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Why Successful Businesses Use Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Why Successful Businesses Use Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Often, when we start our small businesses, our biggest clients are our friends, family, and acquaintances. Maintaining a personalised relationship with our customers at this stage is usually easy. We are usually able to maintain great connections with our customers and therefore receive referrals and amazing reviews as a result of our personalized services. However, as your businesses grow, customers multiply, and it becomes more difficult to keep tabs and feedback from every single client. This is why most growing and successful businesses require a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system.

 

What Is A Customer Relationship Management Tool?

Bravapro | Swindon Virtual Business Manager | CRM

Customer Relationship Management systems are automated to manage all details and contacts of your customers and potential clients. Information stored may range from their contact details to their preferences, former communications, emails, previous purchases, sales details, follow-ups, deadlines, and any other notes collected from your customers. There is no limit when it comes to CRM.

With a CRM tool, you can centralize all your data and the data collected by all your team members in one place. Holding everything in one place lets you maintain meaningful personal connections with unlimited clients. While additionally allowing for the scalability of your business, the generation of analytical reports, and collaboration with your team members.

 

Why Not Spreadsheets? 

According to a study by HubSpot, about 40% of salespeople still use informal tools such as spreadsheets for CRM. While using a Spreadsheet has its perks, such as affordability, as your business grows, spreadsheets will just not cut it if you’re aiming for efficient and productive relationships with all your customers.  

For instance, spreadsheets limit your entries for each client’s information. When working with a spreadsheet, you might find it easier to only record the customer’s basic contact information. On the other hand, CRMs allows you to track every detail of the customer’s information across the sales funnel. 

Additionally, as you hire more people in your team, you will require a system that allows all team members to access the information in real-time and collaborate. Research has shown that 65% of businesses adopt CRM in the first five years of operations. The rate of adoption has also been proven to get higher as businesses employ a larger team.  

Furthermore, Spreadsheets do not offer automation, marketing campaign options, or integrations with other apps, such as emails. Moreover, they do not generate useful insights and comparative reports on your customers. Therefore, it might be time you consider upgrading to a CRM system.

 

Cut to the chase

Let’s Cut To The Chase

Small businesses find a challenge moving from spreadsheets to CRM due to fears of complexity, integration, or cost. However, you can leverage the many user-friendly and free CRM tools for small businesses, such as Trello or Hubspot, to get you started. As you grow your customer base, you may invest in a premium subscription with more advanced features.

If you’re still unsure whether a CRM is a great fit for your business. Or if you need any help getting started with CRM for your business, you can consult a Virtual Business Manager to set up an automated CRM system. We’re here to help you grow your operations, manage your current & potential customers, and maintain a personal relationship with each one of them, no matter how many they are.

The What, Why And Wherefore Of Systems And Processes

The What, Why And Wherefore Of Systems And Processes

Let’s talk about business systems and processes! Why you need them, what they are and how they can improve your bottom line.

First, let’s start with some basics.

What’s the difference between a process and a system?

Put simply….

  • Processes are the step-by-step actions of how you do things in your business.
  • Systems are the tools or software you use to deliver those processes.

Think of it like this; if you are planning a journey, you may read a map to understand how you get from A-B, i.e. the process of getting from A-B. You could then use a car, your system, to get you from A to B faster.

Often systems and processes are the areas that many owners shy away from tackling. I understand that it can seem like there are so many other things to do in your business. Why make more work for yourself? Why mend something that isn’t broken? However, committing to tackle one process or system at a time can significantly affect how effectively your business runs. 

So don’t feel overwhelmed and you need to tackle everything immediately; take one step at a time.

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re doing everything right, however, it is slower than you would like, work on your systems. Work on your processes if you’re working fast but not getting anywhere or things are slipping through the net. If you are still unsure, I would recommend looking at your processes first.

 

system in blocks

 

Why are business processes and systems important?

#1 Systems and processes build consistency.

Having documented processes and associated systems in place enables you to maintain consistency in your business. While we often think, ‘I do this every day, I can remember what to do’, but the reality is we can and do miss out on steps in our rush to get things done. Creating checklists and documenting processes ensures you don’t forget anything important. It builds consistency, which can be the difference between a client becoming a loyal customer or a passing sale.

#2 Systems and processes speed up your overall operations.

Writing things down ensures you remember all those little steps we think we’ll remember but sometimes forget. With a written reference document, it is easier to tick off each step; hence you don’t forget something important, and you don’t have to go back and start again. Documenting processes can be especially important when we only do something now and again.

Additionally, recording your processes and then building suitable systems around those processes makes it easier to identify:-

  1. Is there an opportunity to automate any of those processes
  2. Is there an opportunity to outsource any of those processes

Both options would free up your time to work in other areas of your business.

