If you think everyone is chasing your customers and trying to erode your market share, your fear might be justified.
The Internet has given companies long arms to reach into your backyard. This means new competitors and new challenges in the battle to retain customers and gain new ones. Enter CRM, or Customer Relationship Management.
This new acronym comes with promises of increased market share, big ROI (another cool acronym), happier customers, richer salespeople and all-around euphoric feelings for all.
But CRM is as misunderstood as the undoing of the dinosaurs or the reason it rains the day after you wash your car.
Remember Y2K and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning)? These were two acronyms that put our economy into a tailspin in the '90s and brought multibillion dollar companies to their knees like an unidentified virus strain. Why did so many ERP efforts fail? In my opinion, some vendors did not deliver on promises and many companies implemented ERP without having sound processes in place.
We scrambled to embrace CRP (Capacity Resource Planning) and MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning) technologies in the '70s and '80s, and the same mad dash was made to implement ERP before 11:59 p.m., Dec. 31, 1999.
Let's put CRM into perspective. It is supposed to be a tool for enhancing, facilitating and managing customer relations. Every client I have encountered has a unique personality and a unique way of maintaining customers. Therefore, it's not safe to assume that a handful of CRM software products is going to fit out of the box. In fact, one-third of CRM implementations provide significant benefits, one-third provide negligible benefits and one-third generate no improvements.
With companies spending millions of dollars, one would hope the return would be rosier.
I have been in and around the IT industry for 20 years and I am convinced that software does not solve process problems. At best, it may bandage the problem; at worse, it could cause you to make mistakes faster.
If you feel a panic to rush out and buy a piece of software as the end-all, be-all of your customer relationship, here is Dr. Steele's remedy for CRM ails:
1. Process, process, process. Get your house in order. If weaknesses are inherent in your customer interface, or you are considering the Internet as a new sales vehicle, back office changes are inevitable before implementing software.
Every organization can be evaluated based upon its ability to be receptive to and integrate CRM solutions. Some companies will be more ready than others.
2. How about a contact management tool? Consider Gold Mine, SalesLogix, TeleMagic, Pivotal and Firstwave, ACT! (recently purchased by SalesLogix). I have used all but one of these and found each to be easy to use and powerful enough.
3. Employ application service providers.
4. Use portals. Upshot.com, Interact.com, Sales.com, Salesforce.com, SalesRepsOnline.com are examples. I like them all, for different reasons. These typically charge a monthly member fee for browser access.
5. Repeat No. 1 daily until all medication is used. Tim Steele is the sales director for Idea Integration and president of ADI Consulting. A Cuyahoga Falls resident, Steele specializing in sales management, target marketing, account management and strategic planning. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One night last week, a free-lance writer I work with called me at home in a panic. She had been writing content for a locally-based Web site over the last few months, and suddenly, no one there would return her calls.
The editorial staff had vanished, and no one on the company's corporate side was returning her messages. She feared she would be stuck with about $1,500 worth of copy that she would never be paid for.
Two things occurred to me as I listened to her story: No. 1, we had just written about this company in SBN Akron (May 2000). We covered four local dot-coms at various stages of development. Some, like Twinsburg-based PlanSoft, were proven entities -- companies that were well-supported and profitable. Others, like Streetsboro-based PlanetKnowHow, the company my writer had been working for, had yet to emerge from their beta formats.
The second thing that occurred to me was how familiar her story sounded. She was the fourth friend who had lost a position or contract recently with a dot-com company.
While I understand there are at least two sides to every story, I still hope PlanetKnowHow's founders (which include Pony Computer Inc.'s Joseph Chou) will make things right with the writers they hired. But I also understand that they are probably suffering a loss greater than a contract worth a couple thousand dollars.
No one can deny the risk involved in working for a dot-com, let alone, the risk of owning one. But as with any other endeavor, the greater the risk, the greater the payoff. In fact, I was offered a job about six months ago with a local dot-com. The salary they offered me was tens of thousands more than what I am currently making.
I declined, based primarily on the fact that I had new mortgage payments to make, and couldn't afford to risk unemployment, even for a couple of months.
From what I have heard, PlanetKnowHow was paying its writers well above market free-lance rates. That's a carrot few writers would resist. In addition to the financial benefits, most dot-coms are offering a work environment that is equally as attractive: fun, high-energy, loosely managed offices.
But I would think anyone who gets involved with a dot-com, whether as an employee or investor, would be well aware of the risk.
Ironically, PlanetKnowHow's site still says: "If you come to visit us in our Northern Ohio offices -- and you're welcome to drop in for a tour -- you'll find ideas flying through the air along with foam footballs and friendly accolades."
I wonder who's tossing those footballs now.
Connie Swenson (email@example.com) is editor of SBN.
