Sunday, June 30, 2013

Three CRM 2.0 solutions you absolutely must try.

The days for CRM industry dominated by SalesForce, Microsoft Dynamics, SugarCRM, Sage, HighRise and other enterprise solutions are over. New CRM 2.0 kids are on the block and they are growing like crazy. So what is CRM 2.0 exactly? Nobody knows. Clearly CRM 2.0 is the next generation of customer relationship management tools, but CRM 2.0 means different things for different people. For some, CRM 2.0 designation stands for collaborative CRM. For others, CRM 2.0 means using social network tools like LinkedIn or Facebook for prospecting and selling. Another popular interpretation for CRM 2.0 is reverse CRM or user driven customer relationship management. So let’s take a look at three CRM 2.0 examples and discuss some of the CRM 2.0 leaders.

1.    Collaborative CRM is probably the fastest growing CRM 2.0 solution, if 2.0 means collaborative CRM to you. Essentially Bitrix24 is enterprise social network, plus CRM, plus project management, plus planner, plus document manager, plus business process construction and 30+ other tools. Here’s a typical scenario for Bitrix24 use. Let’s say you are a web design firm with a free quote form on your website. As soon as the form is filled out, Bitrix24 creates a task for one of your employees – get in touch with the person who filled out the form. You can set up your Bitrix24 in a way that all quotes for work over $5000 go to employee A and all work under $5000 to employee B. Then the employee calls or e-mails a client from INSIDE Bitrix24. If necessary, Bitrix24 calendar schedules a meeting. Depending on the outcome of this conversation, Bitrix24 can automatically create a new task for a new employee – like “Send contract to” or “Create draft by”. At this point you can also create a workgroup for a specific project and invite client and all relevant employees there. You can post drafts in the activity stream and your client(s) will provide feedback. You can also use Bitrix24 WebRTC based videochat that works just like Skype to have ‘face-to-face’ conversation. Because Bitrix24 tracks time spent on each project and has invoicing, you can send the bill via Bitrix24 to your client as well. Should any questions arise, they can be solved inside Bitrix24. So essentially, it’s a collaborative CRM – a place where sales person, who brought the client in, the client herself, the account lead, the designer, the web developer, the lawyer, the accountant, the HR person can all work together and collaborate on pretty much any project. From brain storming to file sharing – all collaboration tools are there and they are tied into CRM. And because Bitrix24 is 100% free for companies with 12 employees or fewer, it’s no wonder it’s such a popular CRM 2.0 solution.

2.    Social CRM

Nimble, just like Bitrix24, became a clear leading CRM 2.0 solution in a very short time (probably because CRM industry legend Jon Ferrara of the Goldmine CRM fame is behind it).That is if 2.0 means using social network data for selling to you. A typical Nimble CRM scenario looks something like this. You are enterprise software salesperson. So you are very interested in CTOs, CIOs and heads of IT departments. It just so happens that LinkedIn makes it very easy to find these people, their names and company addresses. So you import all this information into your Nimble CRM. But that’s not all. Nimble works with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google+, importing all messages, posts, tweets and status change notifications. Let’s say an important business meeting with one of your hot prospects is in an hour. You go into your Nimble account, click the prospect name and you now have access to all recent social network activity of this person instantly. You know from his last tweets that he has just returned from a vacation in Fiji and Facebook pictures suggest that this person just became a grandfather. So you start your conversation by congratulating him and share your Fiji experience, and before you know, you are almost best friends. Tricky? Devious? I’d prefer damn effective or brilliant as the best word that describes Nimble. Nimble CRM is free for solo use.

