Do I need a CRM?

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management database) is a system for recording your interactions with your customers and prospects. Most of them have a sales-focus, so you can see who is likely to buy, when they’re likely to buy and they can project your likely revenue over the next few months. Some include project management, so when they become a customer, you can look after delivery to them as well.

But at its heart, a CRM is just an address book on steroids.

While you work alone, you probably don’t need one.

But as soon as there’s two of you, it’s an incredibly useful tool. By tracking your conversations with people, you can make sure that everyone on your team knows the latest about each client (whether that’s their objections to your product or just that they like cats) – all of which helps when anyone in your organisation gets in touch with them.

Take Action: How do you share knowledge about your contacts across your organisation? Figure out what you know and where you store it

You have to improve the world

Apparently, according to Alan Weiss, Peter Drucker once said "Organisations are unlike animals – it's not just perpetuating the species; it's about making an improvement to your environment".

I like this because what he's essentially saying is if you want to be successful, you have to improve the world.

People will not want to use your products or services unless you make their lives better. In fact, that's all you need to do.

Take Action: How do you make people's lives better? How do you improve the world? Find the answer to this question and then stick it as the headline on your sales page today.

What is a VPN?

The internet is a big, bad place. Lots of threats – many of them automated – and designed to get into your bank account in any way possible.

So, if you use public Wifi networks a lot, if you want to add an extra layer of security to the things that you do over the network, a VPN can help.

VPN stands for "Virtual Private Network". Basically, it's a computer, sat somewhere on the internet, that your computer, tablet or phone connects to.

Normally, if you open Netflix on your phone, your phone sends a message over the network to Netflix's servers, which then responds. The communication between you and Netflix is encrypted – but anyone intercepting that communication can see that you're talking to Netflix, they just don't know what you're watching. (This is the "metadata" that the security services are allowed to collect and retain about you).

With a VPN, anyone intercepting your communications would see the encrypted traffic – but instead of going to Netflix, the traffic would be going to the VPN server. The VPN server then sends it to Netflix and collects the responses and sends it back to you. So your would be attacker not only can't see what Netflix is saying to you (as that's encrypted by Netflix), but they can't even see that you're watching Netflix (as the traffic is encrypted again by the VPN and sent to the VPN server, not to Netflix directly).

Security works in layers – any individual layer can be breached, but you can still remain secure. And a VPN adds two layers at once.

Take Action: Sign up for a reputable VPN provider – there are lots of them out there – but make sure it's not one that is free (you never get something for nothing). And then whenever you're on a public network, switch the VPN on.

The Helicopter Option

I heard this from Jonathan Stark at Ditching Hourly – and it explains pricing brilliantly.

He said that, after speaking at conferences, he often ends up at an airport about 50 miles away from his house. This gives him a number of options for getting home.

The cheapest – walk home. It’s free

Take a bus – they’re only every hour and they’re often crowded, but a ticket is only about $12.

Take a taxi – warm, no sharing and door-to-door service – from the airport to his house, it’s about $250.

Take a helicopter – get home in no time at all, but it costs $2000 minimum.

When you think about your own pricing you always have a tendency to think that people are only going to go for the cheapest option. But look at that list above – are you really going to walk 50 miles? There are many reasons that people choose the price points they do – the helicopter pilot may not get many customers but they do get some.

Take Action: Are you assuming that your customers will always want the cheapest option? What can you add that will push them up a price level?

Calendars and To-do Lists

You’ve got a load of things to get done. How do you plan for it all?

The worst thing you can do is nothing.

Write it down. That way you have a good idea of what needs to be done so you aren’t overwhelmed by imaginary tasks (which is easily done).

Then decide which way of organising yourself is best.

Some people love blocking time out in their calendar. I need to do X, Y and Z, so I’ll add an entry from 10-12 on Monday for X, 2-4 for Y and all of Tuesday morning for Z. No phone calls, no meetings, just concentrate on those three tasks.