Canton-based Innis Maggiore Group has acquired HUB Communications, an agency in Uniontown. HUB's founder, Linda Hubbard, will be an account supervisor in IMG's public relations group. IMG has also hired Megan Hartong as account coordinator.
The Canton office of Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs has merged with law firm Richard J. Lolli Co. Richard Lolli will join the firm as a shareholder in the Business and Real Estate and Construction Practice Groups.
Robert J. Blackburn has been promoted to senior vice president, information systems, of United National Bank & Trust Co. in Canton.
Hall, Kistler & Co. of Canton has promoted John J. Skakun to manager, Karen M. Moss to supervisor and Scott E. Bonvechio to senior accountant.
The American Door Co. of Canton has been purchased by Zen Industries of Cleveland.
The employees of Schumacher Homes Inc., Canton, are building a home for Habitat for Humanity this month. They hope to dedicate the home Oct. 6.
The Akron SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) chapter has elected C. Frank Swain as chairman. Swain is the former owner of Frank Swain Associates Inc.
Dr. Mamdouh Dayem has joined Portage Path Behavioral Health as a psychiatrist in the Akron Clinic Intake Department.
David E. Scott has joined The Old Republic Network Residential Services of Fairlawn as a national account representative.
FirstMerit Bank of Akron has made the following promotions: Elizabeth A. Barber, Susan Whiddon Knights and Gregory P. Zink to senior vice president; Pamela J. Cooksey and Robert L. Gooden to vice president; and Stacey A. Snow to controller/vice president. FirstMerit has also added the following to its staff Lloyd W. Hagenbuch, James Giarrano, Mark Hanna, Rick L. Hershberger and Joseph E. Vincent as vice president.
Joseph K. Oldham, an associate with the Akron law firm Oldham & Dowling, has been appointed to a substitute magistrate position with the Akron Municipal Court.
BCG Systems Inc. of Akron has hired Raymond L. Moss as senior Web developer.
Eric J. Waser has joined Bruner-Cox as an associate in the firm's Akron office.
Bober, Markey & Co., Akron, has named Michael R. Lee as a partner. The accounting firm has also made the following promotions: Lynn Whorley to controller, Kim Martin to manager and Stefanie Marusiak to practice management administrator.
DigitalDay of Fairlawn has added to its staff Jack Ondeck as director of client services; Dennis Vari as business analyst; and Lou Paine as technical lead.
Hitchcock Fleming and Associates Inc., Akron, has made the following promotions: Sandi Fellmeth to director of production services; Chuck Repede to senior art director; Jeff Staples to senior computer graphics specialist; Tony Fanizzi to copywriter; and Fran Cossin to accounting supervisor.
Joseph S. Kodish, director of the Legal Defenders of Summit County, Ohio, Inc., is the recipient of the Akron Bar Association Professionalism Award.
Jeff P. Schad has been named assistant vice president, commercial lender, for Chippewa Valley Bank of Rittman.
The Medina County Land Conservancy of Medina has hired Chris Bunch as its first executive director.
Nancy Lynn Reeves has joined the Medina law firm Walker & Jocke as a patent attorney.
Lehman's hardware store in Kidron -- "the gateway to Amish country," as marketing director Glenda Lehman Ervin calls it -- is one of those stores that surprises even the most seasoned shoppers, a place that can best be described as the 19th-century equivalent of a Home Depot.
There are whole departments in the 15,000-square-foot store devoted to decorative Old World hardware, oil-burning lamps and accessories, wood-burning stoves, grain mills, water pumps, garden tools and housewares such butter churns, cast-iron pots and pans and wooden spoons.
The store sells its wares to people in all 50 states and 162 countries through its 24-hour, toll-free order line at (800) 438-5346 and its Web site at www.lehmans.com. The clientele, which Lehman Ervin describes as a combination of "the serious and the curious," includes hobbyists, nostalgia buffs, campers, boaters, vacation homeowners, ranchers, missionaries, doctors in Third World hospitals, environmentalists, self-sufficient individualists Lehman Ervin calls homesteaders and even celebrities.
"Julia Child owns a stove from us," she says. "Martha Stewart has purchased from us before. And Burt Wolf (host of the CNN-produced "What's Cooking with Burt Wolf") was just here. He cooked on a wood cookstove, interviewed my brother and spent the day with us."
I happened to see your Akron editorial about dot-coms (SBN, October 2000). One thing you failed to point out was that whenever you are approached by a start-up, do two things:
1) Analyze the revenue model.
Take two minutes and ask yourself: Is this a simple idea? The simpler the idea the better. Take Hotmail, for instance. A very simple idea. Give free Web-based e-mail to people to drive traffic and sell banners. If the revenue model is too complicated, chances are, the business won't do well.
2) Ask to see the business plan. I've been approached by headhunters looking to staff start-ups. I ask to see the business plan. There isn't one. Sorry, not interested.
