A few nights ago I attended the FourAthens mentor panel which was a great discussion around what mentors are, do, and are looking for in mentees. The panel also included a few mentees that provided experiences as well as their thoughts on the mentor/mentee relationship.
Here are a few takeaways:
Mentors are there to mentor the person and not the business.
Advisors mentor the business.
Mentors should be willing to open the rolodex.
Mentors have different styles so find the one that works for you.
Don’t ask mentors to get on sales calls, make documents or “work” your business.
It is ok the ask for advice in the mentors area of work but don’t treat them like a consultant.
Don’t be closed minded, you are supposed to have hard conversations.
As entrepreneurs we are always learning and growing. Once we are enlightened in one area we find out that there is just as much to learn in another area. This is why I enjoyed what I consider the quote of the night. Being a first time entrepreneur is a “Fog of Unknowing”.
The final take away from the meeting was that most mentees are looking for three types of relationships or assistance. They are mentors, advisors and consultants. The mentor and mentee need to agree on which role is being filled, up front, to ensure a good working relationship.
I recently read an article from one of my favorite local professional bloggers that wrote about diversifying income streams. In the article he posed a very important question which was “If my #1 source of income was gone tomorrow…. what would I have left?”
This struck me as a pretty powerful thought and exercise. If my #1 ___________ was gone tomorrow…….. what would I have left? The next question is, what would I do? Planning for disaster isn’t a fun task and takes a lot of deep thought. Unfortunately this type of planning and exercise doesn’t happen enough in businesses.
Here are a few questions that I asked myself:
What if my top engineer left tomorrow?
What if my top top salesperson left?
What if my #1 business revenue stream was somehow cut off?
What if my best strategic partner went out of business?
Have you asked yourself these questions lately?
These loses could be devastating to many businesses. In fact, there was a time when this would have been totally catastrophic to my own business.
Yes, now it would be a huge blow to lose some of my key people. We are somewhat of a family and we work well together, but that does not mean that I am blind to the fact that they are talented and someday they may choose to move on. This is reality in today’s business world.
The one thing I and many successful business people I know do to lighten the blow when this does happen, is to always look for new talent.
Building relationships with quality people in all avenues of your business will allow you a pool of people to pick from when a position does open up. It is much easier to ask somebody you know, and know their work, to come work for you than to hope the right person comes your way after a position opens. Networking is the key to keeping the candidate pool full at all times.
Obviously you don’t want to live your life or run your business based on fear but you should be asking yourself the hard questions and planning accordingly.
About a week ago my wife received a call from a trash company that was trying to gain more customers in our area. They offered to provide the same service that we were currently receiving but at a lower price and with an additional large trash can for recyclables. Although we weren’t really looking to switch companies we would be getting more value at a lower price so we accepted their offer.
After that call we had to call the current trash company to cancel our service and apparently the person on the other end of the phone was not happy about our switch. She proceeded to tell my wife that this was a bad decision, that this was a large company pushing little companies out of business and that we would regret when we pay fuel surcharges at a later point. These were all good points and needed attention but that is not the point of the post.
What it really comes down to is selling value on what many would consider a commodity. Following the recap from my wife I thought to myself, how did this smaller and likely more agile company prove their value while we had the service and would that have kept us from switching?
The fact is that the savings were minimal and the extra can, for times of need, was a bonus. This means that a little more value from the original company would have easily kept us from switching. This begs the question; “What value could they have provided, this is just trash service, right?”
They could have done any of the following things:
1. Called me at a regular interval to make sure we were satisfied with the service.
2. Called occasionally to make sure our trash cans get put back in the right place and aren’t laying in the street after service.
3. Offered to get our trash cans if they weren’t at the curb on trash day ( how many times have you forgotten to get the trash up? )
4. Offered one emergency pickup a quarter. This would be great after entertaining guests.
5. Given me a tight time range that they would show up each week in case I forgot to get it out the night before. I could then know if they had gone by already or not.
I am sure that there a many other ways this company could have provided value which would have kept me from switching, but they didn’t.
What are you doing to provide more value than you competitors? Are there things you know that you should be doing but haven’t had the time to do?
The range of services that we offer are typically geared towards managing leads as they come in. But what about paying for leads to make them flow in?
Pay per lead services are something that I have been aware of for a long time but always thought would be too expensive. There is also the fear of the unknown that kicks in and many questions that arise like:
What if I am paying for poor leads?
How many other people are getting the same lead?
Is this expensive or standard?
After a recent customer engagement I discovered that there are companies having large success by paying for leads. They receive a lead and quickly follow up with the customer to understand what they are looking for and then move them into the sales cycle.
Have you had success paying for leads?
What services did you use and which one did you like best?
After highlighting Adroll in Adroll Retargeting Gets Noticed I decided I should highlight one lesson that I learned as well as my plan for the next iteration.
I have been testing LinkedIn, Adwords and Facebook ads along with Adroll and one thing that never happened on the first three services was an outrageous charge for a click. After being charged a ridiculous fee for a few clicks on Adroll I had to find out why. It seems that LinkedIn, Adwords and Facebook make setting a max bid a requirement and if it isn’t then it stands out very well when building a campaign. On AdRoll there is no max bid option visible until after the campaign is launched. So lesson one of using AdRoll, make sure you set a max bid or you will get a surprise.