Personally that doesn’t work for me. I much prefer having a to-do list – instead of blocking out a particular time I just keep a long list. But I always add due-dates to each item. So X and Y are due on Monday, Z on Tuesday.

Take Action: Write down all the things you have to do over the next few days, then add them to your reminders app or your calendar.

Prepare for GDPR

The new General Data Protection Regulations are getting a lot of people very panicked at the moment. But it’s not a nightmare, there are some simple steps you can take to understand what you need to do.

  • What personal data do you hold? Email addresses, names, addresses, National Insurance numbers, that kind of thing
  • Where do you hold it? Spreadsheets, databases? Cloud-hosted apps?
  • If it’s a cloud-hosted app, where is the data stored (you’ll need to contact the company). Are they compliant with GDPR (again you’ll need to ask).
  • What do you do with that data? How do you process it? Can you explain it in simple language to your customers?
  • What is your (written down) procedure for dealing with data-access requests? If someone wants to know what data you hold about them, how do you respond?
  • Do you have consent for the data you already hold? If not, what is your plan for getting that consent (you don’t need to do it immediately but you do need to show that you are doing it)?
  • How are you getting consent for holding personal information on future prospects and customers? What do your data-protection notices look like? Consent needs to be explicit.
  • What is your (written down) plan for dealing with data breaches. You will get hacked at some point. Make sure you know how you will deal with it.

Take Action: Block out an hour in your diary and start with step 1

Why I love Apple

When I was a kid, my dad was given a PC for work. It sat in our spare bedroom and came with a spreadsheet and word processor. I spent weeks teaching my dad how to use it. It was frustrating work, as this was in the days of DOS, where everything was done by typed commands.

Then I went to my friend's house. Their front door opened straight into their living room. And at the far end was a Mac (I think a Mac Classic). And my friend's dad was there teaching my friend how to use the Word Processor.

"What is this?" I thought to myself, "An adult teaching a child how to use a computer? I've never seen anything like this before. It must be sorcery"

And from that moment on, I was an Apple fan.

And, more importantly, I make sure that the software I build is as easy to use as possibly can be – so the adults can teach the children how to use it.

Take Action: Think of a childhood event that has positively impacted on you. How have you taken that experience and applied it into your everyday work?

Do it later

You've seen the perfect thing. It looks amazing. It's even relevant for your work, so it counts as a business expense and you can claim the VAT back on it.

So you should go out and buy it, right?

You know what I'm going to say.

Do it later.

It can wait till tomorrow.

Then when tomorrow comes, it can wait till the day after.

After a few days of this, it will either become unbearable and you know you'll have to buy it. Or you'll realise you were just captivated by the shininess.

Take Action: Look long and hard at the things you think you need to buy, whether for you or for your business. And put it off.

What should I write about on my blog?

Having a blog is all very well, but you have to keep it updated. Which in turn means finding things to write about.

Remember a while back when I talked about positioning? The first part of the positioning statement tells you who your target audience is. And they are the ones who care about what you're writing.

What problems do they have? What are they interested in? What solutions can you give them?

Take Action: Start a list of common problems that your target market has, then write about how to solve them. Add to the list every time you speak to someone and they mention something that is causing them grief.

Will I get compensation if my website goes down?

Short answer: no.

Long answer: yes but it's probably not worth it.

Most web hosting companies have Service Level Agreements where they say they will keep your stuff running something like 99.9% of the time.

That sounds pretty good right?

Well, 99.9% of the time is about 9 hours per year. A full working day per year.

Then, you need to look at what happens if you do get downtime. Generally, you are entitled to a refund as a percentage of what you pay per month.

Let's say it's a 30 day month. Which means 720 hours in that month. So if your site is down for 4 hours in total, that's 0.6% of the month. If you pay £10/month hosting (decent hosting is actually expensive and for some of my clients, that's insanely cheap) – then 0.6% entitles you to 6p in compensation. Even though your site was down for half a day.

Take Action: Find out what your hosting company's compensation policy is. Laugh at it and come up with a contingency plan, because your site will go down some time soon.