Thursday, September 30, 2010

QuickBooks: Tax Rates

A client asked: How do I set it up services that when performed at my location are charged a 6 percent tax rate and when performed at the customer's location are charged their local tax rate?

You will need to setup two service items, one at your tax rate and one at the customer's tax rate. When billing the services, select the service by tax rate. To set up the service items:

* Select Customer Center > Item List
* Select Service > Fill in the fields describing the service
* Select Tax Code > Enter the Tax Code for your location
* Save the Service Item

Repeat these steps and enter your customer's tax code

QuickBooks: Other Taxes

A client asked: I set up "Other" taxes for an employee along with normal state and federal taxes. The "Other" tax deduction worked the first pay period and after that stopped working. What could be causing this?

There are several things you can check to resolve this problem:

* Select the Payroll Item List > right click on the Other Taxes items
* Edit using the Wizard > Make sure the setup is correct and there are no limits
* Select Employee > File > Payroll and Compensation tab
* Select Taxes > Select Other > Review the setup

Also, try rebuilding the data file by running File > Utilities > Rebuild
You may need to run this three to five times.

QuickBooks: Changing The Company Name

A QuickBooks client asked: Our name appears as "The Professional Association of Teachers and Student Teachers", but we use PATAST. We need the long name for some reports but want to change it for everything else. Can we do this?

Yes, if you want to change your company name, there are a number of ways to do it without affecting the integrity of the company database.

* Select Company > Company Information
* Enter the Company Name you want as the default
* To control by report > Select the Report Center
* Select Profit and Loss > Standard
* Click the Modify Report button > Click Header/Footer
* Modify the Company Name for this report

You need to select which name you want as the default name and which is related to reports (based on your company's needs). However, QB Enterprise is very flexible in terms of Header information.

QuickBooks: NSF Check

A QuickBooks client asked: When you receive an NSF check, the recommended method is to reissue the invoice plus any NFS charges. Does this also correct your accounts receivable detail?

This question asks if the original invoice paid by the NSF check needs to be adjusted in some way to assure that the A/R Trial Balance matches the G/L Trial Balance amount for Accounts Receivable.

There are several issues to be considered to answer this:

* Does your customer want you to redeposit the check (in this case, you would invoice only for Bank Charges or, more often, simply expense them)

* Are you using accrual or cash basis accounting (this affects which accounts were posted to when entering the payment)

* How does your company handle NSF charges in general (post to a NSF Income account, post to an expense account, post to a contra-income account?)

Once you have considered the accounting practices you use, then you can apply the correct method to handle a NSF check issued as a payment by a customer. For example, we will assume that we are using the accrual method, that we do not charge customer for NSF bank charges and post them to an expense). A typical scenario follows:

* Invoice Issued > Invoice Paid
* Payment applied in Quickbooks > Open invoice cleared
* Bank returns check as NSF > Customer contacted and advises to resubmit
* Check clears on resubmit > Cash applied to checking account
* Bank statement is reconciled > NSF charge is posted to Bank Charges via J/E

In this case, there is no need to adjust the invoice paid because it was paid by the second submission of the check. As long as this happened within the same accounting period, then no adjustment would be needed. As far as the Bank Charge for the NSF check, it is not typical to charge a customer for this (unless they are consistently delinquent). So this would be expensed with the other bank charges at month-end.

If you still have questions, you should contact your QuickBooks ProAdvisor or your accountant.

QuickBooks: Do You Need More Credit Cards

A QuickBook's user asked: Can I have more than one credit card assigned to a customer?

Technically, No. But if you can be a little creative and flexible, you might be able to use the Job feature under the Customer Center to add multiple credit cards to a customer.

* Select the customer center and add a job for a customer.
* Name this "job" based on one of the multiple locations of the customers
* Edit the Job and under Payment Information, add a credit card and Save
* Add jobs for locations, departments or anything causing a need for credit cards

Before creating too many jobs, make sure that this will work with the posting of payments within your company.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ACT! : Notes versus History

We have the same argument in the GoldMine universe.

Notes may be easy to add, but keep in mind:

- Notes are "messy", with plaintext carriage returns, etc, that make reporting problematic
- Notes cannot track duration or classification status
- Notes do not update certain "special fields" on the contact record, like "Last Update", etc.

Remember, you can always right-click on the contact record, and select "Record History". It's as easy as making a Note and more effective!

ACT! : Attach a web page to a contact

ACT! comes with an add-on for Internet Explorer what allows you to attach whatever website you are looking at to a contact record.

You can find this under the Tools menu in Internet Explorer.

Click on "Attach Web Page to ACT! Contact".

Then use the search tool to find the contact in question, then click Ok.

ACT! : Leverage your PIcklists!

To speed up data entry and cut down on the occasional spelling error, try using the field picklists.

Simply click on the field in question, then click the button with three dots next to it. This brings up your picklist.

To add or edit values, click "Edit list Values"

Then use the "Add" and "Delete" buttons correspondingly.

ACT! : Attaching Documents

You may notice that when you attach a document in ACT!, by default the document is only attached to the Contact, and not necessarily the Company.

To fix this, try attaching the document from the History tab. When you do so, you get a linked document, but it is shared across the entire Company record.

Crystal Reports : Combining data and text

You can actually insert data fields into text fields onto your report. This helps make text fields look "cleaner". We'll use a Starting Date and Ending Date as an example:

You'd like to have the text "From {Starting Date} to {Ending Date}" on the report header.

Step #1 : Create an empty text field and insert it onto the report.
Step #2 : Insert both the Starting Date and Ending Date fields onto the report.
Step #3 : Click into the text field and type in "From ". Make sure you type a space at the end.
Step #4 : Now drag the Starting Date field directly onto the text field. You should see a text cursor appear (a vertical line) within the text field. This is where the data field will be placed.
Step #5 : Click into the text field again and type " to ". Again, make sure to provide a beginning space and ending space.
Step #6 : Now drag the Ending Date field directly onto the text field. Position it using your text curaor as a guide.
Step #7 : Resize the text field to assure that the whole string can be displayed properly.

