Category Archives: Marketing

Free open source software dives into a blue ocean of uncontested market space

What is open source software? It is the product of a movement to provide end-users with complicated software free of charge. Even more interesting, most open source software programs have vibrant communities of developers that freely contribute to the software, adding to its value by improving stability and extending functionality.

Whether you knew it or not- you already have had extensive experience with open source software. Open source CMS projects like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal have permanently changed the appearance of the web, helping millions to make websites.

Open source means business

You may be thinking: Blogging tools? Well that is no big deal- but an open source CMS isn’t all play. Magento is making major space in the ecommerce realm, enabling quick deployment of legitimate web-based storefronts. Magento isn’t just a front-end website builder either, it has tons of features on the back-end for business administration, including sales reporting, invoices, a shopping cart, a lots more. (Ask me to create a login for you on my Magento demo site.) Non-profits are able to use open source distributions like civiCRM to manage donations, track customers, and keep in contact with stakeholders.

The wild success of other open source customer relationship management tools like vtiger and SugarCRM sends a strong message to proprietary software CRM firms. Those two programs alone may be what prompted Salesforce.com to brandish a “No Software” crest with their logo.

Small and medium organizations are not alone moving into open source space. Heavyweight corporations are implementing open source tools, slashing IT costs and redefining how traditional software companies compete. New database and server management systems are now almost exclusively based on open source’s champion Linux. Even the most proprietary of software firms like Citrix and Oracle are releasing once vigorously protected software in accordance with demand for open source.

Even government, in all its glorious efficiency, has battled declining tax revenue by turning to open source through Open Office.

What is the driving force behind open source?

Cloud computing lends tremendous liquidity to the open source frenzy. Firms like PHP Fog may enable faster uptime, while rock solid hosting firms like MediaTemple and Rackspace make web serving easy. Demand for hosted software/services will continue to rise with the proliferation of feature-rich open source software distributions.

The practice of taking something really valuable and sharing it with others – sounds noble but impossible to sustain. Still somehow open source momentum seems unstoppable. And don’t be fooled, there is money to be made in open source. Loads of it- Just examine the synergy between Red Hat and JBoss. (JBoss was also the target of lucrative acquisitions.)

Ready to get on board? You can find lots of open source software at Sourceforge.

Try your hand at a CRM implementation: Locally host SugarCRM’s community edition. Mac users can use MAMP, Windows users can use XAMPP and be running in 15 minutes.

3 prospecting tools to accomplish your sales goals

If you sell for a living – you understand that the quality of your prospecting determines your level of sales success.

But prospecting can be very time consuming and tedious, so consequently few salespeople do enough of it. By default, the untrained seller ends up aimlessly reaching out to businesses, experiencing repeat rejection.

Here are some signs you are wasting your precious sales time:

  1. You are typing business names into a Google search box.
  2. You are driving around town looking for businesses you haven’t seen before.
  3. You are opening the phone book.
  4. You walk into businesses to ask who the owner is.

Consider what Todd Duncan writes in his book High Trust Selling about the law of the Bullseye:

“If you don’t aim for the best prospects, you are likely to do business with any prospect.”

But how do you measure what the best prospects are so that you can repeatedly find them? Here are some common characteristics-

  • High revenue/profit margin company
  • High (fill in the blank) industry spending (Advertising, utilities, printing, i.e. whatever you are selling)
  • Geography (close in proximity, lucrative area of town)
  • Large number of employees

Unfortunately, you can’t just open a phone book to quickly find lists of businesses that fit into these categories.

There is hope and a way forward! While prospecting can be a challenging process for the uniformed, accomplished salespeople have tools to expedite that process. In almost the same time it takes to read this blog, I could for example: A) Develop of list of 20 businesses with a list of the characteristics I choose. B) Map the perfect driving route to economize drive time. C) Have a personalized letter addressed to each prospect with unique facts and questions about their industry. D) Be equipped to explain how my product will meet their needs, and E) Walk out the door en route to deliver the letter (with a gift of course).

