Archive for June 2012
Every year we here at Patricia Egen Consulting host a beta day event where we help test the next version of Sage ACT. Friday, June 30th, was this year’s test day. We had 19 people participating, 8 onsite and 11 remotely. It is always great to be in an event with some awesome ACT consultants. This year, we had two representatives from Sage – Amy Yosowitz and Mark Wheeler. I think it is nifty that Sage will send people from their development and QA groups out into the field to participate on these events. They provide help if we run into something odd, and advice about the new great features that we can’t tell you about – YET.
Here’ a photo of some of the people chatting right after lunch. Leslie from my staff brought some amazing sweet corn which we grilled along with hamburgers. It pays to come to our events.
One of the things that has always struck me is the desire of the ACT Consulting community to help make the product better and to ensure our customers desires are fed into the product. And it’s encouraging to know that Sage staff listen and try their best to make that happen as well.
That’s it for this post. I can’t wait for the next release to become available. I have high hopes for some of the new features. Sorry to keep you in suspense. Just keep staying on the look out for more updates.
Today is going to be a scorcher of a day. So of course I am going to barbecue. Well, when your son is visiting from out of town and requests ribs, you make ribs. And that’s what I’m going to do.
Today’s ribs are regular pork ribs, not baby backs. I never parboil the ribs before cooking even though that makes them fall of the bone. The reason the meat falls off is because it’s lost texture and flavor. Rib purists tell you to not steam or parboil the ribs. My father never did so I don’t. And my father made awesome ribs.
He learned how to make ribs in the poorer parts of town in Miami. Every Friday evening homemade barbecue pits were smoking away on street corners, My father was a police detective and was often called into those neighborhoods for all the wrong reasons but he stuck around for all the right reasons. He got to know the people and along the way their barbecue.
Their secret was low and slow. You stood around the pit and talked. And you didn’t play with the food. Once in a while near the end of the process, you took the meat swab (which was a old style dish washing mop), soaked in the wet sauce and lathered it over the ribs. You made sure the ribs weren’t over too hot a fire so the sauce didn’t blacken. You wanted the flavor and moisture but not too hard a bark.
The charcoal has to be white hot and mixed with chunks of hardwood. Here’s where my recipe differs from my fathers. I add in apple wood from the tree in my front yard. And I throw in whole heads of garlic. It’s pretty much the same method I use to make pulled pork butt. You can also make a dry rub for the ribs and cover them with the rub overnight, but that’s optional. Sometimes, I just want to taste the pork, the smoke and the wet vinegary sauce. Since I forgot to do the rub last night, that’s what will happen today. As a friend of mine used to say, serendipity happens.
Figure about 3 to 5 hours smoking over indirect heat. If the ribs are large and fat, it will be the 5 hour mark. I just make sure they have reached an internal temperature of 160 so they are safe. I will take them off to let them rest, make some corn bread and beans and share them with the son I only get to see once in a while now that he lives 2000 miles away. That in itself is a blog about making sure you enjoy every moment of watching your kids grow up. They leave too soon. And then have wonderful kids of their own – who are too far away. Sigh.
So, it’s off to the fridge to prep the meat and get the coals started. Hope you are having a wonderful summer. Stay cool.
Today, we got an email from Google talking about some of their new tools. This sounded interesting, so I went out to look around and check out the new feature. I found something very humorous today and I thought a lot of you SEO guru’s out there would get an extra kick out of this.
There are really fun tools coming from Google Analytics including Custom Dashboards and Social Trackbacks. I decided to have a look at the Social Trackbacks and learn a little more. I’ll post more about them in the future after I have had a chance to test it out.
So here is an official blog for Google talking about Social Trackbacks. This is what I will be diving into later. What did catch my eye was some very sloppy and suicidal attempts by a spammer to get backlinks, or inbound links from other websites. Have a look on the comments on the page. As of today, they haven’t been moderated but here is a screenshot, because they will surely be removed soon.
Ya, someone out there was not thinking today. That’s all for now. More to come.
They say the economy is getting better – well, maybe It’s an election year so people are being cautious with their money as they await the outcome in November. The market is like a yo-yo and job reports are even gloomier.
