CRM

Startup Business Ideas – WordPress

WordPress is a web juggernaut. There are an estimated ~70 million blogs powered by WordPress and a good portion of those are businesses. 

While I love WordPress and have been using it for 9-10 years it is still lacking in some hardcore business functionality.

If we accept WordPress is a huge play in the business market and we accept that a critical aspect of marketing and customer acquisition is attracting and communicating with existing and potential customers then these ideas are pretty critical to fulfilling that mission, however the existing solutions just don’t cut it.

Here are some pressing needs for entrepreneurs looking for business ideas.

Newsletter Platforms

Newsletter management on WordPress is a nightmare. It is not a native function so there is no core functionality that supports generating a newsletter from your posts. 

The worlds biggest Newsletter platform Mailchimp and the worlds biggest Website platform WordPress don’t play nicely together.

I know you can hook up a form to Mailchimp & dozens of other email services to send your newsletter, however none of these are actually integrated with WordPress.

They might pass an email subscription across but you can’t select a WordPress post to be included in a newsletter from Mailchimp or select a Post in WordPress and have it published to the newsletter, its a completely manual process to make a newsletter and if you do this daily it takes a stack of time so we have for the moment avoided it.

In any of these popular newsletter tools you have to copy the images, posts and links then paste it all into the campaign repeat 2-4 for each story and make sure its formatted properly and then send. 

Life’s too short to do the same menial hack work every day, why not just allow an integration that allows you to insert WordPress posts from the Mailchimp control panel?

Every possible solution you can cobble together has some sort of bug or issues which don’t work for a high volume daily newsletter.

Cobble is really the key term as none of them are tightly integrated.

We currently use the Mailpoet plugin sending via the transactional mail service Mandrill.

Mandrill we like a lot, Mailpoet less so (I will do a separate blog on how to get a working solution for a high volume mail service and why you would use Mandrill not the standard WordPress onboard email).

Mailpoet lets you select posts from inside the WordPress which is great.

The trouble is so far I have had some many problems with their plugin. I get frequent reports that the unsubscribe function is not working, the plugin has failed to record the transaction. Numerous problems with layout, responsiveness etc, always finding problems.

Mailpoet has advised that they have stopped supporting their current version and will not release any bug fixes instead working on a completely new solution from the ground up so that gives you an idea of the sort of problems we have experienced.

Mailpoet also doesn’t talk to anything else in WordPress so if you don’t use their forms (which are very basic and don’t provide a popup or any of the other useful pretty useless) then you have to manually copy new emails in and you have to manually check that bounces, unsubscribes and rejections are being transferred from Mandrill to Mailpoet. Its a 20 minute operation every day that shouldn’t have to be done. 

Also you can’t automatically share usage or customer data with outside systems like a CRM.

So why am I still using them? Because despite days of research and experimentation I have not been able to find a valid alternatives without incurring a stack of extra work every day.

Mailchimp would be the obvious choice however every newsletter is a completely manual setup. Cut, paste, link, upload, format, resize for each story and link in each newsletter, its labour intensive and I am already peddling as hard as I can.

You can use a Mailchimp RSS feed Newsletter but its poorly formatted and requires extra plugins from WordPress to get the images working and they look terrible.

Here is a checklist for a good Newsletter solution

  • Sends via Mandrill, Sendgrid or other dedicated transactional mail service
  • Allows you to compose automatic daily or weekly newsletters from existing posts
  • Beautiful formatting of both the newsletter and the images
  • Allows you to send ad hoc newsletters
  • Responsive for Mobile
  • Integrates with Zapier or WordPress Webhooks
  • A subscribe form that included A/B testing, popups and slideups, images
  • Collects all new emails that are added for all transactions on WordPress
  • If a user has unsubscribed this must be preserved even if their details are uploaded again, unsubscribes need a manual override to send to them again

Have to think there are 100s of thousands of sites like me that need a better solution, the existing solutions just feel like they are held together with brown paper and string.

