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The Best Software Features To Manage Your Small Business In This Economy

It’s no secret our post-COVID economy is troubled, and this growing uncertainty in the marketplace may feel like huge dark waves threatening to overtake the ship of your small business. Fortunately, there is a light in the dark: a rich array of business management software platforms designed to help you organize every facet of your small business, filled with advanced productivity features designed to herd the many cats that make up your business. But which software to pick?

Any business management software has a dizzying host of capabilities such as finance management, scheduling tools, remote work solutions, and a sweep of data analytics to assist your daily decision-making process. However, only the best business software can synergize and optimize its features into something you and your employees can work with day in and day out. We’ll take a quick glance at some of these features to explain why your business needs them. 

Small Business Management Software Features To Look For

Money, Money, Money

Business revenue, expenses, and cash flow need continuous oversight, and you need software tools that have your back in those areas. To date, the majority of small businesses still trust their accounting to Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting software. It’s no secret that QuickBooks enjoys the lion’s share of the accounting software market among small businesses across all industries. As a result of that dominance, the evolution of Intuit’s software development has become “one size fits most,” which means you must adjust your accounting processes—and reporting requirements—to fit their framework, regardless of your own business’ growth requirements.

Now, a thought about cash flow. No matter the size of your business, or which accounting software you employ, EVERY business will benefit from a speedier collection of its receivables. (Thank you, Captain Obvious!) One of the best tools out there is a customer payment portal. Think of this as an immediate, 24/7 window into your system that’s available anywhere, on any device. This level of accessibility makes it more timely for customers to receive, approve, and pay invoices.

Custom(er) Relationship Management

Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and you naturally want to keep the client-facing side of your business organized and professional. Customer Relationship Management software is more than just a spreadsheet database of your customers. Today’s CRM is the cornerstone of integrated business management software that allows you to make more informed decisions throughout the entire lead generation, sales, and customer retention pipeline.

Look for services that help streamline quoting and billing to better facilitate the customer’s and/or vendor’s experience with your company. By connecting sales and accounting data, you’ll streamline your back-end processes and get all team members on the same page. Utilize sales marketing tools like automated email workflows to create opportunities and increase your response rate.

A Better Customer Experience

I don’t know about you, but I’ve come to have low expectations of today’s customer service experience. So many large businesses have outsourced their customer service overseas. Credit cards, telecomm, broadband providers—it’s a big list. I have learned to expect long wait times, sub-par language skills, and infuriating dropped calls. Lackluster customer service has become the “new normal.”

It’s said there are only two things that employees may be struggling with: (#1) change, and (#2) the way things are. So, once you’ve resolved that your business will benefit from business management software, please exercise your due diligence with respect to the total cost of the solution. Perhaps you’ll find (as I did) that many ERP software vendors charge an additional fee for implementation. Many have a separate fee structure for subsequent support. Some, like NetSuite, Microsoft, and Salesforce, have outsourced implementation and support to independent, 3rd-party implementation specialists. Do you see a pattern here?

All Together, Now

Finally, and most importantly, you’ll want to look for integrated business management software that combines all of your business operations requirements into a single, easy-to-manage platform. Using outdated, unconnected, or limited software inhibits your growth, decision-making ability, and workforce productivity. If you’re looking for a remarkably useful list of signs that your business needs integrated business management software, look no further than checking out this comprehensive breakdown.

Whatever your industry, business elements such as Accounting, CRM, HR, Operations, Task Management, Reporting, Inventory, Supply Chain Management, and Remote Work Productivity—every aspect of your business—are vital and require equal oversight. Ideally, look for software that balances a universe of features and digital options with something that helps you cater to the specifics of what your business needs

Continue to shape your precise vision of how you want your business to operate, while at the same time making it easy for yourself and your employees. 

Why Quoting Software Is Essential For Growing Businesses

To stay competitive, companies today have to adjust to today’s consumer expectations and embrace digital business management tools and all the accompanying advantages they provide. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by using effective business management software to provide quotes and proposals digitally via email or text. Some tech-savvy companies provide memorable customer proposals via interactive video proposal reviews.

In the 2020s digital decade, positive evolution in business operations technology has increased the necessity of updating business processes—or risk going the way of the dodo.

dead as a dodo

So, what exactly is “quoting software?” Quoting software works from a regularly updated, detailed transcript of the services that your business provides and clearly outlines your prices for various services and product configurations. The best quotation software systems guarantee that customers are receiving exactly what they are looking for, allowing businesses to build a reputation of trust and transparency with their customers. Over time, this leads to converting more sales leads and referrals, generating more business, and maximizing profits. Automating the proposal process is an essential part of helping a business grow. 