The result : Your text field will now read "From 12/01/2008 to 12/31/2008". Combining text and data this way assures the spacing between "From" and "to" is always accurate.

Crystal Reports : Displaying the starting and ending dates within a Range


If you are using a date parameter that is Ranged (i.e. a single parameter field that prompts for a starting and ending date), you will probably want to display these dates on the report. This helps prevent confusion as to what data is included in the report. To do this, we will need to create two formula fields, one for the starting date and one for the ending date. The formula fields will use the Minimum and Maximum Crystal functions.

For this example, our parameter field is called {?DateRange}

Formula field #1 (Starting Date) : Minimum({?DateRange})
(Pulls out the minimum value of our range)

Formula field #2 (Ending Date) : Maximum({?DateRange})
(Pulls out the maximum value of our range)

Crystal Reports : Insert the Print Date on your report

When printing the same report frequently, it helps to have the Print Date somewhere on the report. That way, you can always be confident of which report version you are looking at.
Within your Field Explorer, find the Special Fields group. Within that group, find and insert the Print Date field into your report. This field is automatically updated every time you refresh the report. Another popular Special Field is Page N of M, which can be inserted into the report footer to easily provide a page count.

Crystal Reports : Alternating background color

To make a report easier to read, you can alternate the background color to help different lines stand out. (Think of the old green and white striped paper you used to put in your tractor printer years ago)

To make this happen, we will need to format the Details Section of our report.

Step #1 : From the top-level menu, select Format Section.
Step #2 : Select the "Detail" section on the left hand side.
Step #3 : Click on the "Color" tab on the right hand side.
Step #4 : Click the [formula] button with the "x-2"on it to bring up the formula editor.
Step #5 : Paste in the following : if RecordNumber mod 2 = 0 then crSilver else crNoColor

This will alternate a white and silver background for each row printed.

Pro Tip : To alternate color for Group rows, paste the following into the Group section color formula: if GroupNumber mod 2 = 0 then crSilver else crNoColor

GoldMine : Changing what activites "roll over"

Those of you who use the GoldMien calendar will know what I'm talking about.
Each morning, when you log into GoldMine, you see it whiz trough a bunch of pending activities, essentially moving them all to today's calendar.

This is a good idea; it makes sure nothing falls through the cracks.

However, you may wish to pick and choose what kinds of Activities roll over, and which ones do not.

Go to Tools | Options | Calendar

Check (or uncheck) the "Auto Roll Overs" checkboxes on the right hand side. Each checkbox corresponds to an activity type.

Monday, September 27, 2010

GoldMine : Can't edit your Opportunities?

Having trouble editing an Opportunity?

I've seen instances in the field where the dollar amounts will appear "greyed out" and the Opportunity will be "locked".

This is usually due to a missing Forecasted Sale. Keep in mind that each Opportunity must have at least one Forecasted Sale.

To fix this, open up the Opportunity in question.

Go to the Opportunity's Pending Tab.

Right click, select Schedule | Forecasted Sale.

Fill out the Forecasted Sale to match the Opportunity. Click "Ok" and viola! Your Opportunity should be "unlocked".

GoldMine : Quoting only part of an email when replying

If you use and love GoldMine email like I do, this is a nice little tip.

When replying to an email you may only want to quote part of the original text.

To do this, select the text you would like to quote with your mouse (highlight it).

Then hit Reply. You'll see that only the selected text is now quoted at the bottom of your reply.

If your GoldMine email doesn't quote by default, go to

Tools | Options | Email | More Options

Make sure thet "Quote original message by default" is selected.

GoldMine : Using the Counter() function

A very handy xBase expression to know is the COUNTER() function.

When you invoke the COUNTER, it returns a sequential number based upon the parameters you give it.

Go ahead and bring up your expression tester in GoldMine (CTRL-SHIFT-D).

Try this: COUNTER("MyCounter",1,1).

The first parameter is the name of our counter. This can be whatever we want. ("MyCounter").

The second parameter defines how large our increment should be. A value of 1 increments by 1, a value of 10 increments by 10.

The third parameter specifies where our counter should start. Typically this is set to 0, however, if a numbering scheme is already in place, this can help generate the right numbers for your sequence.

ProTip: This is a great expression to include in a Lookup.Ini for new contact records.

GoldMine : Fun with xBase

Ever get frustrated trying to perfect an xBase expression in GoldMine?
Expressions are heavily used in areas like Automated Processes, Group Building and within Merge Forms.

In GoldMine, hit CTRL-SHIFT-D all at once.

This brings up the expression tester.

Simply type or paste in your expression and hit the "Eval" button. All expressions are evaluated against the current contact record.

For instance, contact1->company returns the Company field from the Contact1 table.

For more expressions to try, go here.

MSCRM: Reassigning Activities when a Salesperson Leaves

A Client recently asked - How do you reassign a Salesperson's open activities to another salesperson when they leave?

To reassign the work (activities) to someone else:

1. Choose all the activities you wish to reassign.
2. On the Actions menu, click Reassign Records and then click Assign to another user.
3. Click the Lookup icon, type a part of the other user’s name and click Find.
4. In the results list, double-click the salesperson's name and then click OK

All of the activities will now be assigned to the new salesperson.

MSCRM: Keeping Track of Competitors

Microsoft Dynamics CRM can track competitors associated with your Opportunities. Closed Opportunities that are lost can be associated with Competitors. Doing so provides the underlying data for the default Competitor Win Loss Report.

The Competitor record is considered a high-level overview of the Competitors company, related analysis and associated products.

When working with Competitor records, you can easily add key information about the Competitor on the General tab and include overview information as well as strength, weaknesses, opportunities and threats on the Analysis tab.

By tracking the competition that caused a lost opportunity, your company will be more prepared when a similar opportunity arises again for your organization.

MSCRM: Customizing the Left Navigation Pane by Changing the SiteMap

A Client recently asked - Contacts are really Employees in our CRM System. How do I change the name that shows up on the left navigation pane?

