India is going digital, how about you? India's story of digital innovations

Digital Innovations in India Are On the Rise

When you think of India from a technology or digital standpoint, what comes to mind?
Outsourced tech support?
Call center operations?
Outsourced research and development?
While India certainly has done all of the above, India should be known for something else, digital innovations. Often companies hold off on implementing new technology because change is hard, and rolling out a new way of doing things requires staff education, changes to internal and external processes, not to mention the difficulty articulating an ROI. I mean we have always done it that way and it worked…

India Switching Gears?

Well, India decided it’s time for a change, time to go paperless and are rolling out digital innovations at a dizzying pace for a country of that size. If you are looking for an example of “undertaking massive social and technological change”, just look at India.
Here are some examples, now imagine if these implementations took place in the states of New York, California or Ontario.
In the first week of February, India banned cash transactions over $4500 or Rs 300,000. That’s right, you got cash? No thanks; cash is king … up to a point. After that, it is digital.
The inability to prove an individual’s identity was a massive hurdle that prevented the poor from accessing benefits and subsidies. Enter the Unique Identification project, that provides every citizen with a Unique Identification Number, assuring that the benefits were received by the right person.
This further led to India building the world’s largest biometric identity system. According to MapR, the project uses MapR and Hadoop to create and maintain the world’s largest biometric database, which can verify a person’s identity within 200 milliseconds.
Down with paper, did you know that Delhi also banned all use of plastic bags this week?

India’s Top Digital Innovations

India has several very interesting projects on the go, from eHealth to Digital Lockers, they are innovating and looking to the future. According to Wikipedia, here are some examples of the projects that are currently being worked on:  

  1. DigiLocker
  2. Attendance.gov.in
  3. MyGov.in
  4. SBM Mobile app
  5. eSign framework
  6. e-Hospital
  7. National Scholarship Portal

Interestingly from our vantage point, India as part of their going paperless program has implemented an eSignature platform where citizens now digitally sign all contracts with the government, read more about India’s digital eSignature framework.
At Signority, we applaud India for this massive undertaking and are doing our part with our digital signature platform on this side of the planet to cut paper, reduce waste, and clean up the planet.
How has the conversation about going digital gone at your company, what are some of the roadblocks and success you have seen? We’d love to hear from you, send us a quick message at hello@signority.com.

How to avoid: The 3 big costs most businesses incur today without realizing

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As any growing business,  we at Signority are constantly looking for ways to become more efficient in our operations. In a recent chat with our friends at Indellient — experts in business process management — we explored internal areas and processes to improve our business. Katie Hulan, their Marketing Manager, was gracious enough to accept our invitation for a guest post to share her insights for other small businesses.
As businesses, we are often fixated on the next immediate business need – shipping the next version of our product, making that next big sale, fixing that bug, applying for funding. These outward-facing or revenue-driving activities are the first to be given resources as they are directly related to the success of your business. But what about what’s happening internally? Are you set up to be as efficient as possible? Believe it or not, business success comes quicker when your team is set up to be successful first. And that, my friends, is where business process management (BPM) comes to play – it is a systematic approach to making the workflow of an organization more efficient, effective and capable of adjusting to an ever-shifting environment. A business process is an activity or group of activities that will achieve a goal of the organization. So, when your people, who, by the way, are your greatest asset of the company, are equipped with productive processes and effective tools, they are better prepared to meet the goals of your organization.  

There are many costs that an organization can incur if the business process management is not implemented.  

  1. First, the cost of customer support. Customers can easily get discouraged when they do not receive services efficiently and satisfactorily. Due to poor organizational workflow and not adapting to the changing environment, the customers will lose morale and migrate to those that have adapted to modern technology and with efficient services. In today’s world, you know that when customers complain about their dissatisfaction, they don’t complain to you but to the public instead. And the customers are good at this! Allow me to explain. The increasing popularity of social networks acts as a forum for frustrated customers to talk about their awful experiences with given companies and it spreads like wildfire! Now, this is very costly to the business since it implies the loss of loyal potential customers, loss of reputation, and profit.And when the organization fails to meet its financial goals, it cuts costs by reducing the number of employees. Cue the loss of morale and confidence because job insecurity takes away their focus from work. Obviously, the moment there is a shift in attention, productivity declines and more absenteeism follows and customer complaints rise. Thus it becomes a fierce cycle.
  1. Opportunities! Missing opportunities can be disastrous for businesses. Indecision, or, not taking advantage of the chance to make a decision, leads to its own costs and those costs more often are beyond that of a bad decision.  Bigger costs of inaction are the cost of missed opportunities. One of the major factors that lead to missed opportunities is the failure to adapt to the ever-changing environment, a role that Business Process Management accomplishes very well. It is commonly said that opportunities come once in a lifetime and therefore should be seized immediately. You may not calculate the exact cost of missed opportunities, but it is great. This is because, without an organized effort to find them, the opportunities to increase the performance will go un-noticed.
  1. Engaged Employees. A study conducted by the Gallup in 2015 shows that 32% of U.S workers were considered engaged in work.  Most of the employees were not engaged that is 50.8%, while the 17.2% were actively disengaged. The detailed research of Gallup reveals that the engagement of the employee is powerfully linked to business results, an element essential to the success of the financial goals of the organization, measured by productivity, profitability and customer engagement. Employees that are engaged are involved in the innovation, development, and revenue that their companies aim at.

    The “engaged” workers are those that were considered as having an opportunity to do their best on a daily at the workplace and had somebody to encourage and recognize their opinions as workable. These elements foretell the outcomes of the performance of the organization.Gallup further describes the engaged employees as those who participate and are enthusiastic about their work. Thus the research outcomes, according to Gallup, indicate clearly that employee engagement is strongly linked to business results. Lastly, the study concludes that the engaged employees boost the development, innovation, and revenue that their companies aim at.

In general, the cost of the inaction of Business Process Management is huge and leads to a vicious cycle. Right from customer support, loss of staff, inefficiencies, the cost of missed opportunities, reputation damage to loss of profits.  All these lead to a general decline of business efficiency, stagnation and may end up in the closure of business.
As you look to optimize your processes, take note of the 5 predictions for BPM in 2017.
Interested in BPM solutions? Look at this evaluation criteria for BPM.

About the Author

SMB_Growth_Katie_HulanThe author Katie is the Marketing and Communications Manager at Indellient, a software development and IT professional services firm that helps companies meet and exceed their critical technology and business objectives. Katie writes about the importance of effective business process management and how it is a revenue-driver for organizations today. She also explores topics on competitive advantages, marketing, and more. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Hand-picked business growth reads

Top business growth reads - January 2017 Signority

Here at Signority, we strive to improve ourselves, our product, our company and the lives we touch. That goal requires a level of commitment to keep making things better and more efficient. Making things better requires us to be open-minded and challenge the status quo. This is why every day, we make the time to look outward at leaders and change-makers – in our community and far away – to learn from their stories.
Recently, it occurred to us that we should share with you a list of the top business articles our team stumbled upon this past month. We hope this helps you and your business to grow and keep improving at whatever your craft is.

