SaaS and how it has changed the way we pay for software.
Largely, gone are the days when you paid for a software license; it came in a nice box with a manual, and you owned it forever. Most software developers now prefer a cloud-based “Software as a Service”, or “SaaS”, model, meaning you pay for the software monthly or annually, and what you pay is based on the features you choose and how many people use it. The downsides to this are that you never really own it, the costs can change at any time, there may be service outages, and you are constantly paying for it. The upsides, however, are that you can effectively spread the cost out, all updates are free, all your data is safely and securely stored in the cloud, and you can pay for only the features you use.
There are pros and cons.
One of the great things to come out of this model is that, with many software products using the SaaS model, the small user can either use it for free or for a much smaller fee because a scaled pricing model means the bigger companies make up the difference. With the free options, prices usually start to kick in once you want to use more of the features (beyond the “basic” version) or reach a certain amount of data usage, but they can still be free forever.
Below, I run through my favourite FREE tools that you can use to manage better and grow your business.
Business & Marketing CRM:
ZOHO & HubSpot
You cannot run an effective sales pipeline without a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. These tools are hugely powerful and enable you to track new leads, be alerted when you need to follow them up, have a communication trail of customers you are speaking to, integrate with things like your emails/social media and run email marketing campaigns. A good CRM is the first thing you should have for your business sales and marketing management. When we moved from a relatively fragmented and archaic way of working across Outlook and different database systems to one central, cloud-based CRM we saw our new business swell by 250-300% simply by being better organised!
Website Visitor & Lead Tracking:
Google Analytics, Alabcross & Hotjar
If people are visiting your website, you ought to know essential things such as who they are, what they were interested in and what their journey looked like (did they get in touch or leave the website 5 seconds after finding it?). The three most powerful tools I can recommend are these and they are all reasonably easy to use with masses of intelligence you can put to good use. Each requires you to register and then add a couple of lines of code to your website.
Google Analytics enables you to see things like how many visitors your site gets and where traffic is coming from, e.g. Google searches or social media, your most popular pages, and items like your bounce rate (how many people dive straight out of the exit).
Albacross is an alternative to Lead Forensics, which many of you may have heard of, but it’s expensive. The main features on Albacross are free and provide cross-referenced identification of the actual companies or organisations that visited your site, which pages they looked at and for how long. It cannot tell you who the person was, but, with a bit of old-fashioned detective work, you can often find out – in other words, pick up the phone.
Hotjar is an excellent tool if you have a lot of traffic/visitors and cannot understand why your enquiries or sales are low. It will show you heatmaps of the routes visitors take through your website and will highlight where the bottlenecks and problems are that are losing you business.
Mailchimp is hands down the best all-in-one email marketing tool out there. If you have fewer than 2,000 contacts on your email list and want to send fewer than 10,000 emails per month, you can use it to design, build, send and report on your email campaigns. It provides tutorials and templates for beginners and rich feature sets for those who want a little more from it. Typically, sending email campaigns can get expensive quickly, but you have absolutely everything you need here and more; it can grow with you. However, once you have a list getting into 10,000+ contacts, the cost ramps up pretty quickly, and there are much cheaper ways to send out large campaigns. As with all email marketing, you must make sure your list has either opted-in to receive marketing emails from you or that you have acquired an opt-in guaranteed list from a reputable data vendor.
You will be amazed at what these five/six tools can do for you and your business without it costing you anything! Please give them a try, and I would be interested to hear any stories of readers who have put them to good use and won a big deal or seen a positive impact to their business as a result.
If you need a little outside assistance with your business strategy, help identify your clients, or need help implementing a CRM system, get in touch today.