Online Quoting Software: The Ins and Outs

Using online quoting software helps businesses be prepared for the demanding challenges that—if handled properly—allow them to maximize the profit of their services and enable them to grow faster.

Some of these challenges include not only accurately pricing your products and services at the outset of any engagement, but also managing dynamic price changes in the products and services themselves as market conditions change over time.

quoting software

Tweaking these cost changes manually every time your salespeople prepare a quote or customer proposal is tedious and time-consuming at the expense of your business’s overall efficiency. Moreover, a manual process leads to errors, further reducing information accuracy and wasting sales time that should be spent developing new opportunities. 

To reduce the risks of errors and increase operational productivity, the process by which your business provides quotations and proposals to your customers and prospects benefits from optimization. Quotation software centralizes the quotation process and automates it, safeguarding the data from potential human error to a much higher degree than by utilizing disconnected, manual processes.

Businessman showing virtual screen of gear cog icon present operation management involving business process, workflow, problem solving, high performance, monitoring and evaluation, quality control.

Process automation simplifies everything—it saves time for sales staff who no longer have to manually research, copy, paste, then confirm price changes (with a manager?) before finally presenting the quote to the customer.

With employees having more time for other tasks, companies should be able to increase productivity by identifying additional manual business processes to automate—new projects or initiatives that, perhaps, had previously lacked sufficient manpower and focus to get underway.

Maximizing Profits For Small Businesses Using Quoting Software

Quoting software helps small businesses deepen customer relationships by responding quickly to their individual needs and demonstrating attention to detail. One of the main issues that arise for small businesses is when customers ask for minor changes, but the information they requested has already become outdated.

Information automatically generated by quoting software enables businesses to tailor the output of information always to match specific customer preferences. Manually, it is difficult to manage personalized configurations and custom quotes for each order. Quoting software manages and adjusts the price of an order, product, or service by using automated customizing tools.

As a result, quoting software for small businesses helps cultivate repeat and loyal customers and allows for-profit businesses to meet their end goal: maximizing profits

Business people holding financial growth concept illustration

In addition to developing relationships with customers, clients, and vendors, quoting software maximizes the efficiency and effectiveness of overall job performance.

Speed is an important factor to consider, especially for B2C service businesses that provide services to homeowners. Getting quotes to clients faster than competitors increases the likelihood of impressing prospective customers and closing business quickly. Since it can be difficult to manage lots of configurations, especially those centered around complex purchases, quoting software becomes indispensable, giving businesses complete control over the process.

strategic competitive advantage

Quotation software gives your business a strategic competitive advantage. The speed at which you’ll be able to get proposals into the hands of both new leads and existing customers translates into dollars.

Also, given that a price quote is one of the first things your customer sees, it’s important that proposals are presented to the customer in the most professionally appealing way possible. Quoting software comes preloaded with branded templates that improve the readability and design of quotes, making them more intuitive, and easier to say “Yes” to.

Choosing the Right Quotation Software

Quoting software, especially as part of an all-in-one business management ERP solution, is essential for any business that seeks long-term growth by streamlining its workflows, data management, and CRM capabilities. Since there are a multitude of different software solutions on the market, the question becomes which would best fit your business.

Zoho CRM: Is It The Solution Your Business Needs?

It’s hard to know exactly what every customer wants. Some expect personalized service and attention on a near-daily basis, while others are content with being left alone until a crucial conversation is needed. Regardless of the type of customers that your business has, it’s important to have a way—scratch that, many ways—to reach them.

Scattered emails, customers that use various chat applications (not the chat app that your company supports), and phone calls to and from personal lines may have gotten the job done in the early days of your business, but these communication channels no longer cut the mustard as your business grows and expands.

One solution that businesses have enlisted is a part of the Zoho suite of software products: Zoho CRM.

Zoho CRM: What You Need To Know

Zoho CRM offers businesses a customer lifecycle management solution that allows prospects to be tracked through the sales funnel, with some automation to do some of the heavy lifting. Zoho CRM offers competitive customer relationship management capabilities, but does it offer everything that a full-bodied ERP software solution can?

Let’s look at the positives and negatives your business may face when choosing Zoho CRM, and how and why other alternatives may be a better fit for your business and its unique needs.