If anyone can suggest a great alternative that fits the above requirements please message me or comment below.

CRMs

No one seems to have a tightly integrated CRM that couples various WordPress plugins, capturing all data as well as user visits. Leadin by Hubspot has an interesting product which seems to capture most emails and visits except the popup for email subscribers we use from Sumome but suffers from occasional missed data.

I haven’t been able to find a well integrated CRM that works well with WordPress.

Must Have

  • Capture all emails submitted, comments, visits etc
  • Send to an external service
  • Record every transaction ie emails, visits, offers, forms submitted

Data Connectors

WordPress has become the default platform for launching a standard web presence. It has been customised in so many ways it now provides a method to sell, to capture leads, to sign users up to services, to sell product as an e-commerce site, as well as the traditional uses of publishing and blogging.

The trouble is most of the plugins don’t talk to each other. WordPress really needs a Plugin that can take any data from any other WordPress plugin or core and push it to other platforms. There is a plugin called Presshook but it only works on WordPress API and most plugins are adding capability to the core so this won’t work for them.

  • WordPress is not the ideal place to store your data (most are hosted on dodgy hosting companies where security may or may not exist) so ideally data should be stored off site.
  • Ideally the plugin should send data to the outside word via a gateway service such as Zapier or IFTTT or web hooks and should be secure/encrypted.

There are probably dozens of other niches you could occupy, the mistake most of the developers make is assuming a transactional mindset, that is they price their product as a once off sale price and support it accordingly, rather than an ongoing relationship and monthly fee.

Image is what WordPress looked like when I started using it many years ago

10 Ways to kickstart your Start-up – Lead Capture – CRM and Regular Communication

Salesforce

Salesforce

Capture every contact and keep communicating with them regularly

Many new business owners are looking for customers to serve right here right now and if the prospect is not ready today the owner keeps moving and forgets about them. Later when they see the customer, they are often disappointed to find out that the customer did business with someone else. When they asked why often the response is that another business called or sent an interesting email or had a special offer. Very few people are

When I sold my business I had over 5000 business and IT contacts in the database, which had been through a series of CRM package upgrades as we grew from ACT, to Goldmine to SugarCRM to a custom version.

My regret was I didn’t start doing this consistently until many years after I had launched the company.

I tell all new startup entrepreneurs, keep a database or CRM from day one. Religiously drive your team to use it, create processes to ensure that all web leads, call-ins and emails as well as the source of the new lead are entered into the CRM for every new contact.

Often customers want to buy but they are just not ready yet, it’s not no, just not today. Depending on your industry and the customers stage in the purchasing process it could be days, weeks or even years before they are ready to buy.

The entrepreneur needs to build a process that encourages the prospect to give you permission to continue to keep in contact with them on a regular basis, telling them about new work or happy customers, developments in their industry, new products or services you offer or better ways for them to do business.

There are stacks of different ideas you can use to write a newsletter or depending on your volume of blog posts you could setup a system to email your prospects and customers when you update your Blog. If you religiously do this every month you will pick up the opportunity to quote to the dormant prospect or the existing customer who forgot about you (it happen’s).

To make this work you need a few components.

Customer Relationship Management System (CRM)

Good CRMs I have used over the years include

Salesforce.com – Very enterprise and customisable, not for the faint hearted, expensive in my opinion.

Highrisehq.com – From the guys at 37 Signals, one of the nicest Web apps I have ever used, good for small to medium businesses

Highrise

Highrise

SugarCRM.com – This has been around for many years, it’s key advantage was it was open source, 10 years ago when I first implemented it, that allowed us to write modifications to it to intergrate our billing and support processes. Now it has gone all corporate and wants to charge between $35-100 per user per month however there is still a basic community version.

