A low tech look at cloud based business
I want to share how I use automation in my day-to-day workflow, so let me grab my trusted Moleskin notebook and sketch out what we’ll be looking at. “Wait–what?” you ask “I thought we’re talking high tech and the cloud; and you’re gonna pull out a pen?” Yup and it’ll all make sense in a moment.
I go everywhere with my Moleskin notebook. It’s full of notes, sketches, location info, phone numbers–the list goes on and on. So I figured, it’d be a great place to start, when talking about cloud based business. In the end the cloud needs to help us in our business, it’s a tool that let’s us connect with our clients, retrieve information and share documents easier than before. If it’s not making our life easier, you’d be foolish to use it.,
SalesForce – the center of my cloud universe
SalesForce is the 800 pound gorilla in the room, when it comes to Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It’s used by some of the largest companies in the world and is one of the leading online services, when it comes to keeping track of your contacts, calendars and opportunities.
However, like everything in the cloud, it really shines, when you automate it. Sure you could type a potential clients contact info into SalesForce, but where’s the fun in that? Here are three channels I use to capture new leads into my client database:
The contact form on my website.
I’ve written about this before, but basically as a prospective client fills out the contact form on my website, they are actually entering their data into my CRM, which then sends them an automated personalized email response, notifies me via email, that I have a new lead. All this info is accessible via the web interface or an app on my phone (Read more about it on this Strictly Business article: Quick Tip – Automate).
The subscription button on my blog
Subscriber information is captured here via a MailChimp plugin on my WordPress blog, that send all the data straight to SalesForce. That plugin also takes care of sending email updates to my subscribers when I write a new blog post and maintains my mailing list. All day, every day. Don’t have to think about it.
“There you go again with that low tech, old school stuff.” I can hear you think – but wait, this ones actually the most magical of them all. I love business cards. I hand them out everywhere I go, but I collect them as well. Here’s how they end up in my SalesForce:
Evernote – my digital brain
Evernote plays a huge role of my cloud, it is basically a digital storage place for everything you can think of. If you can digitize it, Evernote can store it. Take for example the photograph of my moleskin notebook page – if you click on it, it will actually take you to a shared Evernote. The true strength of this is that the page is searchable, yup even my handwriting. So I can type “TASKS” into Evernote’s search function, it will return the image of that scan with the search phrase highlighted.
Back to business cards–Evernote has a little app called ‘Scanable’ and it’s truly magic. Scanable turns your phone’s camera into a scanner, which is one way to get info into Scanable.
Here’s what I do when someone hands me a business card:
Step 1: Take a picture of the business card in Scanable.
Step 2: Scanable, reads the card and fills in all the data that is on the card. Then it goes to LinkedIn – finds the LinkedIn profile and fills out any data that’s not on the card, but on LinkedIn (how cool is that?)
Step 3: Scanable gives you the option to save the card in your iOS contacts or Evernote (actually it does a lot more than that – check out Business cards call for an awesome Habi-matic).
This whole process takes about 15 seconds and although it’s not perfect, I get about 9 out of 10 cards to read perfectly, sometimes a rescan takes care of an issue, but sometimes the card is just too artsy.
OK, now the info is in my contacts, but not in SalesForce. There’s a little web app called IFTTT (If This Then That), that takes care of this: anytime a new contact is added to my iOS contacts, it pushes that info over into SalesForce. It also sends me a text to let me know a new contact is added to SalesForce. IFTTT doesn’t care if the contact came from my contact form, a blog subscription or a business card ingested into Evernote via Scanable. I get an SMS from all. And getting those makes my day, because someone wants to work with me.
More than just an address book
That takes care of my contacts or the address book. SalesForce does a lot more than just being a fancy rolodex, it correlates all the data that’s pertinent to that client – past jobs, emails send to them, upcoming opportunities, ect. So let’s say that the new client, who’s info just got added to SalesForce is going to hire me for a job. So the lead, gets converted into an account, with the person added as a contact and an opportunity is created in SalesForce, that contains a lot of info of this job, but as you know a photo production is made up of many 100’s of tasks that need to be managed. Since I use a single user license of SalesForce, I have to find another cloud based service to keep track of my tasks, especially when I’m sharing them with a team.
Asana – keeps tracks of all the tasks on my To-Do list
Enter Asana, the perfect way for teams to communicate or you to keep multiple projects’ tasks organized. When I create an opportunity in SalesForce, Zapier (another automation app) creates a new project in Asana. The Asana project (again via Zapier) creates a tag in Evernote, which will be on every piece of data relevant to that job – receipts, client briefs, production books, scanned business cards, notes from your last phone call or that spread sheet of the shots the client just emailed you. In fact Evernote lets you create templates that you can use to stream line the way you do business, you’ll need to customize them for your shop, but once you have one – you can use the same one over and over, it can even be a list with boxes you can check off when they’re done.
So once I’ve made one of those check box lists in Evernote, using the job tag, Task Clone reads the list and creates tasks automatically in Asana, that I can assign to teams, add due dates to, write a list of sub tasks, ect. Each one of these tasks get imported into SalesForce via Zapier, which completes the circle.
Cloud based business
There is so much more to talk about when it comes to automating your business, from the simple app Expensify that can create expense reports for you from photos of your receipts to the complex web delivery of images via PhotoShelter, which allows me to let clients see their final images, but not download them until they’ve paid.
As small businesses, we can save a lot of time, effort and money, if we automate some of the mundane tasks–especially those that we repeat with every client or every project.