The answer is you need to modify the Site Map. The Site Map is a part of the customizations.xml document that is the result of exporting customizations. Customizations.xml is exported as a compressed customizations.zip file.

The process of customizing the Site Map consists of the following steps:

1. Export the Site Map as part of the customizations.zip file
2. Extract the customizations.xml file from the exported customizations.zip file
3. Edit the Site Map Element in the customizations.xml file
4. Import the edited customizations.xml file.

Exporting the Site Map
1. In the Navigation Pane, click Settings, click Customization, and then click Export Customizations.
2. In the View drop-down, select Client Extensions.
3. In the list, select Site Map.
4. Click Export Selected Customizations and then click OK to close the notice about information that may be exported.
5. Click Save and save the customizations.zip file to a location of your choice.
6. Click Close.

After you modify the Site Map element in the customizations.xml file, you import the modified customizations.xml file to apply your changes.


Importing the Site Map
1. In the Navigation Pane, click Settings, click Customization, and then click Import Customizations.
2. Click Browse to locate an XML file or a compressed (.zip) file that contains customizations and settings exported from Microsoft Dynamics CRM.
3. Double-click the file or select the file, and then click Open.
4. Click Upload.

The site map will now reflect the change you made to rename the Contact entity.

MSCRM: Restricting File Types and File Size in Attachments

If you would like to restrict/allow a certain file attachment type in your system you need to go to the System Settings, General tab and in the Set blocked file extensions for attachments section you can specify which file extensions are blocked.
To control the file size of the attachment, you can reset the setting on the Email Tab of the System Settings.

MSCRM: Giving Permissions to Users for Closing Opportunities

A client recently asked: How do I restrict users from closing an Opportunity?

There is not a specific privilege for closing an Opportunity listed in the User Roles interface.

So instead you need to remove the “Append To” privilege from the opportunity for the role of those users who are not allowed to close opportunities.

Now when a user with that role tries to close an opportunity, they will get an “Insufficient Permission” error. Also, the user would not be able to add Activities to the Opportunity.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Justin Bieber Effect

My cell-phone service contract came due a few weeks ago, so I decided to upgrade my BlackBerry (RIMM) rather than replace it with a Droid phone. I thought it wouldn't cost more. I was wrong. I got three tickets to a Phillies game recently from a client and I went, thinking I was getting a free night of baseball. But I was wrong about that, too. I downloaded Justin Bieber's Favorite Girl from iTunes looking for some killer music for under a buck. And after listening to it a few times I wound up paying for the whole darn album. That kid's got some catchy tunes.

I'm always paying more than I plan. My new BlackBerry required me to buy a new car charger and screen protector and the other accessories that I used every day with my old BlackBerry but for some inexplicable reason are no longer compatible with the new version. And now I hear Justin Bieber's coming to town and good tickets are $150 and I desperately need to see him sing Favorite Girl live. Damn you, Justin Bieber! Look at what you're making me spend!

Frankly, I should be used to paying more than what I expected. That's because I've been buying technology for my small business for years. And technology always costs more than advertised. I call it the Justin Bieber effect.

PAYING UP FOR SEO AND ADWORDS
Take search engine optimization (SEO). Many consultants for this technology promise that they'll get my site listed high on a search engine, like Google (GOOG), if I fork over $5,000. That's not been my experience. Over the past five or six years I've paid multiple thousands of dollars to a myriad of SEO consultants to help me get my website ranked high on search engines. One firm out of five actually did … for about a minute. For the most part, I've never been able to get the pages I want ranked where I want them to be on a Google search. Now let me be clear: There are plenty of good SEO consultants out there. But don't believe that they'll cost you only five grand. That's like believing Lady Gaga is a good singer just because she wears a dress made out of meat. If you want high rankings, you'll be paying mucho dollars.

The people I know who have succeeded with SEO consultants recognize that getting their site ranked high and staying there requires someone who's an expert at search engines. And this requires a long-term investment of both time and money. The same goes for Google AdWords. Those are the keywords that you buy through Google so that, even if your site is not highly ranked, a search by prospective customers will still show a little ad on the side of the page promoting your products. The only success I've had with Google AdWords is scoring a really cool Justin Bieber shoulder bag for myself—um, I mean, for my daughter. Unfortunately my business hasn't been as successful.

I've spent thousands trying to make AdWords work for me. I've played with dozens of keywords. And before I know it, my money's been eaten by the Google machine because there were a bunch of views and clicks and whatever … but no sales. I've learned over the years that succeeding with AdWords, just like succeeding with SEO, costs more than advertised. This is an expertise all unto itself. The guys I know who see value spend a lot of time and money playing with their AdWords. They're big into analytics. They're big into website design. It's not something for the typical business owner like me who's just messing around.

Hosted applications cost more than you think, too. I should know. We sell them. For some clients, a hosted app is the perfect solution: Web-based, quick to set up, accessible from anywhere, low infrastructure investment. And all for a monthly user fee. But many of my clients, particularly established businesses, are finding that these hosted apps can cost more than advertised. There's the cost to migrate from one application to the other.

There's the cost to continue maintaining workstations and a secure Internet connection. There's the cost of integrating a hosted database with other databases. And then there's the cost of the hosted application itself: When you add up the monthly fees over a few years, you suddenly find that you've spent a lot more than if you just purchased a system and kept it in-house.

Video technology has been much overhyped for the small business owner, too. Not because it doesn't work but because it costs more than you would think. I've got an awkward informational video of myself on my company's site. That little gem, I'm embarrassed to admit, cost me thousands. Why? Well, I tried making my own video and it wound up looking as bad as Justin Bieber's haircut.

Making good videos takes professional equipment and lighting and technicians who know what they're doing. And then it needs editing and formatting, which require specialized software and high-powered workstations. I don't have all that. So I paid for the service. And I paid to have it hosted for me, too, because my site couldn't handle the file size and streaming adequately.