3.    User driven customer relationship management.

Traditional CRM is used for sales mostly. And not everyone believes that proactive sales is the best way to grow a company, so for these folks CRM 2.0 designation means user driven CRM. Some of these CRM 2.0 tools are vendor specific, like Dell’s but the best example of a reverse CRM is probably A typical scenario looks like this. A person registers at She then goes through items, gadgets, software and services she uses (Windows Phone or Hootsuite, for example), to provide feedback and ideas.  This is where you come in. You can tap into the wealth of this knowledge and actually actively solicit this feedback, especially if you place UserVoice module on your website as the made feedback form. Clearly, you won’t have access to all users, but with UserVoice you can get to the most important part – early adopters and brand ambassadors. Like Bitrix24 and Nimble, UserVoice gives you an option – use if free or pay for advanced options.

Clearly, these three CRM 2.0 solutions are very different but you can probably use all of them. In fact, I insist that you should. Happy sales to you!

Why developers at domain name registrars will be working overtime this fall

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ICANN announced today that its Board of Directors has approved the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement.

It’s the conclusion of a long and contentious process that has resulted in arguably the most sweeping changes ever in the contract that governs the relationship between ICANN and domain name registrars. I’ve written previously about the impact this will have on domain registrants.Yet domain registrars will also face substantial burdens, and this will particularly affect smaller registrars with limited resources. Due to the new RAA and other changes in the domain name market, the next six-to-twelve months will be some of the most demanding (and potentially rewarding) domain registrars have ever experienced.

What’s required of registrars

Registrars will have to integrate or create a number of systems and practices under the terms of the 2013 RAA. Some of the demands on registrars include a phone or email verification system for registrant details, cross field validation, more data retention, additional compliance rules/timelines and changes to whois proxy services. Michele Neylon, chair of the Registrars Stakeholder Group and CEO of domain registrar Blacknight, told Domain Name Wire that email/phone verification is small potatoes compared to the rest of the requirements.

“The cross field verification is easy in some countries, but harder in others,” he said. “This and other things related to data retention are going to cause headaches.”

Neylon also pointed out that requirements in the new RAA aren’t all that registrars are grappling with these days. There are preparations for new top level domains and the trademark clearinghouse integration, as well as policy changes related to expiring domains and domain transfers. Add that to a push for DNSSEC and IPV6, and domain registrars’ IT teams have a lot on their plates.

A rush to sign on — or be left behind

With all of these new requirements, why would any registrar rush to sign the new RAA? There’s a bit of a carrot or a stick, depending on how you look at it.

Cyrus Namazi, Vice President of DNS Industry Engagement for ICANN, told Domain Name Wire that he expects registrars to sign on “very quickly”.

The main reason is that adoption of the 2013 RAA is necessary in order to sell new top level domains. A bit further down the road, ICANN also isn’t renewing the 2009 RAA. If a registrar signed a five year agreement in 2009, time is quickly running out. Furthermore, proposed new registry agreements for .biz, .info, and .org will soon permit registrars to sell these domains only if they’ve signed the new RAA.

I reached out to three of the top ten registrars today to find out when they plan to sign the RAA. They all either didn’t know or had no comment.

James Bladel, Senior Director of ICANN Policy & Planning for GoDaddy, said “The new 2013 RAA represents a milestone achievement for our industry, thanks to almost two years of work on the part of Registrar Negotiators and ICANN Staff. But finalizing the language of the agreement was actually the easy part, and now the real work of implementing the new RAA can begin. Registrants and customers should see these changes in the coming months.”

A challenge for the small guys.

GoDaddy, Demand Media, and other big registrars have plenty of development resources to throw at the problem.

The same can’t be said for small and medium-sized registrars, which were physically absent at the negotiating table.

The Registrar Negotiation Team consisted of representatives from GoDaddy, Key Systems, Demand Media, Momentous, and Mark Monitor.

ICANN’s Namazi pointed out that the representatives were elected.

“You could tell there was quite a bit of sensitivity put on the table by these guys [about what would be required],” said Namazi.

Namazi also pointed to the gradual implementation of new requirements under the RAA, including a grace period until January 2014 for many of the provisions. Getting registrars to implement the changes will be difficult. Even making them aware of what’s in the new RAA will require a lot of work.

