reading what you send them. If they're opening, reading and responding - pay more attention to them, but if they're not looking at your product pages, or they haven't done anything since watching the webinar, downgrade the lead and cut your losses. By knowing what your leads are doing, you can use your time far more efficiently.
4.Know your leads and your customers
It's not rocket science to know you want more leads like the customers you already have - so set up landing pages to help you capture the information you need to know ahead of time. For example - your company sells safety equipment to a huge variety of people all over the world. If you know what industry the lead is in you'll be able to recommend products other customers in their industry have asked for and know what they're not interested in. Knowing more about your leads means you can analyze what works and what doesn't based on the demographic or industry information you keep.
There you go - 4 simple ways to save yourself time and earn more money. The best thing about this advice is it's all free. It doesn't cost you anything to manage your leads better, and you don't need CRM software to do it.The tools that can help you are all available for free online.
Photo: Not all leads are winners - separate the wilted flowers from the fresh ones. Photo by David Goehring, Flickr.

Getting Out of the Inbox

September 28, 2010 08:05
inboxDo you suffer from MBI - Management by Inbox? Are you addicted to your inbox, or are you tethered to it like a wild horse that wants to run free, but can't.
What could you do with your business if you could escape the inbox? You might be more creative. You'd probably have more free time. You'd defiantly find that when it stopped pinging you with constant reminders about something to be done, someone to talk to, or something to respond to, you'd get back to the business of actually running your business! In 1993 AOL developed the inbox and it hasn't stopped creeping in on our lives and cluttering our days, evenings and weekends since. Each message is urgent right?
NO! The problem is that checking it is such a habit now, we feel like we MUST respond. Are you inbox dependent?
  • When you wake up in the morning do you just go straight to your iPhone, BlackBerry or computer?
  • Would forgetting your phone at home give you more jitters than missing your caffeine fix?
  • Do you send your staff, customers and prospects constant emails - then review the "sent box" to see what you've been doing to manage your business?
If those questions rang a little"¦ too true, you're probably an inbox junkie, and it's probably a good bet that your mind and business is cluttered. You're likely a "pusher" of the inbox drug in your business as well. The problem with MBI is that email isn't very well organized. Living with MBI means it's hard to manage tasks (even with advanced "Outlook Rules"), impossible to find things and incredibly distracting!
Is there a better way? I've spent a solid ten years of my life trying to get out of the inbox in my company and with our tools. I am very PLEASED to say YES! This week we released 1to1REAL with advanced business processes that can get you out of the inbox and back into your best business practices. I believe that you should model what makes your business unique - your processes and what you do best - and let your staff, support you and your customers by following your lead.
The mark of true leadership is setting the bar and expectations while walking your own talk! So, why not let technology do some of that walking for you? Take the best of the best of what you do and share it. Email isn't designed to do that, but if you create a best practice process - even just one, you'll be amazed how easy it is to avoid distraction and start transforming - getting new business and traction.
I'll be doing a series on business process design on our newly launched 1to1REAL.com blog - so subscribe to the feed and watch for some exciting new ways to transform your business (and take back your evenings and weekends). Believe me, everyone from your staff to your wife, partner and kids will thank you - and you'll start eliminating the stress of wearing too many hats and getting TOO much information with at buzz or a beep!!