On Managing your Business

From Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group
Brad Feld, a successful entrepreneur and early stage investor. Brad shares with us his views on organizational structures. He describes for us what he calls, “The Three Machines” (Product, Customer, and Company). This is one of our top business articles for any business owner or leader starting a company or looking to shake things up!
>>> Read “The Three Machines” <<<
From First Round Review
We love what they write at the First Round Review, seriously, big fans! When they started out, they claimed their goal was “to become the Harvard Business Review for Startups” and they do not disappoint.
In this post, they share the importance and benefits of finding advisors for your business early on, and how to find the best advisors for you.
>>> Read “Snag the Best Advisors for Your Startup, from Best-selling Authors to Fortune 500 CEOs” <<<
In this post, First Round covers, at length, many strategies to develop your team. Seriously, great insights and best practices you can put to work ASAP.
>>> Read “Three Powerful Conversations Managers Must Have To Develop Their People” <<<

On Marketing & Growth

From Pierre Lechelle, SaaS growth thought leader
Pierre shares his model to help you audit and analyze business growth. The main goal is to give you all the keys you need to develop a cohesive strategy. Plan to lose yourself for an hour or two with this top business article and other posts on his site. They rock.
>>> Read “How to Perform a Growth Audit” <<<
From Alvin Hsia, Product Designer at AirBnB
This is an 11 min read from late last year but it has so much that I’m sure you will immerse yourself in it for a lot longer. Any time you put in here is worth it as you’ll end up knowing so much more about the human mind. This new knowledge will sure help you in your communications, marketing and more.
>>> Read “Cognitive Bias” <<<
From Rand Fishkin at Moz
Rand shares his 8 predictions for SEO this year, as well as, shows a frank grading of his 2016 predictions. If you are into optimizing your site for better ranking, please read their blog. This post is a good start.
>>> Read “8 Predictions for SEO in 2017” <<<

On Tools to Increase Productivity

From Product Hunt
This post shows a list of key tools to help you in your writing. Mentions include: Hemmingway Editor, Bold.io, Refly.it and more.
>>> Check out: “9 Tools That Will Help You Become a Better Writer” <<<

Bonus: Brand New Companies to Check Out

>>> See if your new business venture name already exists at Viable <<<
>>> Find the best tools to built your chat bot with BotsFloor (Still in beta, so request an invite) <<<
—————-
So, here it is, from now on, we’ll be sharing with you, our top reads of the month. Please share any interesting reads you found with us hello@signority.com or ping me directly here @gustavojsm or on LinkedIn.
Gustavo 👊

The Benefits of eSignature

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Thankfully, most eSignature software (like Signority) are easy to use—even for the most inexperienced users. In fact, it’s ease of use has been one of the contributing factors to its sky-high adoption rate.
Though the exact process may vary depending on the software solution, the basic workflow is virtually the same.
Here’s how a basic eSignature solution works:

  1. A document is uploaded to a website (usually a third-party software)
  2. The document is tagged to pinpoint exactly where a signature is required
  3. The document is then emailed to the participants who are required to sign
  4. The signer(s) completes all required fields, then signs the document electronically
  5. The completed document is then automatically emailed back to the original sender
  6. The document is automatically stored for safe, secure, and easy access

Now that you understand the basics of how eSignatures work, let’s look at some of the benefits of eSignature.

Benefits of eSignature

Legally-binding eSignatures have a number of important benefits for businesses:

  1. Easy to use. Signing an electronic document is super simple for all those involved. In fact, most eSignature software is intuitive even to complete beginners, which means less time spent learning how to use new software.
  2. Save money: Paper isn’t cheap, especially when you account for purchasing, copying, scanning, and printing costs, among other paper-related expenditures. Needless to say, these costs add up quickly. Moving to a paperless system can reduce expenditures and instantly increase your profit margins. You can access our post ”A Paperless Business and 5 Ways You Can Achieve It Now”.
  3. Save time. Printing, copying and scanning take time. Preparing documents for signature takes time. Tracking down (and waiting for) signatures take even more time. eSignatures can shorten the turnaround time by as much as 90 percent.
  4. Improve accuracy. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for a signed document only to realize the recipient forgot to fill out a required piece of information, eSignature software allow you to specify mandatory fields, which, as you probably guessed, require the recipient to complete all such fields before the document can be signed.  
  5. Stay organized. Keeping track of paperwork (regardless of how efficient your filing system may be) is often burdensome. eSignatures create an easily sortable, organized filing system by which you can easily store and retrieve important documents.
  6. Add an extra layer of security: Electronic documents can be protected by a variety of methods, including passcodes, encryption, two-factor authentication, and even biometric authentication methods. These methods instantly make your important documents more secure.
  7. Make things easier for customers and/or vendors. While the benefits of eSignature can be obvious for your own business, they also make things much easier for your customers, partners, suppliers, or other vendors (for many of the same reasons we’ve already covered). Customers prefer eSignature solutions not only because it is more convenient, but it brings a number of important advantages, including eliminating unnecessary back-and-forth (saving time), simplifying internal processes, facilitating quicker onboarding, and increasing operational efficiency, among a laundry list of other benefits.

Planning to take your business paperless? Check out our recent guide “A Brief Introduction to eSignatures”, you can download if for free here.

The Millennial Movement: 7 Ways Your Business Can Optimize for Mobile-Savvy Consumers

The Millennial Movement - How to Optimize for Mobile-Savvy Consumers

Quick, throw out your desktops and burn all your landlines, the millennials are coming!
Millennials are non-traditionalists who want things their way, and they want them now. According to Pew Research, there are 75.4 million millennials in the United States alone; officially surpassing the number of Baby Boomers. With a buying power of over $200 billion, they are quickly becoming a hugely untapped market. With this in mind, millennials account for 41% of the total time Americans spend using their phones. Turns out the stereotype is true, millennials are glued to their phones. Predictably, they use their phones for shopping. In fact, millennials use their phones for every step of the buying process; for researching, browsing/evaluating alternatives, and during the actual purchase. As such, your small- to medium-sized business should change with the tide and implement an optimized, mobile-first strategy, or else face the same fate of the once popular Blockbuster video

How to Optimize for Mobile: The Basics

First things first, before you personalize your site to tailor the needs of millennials, let’s go over some basics:

1. Functionality

In order for Millennials to use your mobile site, it must be easy to use. Concentrate on clear, focused content, with large, easy to read text. Smaller screens will already make navigating your website harder, so having a cluttered/distracting layout and small font will only amplify this. Users should never have to pinch or zoom their screens in order to see something more clearly. Along the same line, keep menus and navigations limited. If your users have to transition between four different pages before they get to the one they want, they’ll be gone after the second page. You should also limit things that will slow down your pages speed, like pop-ups (which can sometimes be super-frustrating to close!)

2. Design

Mobile-friendly layouts are simple and well-integrated with your main website. User’s want the same feel and experience on a mobile site as they would from your desktop website. Having your sites match each other presents a united front and a stronger brand image. And don’t forget about your big-handed customers! Make sure the buttons are big enough for easy usage. Along the same lines, keep your fill-out forms to a minimum, as small screens and big hands can make them difficult to complete. Lastly, the site must be configured in a way that allows for easy scrolling.