ICANN is beginning an outreach to registrars, including an event in China that will be conducted in Chinese. The 2013 RAA is in English, and language is a key barrier to understanding and adoption.

“You can imagine what’s happening with small to medium sized registrars in Latin America and the Asia Pacific, which in some cases might not even speak English,” Blacknight’s Neylon noted. “Most of the communications, events, etc., are conducted in English. If English is not your first language it’s very hard to actively participate within this entire circus.”

ICANN is also working on events to educate registrars in other parts of the world. It’s kind of a big deal.
With all the noise about the new top level domain program lately, it’s easy to overlook the critical milestone that the 2013 RAA is for ICANN. It’s a culmination of a multi-year effort involving governments, law enforcement, intellectual property interests, and domain registrars.

But as GoDaddy’s Bladel noted, the easy work is done. Now the “real work” can begin.

[Via - DomainNameWire]

FreshBooks review and coupon

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Friday, June 28, 2013

FreshBooks review (and coupons)

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FreshBooks (claim your $50 FreshBooks coupon here) is known for weird titles.Corey Reid, for instance, is Chief Cat Herder. That's Director of R&D Talent for us mere mortals. Saul Colt is Head of Magic. Perhaps you'd prefer Marketing and Customer Experience Design. And don't even ask me what Freshbooks CEO goes by.

So perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise that FreshBooks isn't really about bookkeeping. Instead, FreshBooks is really one of the first timekeeping and invoicing software turned SaaS (it'll be interesting how FreshBooks reacts to the recent onslaught of free CRM with invocing).

FreshBook is now used by over 5 million users and known for it's "braindead simple" approach. One of the reasons for that that one year after being launched in 2003, it had only 6 clients. That's six. And 24 months into operation, it had only 10. This is how Mike McDerment recalls these days:

"So we tried a PR firm and I like to say that I got my Masters in Communication through that process because we basically…we didn’t get any awareness built out of it whatsoever. And so we shelved that and we went back to putting our heads down and spending our money on direct response type marketing, like being in an email newsletter or pay-per-click. You know, started trying to learn a little more about who was being successful marketing themselves online. So we started learning more about blogging and that kind of thing."

Two things saved FreshBooks - first they changed their pricing. Not once, not twice but actually four times, and every with every time they'd get more and more paying customers. Second, FreshBook decided to become a 'human' company, meaning that if you call their number, you actually get a human being on the other end. And if you have a question, you can an answer. And corporatespeak was banned at the company as well.

Becoming a user centric company transformed FreshBooks in a number of ways. Feeback was collected not as a formality, but in order to stay ahead of competition, so it's no wonder that FreshBooks one of the first to offer iPad app, when others weren't so sure about that anyone would use mobile apps for their invoices. Addition of expense tracking and cloud accouting significantly expanded FreshBooks use beyond its core market of small business owners, lawyers, designers and other professionals (my girlfriend uses iOS mobile app to track her daily expenses). With WaveAccounting and Bitrix24, FreshBooks makes the Holy Trinity of SMB and Productivity 2.0 tools that every business owner should be aware about. Oh, and if you want to try FreshBooks, here's your $50 coupon)

[Via - MadConomist.Com]

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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Weird Startups - numberFire

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The age-old rivalry between jocks and geeks is finally dead--and Nik Bonaddio is the killer. Bonaddio is founder and CEO of numberFire, an analytics platform that takes sports data to new brainy levels. Combining mathematically derived metrics with advanced algorithms that factor in situational variables, numberFire turns the "unstructured and misleading data" around sports into highly accurate stats and predictions for NFL, MLB and NBA players and teams.

What this means: Your betting odds just got better, and your fantasy-sports team just dominated. In fact, the New York City-based company's official 2012 March Madness bracket correctly picked the winner (Kentucky) and finished in the top 1 percent of brackets nationwide. NumberFire claims that its data gives users a 31 percent higher chance of winning their fantasy leagues and beats the projections provided by leagues 93 percent of the time. The company has about 40,000 users.

