How Alexa Can Integrate With A CRM for Your Small Business

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Amazon is making headlines in the business world (again) just a year after Alexa for Business was launched in November 2017. Echo’s lineup of smart speakers proved a commercial success with tens of millions of Alexa-enabled devices sold and over 50,000 skills (and counting) developed for Alexa by a growing community of users and developers across the globe.

Forward-looking companies have already seen the potential of deploying Alexa for Business particularly in customer service, productivity, and workflow. Companies like Air Canada, Telus Corp, Manulife, and TD Bank are working with Amazon in building company-specific skills for Alexa to create a seamless experience for workers and customers alike.

Alexa Skills in a Nutshell

Skills are essentially apps designed to work on Alexa to fulfill specific tasks. Amazon made it open for partners and third-party app developers to build skills which can either be used exclusively by the company who made them (private skills) or publish the skills  for everyone to use (public skills) after being certified by Amazon.

Skill engagement has grown by 75% in 2017 and continues to grow by 50% year over year. This is key to Amazon’s success, outperforming tech giants Google, and Apple in terms of smart speaker sales during the 3rd Quarter of 2018.

Building a Smarter Workplace

Amazon goes beyond consumer electronics for smart homes to voice-activated workspaces for small businesses by adding a layer on top of Alexa’s basic features. Small businesses can do a lot more by configuring Echo devices to work with room profiles, calendars, conferencing systems and by creating custom skills to fulfill specific tasks.

Here are some examples of use cases of Alexa being used in the workplace.

Hands-free Conferencing

Conde Nast and Propel Insurance were among the first to use Alexa for Business to schedule and conduct meetings with co-workers. Alexa helps eliminate cumbersome steps when looking up for available rooms, scheduling meetings, and so on.

For instance, you may ask Alexa to schedule a meeting and it will pick a date for you, or have Alexa pull out your company calendar and choose one yourself. Join meetings on the fly by simply talking to Alexa to patch you through – no dialing in or typing passwords.

Owners of small businesses also like the fact that Alexa supports third party conferencing apps like Skype for Business, Cisco, WebEx, and Zoom, making it much easier to transition from screens and keypads to voice-activated systems (or have both at the same time).

Smart Offices

Wouldn’t it be great to have an AI who could tell your way around, pull out specific information for you, or ask maintenance to fix things around the office? Valence and General Electric were able to accomplish this feat by building Alexa skills and configuring Echo devices in a certain way.

What’s really interesting is how these companies came up with these ideas. Normally, they’ll have everything printed out on inch-thick corporate manuals/inventories or have them posted in their company website and people will have to search through them for answers.

But what if they can simply ask and have just the information they want from a voice-activated smart device like Amazon Echo? Using cutting-edge technology in conversational AI and voice recognition, businesses are able to build company-specific skills for Alexa, anything from answering specific questions, providing technical guidance, to sending out requests in a more natural way which is through spoken language.

Voice-enabled CRM

One of the best use cases of voice AI (which also feels more natural to use) is being able to interact with CRMs by speaking to it. Although there are some kind of voice-enabled CRM in the past, it’s nothing close compared to what Alexa for Business has been able to achieve.

Small businesses can now create their own custom skill or API for Alexa to interact with existing CRMs like Small Businesses Dream using their own voice. This can save them a lot of time looking up through each list or typing in new leads. So instead of switching back and forth making calls, typing customer information, inquiring about their leads and prospects, and taking notes on their last call, sales people can stay on their smart speakers and have Alexa and Small Business Dream do the rest of the job.

Stonehenge NYC is a perfect example of how a private real estate company was able to deploy Alexa for Business to create a seamless experience for their employees and rental customers by linking Alexa with their database and CRM service. They have over a hundred skills for Alexa and are continuously building more skills as they go.

Choosing the Right CRM for Alexa

Alexa’s extensibility makes it an ideal choice for a lot of third-party software solutions like Small Business Dream. It has been successfully deployed to work with some CRMs with a little help from the CRM providers, app developers, and Amazon.

Small Business Dream allows first time users to experiment with its email autoresponder, sales funnel, survey setup, landing page editor, and analytics. It’s especially important for small startups who need sales and marketing automation they can easily work on without spending too much on trainings and onboarding new employees. Small Business Dream will guide you through the whole process one step at a time, or you may reach them for consultations and mentoring on the best practices of using sales and marketing automation for your business.