ERP business management software solutions

Pros Of Zoho CRM

Many businesses are familiar with the Zoho suite of products. Zoho has over 40 apps in total that perform a number of different functions. Zoho Desk, Zoho Recruit, and Zoho Meeting are just a few of the many products that Zoho offers. 

For Zoho CRM in particular, there are a few areas where it stands out among the competition. G2, a leading software review source, lists Zoho CRM’s data import & export tools among its top features. Also, its contact and account management functionality is one of the areas that it functions the best. 

As for the price of Zoho CRM, it’s affordable for businesses of any size. Zoho CRM offers a free trial, and its plans begin at $14/month per user. However, this base plan doesn’t come with all of the features that the enterprise plan offers. The Zoho CRM enterprise plan begins at $40/month per user. Some CRM bundle subscriptions go as high as $69/month per user.

Cons Of Zoho CRM

On its own, Zoho CRM is a powerful customer relationship management tool. From a brand with a worldwide presence, the tools it offers provide value to customers and its easy-to-use design feels comfortable for those who may not fashion themselves as inherently tech-savvy.

One of the most glaring downsides of Zoho CRM is not about Zoho CRM itself, but about the Zoho applications as a whole—while each individual module is powerful, functional, and affordable, getting the most out of Zoho requires using and paying for any number of the Zoho suite of applications. 

In other words, the price and complexity of juggling various software packages can really add up. For small and growing businesses that require multiple users on the system, this cost is often too high to justify. Instead of a single, all-in-one business management software platform that handles everything from accounting, projects, and time management in addition to CRM capabilities, Zoho has essentially split up these features among its 40-odd modules.

zoho crm alternative

While this is ideal for some larger organizations that only need one or two modules to accompany their existing, legacy software solutions, it is less than ideal for smaller organizations that are in need of a complete business management software solution.

Beyond the cost of deploying multiple software products, Zoho CRM falls short when it comes to customer support satisfaction. G2 reviewers have ranked Zoho CRM’s quality of support at 7.5/10, which is below the CRM industry average of 8.6/10. Capterra—another leading software review site—lists a 4 out of 5 rating for customer service.

Zoho CRM: Will It Work For You?

While Zoho CRM offers competitively priced and intuitive CRM tools, it falls short when it comes to offering other vital, non-CRM-centric features that provide immense value to small and growing businesses. For those that are extremely budget conscious and looking to get the most value out of their technology stack, there are some Zoho CRM alternatives that are worth looking into.

Further, many reviewers acknowledge that while Zoho CRM functions well, getting a hold of and receiving valuable help from the Zoho customer support team can often be difficult.

Striven – The All-In-One ERP Software

Projects, operations, tasks, and HR benefit from software solutions. And in today’s world, most companies need a software solution compatible with today’s landscape of working remotely. Having CRM software on its own just isn’t enough anymore, either.

The Zoho family of products contains modules and add-ons to accommodate all of your business needs. However, unlike other all-in-one business management software solutions such as Striven, expect to pay for each additional module and piece of functionality that you’ll need. With Striven, you have all of the tools you need to succeed in one place, together and simplified. No need to worry about paying for add-ons or bloated software that simply doesn’t fit your business needs. The best part? You can try it for free.

Managing Customer Relationships With Business Management Software

Some types of businesses have customers, some have clients, and some have both. Maybe your business refers to its clientele as something else entirely. However you refer to the humans handing you a form of payment in return for your goods or services, it’s always crucial to build, maintain, and—when necessary—repair the relationships you have with them.

customer attraction and retention with business management software

One of the best ways to do that in our modern, largely-online world? Utilize business management software to enhance the overall sales pipeline, from lead generation to point of sale and beyond. 

It’s not just CRM capabilities that play a role in this process. One of the advantages that business management software brings to the table in the world of cultivating customer relationships is that there is the opportunity to gather data beyond simple contact information and buyer intent.

By utilizing prior accounting metrics, productivity reports, and other types of data gathered both from customers and employees. You’ll be able to make more informed decisions throughout the entire lead generation, sales, and retention pipeline.

How To Enhance The Sales Process

Centralized Information

The key to attracting customers is all about having the right information at hand. It’s not just about having one lead’s email address and a record of what specific form they filled out, it’s about everything else. 