"Fantasy sports is a really big market that's been underserved for a long time," Bonaddio says. "We're scratching the itch a lot of people have."

A two-time All-American in track and field, Bonaddio got his head in the sports-data game after joining a fraternity at Carnegie Mellon, where he studied information systems and communication design. "I realized the advice you get around fantasy football and sports in general is very qualitative. It's all, 'I think this team is going to do well,' and this never made sense to me, because sports is all about numbers--the box score, the touchdown, the yards--but no one was doing any data modeling or data analysis," he says. "I analogized it at the time to finance: When you make a trade, all the big banks are using these complex models and quantitative trading algorithms, and I didn't understand what was so different about sports."

Bonaddio seems to have a knack for winning. After walking away with $100,000 from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? in 2009, he quit his job and parlayed the cash into building data models. He launched numberFire in 2010, focusing on football insights; the site quickly secured fans by outpredicting the experts at ESPN and Yahoo 70 percent of the time by the end of the season. Bonaddio drafted Keith Goldner, an analyst for ESPN and two NFL franchises, to refine the predictive models, and last year expanded numberFire to include baseball and basketball. The startup, which continues to consistently beat the projections of CBS, NFL and Yahoo, has scored $775,000 in funding from investors including RRE Ventures and TechStars' David Tisch. Revenue--which grew from $10,000 in 2011 to $250,000 last year--is derived mainly from premium subscriptions (basic analytics are free) and partnerships with major media companies, which leverage numberFire's data on their own sites.

Turns out there really is a formula for success.

[Via - Entrepreneur]

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hot Startups -

Daily Advice Link - How I Increased Sales 350% With Press-Releases
Baby boomers are retiring, and millenials are becoming mobile more than ever. For a business, especially those that recognize the importance of its workforce and the knowledge gap that may occur as a result of an imminent departure of older personnel, this can be bad news, especially for business and economic growth. As per a recent study, it is believed that in North America alone, about 75 million old-timers will be leaving the workforce within the next 15 years.

The lines “for every unmet need, there is a startup waiting to happen” and “if you can’t beat them, join them” aren’t without merit. A startup by the name of, short for Business Intelligence Exchange Networks, came about as a result of a conversation its founder, Brad Gaulin, had regarding baby boomers leaving the labor force. And if someone is to help the younger generation succeed in any way, shape or form, knowledge and expert mentorship has to be given to them where they usually look for them. Cases in point: Wikipedia, Amazon, iTunes, Kijiji, Facebook, Google apps, among others. Combining the concepts behind these platforms led to the creation of

Of course, startups aren’t without their share of difficulties. When asked what has been the most challenging, Gaulin said it was giving away 80% of the company as sweat equity to his co-founders who were all working part-time. He had thought that doing so would get things done quickly. The opposite had happened, however. As it turned out, managing a large group of part-timers wasn’t easy. It took them about a year to achieve six months of progress, if only they had taken the normal startup cycles.

Aside from its core offerings (mentoring social network and knowledge crowdsourcing that allows a user to upload his expertise, which can then be downloaded by other users for free or for a fee), also has bixDonate, a program that allows experts to donate a portion of their earnings to registered charities, entities dedicated to learning and community development, nonprofits, universities, and the like.

There is also an enterprise edition which allows a company’s workforce to share their expertise with other members of the same company through knowledge packaging and mentoring. Everything is deposited in one place for convenient future access.

[Via - Uncommon Business Blog]

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Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Crowdfunding Startup FundersClub Hopes To Changes The VC Game

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While crowdfunding doesn't yet allow the 99 percent to invest in companies directly--Kickstarter and Indiegogo supporters typically only contribute or buy a future product--FundersClub is prying open the door to allow more people into the VC game.