3. Use Already-Existing Mobile Features

Take advantage of the various functions and features that are only available on mobile phones. You’ll be able to know where all of your users are located in real time, allowing you to better their search results, and better promote yourself. The camera and microphone also open up a ton of opportunities for user engagement, like barcode scanning, and visual/verbal searches. You can also utilize push notifications, as they are less annoying than email notifications, and easier for users to see. For example, instead of notifying a customer through email when an item has come back in stock, send them a push notification. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it also speeds up the buying process for you. Another way to shorten the buying process is by incorporating click through links on your site. A specific example of how to optimize for mobile is allowing users to click on your business’s phone number, and having their phone directly call.

How to Optimize for Mobile: Tech-Savvy Millennials

Customer experience is taking center stage in 2017, and millennials know exactly what they want. If you can successfully cater to this new and profitable target segment, you will be, as they say, “on fleek”.

4. Online Browsing

According to Data Mentors, 50% of millennials use mobile devices to research products and reviews, a whopping 30% increase compared with non-millennials. They search for product information, product details, and past customer reviews. As such, each item on your site should have an accurate picture, a concise description and a place for customers to directly comment their reviews.

5. In-store Shopping

Millennials use their phone during their entire purchase; a colossal 84% use their smartphones in-store to assist with their shopping. As explained by DigiDay, retailers can leverage this to their advantage in many ways. Home Depot lets their customers see an item’s inventory, location in the store, price, product details and customer ratings, all by using their phone to scan an item’s barcode. Millennials are price sensitive shoppers, and two-thirds use their phones to compare/check prices. As such, you should strongly promote any deals and price promotions on your mobile site.

6. Online Purchases

Unsurprisingly, millennials are not scared to shop online. Roughly 40% prefer to shop online and they are comfortable with paying through their mobile phone — Apple and Android Pay have made this possible. However, millennials are not immune to security concerns. One solution to combat this could be to allow customers to pay through gift cards, as 64% of millennials believe gift cards to be the safest online payment method.

7. Other Features

Since the majority of millennials still shop in store, your mobile site should support this. You can monitor visitors’ behaviour on your site, and, based on their GPS location, refer them to the nearest store location when the time is right. You should also have your store directory easily accessible and noticeable. Additionally, millennials are active social media users and value the ability to share everything online. You can add sharing features on your products, enabling customers to send any items they’re interested in to their friends. Through this, you can increase your exposure and reach, and millennials will appreciate their ability to easily share over their social media pages.
Plot twist, I’m a millennial (and yes, this may have been written on my phone). A new age is here, and your business needs to keep up with the times. Millennials are unlike any other consumer group and we have immense buying power. Ditch the old way of thinking, take a millennials advice and start investing in upgrading your mobile site.
Gotta run, my phones almost out of battery!
If you liked this post, you may also be interested in our recent article on how to “Modernize Your Business for Under $1000 Per Month”.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan.

How to Create, Manage and Track Your Legally Binding Contract

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We know how important it is to properly create, manage and track your legally binding contract, and fortunately, we have comprised a foolproof step-by-step guide on how to do just that. Read on to learn how to impress your boss and clients with your notable contract skills.
Picture this: you have an incredibly important deal hanging in the balance, all the responsibility of tracking and managing the binding contract falls on your shoulders.
What do you do?
Well, you have two options.
One, you can stick to the basics and stunt your contracts growth and potential. Similar to a seedling being neglected and kept in the dark, no matter how much work and time you invest into making and managing your legally binding contract, it will never be able to grow. We know how dedicated you are to your work, so why work harder for less payoff? Not only is this tedious and time-consuming, but it’s also risky.
Or two, you can break through the old crutch of habit and reinvent the way you manage and track your legally binding contract. This industry is evolving and with the rapid technological advancements that we are currently experiencing, it’s hard not to believe that a completely digital future is just around the corner (check out our recent post on “The Evolution and Future of Document Signing”).
So, like Yoda from Star Wars once said, “once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will.” Similarly, missing the window for automating your sales operations, could mean a long and tedious future.

Allow yourself the opportunity to expand your skillset, optimize your operational and financial performance, all while reducing financial risk. You may be surprised at just how easy this is.
 

Before you start drafting your legally binding contract  


1. Work with the right people

You’re only as strong as your weakest link, so be sure your team comprises of people who are right for the job, match your company’s culture and are on the same page with your company’s mission.
According to Glassdoor’s, Top HR Statistics:
“Employees who understand their contribution to the company’s mission are more likely to bring a positive attitude and commitment to the workplace, which trickles down to company performance at every level.”
So, building a team with passionate individuals, will lead to getting more contacts signed and ultimately leads to your team’s success.

2. Do your homework
This goes without saying, but in order for the seedling to grow strong and sturdy roots, you have to put in the work.
Research the business you are creating the legally binding contract for and the legal background of the business relationship you’re entering. Systematic planning and methodology are what’s required to be successful.
Conduct interviews with the right people and collect any needed information on the present situation, as well as any decisions the outside parties’ plan on making in the future.
A couple of other important points to research are:
Who are you contracting? What steps need to be taken for the company/business to comply with requirements? What are their specific policies and procedures regarding decision-making? Does a decision have to be approved by multiple people? If so, what order? In short, familiarize yourself with the foundation and culture of that organization.
You can also use resources such as the Financial Times, Forrester Research and  Economist Intelligence Unit for general industry and market research.
 

After the research   


1. Get started on the paperwork

Creating a successful, legally binding contract can be broken into 3 main segments: Drafting, Reviewing and Finalizing.
Drafting
Ask your client to prepare and outline before you draft your contract.
According to RocketLawyer, asking your client to prepare an outline of the agreement as they understand it, not only provides you with a blueprint of the points that are important to them. But also, serves as a good starting point for discussing other critical issues that that they might not have thought of and should be addressed.

If this is not possible, be sure to include all of the important points that you made note of during your initial meetings with your client.
Reviewing
Once you have created your draft based on your client’s outline, begin reviewing the contract to make sure it is precise and focussed. Filter sentences to their basic points and substitute specific sentences with general ones to avoid future confusion.

FindLaw, a website that let’s you find information about legal topics, says that all valid, legally binding contracts have to follow some basic rules, namely, intent to make a contract; a lawful subject matter; an offer made by one party; acceptance of the offer by the other party; and an exchange of something of value.
Finalizing
To ensure that all goes well and you close your deal, prepare to work fast and make the signing experience as easy and pleasant as possible for your client.  
Fortunately, this can be done easily through Electronic Signatures.
Electronic Signatures solutions, like Signority, allow you to upload and securely send documents for eSignatures with a few clicks. This allows for a seamless experience for your client, ultimately avoiding wastage of time and money.