What this all means is we as business owners need to find creative ways of generating income and revenue. This can be marketing campaigns, reducing prices, and even looking at new ventures or ideas. So which direction do you take? How do you know what avenues you should travel to find that pot of gold? I believe it’s living right in front of you inside your customer data.
The time old expression of looking for gold in “them thar hills” doesn’t just apply to gleaming metal deposits. It also applies to business data that lies hidden behind minutia in your database. It is the old adage – you can’t see the forest for the trees.
If you frequent my blog, you know we support Sage ACT, a contact management application. Its main purpose in life is to keep track of everything about a customer, all in one place. If it is being used properly, it is loaded with data gems for you to mine.
Here are some things that I suggest you look for in whatever system you use to keep track of your customer interactions. What I am going to be describing and recommending here pertains to ACT but I think you will get the main idea and can probably do something similar in your CRM of choice.
First off, as I’ve said before in other blog articles, it is cheaper to go after current clients than to find new ones. Therefore the first set of recommendations is geared towards your existing customers.
Bring them back to the fold
A good CRM application will allow you to search for data based on dates. Try looking in your data for customers who have not been touched in any way for a year.
In ACT , this is as simple as clicking on Lookup – Contact Activity – and then choosing “Not Changed”. Use the resulting lookup to develop a call campaign. Send them marketing materials geared at “bringing them back” – offer them reduced services or provide coupons for price reductions. If you have started using social media, point them at your Facebook page and Twitter account.
Set up a “smile and dial” day in the office and assign a group of names to each of your staff. When you call the clients, ask them why they haven’t called on your services or bought your products recently. It is helpful to know why a customer has stayed away. Are they out of business? Have they moved in a different direction? You can use the results of the questions to help develop other approaches to bring back “missing in action” customers.
I have found that reaching out to a long lost client has some interesting results. It is very common to hear them say “I’ve been meaning to call but have just been focusing on business.” Haven’t we all. That’s probably one main reason these clients haven’t done business with you recently – it’s because you have been wrapped up finding new clients or working with ones who have called you. It is a case of getting caught up in day to day activities instead of doing heavy duty marketing and cold calls. And yes, even if it’s an existing client, it’s a cold call because you are making the call out of the blue. Those are tough – I don’t like to do them and neither does my staff. We’ve been doing a campaign recently to let customers know about new products and services we are offering. It is actually working.
Look for trends
Using reporting or dashboards, look for trends in your data. Are you selling a lot of a particular product? Are you selling into a vertical market, such as hospitals, medical fields, manufacturing or service industries? If you are not seeing a particular industry, look at ways to attract customers from that market. Buy lists from sources such as Hoovers or InfoUsa. Import them and focus an email and call campaign around those markets.
Another area to look at in your data is location. Charts and graphs can quickly help you identify data by state, city or zip code. This is what I call data lost in minutia. We tend to focus on one client at a time, or a group of clients in a region. Having a way to see the data from 50,000 feet enables you to identify opportunities. Here’s a real example from my own database. The following dashboard shows contacts by state and the right panel shows states with no contacts. That has become a mission of mine now – to get at least one customer in Wyoming. Looking at your data on a day by day basis, you miss things like this.
Using a similar approach, look for trends with products sales by day of the week. One of my clients had an ingenious idea. He asked me to build him a dashboard that showed which day of the week had the most opportunities created. He also wanted to know which day of the week had the most call volume. Based on the results shown on the dashboard, he had some of his staff come in on each day of the week. They then tracked how many sales were achieved by day of the week. He did this for two months. Immediately they noticed that for their business, Tuesdays and Thursdays were high selling days. It totally changed his approach and increased his revenues by 20% the first three months. Again, his staff was lost in their day to day routine. They were not paying attention to which day brought in the most revenue. By taking an innovative and focused approach, they got great results.
There are lots of fancy terms for real data mining – clustering, predictive analysis and so on. What I am saying here is don’t try to do something fancy in the beginning. Just take a look at your data from higher up – don’t focus on the little day to day things. If you track customer complaints are they coming from a specific area? Are they around a specific product? You might simply be selling into the wrong group. Do you track why you lose a deal? If so, study those results for trends. It might be as simple as picking the right day of the week to focus your calls. It’s all there for you to find. The secret is in knowing where to look.