The goal of the venture capital platform is to facilitate financing in early-stage companies for small but accredited investors who wish to make low minimum investments. The start-ups, meanwhile, have a better chance of lining up funding than they would from family, banks or angel investors.

Since attracting $6.5 million in VC funding last summer to launch the platform, San Francisco-based FundersClub has helped place more than $2.5 million into nine companies, including Soldsie, a startup that lets merchants sell directly on Facebook;, a social promotion platform for musicians; and Sponsorified, which connects brands with sponsorship opportunities.

The FundersClub website handles all financial transactions and legal paperwork for both investors and startups. Here's how it works.

Members must be accredited investors who earn more than $200,000 a year or have a net worth of more than $1 million. "We scaled from nobody to 5,000 registered, accredited investors in just six months," claims CEO Alex Mittal.

FundersClub sets up various funds to support pre-approved startups. The investors can pick which funds they want to buy into, putting up as little as $1,000 in exchange for equity in the fund.

Mittal says investors tend to be highly connected individuals from the likes of Apple, Facebook, Goldman Sachs and McKinsey & Company, and they're expected to offer expertise and connections to the startups. "The doors they can open are very important," he says.

"We're not looking for ideas," Mittal explains. "Companies should have legs and show success in monthly revenue growth and adoption numbers. They need to have the right people who can handle the challenges a young company faces."

Mittal's investment committee vets each company before passing it along to FundersClub's "Angel Panel," a vetting group of members (typically people with expertise in a startup's technology or target market). If the panel gives the thumbs-up, the nascent company creates a detailed profile with video introductions of the team and its product/services and sets an investment goal; this is then shared and viewed by the larger FundersClub investment community.

Yun-Fang Juan, a former Facebook engineer, was one of 72 FundersClub investors who contributed to the $425,000 raised for Soldsie. Juan liked the team and the idea so much that she signed on as Soldsie's fifth employee. "She knows Facebook inside and out, so we immediately gained expertise we didn't have before," says Soldsie CEO Chris Bennett. "That was huge for us--as important to us as the money."

[Via - Entrepreneur.Com]

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Hot Startups - Bitrix24 is a new SaaS (software as a service) cloud based social intranet platform that makes corporate intranet easily available to smaller companies. It does not take any time to deploy (everything is already installed and set up) and doesn’t cost anything if it’s used by companies with fewer than 12 employees.

At first, Bitrix24 looks like corporate Facebook – there is the wall or activity stream where different employees engage in discussions and vote by ‘liking’ ideas, documents or workgroups. There are also instant messenger and photogallery. This is where the similarities end.

The first important Bitrix24 module is free CRM (customer relationship module) that comes with a database for clients and prospects that are easily sorted by events (phone call or meeting, for instance). Next comes the sales funnel that divides clients into easy-to-work-with groups - new prospects, first contact, requested quote, scheduled meeting, negotiations and sales, for example (the actual setup is customizable). Bitrix24 free CRM is designed for easy interactions with clients. For example, you can send an e-mail to a certain group as well as import/export any client information. You can also set Bitrix24 to automatically import ‘leads’ that are generated by any site into the CRM.

The second important module is document management. This module allows storing, editing and collaborating on various documents with co-workers. The documents can be made private (visible to document owner only) or shared. Bitrix24 also tracks version history, making it possible to revert to older version of the document, if necessary. Importantly, you can map a single document library or all of your document libraries to a network drive on your local machine literally in 2 clicks using WebDav. That means that whether you use Windows, Mac OS, or Linux, you will be able to see the documents in the intranet locally through your file manager.

Third and fourth are planning and task/project management modules. These include calendar, work reports, absentee charts, meeting scheduler, personalized to-do lists, time management tools, even Gantt charts for easy visualization of progress made on specific projects. The employees are split into workgroups and access rights are assigned to each individual. For example, the department head may see work reports of his subordinates only, while vice-president is able to view every work report made by any employee.