Beyond this individual’s basic information, what data is available to you? Are you able to quickly see if this person had a prior interest? Are their interests in line with the current trends you’re seeing within your products/services? Are you able to take advantage of quote-to-order functionality to keep everyone in the loop about the status of the sales process?

Each company in every industry handles its sales processes differently, but regardless of the specifics, it pays to have accurate, timely information on hand.

In 2022, overall customer relationship technology usage increased from 56% to 74%. As businesses shifted to an online-first approach more rapidly than ever, having enhanced access to customer data was one key contributor to success.

customer relationship management. people sitting on a CRM cloud

Automated Email Campaigns

Small business owners are always pressed for time. There are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. (Spoiler alert: there never will be.)

On top of that, wasted time and inefficient planning are among the biggest issues plaguing the average small business owner. According to one study conducted by Inc. Magazine, small business owners waste an average of 21.8 hours per week. In addition, 49% of working professionals have never conducted a “time audit” to fully analyze, understand, and improve how they spend their time.

automation business management software

Though there are a vast number of ways that business owners and employees can increase their overall productivity and efficiency, automation stands front and center as the most helpful piece of the puzzle. In this case, automation is utilized to effectively reach prospects and customers while you are able to dedicate your time and energy elsewhere.

Easily crafting emails in a code-free interface, utilizing lead scoring capabilities, and creating drip campaigns for each specific revenue stream that your business manages will help alleviate the stress of manually tracking prospects and sending individual marketing emails.

Built-In Accounting Data

Data is at the heart of every good decision. When it comes to the value of managing customer relationships via an integrated business management system, it pays to have the best data available at all times. In this case, the most important data is often the financial data.

Not every fast decision is a great decision, but great decisions that are able to be made fast are always the best decisions.

Being able to provide customers with accelerated invoicing and payment channels, accurate price forecasts that are derived from up-to-date inventory and work orders, and a better understanding of overall buying trends will help empower your sales force to increase their closing rate and leave customers satisfied.

How To Stay Connected To Your Customers

Customer Portals

Yes, the initial sales process is important. However, customer retention, if managed properly, can be even more financially rewarding than any individual sale.

The probability of selling to a new customer usually falls between 5 and 20%, depending on the specific nature of the industry and the products or services offered. However, when it comes to existing customers, this number dramatically increases—selling to an existing customer usually carries a success rate of 60 to 70%.

Combined with the fact that 55% of millennials claim to be more brand loyal today than 39% of consumers aged 35 and up, a focus on customer retention has to be a long-term priority for every business.

One thing that the modern customer desires is a personalized experience with the ability to retrieve information anytime, anywhere, on any device. With advanced customer portal technology that’s built into the best business management software platforms, you’ll be able to achieve both of these goals. 

Customer portals provide up-to-the-minute service updates, open up a line of communication for questions or concerns, show a detailed payment/shipping/order history, and provide an opportunity for customers to know their needs are being personally attended to.

Chat And Discussion Boards

Staying connected to others is important in all aspects of life. It helps us learn, grow, and achieve goals that we would have not been able to accomplish individually. It’s easy for a coffee shop to flourish as a catalyst for connection and community—it naturally brings people together, bonding over the sweet tastes and aromas of their favorite drink and acts as a natural societal meeting point for people that want to bond, vent, and commiserate.

Well, not every business has the luxury of having a product that is so universally ingrained into the cultural fabric of society. For other businesses, it takes a little more work, creativity, and technology to bring people together.

Self-service help is often the first choice of the modern customer. 91% of customers surveyed would use an online knowledge base if customized and tailored to their needs.

crm software business management

Though it can’t replace the coffee shop, the internet and its countless mediums of communication are effective at creating conversation around a central topic. Your customers will always have questions, and there will be some that have already found answers to these questions. While your business will always be prepared to field questions, it provides a benefit to establish a community chat board where people with common goals and inquiries can talk amongst each other. Two heads are always better than one. 

Feedback And Surveys

We know that customer complaints run rampant in today’s digital age. Some lack context, some are unfair, some are simply vulgar, and some are brutally honest. (Yes, positive feedback exists on the internet, too.)

As much as positive feedback is appreciated, it’s equally—if not more—important that customers be able to give direct feedback on the negative experiences they have. It can help your business continue to learn and improve after each and every sale, shoring up the areas where service, quality, or communication may have been lacking.