#3 Written processes create a strong foundation for growth.

I mentioned outsourcing in the last point. However, you can’t outsource until you have clear, concise instructions for the freelancer to follow. Training somebody is going to be a million times easier if you can talk them through the steps required and they have a reference document to refer back to when you are not around. It also ensures that they follow your specification and ensures consistency in your product or service no matter which team member delivers it.

#4 Systems and processes help to keep it simple

A lot of the time, people resist setting up systems and processes because they think it will be complicated.

In fact, the opposite is usually true. A system does not need to be complicated. Thinking about how you work in your business can often help you identify steps that are not working or are not adding value to your business. Regularly analysing the tools, you are using in your business can also help you determine if there is a more straightforward way of doing things or if any new tools or systems could help.

 

Process blocks

 Where to start with systems and processes

Next time you start to write your blog, onboard a new client or pack up your product (or whatever the essence of your business is open up a blank word document (or google document) and jot down the steps you take to do that task.

At this stage, it doesn’t have to be fully written instructions or be perfect; you can elaborate on these points later. However, this is the start!

Now think about things like:-

  • Can you break these high-level tasks down further? 
  • Can you add bullet points or checklists as quick tick lists?
  • Are there any steps you are doing for the sake of doing them, i.e. they are not adding value?
  • How can you organise your processes so that they are easily accessible for anyone that needs them (even if it is only you at the start of your business journey)
  • Are there any stages that could be automated or outsourced?
  • Do the notes include jargon that may need further explanation?

And probably the hardest thing to think about

  • How are you going to make using these processes part of your daily routine?

Your processes and systems will likely continue to evolve, especially as your business grows. They are a ‘living document’ that you should constantly refine and revisit to ensure they are still effective and efficient.

 

Helpful tips

Bonus tip – How to keep everything organised.

Those that have read my blogs before will know my ‘go-to business tool is Trello. I use Trello for everything from recording my business goals, managing my projects, planning my blogs, and arranging my process documents.

I use the paid Trello version, and for only a few pounds per month, I can add checklists and deadlines to cards and automate some of the actions.

More information on Trello is available here. Or get in touch, and we can arrange a chat about using Trello.

 

5 Easy Ways To Protect Your Business From Cyber-Crime

5 Easy Ways To Protect Your Business From Cyber-Crime

Are you relying on good luck or a wing and a prayer to protect yourself from cyber-crime and internet risks? Below are some online security tips your business can use to protect itself. After all, you don’t know when your luck will run out!  

 # 1: Set Up Two-factor Authentication

Set up two-factor authentication for all your online accounts and devices.

Hackers are clever; the right person could hack nearly any online account or device. Enabling two-factor authentication on your laptop, phone, email account and on each app you use is a straightforward way to add extra security. 

Two-factor authentication ensures that anybody attempting to access an online account is who they say they are. The way it typically works is:-

  • Firstly, you enter your username and password as normal
  • Then, rather than gaining immediate access, a second level of verification is needed. This second level of approval could be via
    • An additional PIN to enter
    • A secret question to answer
    • A code sent to your phone or email
    • Approval on an authenticator app

The theory is that even if your device was stolen and your password compromised, the hacker isn’t going to know or have access to this extra information.

And yes, I know it can be annoying to have to verify everything on your phone or via email. But not as irritating as losing all your data or, worse, all your money.

 

 # 2: Use A Password Manager

Personally, I use LastPass, but I recently purchased Norton anti-virus (See also tip 4 about anti-viruses), and noticed it contains a free password manager.

Most of us understand that we shouldn’t use our children’s names, date of birth, 12345 or ‘password’ as your password. That your password should be unique for each site and consist of a number, letters (capitals and small case), and symbols in a complex random order.

We all understand the theory, but the challenge is when we use so many apps every day, how do you remember these random passwords? The simple answer is unless you have a photographic memory, you can’t.

So, instead of following what we know would be the safe way of working, we continue to use a weak password, write them on post-it notes or have a file called passwords (don’t laugh; I have seen it!)  

This is where password managers help, as they store all your login information for all the websites you use in one place. When you log into a website or app, the password manager automatically populates the password fields. So you can still have a complicated password but don’t need to remember it. The only password you need to remember is the one to your password manager tool. 

 

 # 3: Connect To A VPN 

Have you ever sent an email while you’re in a queue for your morning coffee, Or when you access your bank account on the train doing your daily commute – you may as well use the time wisely, right! 

If you’re relying upon an unprotected public Wi-Fi network for your connection, be careful. The cyber-savvy stranger opposite you on his laptop could be eavesdropping.

A Virtual Private Network (or VPN) helps safeguard your online activities by hiding your personal information when you access the internet. This means you can check your bank account, shop online, and even send confidential emails without the fear of the data being compromised. 