Because companies tend to outsource or hire outside contractors/freelancer Bitrix24 allows one to easily integrate those into workgroups and give non-employees access to corporate intranet with restricted rights specified as necessary. Also, for higher mobility, can be easily accessed via iPhone, iPad or any Android based device.

As mentioned, is free when used by 12 employees or fewer. can be used by unlimited numbers of workers for $99 a month. Unlike other similar services, doesn’t charge extra for each additional employee, since it is cloud based and ample storage is available. The premium version is priced at $199 a month.

[Via -]

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Will Thumbtack Become The Yelp Of Local Contractors?

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Companies from Angie’s List to Yelp to HomeAdvisor have tried over the past decade to crack the U.S. market for plumbing, gardening, and other local services by developing an online database for homeowners looking for reliable referrals. There have been limited successes but no breakout leader, partly because many of the nation’s tens of millions of local small business owners spend relatively little time on the Web and run their businesses the old-fashioned way, with a pen and pocket calendar.

Now there’s a new entrant in this crowded field, Thumbtack. The San Francisco startup has operated quietly for four years, building a database of more than 250,000 service professionals who can pay the company fees for referrals. They include home maintenance workers and a wider range of occupations, from wedding officiants to yoga instructors. Thumbtack planned to announce on June 13 that it has raised $12.5 million from a group of investors, led by Sequoia Capital, that are chasing the chance to build the next great online e-commerce hub. “The long-term vision is to build the Amazon for services,” says Marco Zappacosta, Thumbtack’s 27-year-old chief executive officer. “We want to build the kind of brand that the Yellow Pages had for decades.”

Zappacosta and co-founder Jonathan Swanson, 30, say they conceived of the company in 2008 in the West Wing of the White House, where they were working for the National Economic Council under George W. Bush. While they weren’t the first to notice that people have “bought and sold local services in the same ways for the last 50 years,” as Swanson puts it, their twist was to develop software, instead of using salespeople, to scour the Web for service professionals and invite them to join Thumbtack’s database. From there, the workers are vetted by the company’s 30 U.S. employees and some 200 full-time contractors based in the Philippines.

Thumbtack says it gets about 2 million monthly visitors who request referrals and provide their Zip Code. It sends each request to relevant workers in its system, who pay up to $15 each time to have their names appear in the particular customer’s list of referrals. The company likens the fees to Google’s AdWords, which sells ad space to the right of search results for desired words and phrases. (Yelp is ad-supported; Angie’s List charges users for subscriptions.)

If its database doesn’t include a qualified service to meet the customer’s needs, Thumbtack’s software crawls the Web to find one. “The hard part is finding the right service professional who is trusted and is available at the right time and at the right price,” says Bryan Schreier, a Sequoia Capital partner who is leading the investment. “That is the art of Thumbtack.”

Thumbtack will have to work hard to keep its database stocked with reliable small business owners. Trying to fulfill all kinds of jobs in every corner of the country, its founders say, is the heart of its challenge, and how it plans to use its new capital. It already has some satisfied vendors: Ricky Jackson, a personal trainer from Houston who goes by the name Coach, joined Thumbtack last year and credits it with a 75 percent increase in business. The key to exploiting the service, he says, is to stop whatever he’s doing and respond promptly to its e-mail and text alerts. “There are probably four other personal trainers that are always as aggressive as I am, and there should probably be 400,” Jackson says. “It’s a quiet little secret.”

[Via -]

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Three Free SalesForce Alternatives That Are Better Than SalesForce

With 60 dollars per user per month (that’s if you want to have access to app marketplace where all the goodies are) and a two year minimum contract frequently required, SalesForce is out of reach for most small businesses. And it’s really a shame, because SalesForce is a great CRM. But don’t despair, here are three free SalesForce alternatives that are actually better at some things than SalesForce itself. Check out our SalesForce vs Bitrix24 vs Nimble vs Streak review.