Why Google isn't the Right Solution for Your Business

July 28, 2010 07:54
Google makes a big show of their informal motto, "don't be evil" and we believe them. Google after all, makes a lot of money on search but then uses it to give away fabulous services like Gmail, Wave, Google Docs, Youtube, etc, etc.
carnival fishingNote: This blog post has been adapted by the CMAEON staff from notes our CEO Tim Vasko wrote for his upcoming book.
Google makes a big show of their informal motto, "don't be evil" and we believe them. Google after all, makes a lot of money on search but then uses it to give away fabulous services like Gmail, Wave, Google Docs, Youtube, etc, etc.
However, there is a little more than altruism involved. Each time you use a service like Gmail, and every time you visit a website with Google Analytics or Adwords on it, you're giving information to Google. Why? They need your information for their algorithms - the same ones they use to drive their search and Pay-Per-Click Adwords. Is this evil? Maybe not, but you are paying for these services - one way or another.
Keep in mind what Google actually sells is clicks and awareness of options, that their machines (both algorithm and paid for click money machines) decide we should know about. Google connects people to the filtered information and then sends them away. This process is the big money maker for Google - tens of thousands of "optimizers" make sure Google sends the top front page searches to the businesses that pay a lot for that placement.
So, you can buy into the "Google Game" - an expensive game that's more like a fishing game at a carnival, and you might get clicks and you might not - it's not really a game you can win. You want those people who search to connect to you, but Google doesn't care if they do or not. Think about how many bounces, un-followed up leads and would-be conversations are just dropped. Yet businesses pay for this all day, every day, 24/7 - and Google makes a lot of money from this.
So how can you actually catch fish instead of just paying to cast your hook in Google's pond? The first step in winning the "Google Game" is to start a conversation. Don't let those leads bounce. Engage, talk and make a dialogue with potential leads. Why? Because that is how social networks, followers, and conversation marketing work - nurturing those leads into clients, one person at a time.
Sure Google is a tool, but it's not a solution - a solution needs to do more for you. It needs to want you to succeed. Google doesn't care if you win their game or not - the longer you play, the more money they make.
Picture: Dawn Perry, Flickr

Should You Automate Your Marketing?

July 14, 2010 07:52
leap of faithAre you inclined to take blind leaps of faith when making important business decisions? You would think most companies wouldn't do that in a million years, but the answers are surprising.
When choosing CRM solutions, many companies do make leaps of faith. Every day a business decides on a CRM system without identifying their key products and services, analyzing their market, or thinking about how to best reach their customers.
Businesses like this think automating their sales force will automatically create qualified sales leads. Making blind leaps like this aren't the mark of a successful business, but most businesses aren't successful when they implement CRM.
Over 55% of CRM installs fail to achieve results or even go live (HBR 2001), because most businesses get caught in the technology tangle; implementing solutions that don't solve problems but instead create new ones. If the new technology doesn't talk to the all the old technology, and doesn't connect to what it should be connecting to, this "automated marketing solution" is probably failing to deliver growth.
That's why CMAEON has created the BIPED® process -good business solutions are not just about lead generation. BIPED® is about analyzing connections, gathering the content that makes a business unique, creating a single place to keep that information, connecting existing business processes and bringing everything together to create a tool that and speaks to customers in the way the customers want to hear.
The result is beyond CRM - BIPED® is a system that automates lead management and automatically creates qualified sales leads because it adapts itself to your system and how you work, not the other way around.
So take charge of your business and stop making leaps of faith. Run your business the way that's best for you, not according to a CRM system.
Photo: Kodomut, Flickr

Why You Need More than IQ to Manage Leads

July 7, 2010 07:51
Imagine a business where a lead comes in, is entered into the CRM system and then. just sits there.
This lead, let's call her Ms. Smith, didn't come in through traditional channels, so she was routed through an employee who didn't really know how to use the CRM system; the wrong ranking was assigned to Ms. Smith, so nobody knew she was a hot lead, ready to buy, and worst yet, no salesperson was assigned. Long story short, Ms. Smith sat there, unattended until she phoned back again. Is this an unlikely nightmare situation? You may be thinking to yourself unattended leads. in my system? It's more likely than you think.
For a successful marketing or sales enterprise the focus shouldn't just be on getting leads and entering into the CRM system. If that's all a company focuses on, it will end up with a lot of cases like Ms. Smith. Proper lead management should be iQ3:
Quantity: exposure, volume of leads, and then;
Quality: making sure you know what they want, so you can talk about a product or program that is of interest to them, and then;
Qualified: leads that can and want to write a check for the product, service, solution, etc, etc that they are looking for.
However, once a company gets iQ3 leads, they can't just sit there like Ms. Smith. They need to be managed, and there must be a process in place. CMAEON developed the patented Biped® Process to help our clients not only acquire leads, but connect to them, engage with them in a targeted conversation, covert them, and then measure how effective the whole process was.
Marketing and sales can be hard, time consuming and confusing. Adding more layers of data entry and systems that only do half the job won't help any company become successful. What does help a business bring in revenue is the ability to streamline the process - a checklist that automatically helps them complete the steps required to turn a great lead into an even better sale. The Biped® Process is that checklist and process. Interested? Let's talk.
Photo: Alan Cleaver, Flickr

