Today’s guest post is written by Gene Marks, small business owner, technology expert, author and columnist. He writes regularly for leading US media outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur. He has authored five books on business management and appears regularly on Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC and CNBC. Gene runs a ten-person CRM and technology consulting firm outside of Philadelphia. Learn more at genemarks.com.
The rebranding of CRM
My company has been selling Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for more than 15 years. During that time I’ve watched these products go through multiple rebrandings, from “contact managers” to “sales force automation” to “collaboration” to CRM, which now encompasses not only sales but service, marketing and operations.
But, rest assured, these are all just elaborate names for one thing: databases.
The makers and marketers of today’s CRM systems will throw around all sorts of buzz words to describe what they do. “Social CRM.” “Workflows.” “Automation.” “Call Center.” They will dangle cool and exciting features in front of their customers Continue reading ›
Photo Credit: @TurnbullMalcolm. From left to right: Yoon Jong-Lok, Vice-Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning, Korea; Amy Adams, Minister for Communications and Information Technology, New Zealand; Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, Australia, at KANZ.
Earlier this month I was fortunate to be invited by NZ Trade & Enterprise to the Korea, Australia, New Zealand (KANZ) Technology Summit in Auckland. The conference brought together members of the technology communities of all three countries to forge links and share ideas about how to grow and support the ICT sector and strengthen the high-tech economy.
For me, the highlight of the event was Dave Birch’s stream on digital identity and money. Dave is the Global Ambassador for Consult Hyperion, a UK based consultancy focused on security around electronic transactions. Dave is something of a payments raconteur, whose wisecracks about ATMs needing thatched roofs and assuming anyone using cash is a drug dealer were funny and insightful – but they were all inching toward the point that despite all the innovation in financial services, all that we’ve really done is move physical payment paradigms into the digital world, and it’s not all that great an experience. Proving and managing identity for online financial transactions is still a big barrier to efficiency, and establishing identity, even in the physical world, often gives the illusion of security without any true validation. It’s “two people acting in a play about security” rather than an exchange that is truly secure.
Also, all the innovation in payments is happening on networks that were Continue reading ›
This week saw the IMF upgrade the UK’s economic growth forecast to 3.2%, placing the UK at the top of the class for growth among the world’s developed nations. In general terms, the health of the British economy has now recovered to a position equal to or better than the state it was in 2007 at the onset of the Global Financial Crisis.
While the UK has been clear of the technical definition of an economic recession for a few quarters now, these latest reports hopefully signal a period of coming prosperity, not just economic convalescence.
At long last.
However, what piques my interest is that while the curtain of economic frost shrouded the UK, a wave of broad technological innovation endured and even accelerated, meaning that as the UK’s population of five million businesses steps back into the global economic limelight, it does so with a clutch of quite different technological enablers that weren’t around back in 2007.
I’ve actually seen this movie before. Continue reading ›
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People are moving from desktop to smartphones and tablets, and they expect the businesses they use to be moving right along with them.
This means it’s a requirement for small business, and not just the large corporations, to invest in mobile optimization for their websites.
A click is not the same as a tap, and a mobile screen is a much smaller canvas to operate on than a monitor. Mobile users are even more demanding of a simple, beautiful experience, so it’s not as simple as shrinking your site down to fit on a phone.
While price, convenience and choice are all motivational factors for consumers buying online, you can be sure if you’re not capturing mobile traffic, you’re missing out on sales. In fact, having a mobile ready site could give you the edge over competitors who haven’t yet embraced he trend. Continue reading ›
Last Tuesday we published the first major update to Xero Touch for Android since the native app was first released back in February. Read on for a summary of what was in the release, the history of Xero Touch on Android, and the implications of OS fragmentation for support.
The major item you’re likely to notice is initial support for Files for Xero. Previously you could only attach a single picture to a receipt, but now you can attach as many as you like. This creates a foundation for our next two Android features: attaching files to invoices, and accessing the main files inbox.
Under the covers, we’ve also refactored segments of the app (particularly authorisation) into Android library projects. Xero Touch isn’t going to be the only mobile app we release, and this refactoring means that a lot more code can be reused for new apps. A more modular codebase also makes it easier for us to develop and test new features.
That’ll come in handy as we move to a more regular release cycle. Already the native version of Xero Touch has seen more regular releases, every five weeks on average (as opposed to five months for HTML5). Our customers also seem to like it a lot more. The HTML5 implementation at one point dropped down to a 2.4 star rating, but the current combined rating for the native releases is over 4 stars! It’s unfortunate that the ratings assigned to the old version of the app persist; this is why the overall app rating is only 3.55.
|HTML5||1.x||1 Oct ’12||228||700||3.07|
|Native||2.0.3+||19 Feb ’14||260||1079||4.15|
SMB Tech Tips by Gene Marks: Gene Marks is a small business owner, technology expert, author and columnist. He writes regularly for leading US media outlets such as The New York Times, Forbes, Inc. Magazine and Entrepreneur. He has authored five books on business management and appears regularly on Fox News, Fox Business, MSNBC and CNBC. Gene runs a ten-person CRM and technology consulting firm outside of Philadelphia. Learn more at genemarks.com.