NO SIMPLE UPGRADES
Are you one of the millions of small business owners who still use Microsoft (MSFT) Office? Thinking of upgrading to Office 2010? That's going to cost you more than you think, too. Sure, the upgrade to its Small Business Edition is advertised at about $350 per user. And the benefits can be significant: improved navigation, more features, better collaboration with programs like Exchange and SharePoint.

But as certain as I am that Justin Bieber will one day be touring with Hanson, O-Town, and 98 Degrees, I know that buying an upgrade to Microsoft Office is just the tip of the iceberg. Because next you'll find yourself upgrading your old Windows workstations to Windows 7. And you'll suffer initial losses in productivity when everyone is scratching their heads figuring out how to save a friggin' Word file because some dope in Redmond hid that button inside a new menu. And you'll realize that to really benefit from the collaboration tools you'll need to hire outside consultants at $8 million an hour to bring it all together.

So here's some good advice. If your cell phone works, then save some money and stick with it as long as you can. Watch more baseball games on TV. If you're going to buy technology for your small business, expect to pay more than what you're told. It's the Justin Bieber effect. And by all means, you gotta listen to Favorite Girl. You'll be hummin' that tune all day long.

Gene Marks, CPA, is the owner of the Marks Group, which sells customer relationship, service, and financial management tools to small and midsize businesses. Marks is the author of four best-selling small business books and writes the popular "Penny Pincher's Almanac" syndicated column. He frequently speaks to business groups on penny-pinching topics. More penny-pinching advice from Marks can be found at www.quickerbetterwiser.com.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting the most out of AdWords

For years, two questions have nagged me: Why would anyone want to buy a pair of corduroy pants? And how can Google's AdWords technology effectively be used to generate more business for my company? Thank God I had the opportunity to speak to Chris Lindland.

Lindland is the founder of Betabrand, an online retailer that specializes in clothes such as corduroy pants, reversible smoking jackets and disco pants. Lindland uses Google's ( GOOG - news - people ) AdWords technology to help bring the joy and happiness of his fashions to the masses. AdWords is helping him generate lots of new orders a week.

How has Lindland had so much success with AdWords when many other small businesses, including mine, have not?

For starters, and contrary to what most marketing pundits may say, Lindland views AdWords technology as a short-term rather than a long-term marketing tool. "Look," he says, "I'm not using AdWords to nurture my customers or build a long-term brand. I'm looking for that guy who just has to have a pair of disco pants and has to have it now."

Chris doesn't look at AdWords technology as a way to sell more products. He considers it a way to bring in customers and build a community. Once people find his site, they tend to come back. Many become fans of his Facebook site too. "For anyone looking to play with AdWords technology, it's important that you first have a database to capture your customers that come to your site."

Getting names, and more important, e-mail addresses can allow you to build up a database of prospects for future products and special promotions. Lindland says that his e-mail newsletter brings in more sales than AdWords. You can continue to communicate with these people, whether they initially bought from you or not.

AdWords is getting Lindland three to five new orders a day, so he continues to do traditional public relations and marketing, like e-mail and some direct mail. He also gets a lot of sales form word of mouth, referrals and from people who read about his company somewhere else online or in a magazine. So, AdWords should be part of any good marketing plan, but not the entire thing.

Of course, keywords are critical, but smart users of AdWords technology keep them to a minimum. Lindland tested and played with different keywords, but now he's limiting himself to just a few short phrases, like "corduroy pants" and "smoking jacket." Lindland suggests that small-business owners keep trying, testing and changing keywords. AdWords even gives you a tool to see how popular certain keywords are. The more general your keywords are, the more page views without clicks you'll experience and the faster your budget will dry up. So, be as specific as possible.

Lindland also pays a lot of attention to when his AdWords are running. Google ( GOOG - news - people ) lets users suspend their campaigns and then restart them as needed. He found that Sundays during the winter have been the best days for online sales. "That's because people are sitting around with nothing better to do, and there's no better time to buy a pair of Karate Casual pants," Lindland says.

Every good marketer will tell you that metrics are key, and Lindland is no different. He's a heavy user of Google Analytics. This tool shows him where his customers are coming from, what keywords they're using to get to him, and how many hits and page views his site gets each day. Google Analytics pulls together activities from all over the Web, including social community sites like Facebook. He can see every website that's sending him visitors and then target advertising on those websites if he chooses.

Lindland spends a few hours a week looking at these numbers. The most important metric? "Bounce rate," he says. "That metric tells me how long visitors are staying on my site." Apparently, people looking for disco pants tend to stay on his site longer than others, and they buy more stuff.

Lindland says he spends between $100 to $300 per day on AdWords. But for me, spending $3,000-$6,000 per month is no small amount. But Lindland didn't start that way. He kept his budget very low at the beginning until he was comfortable that his efforts were producing some results. He told me to do the same.

Finally, know that using AdWords technology is a complete waste of time if your website isn't ready. "You need to have a decent landing page, preferably something with a big BUY button on it," Lindland says. Even for a company like mine that doesn't sell products online, Lindland advises a landing page should have a big CALL US button on it with an 800 number. He found out the hard way that when visitors were directed to his home page, people would start losing interest if they had to click through a couple of times to find the product they were looking for. So now when a visitor clicks on a link for a smoking jacket, he's going right to the smoking jacket page.

Because everyone needs a smoking jacket, right?

Gene Marks is owner of Marks Group, a technology consulting firm, and author of In God We Trust, Everyone Else Pays Cash--Simple Lessons From Smart Business People.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Make Email Marketing Campaigns Sing

Xerox, eBbay, Qwest Communications, General Motors: When it comes to marketing, even big companies like these have to try to do more with less.

E-mail marketing is one powerful tool, if you know how to use it. Small companies with meager marketing budgets have no choice but to get crafty, but too many still don't know how.