4 characters completing a survey

Customer engagement tools both let the customer know that their relationship is valued and provide an opportunity for them to give you invaluable feedback. Your business should be able to automate surveys to be delivered at specific times (i.e. after a sale, after a refund, etc), and provide customizable form fields where customers can choose “1-10” style ratings or just enter their own text.

Wrapping Up

If it seems like customers are more demanding than ever, you wouldn’t be wrong. Nearly 59% of consumers worldwide say that they have higher demands and expectations in regard to customer service than they did just a year ago.

In an increasingly competitive environment, it’s important to utilize the tools that give you the biggest competitive advantage. By maximizing the capabilities of business management software, you’ll be able to attract more customers, retain more customers, and overall improve the products and experiences that help you maintain a healthy bottom line.

A Guide To Profitability In Professional Service Businesses

What are professional services? The answer to this question is far-reaching—a wide variety of service types and business models fall under the professional services umbrella. Sometimes it’s hard to encapsulate exactly what defines a professional services organization—oftentimes it has a subjective, “I know it when I see it” feel to it.  

While the definition of what professional services are is always shifting as our economy evolves, it’s much easier to define what professional services organizations do:

Professional service organizations provide support in the form of contracted advice and/or performing tertiary tasks and duties. 

Regardless of the specific product or service rendered, it’s common to see both B2C and B2B practices within the professional services industry. Some organizations focus on exclusively one or the other, but many practice in both. 

Clients come in all shapes and sizes, but the majority of clients that professional service organizations assist share a common perspective: it’s often savvy and efficient to hire an outside expert. 

Small business owners ranked “time management” as the third largest challenge they face. The first and second biggest challenges? Cash flow (obviously) and marketing/advertising (a professional service in its own right).

Spending additional time, energy, and resources on tasks that could be masterfully—and cost-effectively—tackled by a third-party professional is not a wise management strategy.

Types Of Professional Services

Products and services vary drastically by company and industry. However, the common ground among professional services providers lies within the logistics of how business is conducted.

small business management software

Communication, data management, scheduling, financial reporting, and payment processing are some of the processes universally shared by all professional services providers. 

Ideally, professional services providers use one system to manage their entire business to ensure work is profitable and delivered in a timely fashion. Sure, lawyers will have different needs than IT professionals, but the core pillars and processes of the professional services industry remain the same.

Below we’ll cover four of the core professional services and how each type of service provider can stay ahead of the competition in their respective lanes. 


Breakdown: Accounting agencies and service providers exist for a reason—assigning a manager within your organization to handle your finances by way of using spreadsheets typically isn’t a prudent business practice. 

Tax management, expense tracking, and payroll considerations are just a few examples of what makes up the 9 to 5 of an accounting firm. 

professional service accounting software

How They Can Stay Ahead: Putting aside the day-to-day duties that accountants are bonafide experts at, accounting firms that want to stay a step ahead of the competition need to place an additional emphasis on a different aspect of their business: customer and vendor communications.

For accounting firms to act as premier professional servicers, they need to be equipped with the right tools. In this case, utilizing software equipped with customer and vendor management portals will benefit all parties involved. Streamlined communication channels, virtual invoice payments, and the ability to remotely view billing and transaction histories at any time will create satisfied clients—it may even prevent those dreaded 10:00 pm “ask” emails.

After all, accountants in particular have a special appreciation for accuracy, consistency, and transparency—it’s quite literally the foundation of what they do for a living. 


Breakdown: Excluding the aberration of 2020, the global consulting industry has steadily increased in size every year for the last 10 years. Data collected by Glassdoor indicates that US-based consultants make (on average) around $89,000 annually—well higher than the overall US compensation average. 

professional services consulting software

Perhaps that’s in part to the diversity of specializations within the consulting industry. Strategy consultants, management consultants, operations consultants—the list goes on. I’m sure at least a few more will be added to the list before this blog is published. 

How They Can Stay Ahead: While the methodologies and specializations for consultants may vary, their goals remain uniform—to provide a premier, professional, and profitable experience for their clients.

The best way to do that? Be at the forefront of addressing the main challenges that businesses will be facing in the next 3 to 5 years. According to a survey of 1300 professional services consulting firms, the top five main challenges businesses will face, all have one thing in common: technology and its rapid rate of adoption within the industry. 

  • Unpredictability in the marketplace
  • Changes in how buyers buy your services
  • Increased competition from new firms/competitors
  • The need for new skills
  • Automation/artificial intelligence

Challenges 2, 4, and 5 correlate directly with technological advancements—e-commerce is more prominent than ever, development-centric skill sets are dominating the global workforce, and technologies with a focus on automation and machine learning are continuing to grow in popularity and practicality. 