2. Get Tracking 

Tracking your online legally binding contract sent for signature is critical.  Tracking lets you know when the document has been viewed by the required party or if it has been forwarded. There are a few ways to track your contract:
Contract Management Systems
Contract management systems allow you to gain control of most aspects of your contract, from allowing you to access critical information and tracking, to generating reports when you need them.
eSignature platforms
Most eSignature platforms (including Signority) provide you with a tracking functionality, that lets you view crucial information, such as:  when a contract is viewed and how many times it was opened in real-time.
You can set up reminders and notification for your clients, allowing you to get your deals closed faster.
 
2. Get Paid 
After celebrating your closed deal — hopefully, with your awesome team — now comes the next challenge:

“Payments”.
Life is busy, and keeping track of all the nitty-gritty payment details of your contract can be tedious. We all have a lot on our plates and automating the payment processes can save you a time and hours of confusion.
Online payment and transaction apps such as PayPal and Stripe (we swear by Stripe at Signority), help your clients stay punctual with their payments — with minimal effort from both sides.
Besides making it easy for your clients, these platforms allow you to sync your data with most or all your management systems, to easily generate financial reports and provide you with important data for your analysis.
As the old English proverb goes: “work smarter, not harder”.
Follow these foolproof steps and guarantee that all of your hard work will reap the rewards you deserve. That little seedling will grow into a sturdy and resistant tree that can withstand any difficult contract building/management process.
Also, check out our recent article on “5 Habits of Highly Effective Insurance Brokers”.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan for 14-days.

The Ultimate List: 100+ Tools & Resources For Skyrocketing Business Growth in 2017

The-Ultimate-List-Updated-100-Best-Tools-For-Skyrocketing-Business-Growth-in-2017

However skilled a manager you might be, if you’re looking into expanding (or even just for saving time and money) then you might want to look into some tools for making everything run smoothly and easily for your business. What’s in this list you may ask? Anything from apps to platforms, to websites and analyzers allowing you to coordinate, manage and develop your marketing and business strategies, as well as help in your team’s communication and collaboration.
I’ve personally tested or used most of these tools on a daily basis at either Signority or at previous jobs. The rest have been strongly recommended by other members of the team here as well colleagues from other technology companies. A lot of them also appear in this list from LeadPages last year. So, we’ve gathered it all and made, what we think is an updated list, the list of lists if you will, to go to in 2017 when it comes to tools for explosive business growth.
This list is broken down into sections for you so you can focus easily on what your business needs today. Anything from video marketing, automation, collaboration and more. We’ve also included some of the key reads and other resources we thought were amazing in 2016 and that you should read this year. So, here it is, please read on and share.

Team Communication

Team communication is one of the most important aspects in every line of work, so you have to definitely encourage and make it easier. The best apps we found for this are:

  1. Slack – it’s the ultimate tool for team communication. You can find your team and set up common communication channels, as well as one-on-one’s. The best part of it is the integrations into almost any other tool that matters today. It will make communication with your team and with your tools a lot easier and effective. It’s heavily used here at Signority as our central hub of comms between teams and it’s also where all our apps post status updates, making our daily life at work a lot easier.If you didn’t know, Slack is considered by many one of the fastest growing startups ever, having launched in August 2013 and with a current valuation (as of Apr, 2016) of over 3.8 Billion dollars. They are doing many things right. If you’re into making software, we suggest you read up on them and learn.
  2. Trello –  divided into different cards for each phase of your project and task related to it, Trello makes for a reliable and organized way of keeping in check with your team and the success or failure of each task. Recently acquired by Attlassian for $425 million dollars, it is unclear to us what will happen to it. Asana (read below) recently featured an update to include cards taking much of the functionality of Trello inside it.
  3. Invision – if you have a designer in your team, or better yet, a design team, they should be using something like the Invision app for team collaboration. It helps make the entire design process better and it allows people to collaborate around designs easily and faster than before. They recently released Boards which adds to it. They have free plans so there’s no excuse not to use them to improve your design workflows.
  4. Asana – as its own website boasts, Asana makes it possible for you to get projects from start to finish either with tasks and projects, or with conversations and notifications. We use this at Signority for tracking all of our work outside of engineering and I’ve been a fan since the early days in 2009.
  5. Realtimeboard – A virtual whiteboard for your browser. Very neat tool to allow collaboration with your remote workers, clients or partners across the web. Lots of ready-made templates to start collaborating online.
  6. Basecamp  – Its main focus is in getting everything organized and in one place, reducing the possibility of important files getting lost in the haste to reach deadlines. This is like Asana really and both have great features that set them apart. Here’s a handy comparison between Asana vs Basecamp from Capterra.
  7. Weekdone – Weekly employee progress report for managers. It focuses on showing everyone in your team, goals and tasks. The premise is that transparency and collaboration around people’s goals ensure alignment and success.
  8. Join.me – offers screen-sharing, video conferencing and online meetings, reforming and presenting them to your team in the most comfortable of ways. There’s a plugin that needs to be downloaded to run but once you get this done you are usually set. It’s pretty easy to use even for people that are not used to software and cloud apps.
  9. Attentiv – Attentiv claims to be the ultimate decision-making and team collaboration platform. You can start a team chat, submit your input anonymously, seamlessly switch between topics, and get real-time feedback.
  10. Projects by Growth Hackers – made for teams and making them focus on the most important tasks without getting sidetracked by all the mental cluster. This was a mystery last year but it’s finally out. It is relatively new and I haven’t personally used it yet but it’s trending among the tech circles. It’s got Sean Ellis behind it who is the father of growth hacking (the term at least) and so if he’s behind it, you can expect quality.

Marketing

Next one, right along with team communication is marketing. We all know that one of the keys to making a great product or service sell is marketing it well. Tools and sites that can help your business with this particular task include:

Communities/key blogs:

  1. Inbound.org – Inbound Marketing is a community of inbound marketers that share new ideas, events, jobs, and more.
  2. HubSpot blog – They know how to do inbound marketing well and often have quality posts.
  3. GrowthHackers –  Powerful collaboration, ideas and learning resources for marketing and growth teams.

Apps and tools:

