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Choosing A CRM System Is Like Buying A Garden Hose

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The other day I went into Home Depot to purchase a garden hose. Ever do this? All I wanted was a simple garden hose. Except it wasn’t so simple. I found that Home Depot actually sold dozens of different types of garden hoses. There are fifty foot hoses and hundred foot hoses. There are hoses on wheels. There are vinyl hoses and rubber hoses. There are hoses made by Flexogen, Craftsmen and Teknor. And the prices range from $11 to $82. This is the problem with our society. There are too many garden hoses to choose from.

This experience taught me what it feels like when a small business owner is looking for the right hosted Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system for his business. There are dozens of good CRM applications on the market today. Just like there are dozens of good hoses available for sale at Home Depot. Unless you’re a full time gardener you’re really not going to know which is the best hose for your needs. And unless you’re in the CRM business you’ll be just as clueless when it comes time to research CRM applications.

What is a CRM application, you ask? That’s the easy part. It’s a database. Of people and companies that do business with your company. A good CRM database ensures that nothing falls through the cracks and you don’t look like a dope.

By not falling through cracks, I mean that the database keeps track of anything pending for a customer, supplier or partner. Calls to be made. Appointments scheduled. Forecasted sales. Potential opportunities. Outstanding quotes. Open service issues. A good CRM system has calendars, activity lists and forms so that this kind of information doesn’t fall through the cracks. It has reminders and automatic emails. It has the ability to schedule follow-ups for others in your company. And all this information should be shared among your employees. Nothing gets forgotten. Nothing gets left out.

And you shouldn’t look like a dope either. Because there’s nothing worse than when a salesman innocently calls a customer to promote your new product yet he doesn’t know that the same customer is furious with an ongoing service issue. So your CRM system should be able to track a history of phone calls, appointments, emails and other activities with each and every person who does business with your company. You should be able to run reports on these activities. You should be able to communicate by mass letters or emails to a group of customers all sharing common data so that you can send them an alert when there’s a safety issue about a product they purchased or a group message to everyone who has blue eyes, green hair and lives in Michigan if that’s the sort of thing you like to track.

That’s what a good CRM system does. And if you’re looking for a CRM application for your company, allow me be your gardener here. So you won’t get hosed. I’m going to recommend my favorite hosted CRM applications.

Please remember that choosing a hosted CRM system is a cultural decision. The benefits of a hosted system are many: they are generally quick to get up and running, can be accessed from anywhere and require less cash up front to get started. But be careful – some of the business owners I know are concerned about the downsides: among them is that your data is hosted by someone else outside of your business and the long term cost (which usually involves paying monthly fees per user) tends to be significantly higher than just buying a system outright.

Hosted applications have grown in popularity over the years. I recommend five. They are: Salesforce.com, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics – CRM, Highrise and ZohoCRM. Of these, my company sells Microsoft CRM and ZohoCRM. But I love the others too – I just don’t have enough resources to be able to service them. All of these applications have the features mentioned above that ensures nothing will fall the cracks and you won’t be looking like a dope.

Salesforce.com is the most well known of the group – it’s mature, well written, easy to use and extremely popular. I like the fact that they have their own passionate developer community and platform and its parent company is publicly held and a thought leader in the industry. Reporting is fantastic and its service and collaboration tools are among the best in the business. But be careful – there are small business offerings but to get the full benefits you can spend as much as $125 per month per user for the product which can be prohibitive for a lot of companies.

SugarCRM is very similar to Salesforce.com but it’s priced much lower at only about $50 per month per user. There are three big advantages to buying SugarCRM. For starters, the company is trying hard to build a partner channel so end users can have local support and training. By comparison, most of the hosted applications I’ve come across are sold and serviced directly by the software maker. SugarCRM offers both a hosted and an in-house product for those that want to choose. So if you’re not happy with the hosted environment you’re not stuck. But the biggest advantage to SugarCRM? They provide source code with their product. This means that if you want to integrate your system with other systems, like your website or accounting database or if you want to perform complex customizations (and have the expertise to do so) you can dig into the entrails of SugarCRM to make it do exactly what you want it to do.

My company sells Microsoft CRM Online so we know all about the good, bad and ugly about this offering. What’s good? The $44 per month per user price, its Microsoft Outlook interface, Microsoft’s large channel of Certified Advisors like (ahem) ourselves and its full CRM feature set makes it a mature choice for anyone looking for a Microsoft-based solution. What’s bad? Microsoft has been playing catch-up with this product and trying to position it as a better alternative to Salesforce.com, its archrival in this space. So although the features are fine for a small company, its customizability is lacking. But that’s about to change – Microsoft is releasing its 2011 version shortly which will be as customizable as its on premise solution and, more importantly as Salesforce.com. They’ll also back it with a huge marketing and support effort. As a (ahem) Certified Advisor of Microsoft CRM since 2005 I can attest that the community around this product has grown a ton over the past few years. I’m a fan.

