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How to Create a DIY CRM System with Google Docs

Posted on Feb 28, 2013 by Derek Singleton

If you’re a small business owner, you’re likely managing everything from your financials to your marketing activities–and you’re doing it all on a limited budget. While you know that you need a better way to manage your sales prospects, especially during periods of growth, you just aren’t ready to pay for a customer relationship management system to keep in touch with potential and existing customers.

At the Software Advice website, I help review and compare most of the major CRM (customer relationship management) systems on the market. But the truth of the matter is that many of the popular systems on the market can be too expensive for many small business owners. For these small businesses, it may be more effective to take the do-it-yourself (DIY) approach and build your own CRM system.

Building your own CRM system can provide several benefits:

  • It’s affordable (read: free)
  • It’s flexible
  • It’s easy to use and customize

A great tool for building a CRM system on your own is Google Docs. If you have a Gmail account, you already have access to an easy way to build your own CRM software. Already widely used as a management tool, it’s fairly easy to extend the power of these applications to help with customer management. Here’s a quick step-by-step overview of how to do it.

Decide Who Gets Access–And What Information to Include
Google Docs allows all users to collaborate across any document thanks to their sharing and editing features. So, if one person changes a contact’s information, it automatically syncs across the system. This allows all document collaborators to see the change immediately. Beyond that, you can monitor user privileges to ensure that all users have access to the right information.

Once you decide who will be able to access and update data in your CRM system, you’ll need to create a Google Spreadsheet. After that, it’s time to determine what information you want to track about sales prospects in your spreadsheet. A few pieces of information that are a good idea to track include:

  • Demographics – company name, contact name, email, phone number, etc.
  • Prospect source – how the prospect found out about your company
  • Next actions – a code that determine how you’ll follow (e.g. phone call or email)
  • Contact log – notes from every contact you make with the prospect
  • Estimated opportunity size – an estimate of the size of the sale
  • Lead nurturing stage – a numbered system that shows how close the prospect is to purchasing (1 = aware but not interested; 4 = has purchased)

Keep in mind that this is just a starter list and you’ll likely want to record other information that’s specific to your business. So feel free to add any field that’s relevant to your company. If after a while you realize that you want to track more information, it’s fairly easy to add a new field.

Learn How to Manipulate the Data with Spreadsheet Functions
One nice thing about using a Google Spreadsheet is that there are easy sort features that allows you to sort by any field you like. If you only want to look at contacts with the biggest opportunity size, just sort by “estimating opportunity size” and you can view your most largest sales prospects from the largest potential sales to smallest.

Or, maybe you’re interested in the looking at the number of companies that are in the very beginning of the lead nurturing stage. You’ve already coded all entries that are in this stage of the buying process with a 1 but you don’t know how many of your contacts are at that phase. To figure this out, you can use a simple function known as a “countif()”. It works like this:

Determine the cell range you want to count sales prospects for (let’s say it’s cells C2 to C100)
Decide the criteria for counting each cell (in this case it’s a “1”)

To count all your prospects that are the beginning of the sales cycle, you can use the formula in cell C101: ‘=countif(C2:C100, “1”)’. This will give you the total number of contacts that are at phase one in the buying process. Of course there are a whole host of other functions that you can use to manipulate that data, but you get the idea. For a comprehensive list of spreadsheet functions that will work in a Google Spreadsheet check out Google’s help page.

With this method, you can start tracking their sales prospects in an efficient and paperless manner. And you can do it for free. As a bonus, you’ll also be able to access this data from anywhere with an Internet connection because information in Google Docs is stored in the Cloud.

Do you have any other DIY tips on creating a CRM system? Leave us a comment below.



The Scoop on SXSW

Posted on Feb 27, 2013 by Daniel Alvarez

As the month of March rolls around, Austinites (and now, people from across the globe) are preparing themselves for the one festival that brings together over 50,000 locals, techies, musicians, hipsters, film makers, producers, celebrities and many more. Yes, South By Southwest or “South By” for those of you in tune with the local lingo has quickly become the go-to festival in North America. Boasting musical acts from over a thousand artists, countless indie movie premieres and hundreds of technology start-ups, SXSW feeds the souls of those in attendance.

In addition to the many fun-filled events, there’s a lot of business that goes down during the nine days that make up SXSW. And as a creative agency that specializes in working with startups, we take this time seriously, both as a networking opportunity and as a chance to help these young entrepreneurs realize their dreams.

Over the years, SXSW has been the launch pad for many major players in the tech and web-based industries. So much so that the third largest social network, Twitter, launched at SXSW back in 2007. The launch of the micro-blogging platform was so successful that Twitter’s servers became overloaded with users during the event. But not every story is as big as Twitter’s, there are hundreds of smaller companies making a name for themselves each year during the festival- and we’re excited to be part of that growth.

As a progressive digital agency with over nine years in the biz, we know how much hard work goes into building a reputable brand and a dominant online presence from the ground up.We can help get you to the next level through proven marketing techniques, creative web design/development and a plan of action that works.

Are you planning on visiting Austin for South By Southwest. If so, make sure you give us a call, Follow us on Twitter, or come say hi when you see us front row at The Flaming Lips and Green Day concerts!


HMG Welcomes Scott Mise to the Team

Posted on Feb 25, 2013 by Johnny Jeffers

HMG Creative is pleased to announce the addition of another cog to their creative machine, Scott Mise. As a formally-trained Graphic Designer (Abilene Christian University) and a self-taught Web Developer, Scott enjoys merging the disciplines to create comprehensive solutions for clients’ needs. With previous agency experience and a constant curiosity for developing web technologies, I’d say he brings a lot to our table. You’ve probably already seen much of Scott’s design work in restaurants and bars around Austin as well as on the web, and we hope you’re ready for more.