If a start-up fails these two simple tests, then pass on it.
Dot-coms aren't the only businesses to go belly up in a strong economy. They've just been the "sexy" ones which get all the press lately. You can apply these two simple tests to any start-up.
Internet System Specialist
Penton MediaBad taste or bad timing?
I just received my October issue of SBN Akron and was very disturbed by the title of an article on the cover.
On the cover is Bill Crocker and the article inside describes how he is overcoming a tragic shooting and murder at his restaurant, and right next to Mr. Crocker's picture is a promotion for another article in the magazine entitled "Shoot All The Lawyers?"
I feel this is in bad taste or, in the very least, bad timing on the part of your magazine. I am an avid reader of this publication, and I don't understand why an article had to be given such a violent title, especially in this day and age ... and quoting Shakespeare does not make it right.
The same story can be written with a more sensitive title.
I personally found the headline offensive, and I hope that in the future, your headlines will reflect the positive outlook of all business professionals, promote the positive trends in business and focus on the growth of business in this area.
Connecting Touch Therapy & Wellness Center Inc.
A local husband-and-wife technology team recently told SBN that, as a result of having a successful business in Akron, their most cherished "possession" is freedom.
"More important than any house, car or prized possessions, we have freedom," says Barb Vasaris, CEO of the anderson group. "We live in a nice home, not an estate. We drive a nice car, but not a Mercedes. But I would have to say our freedom represents 'The Good Life' for us."
A.J. Vasaris, her spouse and the company's president and chief technology officer, agrees.
"Our freedom is something we're really unable to put a price on," he says.
The couple does confide, however, that they have differing views of what 'The Ultimate Good Life' might be when they retire.
"My husband wants to live downtown in a big city, on the 15th floor, with a TV in every room. He wants to have his groceries delivered and have a chauffeur drive him around everywhere he goes," Vasaris laughs. "But I want to be nestled in a log cabin on 20 acres of woodland, growing my own food and driving my own Jeep."
The dream they do share is the desire to have a fabulous library.
"Who knows -- maybe our dream lifestyle will be chosen by a computer program one day," says A.J. Vasaris. "But on second thought, I hope not."
FedEx Custom Critical has announced it is in negotiations to construct a new headquarters in Green. The proposed site is on Boettler Road, across from Green High School.
Class Act Copywriting, formerly of Kent, has opened a new office on Barlow Road in Hudson.
Sequoia Financial Group of Akron, and Cohen & Co., a Cleveland-based accounting firm with offices in Akron, recently finalized an agreement in which they will share similar ownership interest and act as preferred service providers for each other.
Williams & Stevens Inc., an advertising firm based in Stow, was recently named a winner in the category of brochures/collateral material in the 2000 American Graphic Design Awards competition sponsored by Graphic Design: USA.
Ferry Industries Inc. has purchased the assets of the rotational molding division of FSP Machinery Inc. of Canada. Ferry has formed a new company called FSP International Inc., which will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Ferry Industries Inc. of Stow.
The Cuyahoga Falls Chamber of Commerce has recognized the following companies for their contributions to the city's economic growth and development: CVS Pharmacy on State Road, Cuyahoga Falls Public Schools, Katherine's Collection, FirstMerit Bank of State Road, Sunrise Assisted Living and LeFever's River Grille.
Lougheed Home Furnishings, owned by Doug and Deborah Lougheed, has opened a new location in the Medina Shopping Center.
D&D Desktop Publishing, founded by Nardella Owens and Donna Carter, has opened on Kenmore Boulevard in Akron.
Pinnacle Communincation Group Inc. of Stow, has been named the public relations agency of record for the DynoMax Performance Exhaust and Rancho Suspensions brands of Tenneco Automotive Inc.
October Research Inc. of Richfield, publisher of The Title Report, has launched a new publication, The Legal Description. The publication takes an in-depth, analytical approach toward deciphering legislation and legal news from a title insurance and real estate settlement services industry perspective.
DigitalDay of Fairlawn has launched a Web site for National City Bank, www.national-city.com.
On page 16, SBN presents the winners of the 2000 Pillar Award, sponsored by Medical Mutual of Ohio. The award honors companies of all sizes for giving back to their communities.
Its purpose is to encourage a charitable environment and recognize creative efforts that make a difference through a four-pronged effort to:
Publicize the issue of community service as it applies to the realities of today's competitive business world; share creative ideas about how companies of all sizes are having a positive impact in their communities; honor companies that go well beyond the minimum expectation of community service; and create a sustaining fund, administered by the Cleveland Foundation, to aid local nonprofit organizations in their mission to serve the people of Northeast Ohio. Including this year's donation, the sustaining Pillar Fund contains in excess of $30,000.
This year marks the third year of the Pillar Award. Nominations are judged by an independent panel. For more information on next year's event, contact SBN at (216) 228-6397.