Challenges 1 and 3 may be age-old challenges, but they certainly have a new, technological twist to them. Moore’s Law would suggest that technological progress is advancing at a higher rate than ever before, leading to increased levels of uncertainty in how (and, in a lot of instances, when) technology will impact any given industry. As more and more businesses in all industries adopt more efficient and profitable technologies, competition will naturally increase. After all, technology tends to level the playing field.

IT Services

Breakdown: IT services encompass a wide variety of skills and disciplines. Web design, cybersecurity, software development, and database management—are all distinct from one another, yet fall under the same umbrella of “IT.”

professional services it services software

The diversity of what falls under the umbrella of “IT services” is part of the challenge businesses face. If an organization offers a single service (for example, web design) it may not generate enough of a client base to continuously extract revenue. Conversely, if an organization offers a staggering collection of services, it may fall into a “quantity over quality” conundrum which could eventually lead to revenue woes. 

Many businesses have found a sweet spot. For example, some companies may offer web design services while also managing digital marketing campaigns and social media efforts. And, low and behold, some companies are still intent on doing it all. And that’s ok—but with such a varied array of services, how can companies efficiently keep track of it all?

How They Can Stay Ahead: No matter the type of IT service a business offers, some things never change. Having real-time information available is always crucial, as is the ability to smartly manage projects.

Most of all, in an extremely skill-intensive industry like IT services, having the ability to quickly assess the skill sets, qualifications, and certifications of both existing team members and prospects in the pipeline will pay dividends down the road. 

The importance of cultural fit within an organization has not been understated as of late—hiring the right cultural fit within a company leads to less employee turnover, more productivity (especially in regard to remote work), and overall higher satisfaction. 

“Cultural fit” isn’t just an organizational-wide consideration—it’s important that every team and cluster of employees within an organization is able to mesh well together. 

Before worrying about the projects and tasks themselves, it’s important to consider how employees are placed together. By utilizing all of the tools available to accurately assess candidates and current employees alike, IT services teams will be able to tackle any task in front of them.

Breakdown: Of all of the professional services that we’ve discussed so far, I think it’s a fair assumption to say that legal services should be the last type of service that any business attempts to solve unaided. (Disclaimer: not legal advice.)

professional services legal services software

In America, everyone has their own opinion on certain laws, legal practices, and even lawyers themselves. The beautiful part about our legal system and its practice is that we have the unalienable right to maintain and voice opinions of all flavors and varieties. 

Though our nation’s legal practices and procedures don’t come without scrutiny, one thing is for certain—many of the societal advancements that we’ve benefitted from have come after tireless, tedious, and often thankless hours of legal work.

How They Can Stay Ahead: If there is a criticism to be made about the legal profession in America, it mainly revolves around its “pay-to-play” model. Yes, the 6th Amendment guarantees every citizen the right to counsel. However, every American knows the reality in which we live: the more you pay, the more you get.

This isn’t an issue that can be solved overnight, nor can it be solved by any single person or law firm. Most lawyers aren’t Cochrans and Shapiros—they’re public defenders, paralegals, and employees of smaller firms that don’t have the luxury of attracting clients with 8-figure net worths. 

Providing legal services is about doing right by your clients. One way to do that without a Hollywood-esqe budget is to utilize technology to its fullest. 

Document management, time and expense tracking, and client communication channels don’t have to be disconnected and burdensome to maintain. They can be managed in a single, easy-to-use platform. Technology should work for you—not the other way around.

Ensuring Professional Services Success

Vector Illustration of single light bulb with icons and shining fibers in a shape of Expertise, Reliability, Experience, Trust and Knowledge concept related words isolated on black background

On the surface, it may seem that lawyers and software developers don’t have much in common. If you ask them, they might even agree. 

But, what they share is their ability to provide a service that they’ve trained for—training that, in many cases, has encompassed the vast majority of their adult lives. Success comes in all shapes and sizes, especially when you’re talking about the professional services industry.

Servicing customers is never an easy task. There are a million tips and tricks out there on what to say, do, and act like in order to deliver the best results. Many of those pieces of advice are worthwhile. 

At the end of the day, it all boils down to the same thing—leveraging the tools and technology at your disposal in order to provide the best service possible. 