  1. Buzzsumo – it’s the most used tool for marketing your content and SEO campaigns. This tool allows you to keep track of your content and how it’s doing online (shares) as well as that of your competition (or any site for that matter). It allows you to find influencers on any particular keyword or topic and it’s very easy to use. They have a free chrome extension that allows you to see the number of shares on any website you visit.
  2. PageCloud – They claim to be the world’s most innovative website creator. If you’re like most small businesses you probably have “updating the website” marked as an outstanding task for a while. PageCloud will make the entire process of creating a website seamless and easy using their drag and drop technology. You open up a browser and start editing your website on the fly, it’s easy and fun. See what TechCrunch has to say about them.
  3. SurveyMonkey – The leaders in online form and web-based survey solutions. They have been around for a while and offer a robust tool for any of your data gathering needs. We recommend you survey your customers often and get feedback on how your business can improve.
  4. ReferralCandy – We’ve used this in the past with great results. If you would like to leverage your customers to sell more, consider starting a referral program that rewards people for their actions. This particular tool is great if you have an online store and do e-commerce in your business. By the way, here’s a great starter read on referral marketing do’s and don’ts.
  5. Curated – as its namesake suggests, this app helps you put together an appealing newsletter or weekly digest so you can engage and keep your community interested and informed.
  6. Canva – creative and engaging, Canva lets you build stunning visuals for your business proposal and everything you might need, all with the power of drag and drop. You don’t have to spend big bucks on Adobe software for image editing anymore. If you need to add a quick headline or filter to an image, this can help.
  7. SimplyCast – it’s the right tool for automating marketing campaigns. They cover anything from email, SMS, forms, live chat, surveys and other ways to do online marketing. They focus on small and medium enterprises providing great value for your money.
  8. The Stocks – Royalty free stock photos to use in your emails, website and other marketing collateral. This site aggregates some of the best free stock photo sites under one umbrella making your photo searches a breeze.
  9. Moz – the right place for SEO and digital marketing insight. Moz is the SEO toolset that’s got it all: keyword research, link building, site audits, and page optimization insights, in one. Most importantly, if you’re just getting started on SEO, their blog and Connect Community is an excellent resource for learning the ropes. They have a free browser plugin that allows you to see the ranking of any web page you are on along with other insightful information.
  10. Gnowit – Real-time media monitoring for your business that uses artificial intelligence
  11. RivalExplorer – Look and search for all emails ever sent to people by your competition.
  12. HotJar – A very comprehensive tool that gives you analytics on your website as well as an in-depth view of how your app or website is used. This means visitor recordings, heat maps and even in-website surveys.
  13. Usertesting – Let’s you get out of those discussions with your marketing team about what you think it’ll work and instead it puts it to the test. Select the target audience that matches that of your business, configure a few test plans (what you want them to achieve) and then wait while the site matches your project with potentially hundreds of people. Once they go through your site, you’ll be able to see how they interacted with it giving you tons of useful information you can use to improve your site.
  14. 5secondrule – Similar to Usertesting, this tool allows you to query a pool of unknown people to get their real feedback. A five-second test is great for understanding and measuring people’s first impressions of your business/website/brand.
  15. Klipfolio – The ultimate business dashboard. Monitor the health of your business while this dashboard connects to potentially all your online tools, giving you a full and unified picture of your business.
  16. Rare.io – A smart email marketing platform that works best for online businesses that do e-commercee. It connects with Shopify (below).  
  17. LeadPages – Generating landing pages and lots of them to test out your creative and content are some of the great ways to improve conversion rates for your business. LeadPages is one of the leading tools out there that allow you to do this quite easily.
  18. SumoMe –these guys arm you with a suite of fail-proof, site-growing solutions to help you get more traffic, build a following, and track your success every day.
  19. Optimizely – offers you the possibility of heavily experimenting to keep up with every whim of your users’.
  20. LeadChat – live chat agents 24/7 might be best for those of you whose service is time-dependent and your business’ success depends on how swift your response to a query is.
  21. Import.io – extracting info from web pages can become a great source of raw data that can be later re-purposed and presented to help you come to important conclusions and decisions.
  22. Datanyze – provides you with insight based on your technology choices. Especially if your business is tech based, this might be just what you need.
  23. ConvertKit – if you’re a professional blogger, this is the right email marketing tool for you.
  24. Crazy Egg – website analytics presented to you in a visually clear and understandable way. Heat maps for most clicked locations in your site? Check!
  25. Drip – is another automated email marketing tool that help you build workflow and infographics for your emails and newsletters.
  26. FullStory – offers detailed info on your visitor’s behavior while on your site.
  27. Shopify – We couldn’t just leave out the biggest software company in Canada that is changing the world of ecommerce, and another Ottawa-based business like us. If your business does ecommerce or even as a point of sale, please check out Shopify to boost your sales. Their blog is also another awesome resource for small businesses out there.

Social Media Marketing

With social media’s far reaching impact, it has become a given for any serious business to have its own presence in it. You should check out:

  1. CoSchedule – Plan, organize, and execute every content marketing project in one place. If you are into inbound marketing (which you should) then having a healthy content calendar and plan in place is key to your success.
  2. BuzzStream – A great tool for influencer and blogger outreach. It lets you track email opens, save templates and keep organized lists for a productive outreach campaign.
  3. Buffer – makes it super easy to share any page you’re reading and schedule posts to go out from all of your major social media channels.
  4. Quuu – lets you handpick social media posts  that interest you and your followers, great tool to keep quality content in your social media feed.
  5. RaffleCopter – Giveaways, if done well, can often bring your business a lot of awareness and even leads. Rafflecopter lets you run online giveaways and embed them on your site without an IT.
  6. Grammarly – checking your text for grammar errors, typos and punctuation so that your content is flawless before posting it on all your social media account.
  7. Awario – Know thy enemy. This app helps you scour the web and find out what your competitors are posting, as well as mentions of your business of course.

Video Marketing

  1. Showbox – Create amazing videos in your browser. It helps save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in making videos. Granted, these are not going to have actors in them, but through illustrations and other images you can make a 30 second explainer video here for a fraction of the price.
  2. Loom – Great tool to create short but impactful videos from your browser. Stop making “one-pagers” that people won’t read and start creating quick videos that explain what you do. It also has webcam and screen recording capabilities. Free chrome plugin available.
  3. SmartPixel – A video capture and editing software that is both easy and affordable.
  4. AlltheFreeStock – Free stock videos to include in your production. They also feature free stock photos.
  5. VideoScribe – High definition whiteboard like animation video

Business Management

As a business owner/founder/CEO you need to get everything together and manage your business in the best way possible. Where to turn to for help?

  1. Recurly -enterprise-class subscription billing management for thousands of businesses worldwide
  2. AlignCommerce – Forget about wire transfers. Use AlignCommerce for making global payments from the comfort of your browser. No accountants needed.
  3. HubDoc – A personal favorite. It’s a tool that automatically collects receipts from all your tools and sends them right into your accounting software of choice. No more chasing receipts or getting nagged by your accounting team.
  4. Xero – online accounting software for your small business
  5. Chart.io – cloud based data exploration and website analytics for everyone, made easy.
  6. TradeGecko -Inventory management software for eCommerce and wholesalers
  7. Segment – collecting data from your customers and sending it wherever you need it.
  8. Google Analytics – analyzing website visits and tracking every change for you.
  9. UpCounsel – easily hiring attorneys for your business’ needs.
  10. Toggl – timetracker and employee sheet software.
  11. Zirtual – virtual assistant service matching busy people with dedicated assistants.
  12. Signority – bit of self-indulging, but yes, we provide you with secure, easy-to-use and legally binding electronic signature services.
  13. DropBox – File storing in the cloud that allows sharing, editing and distributing. It has advantages over Google Drive, mostly around organizing files and presenting the file system. If your business is not on the cloud and uses Microsoft servers and software to run locally, but you need a cloud storage solution, Dropbox may be for you
  14. RescueTime – Time management software for staying productive
  15. WaveApps.com – Create and send professional invoices, receipts and more
  16. Versature – If your business requires lots of phone interactions, look to Versature for a solid VOIP system
  17. Flyta – Smarter and cheaper international shipping. No joke.
  18. ChangeJar – If you run a business in the food or hospitality industry and have customers that pay you using a POS, ChangeJar allows you to provide rewards and collect money in a way that will save you money. Read on.