We asked a slew of top executives at multibillion-dollar companies to share their e-mail marketing strategies (via e-mail). Without further ado, their answers:

Christa Carone, Chief Marketing Officer, Xerox
E-mail marketing has certainly taken on a life of its own. It's relatively easy--almost too easy so that anyone with something to sell, a list of people to sell it to and an Internet connection--can blast their message. On the one hand, it's inexpensive and it takes the old direct-mail adage "spray and pray" to a new level; on the other, it's really easy to delete. That's why our focus is on cutting through the clutter and giving you a reason to read, click, link and listen.


Our most successful campaigns are those that have embedded personalized video in the e-mail. Using variable data and customization software like XMPie, we've developed personalized e-mail marketing campaigns for Xerox promotions, the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival and even for our clients, like Universal Orlando. In each case, adding the personalized video to the e-mail more than doubled the click-through rate, and adding personalization in the subject line lifted open rates by an average of 40%, 3 to 5 times higher than the industry average. For campaigns that linked to a direct-purchasing opportunity, sales were typically 20% higher than from static e-mail campaigns. And, in many cases, the viral component of the personalized video quickly multiplied our outreach and engagement with potential clients.

Of course, the creative [the content in the e-mail] is only as good as the data--and that means knowing your targets, their interests and their reason to want your product. When this data is combined with a powerful, cross-media personalization tool and creative ways to engage with your brand, cutting through the clutter becomes more than an objective---it's a measure of success.

Greg Fant, VP North America Marketing, eBay
We have found that our best results in e-mail marketing are tightly coupled to how well we customize the content. Based on the context, we use e-mail in a variety of ways. Primarily, we're trying to help our users take the next logical step in the transaction process. For example, if buyers searched for and looked at an item but did not purchase it, the goal is to help them find a similar product and complete the transaction at very attractive price. If they lost an auction, we want to help them find another item like the one they lost at a great price.

There is, of course, a balance to be struck. Not every interaction can be entirely personalized; we would quickly be repeating the same message if we relied only on personalization. As a result, we mix personalized messages with popularity-based messages. Even here, though, we try to be targeted, letting buyers' activity help us understand the best categories in which to recommend merchandise.

Lowell Miller, VP--eBusiness, Qwest Communications
Suzie Lucken, Lead Marketing Professional, Qwest Communications
We generally see higher response rates when a customer has requested to receive specific information via e-mail, when the message is highly relevant or when the person is not contacted too frequently. It's all about communicating the right message to the right person at the right time.

Analysis and testing are important, too. Before you dive in, be sure to define the metrics that measure your success. Here are four useful ones: the "open rate" (which validates the efficacy of the list of addresses being used); the "click-through" rate (evaluates the relevancy of the content and the value to the customer); the "conversion rate" (measures the alignment of the right message to the right person at the right time); cost per acquisition (assesses the relative effectiveness of the method used).

When Qwest did an analysis recently, it found that its "welcome" e-mail was only being opened 25% of the time with a 7% click-through rate to Qwest.com. After analyzing the click-through data from the e-mails, it became clear that the non-sales links were garnering the most click-throughs to the website. To boost open rates, we reduced and centralized the resource links into a resource page; we also changed the tone of the e-mail and tested various subject lines. Result: We increased open rates to nearly 50% with an 11% click-through rate from the e-mails.

Teri Dhooge, VP Marketing, GoDaddy.com
Our e-mail campaigns are more than just marketing efforts. For starters, we strive to keep the benefit-driven message simple and supported with appealing and relevant creative. We also send account update reminders, entertainment news and key information about new product features---often suggestions from our customers.

Serviceafter the sale is a major attraction, and our e-mail communications are often tailored to deliver specific service information. Our customer communication methods also include using social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook; we understand that certain customers prefer communication other than traditional e-mail.

Most important, we test something in every e-mail campaign. Variables include price, audience segmentation, creative imagery, product presentation, subject lines and landing pages. This keeps our communications fresh.

Don Butler, VP of Cadillac Marketing, General Motors
In our e-mail efforts, like all of our marketing, we strive to be meaningful and relevant to our customers, establishing the basis for building an ongoing relationship.

Example: our OnStar Vehicle Diagnostics e-mail. This is a monthly health check that automatically reports on the status of hundreds of diagnostics checks performed on key vehicle operating systems, as well as maintenance reminders based on the vehicle's current odometer reading, remaining engine oil-life and other relevant information. With the growing sophistication of vehicle systems, we've found this to be a wonderful way of de-mystifying the new vehicle ownership and maintenance experience. Within the emails, we use targeted messaging based on the vehicle, mileage, systems status and lifecycle to generate new business for our dealers.

Benefits: We greatly increase our ability to obtain valid e-mail addresses because customers readily recognize the inherent value. Better yet, we build an ongoing relationship and dialogue with our customers while providing them with real value and benefit.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Software to bring order to the chaos

In June around 200 people attended an event called The ABC's of the IRC: Tax Treatment of LTC Insurance. OK, this was not exactly a Jay-Z concert. It was a teleconference seminar hosted by LTCI Partners, a 50-person long-term-care insurance firm based near Chicago. Owner Tom Riekse Jr. orchestrated the event, and as with of all these gatherings, coordination was a giant pain in the neck.

Moving parts: Conferencing services needed to be set up; speakers needed to be contacted and booked; materials needed to be produced, reviewed and distributed to registrants; sponsors need to be contacted; registrations needed to be tracked and reminders sent. Then there were all the apr├Ęs-event activities--follow-ups, evaluations, suggestions.

I'm tired just thinking about all of it--and I used passive voice throughout that whole paragraph.


Riekse puts together a lot of these shindigs. They're an important part of his business, to serve his existing clients and to gin up new ones. Success varies, but one thing's for sure, he says: "This would be much harder to pull off without my project management software" called Basecamp, made by 37 Signals. "I don't know how I'd get by without it."

Running a marketing campaign? Developing a new product? Upgrading your computer network? More than a few employees involved? If you're not using project management software--even the most basic, plain-vanilla variety--understand that you are committing the equivalent of slow, painful management suicide. And with all that's going on, you might just forget to pick up your daughter from ballet class.