How Partnerships Can Impact Sales

In the manufacturing sector, we all are reliant on strategic partnerships with our suppliers, dealers, distributors, freight and rail vendors, and customers. Success is dependent on the entire network. If one link in the chain fails, we all fail.

As a distributor in the middle of the funnel, we rely on our international suppliers for their subject-matter expertise, product inventory, training, and marketing materials. They rely on us for our sales and marketing expertise, technical support, and local customer relationships. The customer relies on us to provide an accurate and on-time order to supply their manufacturing process so they can manufacture and deliver to their customer. There are so many interdependencies in a distribution channel. 

crm manufacturing software

How can manufacturers or distributors develop these customer relationships? Well, first we need to generate leads to nurture and, eventually, convert into customer relationships and sales.

7 Ways Manufacturers (Or Almost Any Industry) Can Build Partnerships

1. Phone Calls

Yes, cold calling still is a thing. And as people tend to ignore email messages and social messages, sometimes picking up the phone and having an old-fashioned chat is the best method. In the past year, phone calls often have become video calls via Zoom, Teams, and other digital platforms that allow us to replicate face-to-face meetings à la The Jetsons.

2. In-Person Meetings

One of the best ways to build a partnership is a handshake and sit down. We tend to buy from people we like. If someone can see your body language and hear your tone of voice, he or she is more likely to develop a relationship with you as a person. The email can be the introduction or open the door, but the personality usually closes the sale. The inability to do so in the COVID-era has spawned the advent of video meetings that tend to be more cost- and time-effective, as well as sanitary. No hand gel required. That leads us to…

3. Tradeshows

This tried-and-true method of collecting leads went away in March 2020, and most people in the industry found that virtual tradeshows just weren’t as effective. By now, organizations have returned to in-person tradeshows.

4. Email Marketing

Email and messaging,Email marketing campaign,Working process, New email message

This tried-and-true method of collecting leads went away in March 2020, and most people in the industry found that virtual tradeshows just weren’t as effective. Happily, organizations have since returned to in-person tradeshows.

You can email your existing customers or qualified leads who have opted in from your website or a tradeshow, but don’t purchase lists! These people have not opted in. You can get shut down for spam. So, how do you get new leads? Read on!

5. Social Media

Posting on social media is a good way to develop brand recognition and get to know people who become your advocates. Join groups that are specific to your industry. Then you can use LinkedIn Sales Navigator or paid ads on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google and do pay-per-click campaigns to further identify interested leads.

6. Trade Publications

If you have the budget (that you’ve saved from tradeshows and salespeople out on the road), you always can go the route of placing digital and print ads or even a low-cost spend of a listing in directories or guides. A more expensive, but effective, option is to deliver a webinar that the publication promotes. This will give you a list of new leads that you CAN add to your CRM and email marketing campaigns. Another route is contributed content. This means looking at the journal’s editorial calendar and pitching the editor with a thought-leadership article. If accepted, it costs you nothing but the time to write it. It gets your name in front of potential customers and positions you as an industry leader while familiarizing people with your brand. Also, a free listing (yes, FREE) with Thomasnet will drive some traffic to your site.

7. Trade Associations and Online Forums

One organization that can help with resources for small- to mid-sized manufacturers is your local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). On a larger scale, there’s the National Association for Manufacturers (NAM). Additionally, industry-specific and regional trade associations can get you in front of customers. Think about pitching a technical talk or webinar and presenting to the organization’s membership rather than just attending meetings and handing out cards. This can show your value and expertise. Join some online forums where people are looking for information, for instance, Reddit, Quora, or industry-specific forums. It’s all about positioning the brand as an industry leader.

Next Steps

Some of these methods require content. Content is necessary for marketing. You can take that article you wrote for the trade pub, host it on your website, gate it behind a sign-in, then promote it on social media or with a PPC campaign. This will allow you to capture leads. We’ve all entered our name, company, title, and email in those fields on a website to download some content that we thought would be useful. 

It’s time for manufacturers to ramp up their digital games and jump on technology in order to build partnerships to generate leads that turn into sales. Technology can be your partner.

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The future is here and is only going to get more complex. If you didn’t notice it before, you saw it in 2020 during COVID when in-person meetings ground to a halt and lead generation tapered off or plummeted. We need to embrace it to grow our businesses and remain viable in the digital age. If we don’t, we will go the way of the dinosaurs, or our business will plateau. If you want growth, then things need to change.