Earlier this year while listening to a session on Managed Network Services at a BTA District Event we were challenged to think of the number of cloud services we use in our businesses (notes above). As the founder of a growing business that provides managed marketing services to copier dealers and MSPs, I was surprised when I started listing out how many cloud services we actually use to run our business.
I thought it would be fun to give you a window into what we use and how the cloud enables/impacts our business operations.
Intuit QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Payroll
We started using Quickbooks desktop software in 2004. However, transferring files between our bookkeeper and accountant was a hassle. The moment Quickbooks Online was launched we became an early adopter. Now we operate with our bookkeeper and accountant in real-time. Our sales team also has limited access to log in and create invoices and view accounts receivable. With Quickbooks payroll, we are able to do our bi-weekly payroll and tax payments in less than 15 minutes. Plus an iPhone app lets me see real-time financial results, take payments, and run payroll all from my phone.
This year we got serious about Salesforce.com. With this service, we have a central place to manage our sales pipeline. What Salesforce.com lacks in ease-of-use it more than makes up for in connectivity. Quickbooks synchronization gives us direct access to all of a client’s order history. HubSpot connectivity imports all of our online sales leads along with a complete view of their online interactions with us. Dropbox allows us to link the customer record to their folder with marketing reviews and proposals. LiveChat automatically imports online chats into the Salesforce. Google Mail messages are recorded in the individual’s record to keep our team up-to-date on the latest communication with each client and prospect. The iPhone app lets me look up sales funnel information and contact information instantly.
Marketing automation from HubSpot puts us directly in line with the new way people buy. Automated marketing campaigns identify a visitor’s persona (in our case, CEO/dealer principal, VP Sales, VP Marketing) when they visit our website, blog, or social media properties. This allows us to present information that is relevant to the visitor. It also launches a series of automated campaigns that move the visitor through the stages of the sales cycle: awareness, consideration, and decision. At that point, the lead is a Marketing Qualified Lead and is handed off to a sales rep in Salesforce.com. Before reaching out to the prospect, the sales rep can see the entire history of the interaction with our company. Marketing analytics connected to our CRM provides closed-loop reporting allowing us to generate an ROI report. The Sidekick app from HubSpot gives our sales team instant notification when a prospect re-visits our site, opens an email, or downloads something. The iPhone app shows our prospects, their buyer’s journey, and marketing analytics data.
With a distributed workforce, Ring Central has proven invaluable. We’ve been using this hosted phone service since 2004. It allows us to have a central number and answering service that forwards to any VOIP or phone number when someone enters an extension. When you dial my extension, my desktop Linksys VOIP phone rings, my cell phone rings and there is an App on my desktop that rings. We have a separate fax number that receives and sends faxes from email. An iPhone app lets us listen to voice mail messages, view faxes, and see call logs.
We’ve used just about every web meeting service over the year. We’ve found join.me to be the simplest to use for both ourselves and our clients. Instead of downloading software every time you open a meeting, the visitor sees the web meeting in their browser. It’s also very cost-effective at about $20 per month per seat. And yes, join. I have an iPhone app.
This allows us to share files across our team. I like the way that Dropbox stores a copy of the files on my laptop and on the cloud. The iPhone app gives me access to my files from anywhere.
We use Skype all day long to get questions answered by instant message. Our team uses Skype’s video conferencing for meetings. We also regularly use screen share. The iPhone app means I am connected to my team even when I’m traveling.
We were an early adopter of Google Mail. Our @dealermarketing.net email runs through Google’s service. Some of our team use Macs while others use PCs. The IMAP service works great across all our devices. It works seamlessly with mobile phones.
Other Cloud Services
We use several other cloud services. Here are a few more I can think of off the top of my head.
- Crash Plan–cloud-based backup
- Survey Monkey–great survey tool
- Evernote–note-taking and collaboration service
- LiveChat–allows our sales team to interact with visitors to our website
- Wrike–project management
- Buffer–centralized social media management
- WordStream–Google AdWords optimization
So what are the implications?
- Our business could not function without the cloud
- If the internet is down, we’re in trouble. We depend on bandwidth.
- We can work from anywhere. This allows us to attract the best talent regardless of location. Right now we have team members spread across four states. All of us can work together as if we were in the same office.
- We have no infrastructure except for laptops, mobile phones, and internet connections.
- Virtually every one of our cloud services has mobile apps which means we can access data from anywhere.
- We use world-class technology platforms without any upfront cost and relatively low monthly fees.
We couldn’t run our business without the cloud. How are you using the cloud? Start making a list and you might be surprised.
Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.