Project-management programs help track, update and store information on multifaceted projects with few clicks of a mouse. They integrate with e-mail systems and generate reports. They create graphical "critical-path" schedules and recognize different classes of users, thereby allowing access to data based on their class. They even have built-in chat rooms so that everyone can stay up to speed in real time. Best of all: They don't cost an arm and a leg to implement.

Some of these programs run on-site (that is, on the desktops of your company's computers) or as hosted solutions in the cloud (on someone else's servers). Both methods have their pros and cons. Desktop versions (also called client-server applications) require a larger up-front payment but generally cost less over the long term than their hosted counterparts, which charge monthly or annual fees. While hosted applications are easier to maintain and quicker to get up and running, you may not feel comfortable with a third party looking after your data.

Of the 600-plus small and medium-sized businesses my company has served in the past 15 years, I've come across at least six excellent applications worth noting. Three desktop-delivered winners include Microsoft's ( MSFT - news - people ) Project 2010, Primavera P6 Project Management from Oracle ( ORCL - news - people ) and OpenProj, an open-source software program from Serena. Of the Web-based variety, there's Basecamp (Riekse's choice), Zoho Projects and Central Desktop.

Basecamp's functions include milestone management, collaborative file sharing, time tracking, messaging and integration with the company's Campfire group-chatting software. The price varies according to size of the business and how many projects you're managing. Range: $24 to $149 per user per month. (For details on each of the six programs, including functionality and pricing, see our slideshow.

How to choose which program is right for you? It depends on what you're after. No matter the solution, be sure to ask vendors for customer references and search the product support forums online to get an idea of the issues that users encounter. Also ask for product demos and the chance to test drive the software using your own data. Finally, verify the sort of technical support you'll get and how much that will cost.

By the way, don't forget to pick up your daughter from ballet class.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Get Paid Quicker. And Better. And Wiser.

By Gene Marks


Isn’t it fun waiting to be paid? Don’t you just love calling on customers when an invoice is overdue? Or being given excuses like “your invoice got lost” or “we only process checks once a week/month/quarter”? As a business owner, collecting money is one of my very favorite things to do. What, you don’t agree?

Kimberly Martinez doesn’t agree. Like most normal small business owners, she struggles to get money in the door on time. Her $2 million a year fashion accessories firm Bonitas International LLC (www.boojeebeads.com) sells lanyards, “organza bags” and other things my teenage daughter and wife would buy. Kimberly’s wholesalers have been taking longer to pay her. And it’s been frustrating. So she did something about it.

About a year ago she signed up for American Express’s AcceptPay (www.acceptpay.com) service. And things have gone quicker and better.

Now she’s sending out electronic invoices to her customers. The invoices are customized to her business, showing her logo and personalized messages. She imported a customer list so the amount of time it took for her to get up and running was minimal. The invoices are saved and resent each time after she modifies the transactions. Some of her customers get recurring invoices too, which the service allows her to automatically setup. This way no billings fall through the cracks. And billings go out immediately no matter what distractions are taking her attention in the office.

The invoices get emailed to her customers. She requests a return receipt to make sure they got it. And for those especially “fun” accounts, she has someone from her office quickly call just to Make Sure they received the invoice in their email. It’s so easy to blame non-receipt on those evil spam filters, isn’t it?

The invoices have a link for immediate payment. Customers can use any credit card, not just American Express. All they have to do is click on the link, enter in their credit information and….Kimberly’s been paid. . The service can also be setup, with a little more effort, to initiate immediate transfers from the customers’ bank account if they authorize to do so.

This sounds like pretty simple stuff, doesn’t it? It is. For small business owners who take a little time to learn it. And the benefits are significant.

For starters, Kimberly doesn’t have to maintain or manage her customers’ credit card numbers. “That’s just a lawsuit waiting to happen, isn’t it?” she asks. It absolutely is. Mismanagement of personal data, particularly credit card data, has been a growing liability for small businesses. AcceptPay will take care of that headache.

Time has been significantly cut down. The customer does the data entry. Payments are recorded automatically. Kimberly can synchronize this data directly with her QuickBooks accounting system. Other customers can choose to just export payment data to a Microsoft Excel file for importing elsewhere. Data entry errors are minimized. A personalized receipt is automatically emailed to the customer for their records. Bookkeeping on both sides is minimized. And because it’s an online service, the data can be accessed from anywhere.

”My customers love this” says Martinez. “They don’t have to process checks. They’ve cut down on their own paperwork. They’re not dealing with getting invoices in the mail. They can pay us quickly. It’s another convenient option for them.”

But the big benefit is, of course, cash. In the bank. Quicker. Since implementing AcceptPay Martinez says that her time to collect an average invoice has decreased from 70 days to 53 days. That’s a 24% improvement. By knocking down a typical $100,000 accounts receivable balance by 24% over the past year, Gonzalez has earned a couple thousand bucks in interest and gave herself a little more bargaining clout when it comes time to pay her bills. And her bookkeeper has reduced the time she was spending on collections too.

AcceptPay costs $20 per month for unlimited everything – invoices, cash receipts and all the other bells and whistles. Transaction fees on credit cards still apply, but they always applied. A couple of hundred bucks a year to save a couple of thousand seems like a pretty good deal to me. Sure, I’ll miss the “fun” of collecting from those silly, non-paying accounts. But I think I can cope with that.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

ACT! : Clearing old activities

1. Choose the View menu, and click Task List.

2. Select the first activity that you want to clear .

3. If all the activities you want to clear are in the list in order, you can hold down the Shift key and select the last activity you want to clear. All the activities in between the two you selected will also be selected.

4. If the activities you want to clear are randomly scattered throughout the list, hold down the Ctrl key and individually select each activity you want to clear.

5. After you've selected the activities to be cleared, right-click one of the selected activities, and choose Clear Multiple Activities from the shortcut menu.