1.    Bitrix24.

Bitrix24 is the most popular and powerful free SalesForce alternative and for a good reason. In addition to offering an extensive CRM that’s 100% free for 12 users or less, it’s actually a much better SalesForce Chatter alternative than Chatter itself (social intranet). In fact, Bitrix24 comes packed with free goodies that SalesForce itself doesn’t offer (other than through third party integrations) – like project management, file sharing, mobile CRM, doc management, video chat and videoconferencing and so on. The best thing about Bitrix24 is that it offers you a choice – you can either use it as SaaS literally within a minute of being set up, or you can host it on your server and tweak it as you see fit.

2.    Nimble CRM.

In the customer relationship management world the name Jon Ferrara (Nimble’s founder) carries the same weight as Mark Benioff – both were CRM pioneers. Mr. Ferrara has retired in the nineties to raise his children and recently returned to the market with social CRM. While Nimble isn’t nearly as powerful as Bitrix24 or SalesForce – its ‘social’ aspect does have a leg up on both systems. So if you do a lot of marketing, prospecting and sales through social networks like LinkedIn, FaceBook, Google+ or Twitter, you’ll be blown away by Nimble. And the fact that it’s 100% free for a solo use (single user) doesn’t hurt. After that, you pay $15 per user per month.

3.    Streak CRM

Streak CRM is a newcomer to the already overcrowded marketplace – so hardly anyone knows about it, but the few users who do use it, swear that it does miracles for their GMail use. While Bitrix24 and Nimle decided that they want to eliminate e-mails in internal communications, Streak has embraced it, particularly GMail. Essentially, with Streak CRM you can use your GMail account for sales, hiring, bug tracking, and customer support. Streak is a Y Combinator startup, which means that if you are a techie, you’ll love it, but if you run a ‘normal’ business or don’t use GMail much, you should probably stick with Bitrix24. Oh, and since Streak is still in beta, it’s 100% free (paid plans are coming soon, according to the site).

Hot Startups - The Story of Hailo

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One day in 2011, three internet entrepreneurs set up a meeting with three cab drivers in a London cafe. Many hours later, they emerged as the six founders of Hailo, a mobile app that connects taxi drivers with passengers.

One of the 'treps, New York native Jay Bregman, harbored a near-obsession with the "fundamentally inefficient" taxi industry that stemmed from his previous venture, a highly successful same-day delivery company.

"Taxis in New York spend 40 percent of their time--in other cities, 60 percent of their time--cruising for fares, while people find it difficult to get a taxi," explains Bregman, Hailo's CEO. "And there was nobody to put them together."

During that fateful meeting, the three cabbies--with half a century of driving experience among them--provided insight that led to Hailo's unique solution: approaching the industry from the driver's perspective. "What we discovered was that in order to create the best passenger experience, we needed to focus on creating first the best driver experience," Bregman says.

Hailo's free driver app includes a location-based social network for taxi drivers, digital logbook and enterprise resource planning statistics. But the most important feature is a news feed where drivers can update their status, providing other cabbies with important information such as where more taxis are needed and which streets to avoid due to traffic. "We can get tens of thousands of drivers using this system before they ever accept a single customer,"

Bregman says. "That means by the time we have our first customer come onto the network, we nail that first-time experience." And they are nailing it: Hailo's passenger app boasts five-star ratings in the App Store and on Google Play from a combined 8,000 users.

The company launches the free passenger app once Hailo reaches a critical mass of drivers (the number is different in each city). Users can hail a cab and then pay for the ride with credit-card information stored on the app; a receipt is automatically e-mailed. In the U.S., passengers are charged a "Hailo fee" ranging from 99 cents to $3, depending on the city and time of day. In international cities where fares are higher, such as Dublin, Hailo charges drivers a 10 percent commission.