Learn more on how you can successfully build your small business at SmallBizDream.com and start using our suite of tools to increase your sales and profitability like never before.

Protecting Your Customer’s Data – How CRM Provides Security for Your Small Business

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Governments around the world are tightening the laws on data protection and breach notification, affecting millions of businesses across the globe. Europe has already tightened their data privacy laws with the General Data Protection Regulation giving the individual more rights and protections. Now it’s Canada’s turn to beef up its data privacy laws.

Starting November 1st, organizations across Canada will be subject to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) which will require companies to provide consumers and individuals notice of privacy breaches. Companies and organizations may also be liable and could face fines from $100,000 to $500,000 if they are found negligent.

Businesses must ensure customer information is in safe hands, and should come up with a system of reporting data breach to privacy agencies and all persons involved as quickly as possible.

Complying with Data Protection Laws

CRMs generally conform to data protection laws by helping customers make informed decisions along the ‘buyer’s journey’. With the new law coming into force, businesses that use them are much better off compared to those who don’t. This is due to the fact that CRMs have certain features and functionalities which covers both business owners and customers from improper use of customer data.

Consider some of the GDPR-compliant features and functionalities of Small Business Dream CRM:

  • “Double opt-in” email confirmation – your email subscribers will not be entered into your mailing list until confirmation by email, explicitly stating his or her interest to receive more information from you. This step is extremely crucial because it can be used as proof that they’ve agreed to your terms.
  • “Opting out” from your mailing list – subscribers can unsubscribe at any point in time by clicking “Unsubscribe to this email” at the end of every mail. This goes perfectly with data protection laws allowing users to opt out of your mailing list fairly easily. Sending marketing emails to your subscribers without an “unsubscribe” link puts a lot of risk to your business for non-compliance of the GDPR.
  • Deleting contacts – this option will come in handy if you have prospects and customers who want information about them completely wiped out from your system – again, in compliance to data protection laws about your customer’s right to be “forgotten.” However, it is good practice to keep a CSV file of all your customer’s data offline as in the case of a data breach where you might have to take drastic measures to prevent further attacks.

Business owners who use CRM will have better chances of being on the right side of the law than if they were to do things haphazardly on their own. Note: this is not legal or financial advice and is written only for educational purposes. Whenever possible, seek competent legal advice about data protection or have Small Business Dream help you with it.

Collecting and Storing Customer Information

As much as possible, you should avoid storing sensitive information which may cause potential harm to the customer, esp. matters about one’s financial status or health condition except in business like real estate, medical services, or financial planning where they are considered essential. In this case, we need to secure information about our customers by all means.

At the very least, we only want the bare minimum such as names and contact information from the get-go. But as we get to know our potential clients and customer, we can collect more information about them through surveys, e.g., specific interests, hobbies, preferences, and other such details which doesn’t reveal sensitive information.  Ultimately, we want to make sure our CRM is impervious to cyber attacks and allows us to quickly respond to data breach with relative ease.

Keeping Your Data Safe

Before signing up for any CRM service, you should ask your account representative where they store their data. You should avoid companies that have data centres in countries that don’t have a good record of privacy or security. Small Business Dream uses servers in Australia, Japan and the United States – three countries that take privacy and security very seriously.

Most CRMs have SSL certificates to prevent unauthorized access to your customer database. Small Business Dream CRM uses secure connection for accessing the CRM accounts. It also makes it possible to remotely access the CRM in case of theft or loss, providing users some window to pre-empt a data breach, and quickly notify customers about it. In any case, don’t hesitate to let Small Business Dream help you out by availing one of our mentoring and customization packages designed to provide you with the best and most secure user experience.

In closing, CRM can be of great help for business owners to be a step ahead, not only in the competitive world of business, but in keeping it within safe bounds of data protection laws. Compliance is no longer just an option – having a CRM for your business is more of a necessity, if not the only logical choice.

Learn more on how you can successfully build your business through sales and marketing automation. Visit SmallBizDream.com and start using our suite of tools to increase your sales and profitability like never before.

5 Steps to Creating Your First Landing Page

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Spending a ton of money on expensive ads is pretty much a thing of the past. Nowadays, you can setup your own landing page and have as much reach or even greater. One of the quickest ways in acquiring new customers in the digital era is by having a landing page for your business.