ACT! : Lookup contacts based on scheduled activities

1. Select Task List from the View Menu. Your Task List will appear.

2. Now select Filter Task List from the View Menu.

3. The Filter Activities dialog box will appear.

4. Filter the activities you want to include. You can filter on date, type, priority and more.
5. Right click on the Task List window and select Create Lookup. ACT! will create a lookup of all contacts with activities listed in the task list.

ACT! : Scheduling recurring activities

1. Click the Schedule menu

2. Click "Call", "Meeting", "To-Do" or "Other"

3. After the Schedule Activity dialog box opens, enter the activity details in the General tab of this dialog box.

4. Click the "Details" tab to add a note.

5. Click the "Recurrence" tab to enter how often this activity occurs.

6. When finished, click "OK" and the activity will appear on your calendar.

ACT! : Swapping field content

1. The first step is to create a "Look Up" of the records you wish to move the data.

2. After you have selected a "Look Up", click on "Edit" at the top of the ACT! screen.

3. Next, select "Swap Field".

4. A "Swap Data" dialog box will appear. You will see two pull down selectors labeled "Swap contents of" - "With contents of".

5. The "Swap contents of" field is the source field and the "With contents of" field is the destination. Click the field with the data you want to move and select which field to send the data.

6. After clicking "OK", a "Replace/Swap/Copy" dialog box will appear with this text: "This operation modifies all records in the current look up. Are you sure you want to continue?" At this point, you better be sure you have the correct look up. Otherwise, you'll move data you didn't intend to move! If you are satisfied you have the correct look up, click "Yes".

ACT! : Finding and dealing with duplicates

1. In ACT!, go to Tools | Scan for Duplicates

2. Select which fields you'd like to test for duplicate data. Note the default is Company, Contact and Phone

3. Click OK to start searching.

4. Click "Yes" when prompted to start combining duplicates.

5. When the "Copy/Move Contact Data" window appears, select the duplicates, as indicated and click Next.

6. In the next window, you must select the "parent" record. Select whether to copy Contact #1 to #2, or vice versa.

7. In the next window, To copy data from a source field to a target field, click the field, and then click "Copy". When finished, click "Next".

8. In the next window, you have the option to move "Notes", "Histories" etc. After selecting, click "Next".

9. In the next window, you have the option to keep or delete the source record. Make your selection and click "Next".

10. On screen six, you can go back or click "Finish".

Seeing All The Assignments For An Employee

If you want to see all the assignments for an employee without creating a call group for each assignee, just follow these steps:

To do this, create use the ValidatePrompt function:

- Select Open Call Groups
- Click Add
- Give the group a name and select Global
- For Table Name select Asgnmnt > select Assignee
- For Operator select = (equal sign)
- For Table select @Functions
- Select the @ValidatePrompt function
- Enter a prompt for the user
- Select the Assignee table and Assignee field
- Click Save

When this Call Group is opened, it will ask the user to select the Assignee and then show tickets for this Assignee.

HEAT: Executing An Autotask Using A Business Rule

A clients asks: Can I execute an autotask using a business rule?

Yes, business rules allow you to run autotasks and send emails. An example of running an autotask from a business rule is below:

- Open the Business Rule Editor
- Select an action (e.g. If a ticket isn't closed in x amount of time)
- Select the number of hours
- Select call group or all calls
- Select the autotask below to escalate the priority
- Click Next > select No Followup
- Click Next > provide a unique name for the business rule
- Click New and Changed Records
- Click Save Changes

Restart the Business Rule service to start the new rule.

Escalate Autotask:
- Select Autotask > Manage Autotasks > Name the autotask Escalate
- Click Add > Update Call
- Select Priority > enter 1
- Select PriorityName > enter Urgent
- Click OK to save autotask

HEAT: Adding A Command Button To The Call Log

A client asks: Can I add a command button to the Call Log form to create an assignment?

Yes, to do this would involve a customization and using Assignment autotask.
To create the command button, you would do the following:

- Open the Administrator module
- Select New Edit Set
- Select the Call Log form
- Drag the command button from toolbox onto the form
- Give the command a label (e.g. Create Assignment)
- Select Control > Connect > Autotask
- Select the Add a new assignment autotask
- Commit the edit set

The button will now create an assignment from the Call Log form.

HEAT: Adding A Toolbar Icon To Run An Autotask

Want to add a toolbar icon to run an autotask?

To add a toolbar icon to run an autotask, you would do the following:

- Select Autotask > Manage Autotasks
- Select the autotask to add to the toolbar
- Click the Associated Toolbar Button
- Select an icon from the collection and click OK

The icon will be added to the far right of the toolbar. You can also create your own bitmaps to serve as icons.

HEAT: Creating New Quick Calls

A client asks: How do I create more Quick Calls like Reset Password?
Autotasks can be copied, so it is really easy to create new Quick Calls. To create a Reset Password quick call, you would do the following:

- Select Autotasks > Manage Autotasks
- Expand the Quick Calls section > select a similar autotask (Reboot Computer)
- Click the Copy button > name the autotask Reset Password
- Click the Edit button
- Change Call Type to Reset Password
- Change Call Desc to Employee needed password reset
- Change Cause to Forgot Password
- Change Close Desc to Reset password

Click OK to save. Make Display on Menu is checked. Open a new ticket and test.

Crystal Reports : Verifying database schema to "see" new fields

If you must add or remove columns from a table referenced by a Crystal Report, you need not "re-add" the table in question to "see" your new fields.
After making your changes, select Database | Verify Database.
Crystal will now tell you that the database has been verified. You may also see some messages about "fixing up the report". Let Crystal do it's thing. When it's finished, your new fields will be available in the Field Explorer.
You may notice that later versions of Crystal will detect such a schema change and will offer to "fix" itself up.

Crystal Reports : Grouping on a formula

One of the most effective techniques I've learned is how to group on a formula.
Think of it this way: the logic of the formula can be whatever you want it to be. So, any "high-level" corporate logic can be expressed here.
Take for example a table called HISTORY in which are listed history items per user.
Let us create a formula that will "kick-out" a value based on HISTORY.DATE.