When I started my first campaign I selected a large number of sites utilizing 8 different ad sizes. After 85,000 impressions a few things stood out. There were two sites with click through rates that were roughly 4 times higher than all other sites. In conjunction with the higher click through rates, the cost per click rate was near the lowest. A few quick clicks showed that both of the sites were using the same size ad.
My next iteration will focus on building awareness and will be a standard campaign. I will launch a new campaign targeting the sites above using the single banner ad. The more focused site targeting and lesson learned will ensure that I get a more efficient campaign and without skewed metrics from a few unusually high click costs.
This month we launched CRMState.com a service that specializes in monitoring SugarCRM. There is a vast assortment of server monitoring solutions available but we ( Atcore Systems ) wanted to utilize our knowledge of SugarCRM to build a monitoring system that is application specific. The fact is that I can choose 1 of hundreds of server monitoring tools to monitor my server but none of them are SugarCRM aware. They don’t know the application, the features and all of the additional non standard types of monitoring and suggestions that can take place to enhance the software.
In version 1 we changed up the standard monitoring and instead of monitoring for the page to respond we verify that specific words show up on the login page. This insures that not only the server and database are up but that the page is showing as it should. It is in our roadmap to take on page checks to another level but we will talk about that in our next update.
Another monitor feature we added was fatal log alerting. Fatals shouldn’t happen very often, except in certain scenarios, if your SugarCRM instance is healthy. We monitor for fatals and alert the user based on their alert configuration. This may seem somewhat standard for a logging system but we have plan to take it much further in the near future.
Perhaps the biggest impact this has in relation to SugarCRM monitoring is that the service specializes in SugarCRM monitoring. With that focus we can continuously add SugarCRM specific checks, build in suggestions and keep up with the pace of SugarCRM releases.
We recently launched CRMState.com a service that specializes in monitoring SugarCRM. With that launch we decided to compare multiple online advertising services, one of them being Adroll. We decided to throw Adroll in with some top competitors such ad LinkedIn, Facebook and Google for two reasons. The first is, it was recommended by a partner that we trust. Secondly, and more interestingly, was that they offered Retargeting.
We will be publishing some information about the results in the near future but needless to say the CPM and click through rates are significantly higher on people that are retargeted. To top it all off, everyone that knows about your site or has recently been targeted will contact you and send you screenshots exhibiting where they saw your ad.
We look forward to telling you more about Adroll in the future but until then I recommend setting aside a little budget to try it out.
Disclosure: This is not a paid post but we did use the referral link. If you liked the information above and decide to try Adroll, please click our link to register and we will keep the tips coming.
At a recent networking event I was completely amazed when an individual contributor from a nearby Lowes showed up and introduced themselves at one of the round tables. I am not speaking of a director or contractor salesperson but an individual contributor that works on the floor in a specific department who is out promoting the company. In an age where personal connection means more than ever, this person went out and made connections.
What are your employees doing to help make personal connections?
Do you provide incentive for individual contributors ( non sales ) to go outside the walls of the business?
At the beginning of the last Atlanta Bloggers Meetup the organizer kicked off by giving out prizes for those that were getting social about the Meetup. What I observed was a great strategy that made everyone in the room aware that he needed their help to spread the word.
Here is how it works:
Start off with a question related to attendees spreading the word such as
“Everyone who Tweeted that they were coming to Atlanta Bloggers tonight raise their hand”
Multiple people raise their hand…. Or don’t. If multiple people raise their hand then follow up with an additional question to narrow the field. Something like:
“Of those people, how many invited a friend?”
Once the group is narrowed down to one or two, hand them a $5 gift card.
Rinse and repeat until multiple questions have been asked and multiple cards have been given out.
The great thing about this approach is that it is inexpensive, easy to do and lets everyone know that you need their help. The questions are based on simple social tasks that anyone could do.
What kind of simple techniques are you using to get people to be social about your event?
Many new CRM or back office implementations have requests for integrated systems. This could be the best of breed CRM and Accounting system which will need to be integrated or another solution that has both CRM and Accounting in one package. With each approach there are pros and cons.
Best of Breed Integration
The best of breed integration means that you choose the top applications and integrate the two. This can be done with a 3rd party integration or with a custom integration.
- You get two tools that are best of breed and do the job exceptionally well
- Best of breed tools usually have a following and therefore you have access to a plethora of resources such as consultants, tutorials, training and addons.
- Custom integrations can be expensive depending on the level of integration. 3rd party integrations can at times alleviate this.
- Added complexity
All in One Tool
All in one systems such as ones that do both Accounting and CRM are generally not the best of breed but offer their own set of pros and cons.
- You only have to deal with one vendor
- No integration complexities
- These systems usually don’t do either job exceptionally well compared to the best of breed applications. They do however do the job.
- Vendor lock in. With an all in one system it is more difficult to change one piece of your business changes.
Listed are only two pros and cons for each type of solution. It is up to the business to decide which one is the right path for them.
What direction did your company choose and why?
- No public Twitter messages.