Getting to Know Some Basics

Traditional businesses find it much easier to build an online presence, thanks to vastly improved site creation tools designed specifically for people with little or no experience working with websites. Clickfunnels and Leadpages are some examples of DIY landing page builders for beginners, but some CRMs also have this feature as one of their customer acquisition tools.

These days, you don’t have to learn HTML and CSS since most landing page builders contain visual elements aside from the usual code. However, learning some basics allows you to make fine adjustments and have greater control on your landing page’s look and feel. There are basically two stages:

  1. Laying the basic structure and content of your landing page using HTML (hypertext markup language)
  2. Designing and applying styles using CSS (cascading stylesheets)

Using a landing page builder, you can simply choose a template or theme to work on and give it your own personal touch (changing the background colour, image, fonts, links, etc). Small Business Dream CRM allows you to use both methods for your landing page, sales funnel, and survey form. This, combined with a database management system and autoresponder makes Small Business Dream CRM a powerful tool for both old school and tech-savvy business owners.

Building Your First Landing Page with Small Business Dream CRM

Landing pages are some of the client acquisition tools you can use along with Small Business Dream’s survey forms, sales funnel, and card scan function. You may start with a simple landing page as your opt-in page and slowly build your email marketing strategy with Small Business Dream’s mailing list, email series, and autoresponder.

Step 1:

Sign up for a CRM Account. Small Business Dream has plenty of options for business owners, sales and marketing teams looking to gain a firsthand experience using the CRM. Upon subscription, you’ll be receiving updates which will guide you through the whole process and introduce you to the CRM’s main features and different functionalities including page and sales funnel creation.

Step 2:

Pick a landing page template. Small Business Dream has plenty of templates to choose from including restaurant, hair salon, facial care, auto repair – pretty much any kind of business. If you can’t find a match, you may choose any template and customize it by yourself (DIY), or you can avail of Small Business Dream’s Done for You (DFY) packages and have it set up for you (just provide your landing page’s ‘look and feel’ to facilitate the process).

Step 3:

Apply customization and styling effects. Start by putting your logo, images, and texts to your template. You can use your own images or get them free from Pexels or Pixabay. Match the aspect ratio of the target image to the page. Editing texts is pretty much like using a word processor on the page editor. You can then edit the links in your CTAs (call to action) by double clicking on the CTA button and inserting the URL or permalink to your sales funnel, survey, opt-in confirmation, or any other page you’ve made on the CRM. You can also change the background image for templates that utilize scrolling parallax effect (faux 3D) using the CSS editor; insert a video, modify background colour, or implement dynamic styling effects during mouse hover, etc.

Step 4:

Test your landing page. Small Business Dream’s templates are responsive both on PC and mobile. Modifying the templates on the surface level won’t have any effect on those. However, if you choose to move things around with the CSS editor, (float, aside, etc.) it’s good practice to check on the PC and mobile browsers if they’re positioned correctly. Also, test the CTA buttons if they lead to your assigned page URL.

Step 5:

Promote your landing page. You can start acquiring new leads with your landing page and watch your Action List fill with new contacts from time to time. Create more traffic to your landing page by using social media and encourage your friends and followers to share it with others (shorten your landing page’s URL using Small Business Dream’s Shorten URL feature to make it easier to remember). You may also try promoting your landing page through Facebook Ads for a limited time or have two versions (split tests) running at the same time – the possibilities are endless.

Final Thoughts

Spending some time working on your landing page pays dividends for your small business and really allow you to target niche markets. You only have around 8 seconds to make a good impression so you need to have good graphics and good copy on your landing page to make each second count.  Make some improvements from time to time. See what works and update your knowledge on how to better use landing pages or have Small Business Dream assist you in reaching your goals.

Learn more on how you can successfully build your business through sales and marketing automation. Visit SmallBizDream.com and start using our suite of tools to increase your sales and profitability like never before.

Creating an Email Strategy for Your Small Business

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We’re all familiar with email marketing. It’s how we get our coupons, discounts, and newsletters from businesses all over the internet. Many of these emails are considered spam. So how do small companies without a big marketing budget do email marketing correctly to engage their audience and drive more people to their websites or into their stores?

