Knowing each customer as a real person is a strength of the best small town businesses. New tools allow you to keep that kind of small town connection even as your business grows or moves online.
|How well does the College Street Pub
know these customers?
You probably keep an email address list of customers, right? Do you feel like you are using it effectively? For most of us, the answer is no.
How well do you do at recognizing and connecting with new customers, or new prospects who email you? If you’re ready to improve, here are examples and tools to get you going.
Examples and uses
You want people to feel like more than just an email address. You want to get to know them, their likes and dislikes. CRM or Customer Relationship Management tools can help you learn more about individual customers even when you only connect online.
Focus attention on the right people. Most of these services give you an idea of who is more influential among your contacts. Why do you care? Because it allows you to invest your limited time and attention carefully. Clearly, this is not an excuse to treat anyone poorly. It is a tool to help you make decisions. There has been a lot of online talk lately about Klout scores, influence, and measures of relative importance. I want you to treat all people well, but I recognize that some people are worth bending over backward for.
Growth means we need tools like this. As you come in contact with more and more people, you are less able to keep all those details in your head all the time. What we all need is a personal aide like a politician has who whispers names and details to us at just the right time. Who is just married, and who is now at a new company? If you can’t afford the personal staff to follow you around, you can use some online equivalents in social CRM.
For Gmail: Rapportive
If you use Gmail, install the Rapportive plug in. It’s a free add-on for web browsers like Firefox, Safari, and Chrome, but not Internet Explorer. Then every time you open an email, your sidebar shows the sender’s picture, companies, and other networks where you’ll find them. Those links to other networks are live. That means you can click on the link for Facebook, and go straight to their Facebook page. Or their Flickr page for photos. You get the idea.
I use Rapportive, and I really like getting these details about people I’m communicating with. It helps me remember faces that go with names, and reminds me of details about people.
For Outlook: Xobni
Xobni provides similar functions for Outlook users. All your contacts show up in the Xobni sidebar with pictures and links to their other networks. Some special features for Outlook include a better search function, threaded email conversations, and quick access to old attachments. There is a free version, and a “plus” paid version.
I’m not an Outlook user, so I haven’t tried Xobni.
For anyone: Flowtown
If you have a list of just email addresses with no additional data, take your list straight to Flowtown. Upload your email addresses, and you’ll get back a whole slug of data about these people. Use this data to better target your email messages. It will also alert you when influential people join your list so you can give them more personal attention. One big strength of Flowtown is the ability to share data with other email providers, like MailChimp. So you can use Flowtown data to figure out which of your MailChimp newsletter subscribers are close to your next in person event, for example. It’s not free. There are monthly plans, or a pay as you go plan.
I haven’t tried Flowtown personally, but I really like the idea.
UPDATE: Flowtown no longer offers this function, but I believe Qwerly and Fliptop do.
For anyone: Gist
Gist is one place to keep all your social contact information. It will pull together your contacts from your email address book and your social networks. Within Gist, you can explore more information on any of your contacts, see their other social presences, and monitor their updates. Gist will also send you email summaries of your contacts’ activities. (Handy for keeping tabs, without spending every waking moment to do it.) Gist is free, at least for now. They are reserving the right to begin charging for the service in the future.
I’ve just started using Gist. So far, I like it. Feels like some pretty in depth information is available here.
For anyone: BatchBook
Integration is what makes BatchBook so cool. Integrate your contacts from different places. Pull in their social network profiles and blog feeds. Bring together different team members with shared data. Log all different kinds of communication with customers in one place. Integrate your BatchBook contacts with other small business related services like Freshbooks and MailChimp. Perfect for larger small businesses. It is not free. Pricing is based partially on the number of users.
I know and like Pam and Michelle at BatchBlue Software, makers of BatchBook. I haven’t tried their social CRM myself, but hear online raves about it all the time.
It’s all about people
This is never about mass-adding contacts, or sending email that no one asked for. It is always about learning more about people; about connecting. And it’s something that big businesses simply have a hard time doing. Michael Brito explains the challenge big brands face in Looking beyond Social CRM.
Conclusion: You have the advantage over the big companies. Remember your small town roots. Be friendly, be personal, and build relationships one person at a time.
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Rob Caldwell says
I really like the challenge of trying to know each of your contacts better. I think that should be on the list of top 5 things to do to show you care. I’ve been holding off from diving into Gist, but now I might. Thanks for the analysis.
Darrell Hyatt says
I love the idea of knowing your contacts better,the more we know the more we can help them and create a strong relationship with them.
Becky McCray says
Rob and Darrell, thanks for taking time to comment. It really is all about relationships.
Rahul Vohra says
Becky, thanks for including Rapportive in your list!
Another tip for Rapportive users who want to get to know their customers: you can leave notes on people your contacts. Let’s say you’ve just learnt somebody’s wife’s name, or the date of their children’s birthday, you can note that right on their contact. When you and they next email, all this extra context will be available for you.
Rahul, CEO of Rapportive
Becky McCray says
Rahul, thanks for coming by and sharing that tip. I think that could be very powerful to add a networking note, such as where you met.
Thanks for the tips. As some one who has horrible name to face recognition, these types of tools are absolutely necessary for my networking duties.
I understand that the Rapportive team is also working on a plugin for apple mail for us mac users. Can’t wait!
Becky McCray says
James, now you have me wondering if these tools could help boost our ability to recognize people when we actually do meet in person.
Also, just saw Gist announce a Firefox plugin. These tools are always changing!
Briana @ LGMM says
These are great tools. I had heard of Flowtown but now I’m going to check out Rapportive and Gist (heard of it but never really got into it). Hoping they work!
Interesting tools Becky. I knew many tools that help you learn more about your customers but from the site point of view and not by emails.
I’ll try those tools
Becky McCray says
Briana and John, thanks for stopping by.
You just helped me solve my problem. I feel horrible when I can’t remember the name of someone that I have met briefly, not a good start at building a relationship;)
Becky McCray says
Thanks, Kasha. We all work at this.
I see that Gist now has a Chrome plugin, too.
Matt Mansfield says
Another great tool I have discovered recently is http://www.connectedhq.com.
I really like it because it has great CRM functionality including social features. In addition, it has a great agenda function which sends you your calendar each day along with info about all the folks with whom you are meeting and also provides “opportunities for engagement” which tells you about contacts you can contact to wish happy birthday or congratulate on a job change or promotion.
Check out their free trial.
Becky McCray says
Yep, always changing. Thanks for the tip, Matt.