IF {HISTORY.DATE} > CURRENTDATE - 30 THEN "History within 30 Days" ELSE
IF {HISTORY.DATE} < CURRENTDATE - 30 THEN "History beyond 30 Days" ELSE
{HISTORY.DATE}

Now this formula can be used as a Group.

You will notice that the last line is an ELSE {HISTORY.DATE}. This is because if a {HISTORY.DATE} does NOT fall into our formula criteria, then it will be "skipped". The final ELSE works as a "catch-all".

Crystal Reports : Using Tool Tips

A Tool Tip is what is displayed if you hover your mouse over an object on a crystal report. (i.e. the little "balloon" of text")
Tool tips are a great way to clarify what means what on a report.

Let's try it!

Right click on your object within the Crystal Designer.
Select "Format Field".
On the "Common" tab, click the "X-2" button next to "Tool Tip Text"
Now, simply insert what text you'd like to pop up by entering it in double quotes like this:

"This will be my tool tip text"

Now "Ok" your way back out to the designer and re-run the report.
Hover over the object you just modified and you should see your Tool Tip text.

Pro Tip : You can also use tasty formulas within a Tool Tip, like this:
"Today's date is " + CURRENTDATE

Try it!

Crystal Reports : Time traveling with the Current Date and Time

It is very often that you may have a report that uses "Today" as one of it's parameters.
This is nice if you are looking back seven days from "Today", etc. Reducing parameter choices for your end-users always makes it a little easier to print the report.

Let us suppose we have the following code in our Selection Expert:

{CONTHIST.ONDATE} >= (CURRENTDATE - 7)

So, what this is saying is give me all histories within the last 7 days.

However, if you ever need to "trick" this report to generate MORE than the last seven days, you can certainly modify the selection criteria. But there is a trickier way to make this happen:

Go to Report | Set Print Date and Time. Here you can tell Crystal what date and time it should think it is. What it actually does is change the date returned by the CURRENTDATE function.

Try it!

Crystal Reports : Using a watermark

It is very often that you will have a report in development, and should identify it as such.
One of the nicer ways to do this is to use a "watermark" looking block of text.

In crystal, bring up your Section Expert.
Add a new Page Footer.
Within the Page Footer Section, check the box marked "Underlay Following Sections".
Now, in the designer, expand the new Page Footer so it's a large as a printed page.

So, what we are telling crystal is to take everything in this section and "merge" it underneath the other "normal" sections when it is printed.

Here is a good place to put the word "DRAFT" in big silver letters.

Try it!

GoldMine : Retrieving E-mail from GoldMine when using a Smartphone

I'm not sure if my phone is really "smart"; it keeps on having a tug of war with GoldMine about who should get my email first.

Imagine:

Both my Goldmine and my Smartphone are configured to retrieve email from my server.

John sends my an email and I see it on my Blackberry. I can read it, reply to it, etc. But those emails it is showing are "still on the server". The moment they "come off the server", they will be gone from my Phone.

Therefore, when using both GoldMine and a Blackberry, it is recommended that you have GoldMine NOT auto-retrieve your email. For if you do, the emails will disappear from the Blackberry, probably before you have a chance to read them.

Auto retrieve is confiugured in Tools | Options | Email | Accounts | Account Properties.
Look for the "Auto-retrieve: checkbox and uncheck it.

I have gotten into the habit of then going to my GoldMine email center, clicking on "Online", and then downloading the messages that I DON'T care to have on my phone any longer.

If takes some retraining as far as using email, but having it accessible on the Blackberry is well worth the aggravation!

GoldMine : My favorite keyboard shortcuts

I am a huge fan of a lot of things in GoldMine; can you tell?
One thing I am NOT a fan of is using my mouse for everything; the less I can touch my mouse the happier a camper I will be.

Therefore, I like to use these keystroke shortcuts in my GoldMine;

When you're clicked in a field, hit F2 to bring up your Picklist.
You can always hit F4 to bring up your Contact Search Center.
You can always hit F5 to bring up your E-Mail Center.
F6 bring up your Activity List.
You can always hit F9 at anytime to bring up your Opportunity Manager.
F7 is the Calendar.
To start writing an email to the current contact record, hit CTRL-SHIFT-E. (I use this one the most)

GoldMine : Comments in Picklists

Did I mention I love PickLists?
It is very often, however, that you'd like to track alphanumeric "Codes", instead of bona fide "Words".

For instance, there is a Lead Type field let us suppose.
The value we'd like to have in the PickList are

PRO for Prospect,
EC for End Customer,
and
D for Dead Lead

Within your picklist, you can help remind folks of what codes mean what by adding comments to the end of each PickList choice with a "//".

Like this:

PRO //Prospect
EC //End Customer
D //Dead

When you do this, only the value before the "//" is inserted. Again, the "//" is only for commenting what each PickList code really "means".

Try it!

GoldMine : Appending multiple values to a field using a PickList

Picklists are wonderful, I think. You of course know that every field in GoldMine has a picklist associated with it. Just click into a field and then click the little gray arrow to the right of the field.

Now, as you click a value from your list, the field reflects that value. But what if we'd like to hold multiple values?

You can simply put a semicolon at the end of your picklist choices like this:

Let us suppose the field we are dealing with is the Account Manager field. If we need to be able to assign both JUSTIN and COREY as Account Managers, add these values to the Account Manager picklist:

JUSTIN;
COREY;

You'll see that when you pick a value with a semicolon, it will append the selected value to the field, separated by a comma. Try it!

GoldMine : Generating counts of unique values with SQL

I like SQL a lot. A REAL lot. I also love the fact that you can use SQL within GoldMine to generate lists. One of the most useful lists to generate is a count of unique values from a table.

Let us suppose we'd like a count of how many records we have in each City.

In GoldMine, go to Tools | SQL Query.

Use the following code:

SELECT CITY, COUNT(*) FROM CONTACT1 GROUP BY CITY