Hailo's aim is for passengers to be able to get a cab in two minutes, with two taps--a goal it has already achieved in London, where the service launched in November 2011. It is now the world's widest-reaching taxi app, operating in eight cities--including New York, Boston, Chicago, Toronto and Madrid--with Tokyo on deck for later this year. Hailo has received more than $50 million in funding and has facilitated rides for 3 million passengers from 30,000 registered cab drivers. Up next? World domination. Bregman says the platform has the potential to go beyond the taxi industry and create community networks to address inefficiencies in other markets. He won't share details, but says new offerings could be available by the end of the year.

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Saturday, June 01, 2013

WalkMe Marketing Director Omri Erel Shares His Secrets of SaaS Marketing Optimization

People often underestimate the importance of SaaS marketing optimization.

Certainly in most cases, once a plan is worked out, some initial level of optimization is conducted, or else every marketing campaign in the history of SaaS would fail horrendously. Unfortunately, the cursory tweaking is usually all that is done. Sure, the marketing plans usually work out if the plans themselves are solid on a basic level, but they could work better.

Considering you must have a good positive ROI on your SaaS marketing strategy, optimization is a great way to work toward this goal. Unfortunately, how to optimize marketing in this industry seems like an elusive bit of knowledge to many, so with that in mind, maybe we ought to talk about some of the more important and basic tenets thereof.

First and foremost, we need to talk a little bit about demographics. I don't need to talk about how important demographics are to any marketing campaign, be it SaaS or otherwise. But, while you surely regard it as important, and pay a lot of attention to it, there's probably some optimization here you might not think of trying. Heck, I didn't think of this until a far wiser marketing guru pointed it out to me either!

There's something to be said for allowing some slack in relevance when targeting demographics. In SaaS, this is mostly in the purpose or industries your software may target, but this is a generality in marketing as a whole. See, if you find the relevant points that make this your demographic of choice, then you can expand on demographics this target may associate with, and relate to them on all or some of the same points that form the triad. This creates a larger outreach and potential user base, while still keeping focused on a general demographic set. It sounds odd, but it does work!

Now, with this retargeting of your demographics, your campaign should shape up a bit and not seem as oddly specific or out of sorts as it probably does, because a bit more generality of demographic will also bring general relation in the campaign as well.

Now, let's talk about testing a little bit. When testing, there are of course a couple phases you have to work through. Now, initial in-testing before doing anything external, there's probably nothing you really do wrong. This is pure scientific method and mostly, it's the programmers who are doing this testing, and they see the world in a unique and alien way, compared to that of marketing.

It's the external testing, or the Alpha/Beta phase, that we need to address here. This is where civilians come into the equation, and you can get real hard data on how potential users perceive the product. This is where big immediate flaws in functionality, design or UX overall should be spotted. Many software firms mess this up, SaaS and otherwise.

Here's the scoop. Everyone does this testing far too passively. The best way to see customer reaction to errors, or how well a scheme works when being used complexly is to put the test subjects in complex situations. Basic encounters only test the surface of the software. Have scenarios of significant complexity you wish them to test. This may mean being a bit more selective with your test subjects, but that is a small sacrifice to make. Also, with good tutorial software that can onboard with your SaaS, you can guide them through processes if need be.

Now, we come to one last place where everyone really messes SaaS marketing up. Metrics, statistics and logistics are easy to be overzealous with. They say you can't measure something too often, but "they" are wrong. You need to know the right time, pace and level of detail to take these metrics, otherwise you'll have too much, and numbers in statistics will be too diluted with fluff.

Consider which metrics are the most important, and consider how often to measure different ones. If you're more selective and synchronous with your measurements, you'll be able to see much more clearly, and avoid mistakes or working hard rather than smart in many scenarios.

So, there's a lot to be done with optimizing SaaS marketing, but none of it's terribly complex. Of course, it can go deeper than this, but you haven't time to read a lot of literature on this subject, and really who does? In that case, these are the big points to take away from the subject, in my very modest opinion.

Omri Erel, Marketing director at WalkMe and lead author of SaaS Addict