The last two hosted applications are great for small workgroups (less than ten people) who want to get a simple but powerful CRM up and running quickly.

ZohoCRM is only $25 per month per user (it’s free for the first three users with a few less features) and, to me, is a poor man’s Salesforce.com. That’s why my company offers this product: our clients tend to be mostly poor, particularly around the time our bills come due. Zoho has won many awards in the industry and has a full set of features to make sure nothing falls through the cracks and no one looks like a dope. It integrates with Outlook and Google Apps. And it’s part of a suite of Zoho products for doing projects, documents, billing and other tasks. Zoho is not as customizable as some of the other applications discussed above. And its parent draws most of its management and all of its support from India which can sometimes be a little frustrating. But our clients using it aren’t complaining. The price is right and the software works well.

Highrise is a sweet, little CRM application made by the good people at 37 Signals. Highrise is super affordable, costing only $24 per month for 6 users and up to $149 per month for unlimited users. I like Highrise because it’s a simple contact manager that works with a bunch of other hosted applications for customer service, sales and marketing and business productivity. There’s a programming interface for further customization, and nice little iPhone app too. Plus I’m a big fan of 37 Signals’ Basecamp software for managing projects which is very much like Highrise. The downsides? Highrise is at its heart just a contact manager and it’s still in its early days compared to some of the others products I discussed. It’s a work in progress. But I have faith in the company who makes it.

See? Now you know which hosted CRM applications to look at and now you have a good idea which is best for your business too. But here’s some more good news for you. I’m not that pimply kid from the hardware section who’d rather be home listening to Jay-Z then helping a customer select the right garden hose. I’m the short little bald man from suburbia who IS helping you choose the right hosted CRM system for your business. I wish I had this kind of advice when I was looking for that garden hose! And I wish I had some Purell after shaking hands with that kid at Home Depot too.

Stay tuned…I’ll soon be turning to in-house CRM applications.

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Finance

Why Pipe Tally Books Are Necessary

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As a mainstay of interstate commerce, oil drilling, and numerous other industries, the tally book has become an indispensable part of many workman’s uniforms. The book is especially used in the field of oil exploration and drilling, requiring that it remain convenient in design and accessibility in order to achieve its user’s note keeping and measurements with the utmost of ease. Although technology has advanced in leaps and bounds to provide spreadsheets, computer programs, and other instruments that all help in the collection and storage of data, oilfield workers know that it is a dependable and trusted tool to have on the job.

The utility of a pipe tally book becomes readily apparent when something needs to be checked immediately while in the field. While the modern convenience of a computer is office appropriate, a book that can be easily stored in a person’s pocket has no parallel. Whether one is required to record drilling depths accurately, provide mud loggers and drillers with important information, or decide which drill bit is most suitable for a dig, a pipe tally book has proven its usefulness for decades.

Tally books are also being used now for a variety of purposes as well. For example, in addition to their traditional uses, they provide a convenient way to provide safety information, employee training tasks, daily work lists, and more. Never before it made so many educational uses available at a fieldworker’s fingertips.

Recently, pipe tally books have become an effective way to successfully advertise one’s company. As such, they are being made available in a variety of custom covers with personalized logos and artwork for instantly recognizable company branding. They are also offered in a variety of sizes and colors, and are also available in a triple-fold format.

Sleek, durable, and dependable, they have endured numerous changes in technology and maintained its position as one of the most important tools a worker can have in the field. When simplicity is required, and a notebook that can withstand harsh and rugged circumstances is essential, then it is just what the situation calls for.

Companies enjoy the benefit that comes with ordering customized books. With the industry bustling, drilling activity and rising to new heights, the time saved with the reorders adds another popular element to the process. Customized books give the employees exactly what they need rather than some materials that do not apply to the line of work.

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The First 4 Steps to Get Massage Therapy After a Car Accident

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When I was hit by a drunk driver, the last thing I wanted was to mess with insurance. The other guy’s insurance company was willing to pay for massage therapy. But I didn’t have the time. And as a result, I was not fully protected.

Massage Therapy is one of the most effective healing tools available. It calms the muscles and mind down after a traumatic incident. It increases blood flow to the muscles, which increases healing. A great massage therapist will ask about the accident, and learn which muscles were tightened and harmed during the accident. As a result, your body will heal. Massage Therapy is the science of healing muscle. It is the only industry focused exclusively on healing muscle tightness and soreness. Seek out a massage therapist immediately if you are in a car accident to prevent those muscles from staying tight because of whiplash or injury.

I have outlined the steps describing how to get massage therapy for a car accident (or any accident) with the other person’s insurance company paying for it. These steps are the first 4 steps you should take immediately. Within 24 hours of the accident, take these steps to protect yourself. You must act quickly, or you may forfeit your care to the insurance company’s policies. To ensure you are well, follow these 4 steps below.