We’ll answer the question with a proven strategy using sales and marketing automation.  Here’s why you should consider creating an email strategy for your small business:

Half of the world’s population are email users. Estimates show around 3.8 billion email users by the end of 2018. Gmail users alone account for 1 billion email accounts, 75% of whom access them through their mobile devices. In fact, every mobile user has at least one email account for signing up on Google Play or accessing their social media account through Facebook Mobile or Twitter. One in two of your potential clients and customers are email users (give or take, depending on where you live), and by being able to connect with them, you could potentially increase your income by as much as 50%.

Stay on top of user engagement. Besides email, the internet has plenty of other platforms for connecting with other people around the world. But despite the popularity of social media, email still ranks as the best and the most preferred method of communication, particularly on anything business-related. One of the key advantages of having an email list is that, unlike Facebook or Twitter, you have more control over how your message is delivered to your target audience. You could spend hours creating great content for them, but it could quickly vanish from Facebook newsfeed or buried underneath by dozens of other posts within minutes.

Automate routine tasks more easily. Small business owners don’t have much time on their hands responding to every email. Fact is, they don’t have to. Some of the best sales and marketing automation have mailing lists, email templates, and auto-responders taking care of most of the work so they can focus more on things that matter. It might take some work initially getting more acquainted with the ins and outs and creating an email strategy. As you gain more experience, you’ll be spending less time with it, and begin to reap the benefits of using this sales and marketing feature for your small business.

Steps in Building your Email List Using Sales and Marketing Automation 

Step 1:

Choose a sales and marketing automtion software with an auto-responder feature. If you’re just starting out with email marketing, you don’t need an expensive CRM like Salesforce, Hupspot, or NetSuite. There are plenty of options for business owners from email subscription service and lead-generation software. Small Business Dream offers service packages for small businesses who want to accelerate growth using this feature. Just remember to stay within the bounds on the proper use of this tool.

Step 2:

Set up an opt-in page or survey form. You can start with a very simple and straightforward landing page or survey form and add your bells and whistles as you get better. Small Business Dream can help you set up your first landing page and survey form. Share the link through your Facebook Page, WordPress, or your company website. Or you can have it the old way and add the contact yourself (be sure to get their email addresses). Another method is to put QR codes in conspicuous places to get your walk-in prospects and customers to your landing page or online survey. Offer freebies or discounts for taking the time.

Step 3:

Wait for confirmation from your subscribers. Double opt-ins is the preferred method of choice for email subscriptions because it accomplishes two things at once. First, it filters out low-quality leads, and second, it helps verify real users. This might seem tedious compared to single opt-ins, but you’ll have better chances of making more conversions over the long haul for getting high-quality leads. It consists of a few lines asking your recipients to confirm they’ve opted in to your mailing list by clicking a link, etc., hence a “double” opt-in.

Step 4:

Segment your prospects and customers. You may start with just a few categories at first. Later, you can add more details to your customer data to make it more granular. Small Business Dream allows you to segment your prospects and customers from your initial survey. For instance, you can include a list of brands, companies, or products on the survey form and Small Business Dream will categorize each contact based on which box your visitors have checked. The same applies for setting priority to every customer. You can update their category by giving out surveys periodically in order to stay relevant to them.

Step 5:

Create a simple email follow-up series. Take some time reading through the templates to see how each customer engagement progress seamlessly to the next, and so on. It usually takes some practice and experimenting to make sure it won’t sound robotic. As much as possible, we want to avoid the impression that they’re dealing with a robot secretary instead of a real person, by a adding a human touch to every conversation.

Conclusion

Having a mailing list for your small business is more of a necessity these days, now that our target audience is moving towards mobile. Take some time learning the ropes and start making your own email strategy.

Learn more on how you can successfully build your business through sales and marketing automation. Visit SmallBizDream.com and start using our suite of tools to increase your sales and profitability like never before.

5 Reasons Why You Should Learn CRM Now

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Running a successful business takes more than just hard work. A lot of times, it’s more about being smart, critical thinking, and minimizing work through sales and marketing automation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Many small businesses are still missing out on this remarkable tool which would have saved them time and money, reduced stress, and helped grow their business like never before. However, it’s never too late learning about CRMs. We have a system that can help small business owners and salespersons become a CRM virtuoso with practice and a little bit of creativity.