SugarCRM

SugarCRM

Insightly.com/ New entrant looks great works with Google Apps

InsightlyCRM

InsightlyCRM

Getbase.com New mobile oriented CRM

BaseCRM

BaseCRM

Whatever CRM you decide to use you need to check the following

  • All your web leads, emails from websites, support emails need to be captured automatically into the system. Most CRM have web forms you can use for this, failing that you can use Wufoo.com to capture the lead and then sync it with your CRM, most of them have an API to allow 3rd party apps to write to them for this very reason.
  • Mobile ready with iPhone and android Apps available
  • Try to get Social Media integration so that you can track past and future social media conversations
  • Every team member religiously enters every new contact and updates past contacts activities and changes.
  • The CRM is set up to sync with a email newsletter system, good tools to do this include wufoo.com which offers a Form that syncs to both your newsletter system (such as Mailchimp.com) and your CRM.

Once you have a system to capture leads you need something to generate a message when you want to communicate.

Social media takes care of some of this, however the data shows that people share a higher % of interesting articles they receive via email with their friends than they share via social media.

Regular Communications

If something changes in your industry you need to be the one that tells your clients and prospects. To do this you need an easy to use system that can send updates to your clients. They might be in the form of a formatted newsletter or could be in the form of a blog post update that gets emailed to people on your list.

A few options.

Mailchimp.com handles all the un-subscribe, bounce management and spam requirements and allows you to create beautiful templates to insert your content. Only problem is it takes a lot of time every month to create a good newsletter.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp

If you are running WordPress you should check out a plugin called Wysija.com. This will send out regular emails either as a daily, weekly or monthly collection of all of your blog posts or as each blog post is generated. You can set it up to be automated so that it captures every story in the last time period (day, week, month) and then lays them out on a nice newsletter format (with many preformed templates).

It takes a bit to get it setup correctly but once its done it will send out a formatted email like clockwork. It is worth setting up a test version to send to yourself 6-12 hours before the main email goes out so that you can pick up any problems as given the automated nature of this system its easy to send out an email with problems unless you have some means of vetting what it will look like.

Wysija

Wysija

 

If you are running WordPress on your own site and looking for a simple option load up the Jetpack plugin from WordPress. This will allow you to email subscribers each time there is a new post and it will manage all the un-subscribes and bounces and gives a nice readable format to each email. There is also an option to allow readers to comment by replying to the email which is very cool.

For most people the Jetpack plugin provides 90% of what you need to run a business website.

http://jetpack.me/

Jetpack

Jetpack

 

Using APIs to connect your web, CRM and Newsletter

If you are running another type of website management system (other than WordPress) there are a number of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) which allow you to connect one system to another and transfer or synchronize transactions across all the systems.

The key ones that seem to be getting the most traction are

Wufoo.com which provides a multitude of forms that can be configured to manage just about any conceivable requirement. You create a form and then embed the code onto your website or Facebook page which creates a form on the site and when a user submits one of the forms the data is stored at Wufoo but can also be configured to synchronise to other platforms such as your CRM, Newsletter and other systems or email or SMS you the form details. 3 Forms for free then a small monthly fee.

Wufoo

Wufoo

 

Zapier.com is a web services or API gateway to allow you to synchronise transactions between 150+ different web services. For example you could receive a new lead in your webpage via a Wufoo form and have Zapier synchronise all the details to both your Mailchimp account for your newsletter and your Basecamp account for your CRM that way you never lose data or have data stranded in “islands” where the data is maintained separately (or most of often, not maintained) and contacts end up having multiple versions of the same contact and business information across the various services you use.

ZapierZapier-Action

 

Do it now

So in summary, if you haven’t implemented a CRM do it today, start with a Wufoo form and send it to a Highrise or Salesforce CRM, start collecting every piece of data and try to only keep one master database rather than create data islands, it’s probably best that your CRM keeps the master records and you use Zapier or similar to feed data from your website and other systems to the CRM thereby maintaining consistency and integrity of your data.

As always if you have any ideas or tips for other startups, please put your tip in the comments and I will add it to the post (and of course give you credit)

 

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