Why Your CRM Solution is Killing Your Business

July 2, 2010 07:42
Read any white paper or marketing brochure for a CRM system and it will have an extensive list of features. Contact management? Check! Customer Tracking? Yup! Project Management? OK! Report generation? Got it! Email? Sure, why not! The list goes on and on.
However, what many people don't understand when they're looking for a CRM solution is that the features are irrelevant. The thing everyone should be looking at is how they want to turn their leads into connections, connected relationships that "manage" to turn into long term and valuable customers. Show me a CRM that helps your customers relate to you, and you to them - surprise, that feature doesn't exist in today's CRM software. It simply focuses on what the business does with leads. Creating a connection isn't just an "insiders" view, it's external - it's where your customers and potential customers are steering the ship.
The problem is many business get CRM systems that are not designed to facilitate communication based on the unique set of concerns, needs and what people are searching for or "social networking" about. CRM is just a package of features designed to automate the "sales force" - which is great, if you"re all about pushing and making sales with a team of people. But when you"re an entrepreneur, a small business, that has to depend on trust and connections that last with your customers, you need to really resonate with your market- in short, you need to be "connected" for REAL. It's not just about what you do inside your business, it's about how you bring what you do with that unique quality to connect with the unique qualities of your customers and leads.
The thing is. if customers really wanted an automated sales force, or pushy sales people, they would just buy right from a web site, or publish their phone number for every CRM to capture, auto dial and have Joe Schmooze on the other end "sell them" Leads and customers don't want that approach any more. They want to have a connection they can trust, questions they can search about and conversations they can have in social networks that help other people answer their questions. If you're not connecting your company like this, you're not connecting with your market or your customers. Automating your sales force, powering them (or yourself) with more features and tools can do more damage than good. And it can be costly to buy that "feature rich" horsepower.
A successful connected business knows it's their core processes that generate new business and sales. They use that in a way that they can build trust and relationships with their discerning leads and new prospects. And they bring their unique abilities and voice of their company and team into the market - in a way their leads and customers can relate to them.
If a CRM sales brochure says that automation and tools for you or your sales force are the keys to growing your business - run away! You can automate the data, you can automate processes, and you can automate reports; but to truly connect and grow your business, keep your customers, it's the voice, the connected relationship, that wins the trust and then the sale.
The idea is "high tech - high touch" - most CRM systems nail the high tech, but have no way to handle the high touch your company needs to connect in your market ahead of the competition.
That's why we invented CRM3 -Management, Market (message) and Measure - or:
1. Manage your processes - know what makes your company unique, successful and expand on that 2. Message WITH, not AT your customers 3. Measure the effectiveness and satisfaction of those interactions (are your emails opening, are your links clicked, are your lists growing, and are your sales growing up upsales rising?) - are you responding 1 to 1 with REAL information rather than a SPAM news letter that you "think" will be interesting to your customers? You should be able to do that with your technology.
If a business is focusing on automating their sales force, they're not focusing on their customers. They are focusing inside, instead of outside - where all the new business is. Engaging your prospects and customers in a conversation is just like having a personal conversation. Talking at them will get your company about as far as telling your teen age daughter not to see her boyfriend (take it from me, it just doesn't work). When you start listening to your customers and seeking to understand their needs, you've connected in the market.
A one dimensional CRM solution, that focuses solely on features and high tech solutions will never help a business win in today's market that is connected, interactive and networked; customers self discover, communicate and create their own information - so start listening before you sell. You'll be amazed at what you hear to drive the decisions of which company customers will buy from. You need tools to communicate and connect properly - to give your prospects and customers the information they want.
Don't settle for CRM, follow the Connected Relationship: Market, Manage, Message CRM3 process. You'll leverage your business" unique assets, beyond a sales force, and grow like never before in your Connected Market Space.