These three tools will streamline your B2B prospecting:

1. Reference USA* – Once you arrive at Reference USA, you have the option to select between new or existing businesses. Most subscriptions to Reference USA will also offer an alternate healthcare database.

Once you have selected one of these choices, be sure to select custom search followed by the criteria you choose to limit your results. See video at the bottom of this page. Be sure to export your list into an excel spreadsheet with all the fields you want to know.

2. Batch Geo – Use this to quickly plot all your prospects on ONE Google map. It’s infinitely better than typing one address at a time into MapQuest.

Tip: Be sure to add the column descriptions for each field and paste the entire location section (address, city, state, zip) into the paste field.

3. First Research* – Simply select your industry, and read its overview. The call prep sheet is an extraordinary tool and the fastest way to get basic understanding about the business environment of any industry.

*Requires a library card – The power of information accessible online through your local library is stunning. I have linked these databases through the Tulsa library research center, but they are made widely available thanks to the U.S. department of education.

However I would NOT recommend taking this lightning fast approach to prospecting.

I have barely scratched the surface of prospecting! Most sellers have taken so long to get to this point (holding a mapped list of possible targets) they still have limited knowledge of each prospect! NOW begins the process of more refining and researching your prospects. This is where prospecting really begins!

Here are some tips for how to determine if one of your prospects is a good fit for you:

– View the detailed company descriptions on Reference USA.
– Find financial statements on Edgar (Publicly traded) Guidestar (Non-Profit) or MDDI (Local businesses – through your library).
– Evaluate your prospect’s website.
– Mystery shop from a customer’s perspective by going to their location, or picking up a phone and making a phone call.

In summary, I will leave you with this: Prospecting is a necessary process that is not impossibly tedious to the trained salesperson, and it begins (and not ends) with a list of qualified businesses that will ultimately match your description of the ideal clients. Having prospected & researched thoroughly, your sales efforts will likely be both more profitable and more successful.

iOS 6 and the Apple Maps Mess

In his letter to Apple customers, Tim Cook apologized for the new challenges that face iOS6 users who are trying to locate local businesses with the new, sans-Google Apple Maps app. To his credit, since the initial launch, Apple has covered a lot of ground adding and correcting business listings in the new app. Still, there is a lot of inaccurate and missing information, and with millions of early adopters users now using iOS6, your business could be at risk of obscurity if some precautions aren’t made. Here’s how you can get found:

Not only are your potential customers looking to find your businesses via Apple maps, but they are also critically reading each corresponding customer review. What that means to you – you may only get one chance to make your e-first impression, so make sure it’s a good one.

SEO – It’s not magic – Video tutorial for WordPress

Search engine optimization is essential for every business’s website. Higher search rankings directly lead to increased traffic; ultimately leading to higher profitability and awareness.

Most web developers are skilled enough to execute SEO essentials. But to a developer, whose time is money, SEO is often last priority when faced with the opportunity to move on to another project. Ultimately too often business owners explicitly trust their web developer to launch a website – and never realize how the developer has cut corners on SEO. Turning to an SEO “expert” is often like the searching for wizard of Oz. SEO experts pretend there is some mystery and wonder behind their tactics – pretending that by virtue of being their client your site is “optimized.”

SEO is not magic. It’s not rocket science, either.

There are lots of tactics to improve your site’s ranking – with varying levels of effectiveness and difficulty. One of the MOST simple and important steps of SEO is defining your META tags.
This coding is often lost with a CMS like WordPress, because the real beauty of WordPress is the user’s ability to move beyond the laborious task of learning, typing, and retyping lines of code. But defining your site’s META tag is free, effective, and I’ll show you exactly how to do it:

Get the Flash Player to see this video.


As you can see in the video, this SEO essential is as easy as placing the following text in the header.php file located in your WordPress site’s theme directory:

< meta name=”description” content=”Business thought for consideration from Steven Rydin.” />
< meta name=”keywords” content=”steven rydin, business strategy, business tactics, financial markets, seo, marketing” />

Here is a link to Bluefish, the free HTML editor.

For help with this and other SEO projects, please contact me

7 Steps to unlimited free questionnaires

Gathering primary research about your organization is priceless. Good organizations conduct research. Great companies do it often.