Here are five reasons why you should learn CRM now.

Use Time More Productively

You’ve probably heard about the 80/20 rule with regard to time management and productivity. Put simply, 80 percent of outputs comes from 20 percent of our tasks, while the other 20 percent comes from 80 percent of tasks.

Small business owners often put too much time and energy on things which can easily be done through automation like customer acquisition, and  maintaining customer loyalty. Time lost is money lost, so we want to focus more on strategy and developing skill sets such as dealing with prospects and customers – also known as ‘soft skills’ – and be able to automate most of our routine tasks.

Small Business Dream CRM works on the same principle by allowing the system to do most of the heavy lifting so that by the time it gets to you, all it takes is a simple follow-up call, email, or SMS. In other words, we’re working smarter, not harder. Additionally, Small Business Dream keeps your customers in the loop through automated email follow-up series, newsletters, and surveys.

Use Technology to Outpace the Competition

Technology has levelled the playing field for many of our small businesses. We’ve seen this many times with brick and mortar stores, local shops and restaurants growing massively through the internet and social media. It’s incredibly hard to compete with stores like Walmart, Amazon, McDonalds and General Electric, however when it comes to reaching your target audience, no matter if you’re big or small, we all have the same access.

Today, it only takes a simple tool like sales and marketing automation to do certain tasks which would otherwise be more involved and time-consuming. Small Business Dream CRM combines marketing automation with a simple, user-friendly interface to help business owners build their own templates, landing pages, sales funnel, and survey forms, and be able to promote their business on multiple channels, either directly from a sales funnel card (QR code or link to site) or through referral links, social media posts, updates, and invites – the possibilities are endless.

Create a Good Impression about Your Business

Customers will have an opinion about your business during the crucial 8 seconds on your website or landing page. They’d either stay on page to learn more about your business, or look somewhere else. Most of the hard work when trying to get more customers comes from designing landing pages which are both appealing and engaging.

CRMs make it surprisingly easy for businesses to create user experience with potential clients and customers. Small Business Dream integrates a lot of its site-building capabilities on the Sales Funnel Setup enabling business to create stunning websites, sales funnels, and landing pages. With practice you’ll be able to create professional-looking web pages to impress your target audience, but more importantly, convert more prospects into qualified leads and buying customers.

Save Money on Your Marketing Expenses

Automation took over a lot of our tasks such as sending emails, replying to certain requests, promotion, lead acquisition, and so on. It enables small businesses to cut back on marketing expenses while still gaining a competitive edge over the competition whether it’s real estate, insurance, event planners, restaurants, salons, dental practice – pretty much any kind of business.

Nowadays, you don’t have to hire additional personnel to do multiple tasks. You can build on your marketing strategy from time to time, spending just an hour or two on Small Business Dream. Customize your email autoresponder, tweak some settings, and perfect your Sales Funnel after doing all your tasks in the Action List.

Spend as much time as your schedule would allow. For those who need more time typing in customer information, Small Business Dream has a Card Scan function to take care of your data entry tasks, and done-for-you (DFY) website setup packages for busy business owners.

Have Full Control On How You Want to Interact with Customers.

Marketing automation works best with different approaches to customer acquisition such as permission marketing, personalized messages, and human interaction. We want to use both full-automation and semi-automation when dealing with potential clients and customers. Buying lists from data suppliers won’t cut it, and you could end up paying fines on the wrong use of marketing automation like sending unsolicited emails (CAN-SPAM Act of 2003).

Small Business Dream CRM gives business owners total control by combining different approaches on how they wish to interact with their leads and buying customers. Need more clients to fill up your Action List? Set up a Sales Funnel or landing page and have your visitors and walk-in customers optin to your email lists, Facebook, or Twitter follow up series. Use templates to quickly send personalized, semi-automated messages on the fly, or make the call as soon as they show up on your Call List.

Conclusion

Your ability to use CRM will make a big difference in getting more customers and increasing sales. With all the challenges faced by many small businesses and with competition on every turn, this could mean the difference between rapid growth and going out of business. You, too, can experience the power of CRM if you only take the time to put these words into action.

Take your business to the next level through sales and marketing automation. Visit SmallBizDream.com and start using our suite of tools to increase your sales and profitability like never before.