All this Connection Talk - what have we learned?

June 30, 2010 07:40
We have learned that getting people to "know about each other" is a difficult and full time job, and this is most likely the most difficult product to deliver for any business, no matter what size. "Knowing" about each other involves many stakeholders - marketers, business people, sales people, and financial people and, of course, interested and qualified searchers that become buyers.

We have learned that not all businesses want to tell the truth - many want the sale, with no regard to the long term relationship to the buyer. Being connected will only serve those organizations who believe in the Triple Bottom Line: those who want to serve people with a business transaction based on an open - integrated understanding between buyers and sellers. Open communication is the key to long term success.

We have learned that not all businesses will make good business decisions, or are willing to follow a process, to stay in business. These have been the toughest lessons, because these businesses are looking for an EZ process, and have nearly always failed.We have learned that many people in the business world, inside many giant companies, have given up. . We have seen firms that have provided their staff Just Ordinary Boring Stuff to do. those people have been dissatisfied and so have lost all enthusiasm for their contribution. They are, needless to say, dis-connected in their work - perhaps only connected to a paycheck. We have learned that companies can grow their business - and outgrow their capital and capability to fund new opportunities. This is not a sustainable model. The challenge remains, how, when we are committed to innovation and change - and improving our revenue and business models to reach broader markets, can we evolve as entrepreneurs, rather than crush our dream under the weight of reality? The key is being Connected to the measures of success. We have learned in the toughest of times, when the world compromised the core mission of providing open information, innovation and connections with the best, most innovative business information technology in the world, our world failed. We saw relationships with businesses crumble; consumers stop consuming, jobs lost, banking systems broken, homes lost, countries bankrupt. When the world lost its connection its corporate soul, our culture, our way of doing business simply stopped. We are now learning how to pick up our tools and start again. As humans, in general, we are not afraid of change, in fact we embrace it. Today is our time more than ever. And that is sustainable - because change is always a renewable resource that can be relied upon - change is a mandate in the world.
Photo: Lee Nachtigal, Flickr

CRM3: what makes a CRM solution Work!

June 16, 2010 07:37
In past couple of weeks, this blog has talked a lot about how CRM can go bad. If your business has a CRM system that focuses only on features, and not actually connecting you to your customers, you have bad CRM. It's likely wasting your time and money and failing to achieve its objectives. So what is good CRM? We invented CRM3: a system that connects, completes and continues the relationships; handles requests, revisits and relates with customers; and manages, markets and messages for you. Why? CRM3 is a powerful tool for businesses to help them find their missing connections. So ask yourself:
Do we have the three C's covered?
  • Are you connecting to your market on their terms, not yours?
  • Are you completing a dialogue - real time and delivering information - on their terms, not yours?
  • Are you continuing the relationship - real time, giving them service and products and answers - on their terms, not yours?
All three R's covered?
  • Are you answering requests real time, whether you are talking or not - on their terms not yours?
  • Are you revisiting clients after you've provided the requested information?
  • Are you relating to their concerns, opportunities and needs - theirs, not yours?
And all three M's covered?
  • Are you managing this process?
  • Are you marketing that you have a process and using it?
  • And are you measuring your effectiveness across all of your communications (advertising, adWords, web sites, real lead capture, customer and lead interactions, social networks and the good ol' sales force tools - telephones and email)?
If you can't answer yes to all these questions, then you are not really in the game at all. In order to join the Connected Market Space as it is today, you'll need the right tools to manage your leads and turn them into loyal customers. That's what we do at the Connected Market Space. Still want to know how? Ask us.