Customer Service and Retention 

Providing your customer with the best service is in most cases one of the top priorities for both small and medium sized businesses, as it is for big-sized ones. How to step up your game?

  1. SatisMeter – helps you collect customer feedback and eliminate churn while accelerating growth
  2. Intercom – makes communication with your customers easy. Live chat, customer support, they have everything you need.
  3. Packs By Startup Threads – You choose what you put into the boxes, this tool takes care of its delivery until it reaches your clients. Neat, right?
  4. Zendesk – creates software for managing your relationship with your customers.
  5. UserVoice – decide on a roadmap for your product, while backing every decision with qualitative and quantitative feedback from your previous customers.
  6. GoToMeeting – offers you online HD video conferencing, making your communication that much easier.
  7. Typeform – creating online, decidedly human forms. Check out some sample surveys here!
  8. Customer.io – triggers multichannel messages according to customer response to each of them.

Outsourcing

When you’re short of staff, you might want to look into taking in freelancers or temporary employees. If you don’t know how to work with remote workers, we wrote a post that outlines some tips. Some of the best platforms where you can find them are:

  1. Upwork – was built after the merging of oDesk and Elance, the first and second biggest freelancing platforms on the internet. The result? Getting work done!
  2. Crew.co – Hire top of the line creative freelancers. Based out of Montreal but with freelancers across the globe.
  3. Scripted – almost exclusively for writing, editing and proofreading, you can get some great writing works out of this site.
  4. Fiverr – offers small freelance services for only $5. Might be just what you’re looking for, and at a cheap price at that.
  5. 99designs – find and work with the best graphic designers online. Logos, websites, ads, what have you, they do it!
  6. PeoplePerHour – here you can find freelancer for things like translations, writing, designing and programming.
  7. WriterAcess – connects you with all screened, US-based pros, star rated by customer reviews.
  8. Guru – you can either look for jobs, or post things you need done and get offers.
  9. Gun.io – the place where you can look for verified freelance developers.
  10. Gigster –they bring together the best developers, designers, and product managers from Silicon Valley and the world to form elite development teams.

HR, Employee Engagement & Appreciation 

Another important thing for the wellbeing of your team is keeping your employees happy and interested in what they are doing. To help you with that, take a look at:

  1. Fortay – this is a culture-fit screening and matching platform for hiring managers that improves hiring and engagement for growing companies.
  2. TinyPulse – gives leaders the tools to improve culture, employee performance, and engagement.
  3. AnyPerk – gives you the right solution so you can make your employees happy with coupons, free passes, etc.
  4. Kin – manages employee files and time off in a web-based exchange which is enjoyable for your team.
  5. 15Five – performing lightweight performance tests for bringing out the best in your people.
  6. GlassDoor – platform that lets you know your worth as an employee.
  7. Zenefits – all-in-one platform that helps you manage your employees and gives you tools, insight and inspiration for dealing with each of them.
  8. Kudos – gives your employees recognition and feedback.

Automation 

  1. Zapier – One of our favorite tools from this list. It allows you to hook up pretty much every other tool together and create awesome automation that saves you time and money.
  2. Process.st – Simple task and workflow automation. Similar to Zapier but different. Here you can create checklists that can then trigger automation tasks. Very cool.
  3. Prospect.io – Switching gears a bit from general business automation to sales automation, we have prospect.io which is a cool platform for modern sales teams. It helps you find leads on Linkedin, prospect and send drip email campaigns in a few minutes
  4. RevealBot – Set up automation rules for your Facebook and Instagram ads and let the bot manage and improve your ad performance for you
  5. MixMax – Track, automate, and enhance your emails with the essential productivity suite for Google Inbox.
  6. Narrow – works by interacting with Twitter users that are talking about subjects relevant to the audience you want to attract.
  7. IFTT – is a free web-based service that allows users to create chains of simple conditional statements, called “applets”, which are triggered based on changes to other web services such as Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. IFTTT is an abbreviation of “If This Then That”

BONUS: Resources & Good Reads:

There is so much content out there to make you productive and most importantly to help you and your business succeed. We only posted a few of the big guides that are must-reads below. Keep following our blog, as we’ll be posting more of these throughout the year.

  1. Ultimate Guide to Business Process Automation with Zapier by Process Street
  2. Advanced guide to content marketing by Neil Patel
  3. Content marketing Playbook by Hiten Shah
  4. A beginner’s guide to social media by Moz
  5. The Small Business Blueprint to Marketing on Twitter by Shopify
  6. Social and digital ad size guide by Ad Jelly
  7. The CEO Guide to Customer Experience by McKinsey
  8. Small Business Online Marketing Kit by HubSpot
  9. How Slack Became the Fastest Growing B2B SaaS Business (Maybe) Ever by GrowthHackers

So there you have it. Our ultimate list of tools, apps and resources to skyrocket your business growth this year. Would love to know of any other tools you think are great for SMBs that we missed. Just drop us a line at hello@signority.com and we’ll make sure review and include it next time.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan for 14-days.

The Anatomy of an Audit Trail: Electronic Signature Simplified

The Anatomy of the Audit Trail and its Electronic Signature Implications

An audit trail can be the deciding factor between a valid and invalid electronic signature document. Going by the actively surging electronic signature adoption rates and growing number of online businesses, there’s no arguing that eSignatures are here to stay.
Since eSignatures are soon to be the new normal, we thought we should discuss what an audit trail is and why it’s an important part of an electronic signature.
You may be familiar with the difference between electronic signatures and digital signatures, in case you’re not, an electronic signature is information in electronic form (can be sound, symbol, process, etc.) that is associated or attached to a document. This means that as long one can demonstrate that the signature is associated with a person and that there was intent to sign, everything is legally binding and accepted.
A digital signature is actually a form of electronic signature that uses an encryption algorithm that helps validate who the signer is. It also ensures that the document cannot be tampered with, as the signature becomes invalid if the document is changed after signing.  You can read about the differences between electronic signatures vs. digital signatures here.
Now that we have covered the basics, let’s get to what an audit trail is and why it plays an integral part in the process of validating of a document.
Technopedia, the IT education site defines an audit trail, in the context of information technology, “as a chain of evidence in the form of hard or electronic business transactions or communications resulting from business processes, functions or programming executions.”
In other words, an audit trail is a detailed list of critical data points, pertaining to the transaction, that are recorded and reported. These data points help verify the validity of the transaction.
In terms of Electronic Signatures, an audit trail helps keep track and reports user data, furthering the validity of the signature process. Most, if not all serious eSignature vendors out there — including Signority — provide an audit trail with every electronic signature transaction.
Below is a list of important components we display in Signority’s audit trail:

  • Unique Document Title
  • Secured seal (Digital Signatures)
  • Email Address Of Signers And Viewers
  • The IP address of the involved parties
  • Documents viewed by each signer
  • Signers consent to terms of service
  • User authentication: SMS and Email
  • Signature creation (by each signer)
  • Party agreement to / acknowledgement of document
  • Document downloads after signing
  • Signer’s Status
  • GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

For the sake of avoiding any form of confusion, let’s go over what these components mean and what value they add to the entire electronic signature validation process.