Bonus Tip: If you outsource your work to a virtual assistant or virtual business manager, one of the first questions you should ask is if they use a VPN. 

 

 # 4: Routinely Update Anti-virus And Anti-malware Software

We all do it; our anti-virus sends a pop-up reminding us we need to update, but what do we do? We press ‘later.’ 

Software providers are regularly developing updates (called patches) to take care of any weaknesses or threats as they emerge. However, these updates can’t work unless you apply them. To increase your protection from cyber-attacks, it’s essential your anti-virus/anti-malware are the most up-to-date versions.

 

 # 5: Shop Securely Online.

The simplest way to ensure an online purchase is ‘uneventful’ is to make sure the website you’re buying from is safe and secure. Look out for the lock symbol in the toolbar. Plus, the website starts with “HTTPS” in the address bar before tapping in all your credit card or bank details.

Do You Think Cyber-crime Won’t Happen To You?

 

That it only happens to big businesses?

This is no longer true. Big corporations spend billions on their IT security as they cannot risk the bad reputation from a significant data breach. Hackers are therefore increasingly targeting mid to small-size businesses. They are easier to hack because small companies are generally under-protected or do not understand what is needed to safeguard their technology.

 Questions To Ask Yourself

  • Do you have a website? Perhaps even an online store where you take payments? Are they safe for those visiting your site?
  • How much personal information do you keep digitally on your clients, suppliers or contacts? Is that information stored safely?
  • Think of how many documents you downloaded, emails you signed up for or forms you completed this week. Were they all from reputable sites?
  • How many emails do you send or receive every day? Do any of them contain personal information?
  • If you are storing information in the cloud, who can access it, and what safety measures do you have in place?
  • What about your social media posts? Are they secure and safe? Or are you giving out information a hacker could use to get into your accounts? 

If any of the above applies to you, you need to consider how you protect your technology, business data and personal information. If you are unsure where to start, then get in touch I would be happy to talk you through some of these quick.

Control Your Schedule With These Diary Management Tips

Control Your Schedule With These Diary Management Tips

Are you feeling overwhelmed by your calendar? Perhaps you are always running late or missing deadlines. Do you feel you are constantly juggling your work, re-organising meetings or just playing catch up and never in control? If you’re finding diary management a constant struggle, here are a couple of top tips to help you regain control of your calendar and time.

What Is Diary Management?

Let’s start with the basics; what do I mean by diary management. Firstly diary management is more than accepting or declining your latest invitation or appointment. It’s about having a structure to your day, a method to the way you work that works for you.

So, what does it take to manage your calendar effectively?

Diary Management Essential Skills

There are a couple of principles that are important to developing a diary management system that works:-

  • Allow buffer time between appointments for preparation and travel and those all-important breaks.
  • Be honest about your habits and how you like to work. Some people are natural morning people and are at their best early in the day. Others need several coffees first and don’t hit their stride until the afternoon. Match your natural working pattern with the timing of your appointments.
  • When you settle on a diary management system, stick to it. You might decide colour coding or time blocking works for you (they work for me). Or maybe you want to use an online calendar instead of a physical diary. Whatever you decide will work for you, set up the process and stick to it.

Diary Management Is Not A One-size-fits-all Solution.

Your system must be in line with your personal working style. So an essential part of setting up an effective process is to be honest with yourself about how you work ( which is different from how you should work). For example, here are a couple of considerations to think about:-

  • What time are you comfortable starting meetings in the morning?
  • Are evening informal meetings or drinks an option, and if so, what days would work?
  • Are there any days you prefer to avoid having meetings? (I usually try to avoid Fridays, so I can focus on my workload and go into the weekend with a clear desk). Or perhaps you would prefer not to travel on certain days – Friday afternoon traffic can be a nightmare.
  • Do you have any regular personal commitments, i.e. the school run, that need to be factored in?
  • Do you prefer in-person meetings, or are you comfortable with Zoom calls, which can be easier to fit in?

5 Top Diary Management Tips

Quick Tips Image

 

#1. Schedule everything.

Your diary isn’t just for appointments. If you have a job or task to do, put the time in your calendar. It can also help to give that task a priority setting (This can be especially useful if you are outsourcing your diary so your virtual support knows what can and can’t be moved if necessary). Scheduling everything is the only way to understand how you are using your time, and more importantly how you are wasting your time.

#2. Time block.

Are you doing your best work if you spend your days flitting between tasks? Juggling different jobs means your focus is scattered across multiple tasks/responsibilities. This makes it difficult to give any one task your entire focus and attention.