Back in the day, when I talked to small business owners like myself, no one knew what CRM (Customer Relationship Management) was. Now, everyone seems pretty familiar with the concept, and the more well-known applications like Salesforce.com, SugarCRM and Batchbook. But the sad fact is that even though many know what CRM is, most still aren’t using CRM systems very well. In fact, of the 600 clients my company serves using various CRM systems, I’d say only 20 percent of them are really doing the right things. And what are the right things? It’s all about three words.
1. Integrate. A CRM system should not be on its own island. It should be talking to other systems — which means that your CRM software should be exchanging data with your accounting system, website and other databases. So when you choose a CRM application, make sure it has links into these other systems. When you view a customer’s record, you not only want to see their activities, notes, emails, pipeline and other CRM data but you also want to know their order history and whether or not there are any outstanding invoices.If you’re a Xero user, then check out the many CRM systems that partner and integrate with Xero. Also, Xero just introduced a new CRM-like feature called Smart Lists that let’s you search your customer data to create highly targeted lists that you can export to a CSV file to use via your email system or export to Constant Contact for targeted email marketing campaigns. The main point here is to centralize your customer data. Don’t be stuck doing duplicate entry. Don’t fall victim to bad data. Integrate.
Technology is having profound impact on retail. Retail precincts form the heart of small towns but the rise of Amazon and other retail websites are putting retail stores all over the world under threat.
Small countries like New Zealand, lacking in scale, are particularly affected. We’ve seen a push for legislation that adds sales tax to overseas purchases to level the playing field, but I’ve always thought a better approach was to change our mindset and compete globally.
It was delightful to see this TV One article over the weekend where Kathryn Wilson has blended a beautiful retail experience with technology.
Also some great advice from eCommerce NZ on capturing and measuring data to refine what works.
I’m sure many of us feel a little upset when we drive through communities and see empty retail spaces. Rethinking retail so customers are not just in your town but your country, or even the world, can flip this situation around. We can create new location-independent jobs that require great design, marketing and logistics skills.
What I loved about the story was how proactive Kathryn and her team are. There are plenty of marketing specialists and web consultants in every town ready to help retailers navigate this new world.
I hope Kathryn inspires many more retailers to start the journey.
When I started at Xero just over three years ago, one of the first Xero Add-ons I assisted with certifying was from a small little UK startup app called Receipt Bank. Well, three years on and Receipt Bank are now the most popular add-on for Xero, and recipients of a number of Xero awards.
As much as I love the original blog post (the cheesy background music on the video!), I thought it might be time to do a quick refresher, and cover some of the less obvious, and new features that Receipt Bank provides:
- More than just receipts. In the UK the term ‘receipts’ covers everything – expense receipts, accounts payable invoices etc, but in other parts of the world, it might not be quite as obvious that Receipt Bank supports receipts on expense claims but also accounts payable invoices and spend money transactions.
- Line item extraction. It was a huge leap forward when Receipt Bank recently announced they can now populate Xero with invoice line item details. Receipt Bank automatically splits line item details for original .pdf files – perfect for purchase invoices that need to be split across different accounts.
- Attachments. Receipt Bank creates attachments on all the documents it can in Xero – receipts, bills (accounts payable invoices) and spend money transactions (bank transactions), so you have a complete audit trail.
- Reimbursable and re-billing expenses. Receipt Bank’s integration with Xero enables you to create both an expense report for staff reimbursements and also a draft sales invoice for oncharged costs.
The most impressive development at Receipt Bank over the past three years however, is the unique way they have worked with Xero accounting and bookkeeping partners. Check out just one story here:
Earlier this month, New Zealand’s National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women (NACEW) held a Women in Innovation Summit. Our fearless leader Rod spoke about some of the barriers and opportunities women in tech face these days. A group of us tagged along to watch and came away with some pretty interesting food for thought.
How gender bias affects women in innovation
One of Rod’s key points was that ideally the gender balance of a company should reflect its customer base. While Xero’s stats put us ahead of many other companies in terms of gender balance – Google, for example – there is still room for improvement. For example, while 40 percent of Xero employees are women, only half of these positions are considered to be “hard core tech” roles.
Bias was a central theme of the day. We need more women leaders to speak out with confidence about their success, in order to provide girls and women of all ages with much-needed role models. Both men and women need to remove bias against other women and celebrate their success. Women need to be supported in their success and not be accused of “trying to act like a man”, or fall victim to tall poppy syndrome.
Rod also stressed the importance of encouraging girls in their final year/s of high school to consider tech careers. One attendee mentioned that at a recent visit to a Wellington girls’ high school, students had the overwhelming impression that “tech careers” were for sweaty, overweight, introverted men. It’s imperative kids learn that tech can be so much more than that – glamorous, challenging, exciting, innovative, a great way to earn money, and a means to contribute to the future of the county.
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We’re proud to announce that Rod Drury was honoured for Outstanding Contribution to Technology in NZ at last night’s CIO Awards.
Introducing the award, Graeme Riley — NZ Managing Director for SAP — said that Rod is is one of New Zealand’s leading CEO’s and business entrepreneurs.
From all of us here at Xero, we’d like to say congratulations!
To read more about the evening and the reasons why Rod was honoured with the award, check out this article by The National Business Review: