Scotch tape, safety pins and spaghetti – SMB marketing automation

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I was talking to a friend who runs a >10 person distributed professional services firm. He was looking for better tooling to automate his customer processes. He had recently dropped Salesforce, not because it was too much or too expensive, but because the configuration and usage was too complicated for his non-enterprise sales staff. We’ve been talking about his constraints and what he’d like the software to do.

It is part CRM, part project management, part marketing automation. Similar to the “Poor Man’s CRM“.

Constraints

  • Must access the FreshBooks API – All client billing is done in FreshBooks. It works. His staff is familiar. It is easy enough to send, track and account for with FreshBooks. They are not replacing this.
  • Preferably cloud based.
  • Must work with Microsoft Exchange email.
  • Costs <$150/person/month – this is an all in cost. However a preferred cost is $6000-12,000/year.
  • 20,000 contacts
  • 5,00 active clients
  • Prefer commercial offerings to custom development, and modify workflow to fit new processes.

Work Flow

It’s a pretty standard workflow. From lead capture to opportunity identification. The opportunity is defined by multiple stages, each stage has a series of tasks that usually result in an email being sent or a web form needing to be completed or a signed document. The workflow is pretty linear with clearly defined actions that move a opportunity through each stage of the engagement.

The majority of the business is referrals and business developers sourcing leads (50%). New business from existing clients (30%). And the remaining 20% is from web contact forms.

Possible Solutions

We’ve been talking about both CRM and marketing automation solutions, particularly those that are able to match both an organization or a person to their FreshBooks contact information. The goal is to be able to show outstanding invoices before a new project kicks off.

CRM/Project

Web Forms & Electronic Signatures

Email Automation

Scotch Tape, Safety Pins & Spaghetti

I keep leaning towards solutions I have used in the past. But I think they are not the right fit, given that I’m going to have to automate a number of webhooks using Zapier or itDuzzit, which are amazing, but the complexity scares me given the friend. It’s starting to feel like my advice is going to end up with scotch tape and safety pins holding together a spaghetti of web services.

I have no idea if it is the professional services aspect, or the hand off from lead generation to sales to project management. Maybe it is because of the FreshBooks integration (which I have never done). But I’m unclear about what the best options are. I keep finding more interesting solutions. Maybe it is that the past 3 years I’ve been deeply immersed in inbound activities for SaaS offerings that makes me drool over HubSpot and Performable. But I’m just not sure where to go from here.

Thoughts? Guidance on where to look next? I’m stuck.

 

SMASH Summit in NYC

SMASH Summit East 2011Dave McClure and the 500 Startups folks are producing a great looking conference focused on “hack-tics” of customer acquistion. They ran a similar event in April 2010 in SF. – check out tthe presentations on SlideShare and the feedback. At the event speakers provided examples based on real usage and data. David Cowling provided a list of the social media statistics by different speakers (stats current as of May 2010 — so you hope they are crazier 14 months later), they reinforce the power of mass media platform and while fragmented the web/mobile is a great way to reach people (customers, prospects, leads, fans, haters, almost everyone).

  • Twitter has 105,779,710 users. 300K new users per day. 600 million search queries per day. 175 employees.
  • Salesforce thinks that their Youtube channel has the ROI equivalent of 35 super efficient sales reps
  • Facebook says sites that have added Like button have seen triple growth of fans
  • Stumbleupon 2010: 10 Million users, 115,000 Facebook fans, 600 Million stumbles/month, 1 Billion ratings, 45 Million URLs, 50,000 discovers/day
  • Top 5 countries after the US for Facebook usage/traffic: UK, Indonesia, Canada, France, Turkey
  • 70% of Facebook traffic comes from outside the US, 10% increase in the last year alone
  • 37% of tweets originate from mobile devices
  • Most of YouTube’s views are from videos older than 6 months old, invest in a content strategy.

I am hoping that Michael McDerment might apply to tell the FreshBooks metric story at the SMASH Summit. He first gave this talk at DemoCamp back in 2007 but he continues to evolve it based on the FreshBooks business. It’s one of my favs. And given the updated focus on both acquisition and retention it makes it a perfect opportunity for FreshBooks.

SMASH Summit will feature presentations and case studies on strategies, tactics, and “hack-tics” used in successful internet campaigns across multiple platforms—from search to social to mobile. Led by both tech geeks and savvy marketers, you will walk way with new tips and tricks for pumping up your customer acquisition and retention. In 2010, SMASH Summit debuted to a sold-out audience including speakers and attendees from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Apple, Google, Virgin America, National Geographic, Mint, Twilio, Sony, Slideshare, and many others.

I am hoping to attend because I want to see some of the approaches used to acquire customers for $0 dollars. Why? I spent part of Monday, in my role as EiR at VeloCity, asking students and entrepreneurs how they could get to 10,000 (or 100,000 or 1,000,000) users in 30 days with a $0 budget. I’m curious to see both the tactics and the tools that other high traction startups are using to attract and retain customers. Apparently I’ve been spending time understanding marketing and sales automation (again).

Great list of speakers including the infamous Dave McClure (@davemclure), Charlie O’Donnell (@CEONYC), Victoria Ransom (@wildfireapp) and others.


The Science of Word of Mouth

Impact of Social Media on the Sales Funnel

The team at GetSatisfaction have put together a great overview on the impact of social media on the sales funnel. It’s an interesting evolution  in my understanding of the buying process:

Awareness » Interest » Trial » Evaluation » Decision Attention » Interest » Desire » Action

The simplification of “Decision” to “Action” makes perfect sense. I’m guessing that the goal of the “Evaluation” phase is to drive “Desire”. It’s different than my experience with the Diffusion of Innovation and the 5 step process presented by Everett Rogers. I need to spend some additional time thinking about how this impacts the customer focused sales funnel described by David Skok (@bostonVC).

The rise of social media and the lowered social capital expenditure and effort it has evolved to:

Attention » Interest » Desire » Action » Advocacy

The goal is to build happy customers that want to spread the company’s message (whether you call them brand ambassadors or citizen marketers or just advocates). Great job by the GetSatisfaction team on helping to evolve the understanding of the social involvement in Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

Infographic from GetSatisfaction: Social Media's Impact on the Sales Funnel