Research shows that if you are juggling 5 jobs, you could lose as much as 80% of your productive time each day. You are far more effective if you spend a couple of hours focusing on each job instead of slotting in tasks sporadically throughout the day.

#3. Colour code.

Start by thinking about the kinds of tasks and appointments you have throughout the day. Set up each category with its own colour code. Giving every entry in your calendar a colour makes it easier to see your priority for the day. It can provide a quick visual of how your time is split and lets you see what is eating into your precious time.

#4. Set up reminders

If you have regular jobs to complete, set up a reoccurring reminder in your calendar. For example, if you have decided to assign a slot every Friday morning to paying invoices, set up a reminder for 15 minutes before, then you know you have to complete your current job and focus on paying the bills.

#5. Timing.

How much time do you spend in meetings, and are you getting a return on that time investment? It’s easy to get into the trap of scheduling meetings for a specific length – usually 30 or 60 minutes. But do you actually need all that time? Could you cut it down to 20 or 45 minutes?

Cutting the meeting length down means you have built in a buffer should the meeting overrun. It also means you have some preparation time for the next meeting, which means you will be more focused in that meeting.

It’s amazing just how the 10-20 minutes you save by reducing meeting length slightly add up over a week.

Have You Thought About Outsourcing?

If diary management is a drain on your time, you may want to consider outsourcing it. Hiring a virtual resource to organise your calendar might unlock even more time in your day. Yes, I know it can be scary to hand over your day/life to someone else. But think about it, if you set them a framework to work to, they can make impartial decisions on how to effectively plan your time. Or, should you decide to change your plans, your virtual resource can make all the necessary calls to re-arrange. They can even work across your team, ensuring all your staff or associates’ calendars are aligned, and everybody is in the meetings they should be.

Contact me if you want to know more about the diary management services I can offer.

 

7 Awesome Benefits of Standard Operating Procedures

7 Awesome Benefits of Standard Operating Procedures

Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are what smart businesses use to ensure consistency in business tasks and processes. Having consistent processes means delivering a consistent service or product to your customers. The benefits of Standard Operating Procedures and numerous, so I have picked some key ones to focus on in this blog.

What Are Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

SOPs contain clearly documented step-by-step instructions and checklists that are simple for team members to follow. Having SOPs can considerably reduce errors, or should repeated mistakes occur, give the business owner tools to manage that with their employee.

As a small business owner, writing SOPs can seem like ANOTHER task on the ever-growing list. There is also the misconception that standardising and creating a set of SOPs limits the company (not the case as SOPs should be an ever-evolving document. But I want to tell you that the SOPs for your business may be one of the most essential communication tools in your business.

Here are some reasons why….

 7 Key Benefits Of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) 

Standard Operating Procedures Bricks

#1. They promote clear communication.

Well-written SOPs communicate clearly the responsibilities and duties of your team members. They do not have to count on their memories or everything they learned previously. They have simple directions at their fingertips with their role defined.

#2. They provide consistency as well as quality control.

SOPs ensure that the tasks needed to keep your business working get completed efficiently. Plus, regardless of who delivers the task or when it is delivered, the job is done the way you want it done. SOPs do not hinder your employees – or turn them into mindless robots – instead, they set expectations on what is needed from them to succeed.

#3. They help increase efficiency.

If your team understands your expectations, they know the goals and are more motivated to achieve them. Additionally, SOPs increase productivity for managers by saving time in having to train and re-train staff.

#4. They promote cross-training.

In a small business, you probably have “key players” who are the only people who know how to perform specific jobs. But what if that key player is out on holiday or sick? SOPs enable other employees to take on those tasks and deliver them to the same standard. It also allows you to outsource the work as a strategic growth plan.

#5. SOPs are essential to your team members’ performance process.

You can not hold your team responsible for tasks or processes if you have not documented what they have to do. Without SOPs, job performance can because subjective and a matter of opinion. However, with SOPs, managers can identify employee success and any deficiencies or shortfalls. Adherence to the SOPs forms a framework for your appraisal process, while failure to adhere can give you the evidence needed to progress any disciplinary procedures.

#6. They help create a safer working environment.

Easy-to-follow SOPs and appropriate training helps to reduce the chances of accidents. The fact tasks are documented and are available as reference means there are no excuses for not remembering the correct- safe -procedure.

Likewise, they could also reduce legal liability. If someone brought a case against you, you could demonstrate you have documented the correct working practice.

#7 They provide your team with motivation and inspiration.

Knowing how to do things right and what value their work brings to the organisation builds team loyalty and trust.

Next Steps

SOPs have the potential to enable organizations to improve quality without increasing costs and are well worth making the time to invest in putting these together. If you are unsure where to start my blog ‘How to create standard operating procedures’ may help, or book a no-obligation discovery call by dropping me an email to [email protected]