1. VISIT a Doctor or Chiropractor for a Doctor’s Note

You need a doctor’s recommendation for a massage. It’s a medical recommendation, like any other activity or prescription. Schedule a single doctor’s visit, and have your doctor recommend massage therapy as treatment. If you are injured on the weekend, visit a 24 hour clinic. Any doctor can prescribe massage therapy if you ask for it. But you must ask for it.

2. TREAT Yourself Immediately

The insurance companies have a policy called having a “Gap in Care.” It means that if you are not getting your treatments consistently and immediately after the accident, then you are not really hurt. If you are going to get massage therapy to remedy accident pain, then start immediately. And don’t stop getting regular treatments until you are better. Changes to your treatment plan or providers is fine, but do NOT stop getting some sort of treatment, or the insurance companies will claim you have a “gap in care.” And they will not accept your claim.

3. BEWARE of Delayed Pain

Whiplash can show up several weeks after accident. What happens is that the body goes into hyper-protection mode, as a safety measure. It pours adrenaline, and other chemicals into your body for several weeks to protect you from hurting (so you can escape the dangerous land of other cave people, ya know, with deadly mountain lions and other creatures). Then your body starts repairing weeks later. That repair period is when the pain really start.

Often, you won’t seek immediate treatment because you feel fine, then you start feeling really bad weeks later. Continue your massage therapy treatments for at least a month to make sure you prevent serious whiplash from affecting your productivity. The insurance companies understand this too. So continue treatment for at least month. And longer if you are genuinely in pain.

4. ASK Questions of the Insurance Company

Some insurance companies pay as you go. Other insurance companies want to pay out the claim at the end of treatment. Ask them lots of questions on their process. The adjustor is simply following a set of rules. If you can learn the rules, you can make the most of the claim (and save yourself a lot of headaches). Work within the system, not against it. Some great questions include, “How does the claim process work?” “Can I get checks as I submit receipts, or do you pay out all at once towards the end.”

Regardless of what happened, everyone involved wants to see you get better fast. So act quickly. And start a consistent treatment, and continue with it, until you are better. Good luck and Feel Better!

If you know a friend who would like this article, please forward it, or submit it on Facebook, Twitter or Digg. If you have friends in Dallas / Ft Worth, Texas, forward our website to them today. We look forward to meeting you and your friends soon.

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Finance

Hazard, Risk and Insurance (Part 2)

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Every human action can cause a risk. This risk depends on a variety of actions a person does. In terms of insurance, risk is the possible loss that a person could experience and the dangers posed by the possibility of something happening but not knowing when and what will happen. To deal with these risks we need preparation and proper protection. Hence the importance of insurance more visible when a person afflicted with calamity, even if the disaster did not want every person.

Not counting how many losses to be borne by society due to the disaster happened. So be thankful, if you have take out, do not need to be confused to find money to repair damaged houses or cars that had stalled due to flooding. Simply add a claim to the insurance company, then you will get compensation.

Risk Forms

1. Pure – This forms if there will cause the loss or does not cause loss ( breakeven ). Example: Risk of Fire, Casualty Risk.

2. Speculative – That may cause the loss occurred, does not cause loss or profit ( gain ). Example: Production, Monetary ( Foreign Exchange ).

3. Fundamental – Risks in case of impact can be very large losses or catastrophic nature. Example: War, Earthquake, Air Pollution.

4. Special (particular): Risk that if it does, the impact of losses is local, not comprehensive or not catastrophic. Example: Fire, Accident, Theft.

Risk Management

1. Risk Identification

This stage is to identify the risks faced by any human being either personally or risks faced in the process of business activities.

2. Risk Evaluation

1. The frequency is rare, the impact of low loss / small
These risks need not be insured because it rarely happens, and if there is a low impact / small.

2. The frequency is rare, the impact of high losses / major.
This risk needs to be insured and insurance companies are still willing to close / cover this risk

3. Frequency is used, the impact of low loss / small.
This risk classification is identical to 1, which needs to be done is prevention so that does not happen often.

4. Frequency is used, the impact of high loss / large.
In this risk is the opposite mindset between the client and insurance companies. Customers want this risk can be insured, but insurance companies may not receive because the frequency it happened often, and the impact of losses is also high.

Risk Control

1. Financial Control

Buying protection insurance by paying an insurance premium ( Customer Transfer The Risk Of Insurance Companies ). Bear their own costs such risks, the impact of weakness if the loss is high enough to threaten the business activities.

2. Physical Control

Eliminate risk. But this is not possible because of the risk will always exist and may occur, so that needs to be done is that the risk minimization, minimize the risk by providing incident prevention equipment and complete response equipment to deal with risk.

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