Unique Document TitleBreaking down the Audit Trail

Unique Document Title

A unique document title is the unique file name of the document that was originally created by the document creator. The unique document name can be found in the first page of Signority’s audit trail.

Secured Seal
Secured seal (Digital Signatures)

The secured seal is native to Signority’s digital signatures audit trail, the Secured Seal is both “Tamper-proof” and “Digitally Encrypted”. Meaning that, if the audit trail document was tampered with or edited in a third-party software such as Adobe’s Photoshop, the seal would immediately break and be considered invalid.

Signority’s Secured Seal is only available with our digital signature plans. In order to make digital signatures available to our customers, we use a Hardware Security Module (HSM) provided by GlobalSign to help store and manage the digital keys used in the digital signing process.  

Want to know more about digital signature? Check out our post on the difference between electronic signature vs. digital signatures to learn more!

 

Email Address Of Signers And Viewers

The audit trail records and displays the email addresses of all parties involved, which can be either signer or viewer.

  • Signer: Signers’ are users who are required to sign a particular document. A signer could be a primary signer or a witness.        
  • Viewer: A viewer is a user with view-only capabilities.

IP address of user
The IP address of the involved parties

According to IP Location, an IP address or Internet Protocol is A unique address that computing devices such as personal computers, tablets, and smartphones use to identify itself and communicate with other devices in the IP network.”
In terms of Signority’s audit trail, the IP address associated with a particular signer or viewer, at the time of viewing the document is recorded and reported — adding an extra layer of validity to electronic signature documents.


Documents Viewed By Each Signer

The Documents viewed by the signer or viewer is displayed in the name section in the Audit trail. The audit trail also displays the exact time the document was viewed.
 

GUID (or ‘Globally Unique Identifier’)

GUID’s of Globally Unique Identifiers, are defined by BetterExplained as “Large, enormous numbers that are nearly guaranteed to be unique.”
They usually look like this:
fa06cc7a-8a32-44c2-9e4d-2192818ab076
At Signority, every document created is assigned a Globally Unique Identifier and can be viewed in the audit trail.
 

Signers consent to terms of service

cSigners consent to use terms of service, refers to the signer or viewer agreeing to abide to the rules in order to use services provided by Signority.

 

User authentication: SMS and Email

Verifying the identity of a user before granting access to secured information is the main intention of the User Authentication feature.
With Signority there are two additional methods that can used to verify signers and viewers — i.e. SMS and email — when email and /or SMS password authentication is turned on by the user, Signority sends a randomly generated unique code to the recipient. The code is required to access the document.
The type of user authentication used is displayed in the “Authentication” section of the Signority’s Audit Trail.
 

Signature creation (by each signer)

The Signature Creation section is a critical component of the audit trail, it is the original signature of the required parties.
At Signority and most other eSignature providers, a party’s signature can be created by:

  1. Using a touch pad/screen or mouse
  2. Typing their signature using a keyboard
  3. Uploading a scanned copy of their signature

 

Document downloads after signing

Once the document is finalized by all of the signers, all parties involved are notified via email with an attached copy of the finalized document for safe keeping.
 
Signers-Status

Signer’s Status

The signers status reflect the final action taken by all required signer’s, the status can be: “Rejected”, “Waiting to Open”, “In Progress”, “Finalized and “Viewed” — depending on the action taken by the signer.
Looking to take your business paperless? Sign-up now and get free access to Signority’s Business Plan.

Customer Experience is Taking Center Stage in 2017 and for Good Reason

Sprint 46 Release Notes

Customer experience is taking center stage in 2017 and for good reason. People expect a good customer experience whether buying online or offline. More and more statistics from all industries reflect CX (or Customer Experience) is becoming center stage of business and customer loyalty. In their article titled “75 Customer Service Facts”, HelpScout shares some eye-opening realities of customer service and total customer experience.
As we know, great CX goes beyond customer support, it includes everything from the time people see your ad for the first time online, to your website, to interaction with your sales team, to contract signing, customer onboarding and ongoing support throughout the lifecycle.
No one realizes this reality more than the retail industry which over the last few years has seen retailers acknowledge that good customer experience is the path to higher profit. Smart retailers are investing heavily in optimizing customer experience as online shopping is no longer enough; customers want to check store inventory online, order online and pick up at the nearest store. Customers want the mobile experience to match that in the store, they want a single cohesive experience, and retailers are just starting to deliver with omni-channel projects. Forrester released a report last year that demonstrates that CX leaders grow revenue as much as 25% than CX laggards in their category, this again shows the proven importance of customer experience.
Convenience is king and so is speed, from same day to delivery to drone-based delivery, retailers are pushing the edge to make sure customers get the wow factor every time they experience their brand. On the run, no problem, Amazon Go allows you to get your grocery without talking to anyone, load up your basket and walk out, you card is signed, sealed and delivered automatically.
This week is #NRF17 where world of retail converges on the Javits center in New York to talk about the future of retail, and again the customer experience is center stage. Wearable technology, Smart Technology, Artificial Intelligence are prominent themes this year.
There is a lot we can learn from retail, but the core lesson is that customers want an easy and frictionless experience, all the time.

Here are 5 simple ways other industries can improve their customer experience:

  1. Test every customer touch point to make sure it works and that is inline with your brand promise. Tools like UserTesting and 5SecondTest are great for getting quality feedback from people in your target audience.
  2. Automate. Right now there is an explosion of online tools to help you service customers and reduce errors. Make it easy for them, implement things like Intercom on your website for better communication, Slack channels or even venture into smart chat bots.
  3. If you are billing online, make sure it’s done right and easy. I recommend trying FreshBooks.
  4. Make sure you make the most out of your CRM. We at Signority use and love Pipedrive. Use your CRM well along with other tools and plugins to empower you to know what to say and when to say it. These tools not only help save you time and be more productive, it also ensures a better CX in the sales process.
  5. Use smart signatures. Businesses sometimes do not think of contract signing as being part of the CX, although in our humble opinion it is still a big part of it. Think about it, after all the hard work by marketing and sales is done, and a prospect is in the last stages of closing the deal. You want to make sure you have a process in place that makes it easy and convenient for them (while also secure). Offering a paperless contract signing experience is what we do best and I encourage you to read some of our other posts on this blog to learn more.