How closely are you listening?

Every business owner has three goals for research:
1. Get the maximum number of responses
2. Get real-time feedback
3. Do it all for free

Right now Google is the only service to meet these criteria (to the best of my knowledge). One of my professors asked me how to do this, so in response:

Step-by-step instructions for conducting unlimited free research:

Step 0:

Get a Google account.

Step 1:

Go to docs.google.com

Step 2:

Create a new form.

Step 3:

Create your questionnaire.
Put a lot of consideration into this step. Consider getting help if you have never done this before.

Step 4:

Save & view.

Final questionnaire will be some variation of this:

If you are satisfied with the final product, email the link (your browser’s URL when viewing the survey) to your customer database.

Tip: Use an HTML email to send the link. Here are some sample HTML templates from Mailchimp for a professional look.

Step 6:

Go back to docs.google.com. Select your new survey. Sit back and count the responses.

Get early feedback if you like.

It will look like this:

Step 7:

When you are satisfied, close the questionnaire by unchecking “accepting responses” in the form tab.
Now export to excel. Analyze. (Or send to a geek who can analyze for you.)

Bonus:
If you want to make the survey even easier to access, embed it in your website. This will make an easier destination for traffic to find & complete your questionnaire: Ex. www.yourdomain.com/survey

How media social is your business?

Many businesses rely on making personal connections to build their revenue. Often, a firm handshake and a steady gaze is the only way to really trust someone you are doing business with. But times are changing, is your business adopting social media?

Do you trust Amazon? Apple? I bet you have never met Steve Jobs.

These companies formed a relationship with me through customer relationship management (CRM). A common buzzword in marketing and academia- I often hear a disconnect between theory and execution.

So this isn’t an article about how you should be “doing” CRM. Let me show you three quick ways to reach out and connect with your customers through social media:

1. Facebook Social Plugins – Are used to integrate your Facebook fan page into your website. Inspire comments on FB about your products, feature faces of your fans + more. This link will get you started.

2. Twitter “Tweet” Buttons – Let your customers broadcast your products or service on Twitter. With some ingenuity, you can also broadcast what you are saying on Twitter, or even let people sign up to follow you.

3. Mailchimp – Is a great way to send beautiful full color email campaigns to your clients. Just upload your contact database, design your letter, and send.

Embracing tools like these is imperative; especially in the new market, where lifetime relationships are formed electronically.

Cheers to the star entrepreneurs… for now.

Article review:

Reinvent Your Business Before It’s Too Late
by Paul Nune & Tim Breene – Harvard Business Review

“Sooner or later, all businesses, even the most successful, run out of room to grow. Faced with this unpleasant reality, they are compelled to reinvent themselves periodically. The ability to pull off this difficult feat and to jump from the maturity stage of one business to the growth stage of the next is what separates high performers from those whose time at the top is all too brief.

The potential consequences are dire for any organization that fails to reinvent itself in time.”

Even in this tough economy, many businesses are thriving.

This review is for you, top producing, star performing business owner.

If the status quo of your business seems great to you, cheers. Remember the good times, because they won’t last long.

Michael Gerber’s “E-Myth Revisited” describes the three roles every business owner plays: Technician, Manager, & Entrepreneur. Technicians are skilled at executing the daily affairs of the firm, while managers oversee and plan in an orderly fashion. If the manager and the technician live in the past and the present, respectively, the entrepreneur lives in the future. He is responsible for working “on” the business, not in it. Gerber strongly believes a true entrepreneur craves change.

And change is the essence of what every organization must do in a business world where entropy is the law, not the exception.

While many businesses perform well during periods of economic expansion, others return performance that is negatively correlated to periods of economic recession. In other words, the recession has done a lot of good for some businesses. If that business is yours, let your celebration be short lived. The economy will change soon, be sure your firm is ready to accommodate that change.

Regardless of how your business is performing today, there is a strong case to be made for implementing a strategic plan for change tomorrow. If you are one of many business owners feeling very optimistic about your firm’s current position, be on your guard against complacency.

The market always demands change.