In his spare time Scott loves tinkering with Javascript and PHP just to see what’s possible. Also, as an avid Metroplex sports fan you won’t ever be able to pull him away from a game as long as Jerry’s, Cuban’s or Nolan’s teams are playing. Besides being glued to screens, Scott enjoys working or riding on any of his three, two-wheeled vehicles.


Why Your Business Should Offer an E-Book

Posted on Feb 21, 2013 by Kim Willington

It seems that iPads, Nooks and Tablets are all the rage now-a-days and many are tossing out those big, clunky books. So unless you run a publishing company or a newspaper, you may be wondering what that has to do with your business. As e-books have become more popular, a whole new world of self-publishing has opened up for authors and companies alike.

If you have not already taken advantage of the possibilities for publishing your own e-book, here are a few reasons why you should:

A Published Book Builds Your Authority
Say your company offers consulting services to small businesses. You can build your reputation and establish your authority as an expert in your field by getting testimonials from clients, writing articles, or even speaking in your community. Or you could publish a book. A published book — whether it is an e-book or a print book — instantly establishes your authority on a subject.

The more e-books you have to your name, the more impressive it will be for customers. Publish books in your niche and display them prominently on your site. Market the book to get positive reviews from reputable sources and you will build even more clout with customers.

Creating a Comprehensive Guide Better Serves Your Customers
Your products and services help your customers to solve a problem or to meet a need. You can serve your customers even more by creating a comprehensive guide that provides insights or solutions for a large problem or need. If you run a financial advising company, you can create a guide about investing in mutual funds or how to retire before 50. If you offer weight-loss products, you can write a book about how to get in shape after a baby or what kinds of foods you can eat to lose weight fast.

Offering e-books is another way to serve your customers, and the medium allows you to offer more in-depth answers and solutions.

An E-book is a Great Incentive to Build Your E-mail List
Your opt-in email list is an important way to build relationships with customers and to drive repeat sales. Offering an incentive is a great way to grow your e-mail list faster.  A free e-book that offers a solution for your customers needs will help you to grow your e-mail list quickly. You can write a book especially to give away to subscribers, or you can make your paid e-book free to those who subscribe.

Just be sure that whatever e-book you offer, it provides useful and actionable information for your customers. If the e-book is the first thing that your customers see from your company, you want to make sure it is indicative of the quality they can come to expect from you.

You Can Sell an E-book to Generate Extra Revenue
Of course, one of the most immediate benefits an e-book can have for your business is to give you another way to generate some extra income. The more books you offer and the more popular they are, the more money you can make. If you develop a popular line, your e-books can become a whole other product offering.  Consider how your e-books can compliment your current products offerings or can create an additional focus for your business.

Publishing an e-book or a series of e-books can offer a number of benefits to your business, including helping you to establish your authority in your niche, encouraging growth of your e-mail list, offering your customers more value, and even generating additional income. If you aren’t already offering e-books, it might be time to consider doing so.

Does your company offer e-books? Share how it has benefited your company in the comments!


Our St. Jude Fundraiser in a Nutshell!

Posted on Feb 20, 2013 by Stacey Donelan

Valentine’s Day has come and gone and The Crew at HMG Creative has put on another successful campaign.  The past couple of weeks have been dedicated to promoting social media interaction, through our Facebook and Twitter channels, in order to generate donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. From February 15 to midnight of Valentine’s Day, we were able to:

  • Gain 87 new Facebook Fans
  • 346 Facebook Shares on St. Jude photos
  • 500+ Likes on St. Jude photos
  • 41 Retweets on Twitter for St. Jude tweets
  • 24 New Twitter Followers

Through these efforts, we were able to bring in $300 to donate to St. Jude and we couldn’t be more proud!  Although we did not reach our goal of $500, this is our very first donations-based initiative and we feel confident that this experience will leave us with the knowledge to create an even stronger campaign for the future. Not only were we able to share our love with children in need but we also created an incentive for those who helped us in the final push of our campaign.  Those who shared the St. Jude photo during the last two days were entered into a drawing to win a $100 Apple Gift Card.  We are thrilled to be giving the prize to Ms. Alayna Boyd, student at The University of Texas at Austin! (Who could be more deserving than a poor college student, right?!)

Despite the fact that the “Share the Love” campaign was able to stretch our social media efforts and gain more awareness for our company, what truly matters is that we were able to do all of this for such a great cause.  It is our hopes that through our donations we will be able to further assist the children of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and that they will be able to enjoy their Valentine’s Days for years to come. We thank everyone for all of your help in making this donation possible!


Help us “Share the Love” this Valentine’s Day

Posted on Feb 05, 2013 by Stacey Donelan

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, HMG Creative will be Sharing the Love by donating to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  For every “share” or “retweet” received through our social media accounts, we will donate 50 cents.  And for every new “Like” on our Facebook Page or “Follow” on our Twitter account, we will donate one dollar to this wonderful cause.  Up to $500.

Every dollar goes a long way.  $500 can provide two transfusion units of red blood cells for a St. Jude patient. So help us Share the Love and pass this on to friends, family and co-workers.

Why support St. Jude?

How will our donations help?

  • Thanks to donors, St. Jude patients and their families are free of payments and hospital bills.  Care, housing, meals, and transportation—the list of services they provide to families is unequalled. But it is for one purpose: To ensure the very best outcome possible for every child.
  • At St. Jude, donor dollars help fuel the groundbreaking research that leads to pioneering care and treatments for childhood cancer and other deadly diseases.