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How to Create a DIY CRM System with Google Docs

Posted on Feb 28, 2013 by Derek Singleton

If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely managing everything from your financials to your marketing activities–and you’re doing it all on a limited budget. While you know that you need a better way to manage your sales prospects, especially during periods of growth, you just aren’t ready to pay for a customer relationship management system to keep in touch with potential and existing customers.

At the Software Advice website, I help review and compare most of the major CRM (customer relationship management) systems on the market. But the truth of the matter is that many of the popular systems on the market can be too expensive for many small business owners. For these small businesses, it may be more effective to take the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach and build your own CRM system.

Building your own CRM system can provide several benefits:

  • It’s affordable (read: free)
  • It’s flexible
  • It’s easy to use and customize

A great tool for building a CRM system on your own is Google Docs. If you have a Gmail account, you already have access to an easy way to build your own CRM software. Already widely used as a management tool, it’s fairly easy to extend the power of these applications to help with customer management. Here’s a quick step-by-step overview of how to do it.

Decide Who Gets Access–And What Information to Include
Google Docs allows all users to collaborate across any document thanks to their sharing and editing features. So, if one person changes a contact’s information, it automatically syncs across the system. This allows all document collaborators to see the change immediately. Beyond that, you can monitor user privileges to ensure that all users have access to the right information.

Once you decide who will be able to access and update data in your CRM system, you’ll need to create a Google Spreadsheet. After that, it’s time to determine what information you want to track about sales prospects in your spreadsheet. A few pieces of information that are a good idea to track include:

  • Demographics – company name, contact name, email, phone number, etc.
  • Prospect source – how the prospect found out about your company
  • Next actions – a code that determine how you’ll follow (e.g. phone call or email)
  • Contact log – notes from every contact you make with the prospect
  • Estimated opportunity size – an estimate of the size of the sale
  • Lead nurturing stage – a numbered system that shows how close the prospect is to purchasing (1 = aware but not interested; 4 = has purchased)

Keep in mind that this is just a starter list and you’ll likely want to record other information that’s specific to your business. So feel free to add any field that’s relevant to your company. If after a while you realize that you want to track more information, it’s fairly easy to add a new field.

Learn How to Manipulate the Data with Spreadsheet Functions
One nice thing about using a Google Spreadsheet is that there are easy sort features that allows you to sort by any field you like. If you only want to look at contacts with the biggest opportunity size, just sort by “estimating opportunity size” and you can view your most largest sales prospects from the largest potential sales to smallest.

Or, maybe you’re interested in the looking at the number of companies that are in the very beginning of the lead nurturing stage. You’ve already coded all entries that are in this stage of the buying process with a 1 but you don’t know how many of your contacts are at that phase. To figure this out, you can use a simple function known as a “countif()”. It works like this:

Determine the cell range you want to count sales prospects for (let’s say it’s cells C2 to C100)
Decide the criteria for counting each cell (in this case it’s a “1”)

To count all your prospects that are the beginning of the sales cycle, you can use the formula in cell C101: ‘=countif(C2:C100, “1”)’. This will give you the total number of contacts that are at phase one in the buying process. Of course there are a whole host of other functions that you can use to manipulate that data, but you get the idea. For a comprehensive list of spreadsheet functions that will work in a Google Spreadsheet check out Google’s help page.

With this method, you can start tracking their sales prospects in an efficient and paperless manner. And you can do it for free. As a bonus, you’ll also be able to access this data from anywhere with an Internet connection because information in Google Docs is stored in the Cloud.

Do you have any other DIY tips on creating a CRM system? Leave us a comment below.

 

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Why Your Business Should Offer an E-Book

Posted on Feb 21, 2013 by Kim Willington

It seems that iPads, Nooks and Tablets are all the rage now-a-days and many are tossing out those big, clunky books. So unless you run a publishing company or a newspaper, you may be wondering what that has to do with your business. As e-books have become more popular, a whole new world of self-publishing has opened up for authors and companies alike.

If you have not already taken advantage of the possibilities for publishing your own e-book, here are a few reasons why you should:

A Published Book Builds Your Authority
Say your company offers consulting services to small businesses. You can build your reputation and establish your authority as an expert in your field by getting testimonials from clients, writing articles, or even speaking in your community. Or you could publish a book. A published book — whether it is an e-book or a print book — instantly establishes your authority on a subject.

The more e-books you have to your name, the more impressive it will be for customers. Publish books in your niche and display them prominently on your site. Market the book to get positive reviews from reputable sources and you will build even more clout with customers.

Creating a Comprehensive Guide Better Serves Your Customers
Your products and services help your customers to solve a problem or to meet a need. You can serve your customers even more by creating a comprehensive guide that provides insights or solutions for a large problem or need. If you run a financial advising company, you can create a guide about investing in mutual funds or how to retire before 50. If you offer weight-loss products, you can write a book about how to get in shape after a baby or what kinds of foods you can eat to lose weight fast.

Offering e-books is another way to serve your customers, and the medium allows you to offer more in-depth answers and solutions.

An E-book is a Great Incentive to Build Your E-mail List
Your opt-in email list is an important way to build relationships with customers and to drive repeat sales. Offering an incentive is a great way to grow your e-mail list faster.  A free e-book that offers a solution for your customers needs will help you to grow your e-mail list quickly. You can write a book especially to give away to subscribers, or you can make your paid e-book free to those who subscribe.

Just be sure that whatever e-book you offer, it provides useful and actionable information for your customers. If the e-book is the first thing that your customers see from your company, you want to make sure it is indicative of the quality they can come to expect from you.

You Can Sell an E-book to Generate Extra Revenue
Of course, one of the most immediate benefits an e-book can have for your business is to give you another way to generate some extra income. The more books you offer and the more popular they are, the more money you can make. If you develop a popular line, your e-books can become a whole other product offering.  Consider how your e-books can compliment your current products offerings or can create an additional focus for your business.

Publishing an e-book or a series of e-books can offer a number of benefits to your business, including helping you to establish your authority in your niche, encouraging growth of your e-mail list, offering your customers more value, and even generating additional income. If you aren’t already offering e-books, it might be time to consider doing so.

Does your company offer e-books? Share how it has benefited your company in the comments!