Must-Know: 20+ Tools and Hacks to Reduce Sales Admin Work & Improve Sales Productivity

20 tools for reducing sales admin work and increasing productivity

While reviewing our own sales tech stack here at Signority to find more opportunities for automation and workflow simplification, we chatted with our new friends at SalesWings to pick their brain. That turned into a very comprehensive list they were kind enough to share with us, and you below. So, read on and start making your sales team a lot more productive this new year!
The working day of a sales professional is always too short, and sometimes it can feel like there’s not enough time to, well, sell! Indeed, a 2015 study by Cirrus Insight showed that sales professionals spend less than half of their time selling. This statistic was also confirmed by Alice Heiman, founder and Chief Sales Officer of sales consulting and coaching firm Alice Heiman LLC.
It’s an egg-and-chicken situation: sales professionals need to sell more, but they have too many other tasks that prevent them devoting more time to selling. So, the first step to boosting sales professionals’ productivity is to automate basic admin tasks. This will give sales professionals more time to actually sell.  
Below are some tips and tools to help sales professionals spend less time on admin and more time selling.

Schedule time you want to dedicate to administration

First of all, sales professionals should schedule administrative blocks outside of calling hours, in the same way they schedule all other tasks such as meetings with clients. Nevertheless, David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, says that if a task requires less than 2 minutes of your attention, then you should do it. Getting quick and easy tasks out of the way immediately can benefit your productivity measurably.

Use a sales-oriented CRM

There is no doubt that CRM systems can help sales professional stay organized and focused. However, a common complaint sales professionals have is: “CRM is time consuming and reduces selling time”. It has to be said that CRMs are becoming more advanced and intuitive, thus meaning that a greater number of tasks can be automated to save time. For example, Salesforce can automatically update the activity on the contact or lead’s record, meaning there is no need for manual updates.
Three kinds of tools can help to boost your CRM:

  1. Tools that allow to you synchronize your email (Outlook or Gmail) with a CRM.

    Salesforce: Salesforce is probably the most well-known CRM. It has a huge eco-system of partner apps for all possible aspects like contact “hygiene” (check RingLead), email marketing (try Sendloop), a handy lead scoring system (Saleswings add-on) and even Gamification (Ambition). For instance, all you have to do is go to the AppExchange to find 1,000s of tools that allow sync between email and Salesforce. One of our favorites is ZynBit, which also delivers excellent customer analytics.
    Pipedrive: a CRM and pipeline management tool which focuses on key features for sales and a visible pipeline view. Pipedrive syncs perfectly with Gmail and Outlook, so that your team never need enter a contact twice. Pipedrive as Salesforce also integrates with several tools such as Saleswings lead scoring add-on for Pipedrive.
    Nimble: Nimble is a social CRM that updates your entire contact database thanks to great integrations with all social channels. “No data entry”! At Saleswings, we are also fans of their mobile app which offers great usability and provides “social insights” for each contact you’re planning to meet. Nimble uses third-party integration: PieSync. PieSync allows you to integrate Gmail & Outlook contacts within Nimble. That means that all your email contacts can be synchronized with Nimble contacts.

  2. Tools to synchronize your CRM and business cards

    A great tool that works with all the most popular CRM is FullContact. FullContact works with Zapier to import business cards into various CRM tools, and can automatically capture contacts from email signatures. All sales professionals have to do is keep sending emails and contact data entry gets automated. This is a huge time saver. FullContact is more than just a business card synchronizer. It is an address book hub that allows you to synchronize your contacts across multiple social media accounts. It keeps contacts up to date (picture, company, email address) and most importantly removes duplicates. Another good and popular alternative is MagneticOne Business Card Reader. As with FullContact, you can Snap a photo of the business card and it will import all the data directly into the CRM. 

  3. Tools to remove duplicate data in your CRMs

    Duplicate data is a pain in the neck for all CRM users. The consequences range from multiple spacing from inaccurate reports to taking the wrong decision due to inaccurate metrics. Unfortunately, there is no miracle! Duplicates are part of sales life; leads submit forms and sales teams input manual entries. The solution is to use tools that detect and eliminate duplicates automatically. For instance, RingLead and Data Cleanser detect and eliminate duplicates within Salesforce.

Avoid falling into the email trap

Email is the most important means of communication for most sales people (apart from their phones). However, salespeople shouldn’t be sucked into email administration.
Five kinds of tools can support a sales professional’s email productivity:

  1. Email tracking and lead scoring

    Saleswings is a fully automated add-on for advanced Lead Activity Scoring. Sales professionals send an email (Outlook or Gmail) with a link to the website and Saleswings identifies the most sales-ready leads based on their website activity as well as scoring their level of engagement/interest. The Saleswings lead scoring add-on also works with campaign tools such as MailChimp, forms and CRM such as Salesforce and Pipedrive. It automatically notifies the sales team about a lead’s interest, acting as an opportunity radar. This allows the sales team to focus their resources and time on the hottest leads.

  2. Email templates

    Here at Saleswings, we use Gorgias. Gorgias allows you to insert templates with shortcuts. and includes variables like the recipient’s name or the subject.

  3. Email personalization tools

    To personalize emails and avoid spending too much time looking for information about the prospect, I would advise salespeople to use Crystal, Charlie and Datanyze.
    CrystalCrystal can tell you what to write in an email or how to create a message that engages the person in a way they’d expect from you.
    CharlieCharlie synchronizes with Google Calendar and sends you a one-page resume on everyone you’re going to meet with, before you see them.
    DatanyzeDatanize has many incredible features, but one of the most unique is knowing which technologies your prospects are using. It is important to know if your prospect is using your competitor’s software or software that integrates with your own.

  4. Tools to keep track of time spent on emails and online in general

    There are a variety of time tracking tools available today, from those targeting time spent on a particular project to those tracking time spent on a particular activity online, such as emailing, blogging, micro-blogging, browsing, or just plain social networking. Two good tools are RescueTime and TwentyFive.
    RescueTimeRescueTime not only informs you about your daily activities but also allows you to set the number of hours you want to spend in a day on a particular site. RescueTime will alert you if you run out of time.
    TwentyFivethe main idea behind TwentyFive is to record your time using the Pomodoro Technique.

  5. Electronic signature solution to simplify & automate contract signing

    The advantages of an e-signature are evident for anyone who has ever had to deal with a paper-based signature. The latter involved a lot of paper waste and back-and-forth between the person that needed to sign and the company. Hugely time consuming!
    Thanks to electronic signatures, deals are closed faster and there is less administration involved. Signority is a great example of an electronic signature tool which offers the ability among many other things to let your sales team send a contract out and set automatic follow-up email reminders as well as notifications when your client has opened, viewed and signed the contract. This is incredibly important as following up during these key events can help lose or close many deals.

Optimize your route when visiting clients

Clients are often located in different parts of the city or country, so salespeople need to spend time organizing their day and scheduling visits. One hell of a job! However, there are tools such as Badger Maps that make field sales reps’ lives easier. Badger Map puts the user’s territory on a map on their device, showing them where their customers are and offering new leads that they didn’t know about. Basically, what it does is connect into the CRM and give reps access to the data in the CRM on a map, when they are out in the field.

In conclusion, reducing administrative work is essential to allow sales professionals to do their job – selling. Using just some of the apps above will allow you to cut your admin time. The real secret is to go digital, and to use a more digital approach.

About the author

The author Sara is a digital marketing specialist at Saleswings, a website tracking and lead scoring add-on. The software identifies your most sales-ready leads based on their website activity. It analyzes your leads’ past and future visits and scores their level of engagement/interest.