Some initial thoughts on CRM tools

Clients are the life of any freelancer’s business. You should always be marketing to and talking to possible new clients to keep your pipeline full of work.

Let it drop off and you’d better go find a fridge box to live in.

Enter the CRM

If you don’t know what a CRM is lets get a definition from Wikipedia

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a model for managing a company’s interactions with current and future customers.

So it’s a system to help you interact with customers and leads easily.

For a while I used Trello to manage incoming clients. I simply created a card for each client with their contact information on it and moved it along a set of lists.

My Trello lists were:

  1. Prospects
  2. Meeting Scheduled
  3. Estimated
  4. Follow Up
  5. Won
  6. Lost
  7. When it’s slow

Most of those are pretty obvious so I’ll just mention the ‘When it’s slow’ list. That was longer term clients that often have work when I approach them or agencies that might be in the same boat.

Cards get due dates so I’d be notified when it was time to deal with the lead and that was about it.

A simple system.

I found a few problems with my Trello system though.

Problem 1: No centralized contact management

Getting a new customer means recording their contact information in my Mac Contacts book. Then I’d need to transfer the pertinent information to Trello.

Bah to repeated work.

I hate repeating myself. I hate repeating myself.

Problem 2: A lead is worth????

What is a lead worth and how much time have I spent on it? Is Client A worth $1000 but I’ve spent 10 hours on them? That means I’m loosing money if I figure my client acquisition at my effective hourly rate of $150.

Trello doesn’t provide a great way to list how much a lead is worth or to track how much time I’ve spent on a lead.

Problem 3: Analytics

This is a fault of Trello in general, it doesn’t have any analytics at all. Sure it has that gold feature that fades a card as it gets ‘old’ but that’s it.

I’d love to see all cards that I lost because I was priced too high. Or how about prospects that simply stopped replying. Maybe I thought the project was a bad fit and I backed out?

I tried to apply labels for these scenarios and yes it works but there are no views to really dive in to the data.

Problem 4: Lead Source Tracking

Yes this is still an analytics problem but it’s one that has weight on it’s own.

I want to know where my leads come from. Did I get $2k worth of work from one referral source or $20k? That makes a big difference and I want to know about it.

Maybe interviews on other sites/podcasts are the best lead source and I should work for more of those?

The thing is I just don’t know with Trello unless I dig through each card and pull the data into a spreadsheet.

Ugh spreadsheets.

Ugh 2x data entry.

So my Trello system ended up rotting away in favour of OmniFocus tasks that linked back to MailPlane. Using those 2 things meant that I didn’t have to double enter addresses since they were already on my Mac.

No it didn’t solve any of the other issues but I’m already invested in OmniFocus and GTD so it makes sense to stick with what you know till you find something better.

That quest to find something better is why I started trying other CRM tools.

In a few days we’ll be taking a good look at OnePageCRM which was my first stop of note in my look for a CRM solution.

The path to becoming a 6 figure specialist

This is our 4th post talking about 6 figure consulting. So far we’ve covered the real numbers it takes to bring home 6 figures, then we took a bit deeper dive in to my expenses using real numbers. Yesterday we took a look at 2 tips for becoming a 6 figure WordPress consultant.

Today we’re going to cover how to become a specialist.

I’ll tell you up front this is not some quick formula to becoming a specialist and getting to bill really well for your time. This is a post about spending 10,000 hours doing something and then really knowing what you’re good at and how to do it well.

The Path

Step 1

If you’re just getting out of school or starting a career transition into the world of the web it’s likely you’re going to start as a generalist. Until you’ve been building sites for a while and tried out a few aspects of the job you have no idea what you are really good at.

When I started I thought I was a ground up designer and boy was I wrong. Clients got crappy designs from me and I didn’t make a lot of money doing it.

My first site I charged $900 for the design and build and setup on their server. That seems crazy low now, but you know what I probably barely provided $900 of business value.

The design was terrible and I’m sure the code would make me cringe.

Stop 1 on the path to specialization is just doing some work. Maybe you already know you aren’t a designer so you can skip that part of the exploration but until you have a number of projects under your belt you will simply have no idea what you enjoy and what you are good at.

Most of the time those 2 things will be the same thing.

Step 1: Figure out what the hell you are good at

Step 2

Once you have a good idea what you are good at it’s time to start going deep. After about a year I realized that I was a bad ground up designer. Sure I could extend an interface to cover the new parts of your design, but designing from scratch was out of my league.

At the same time I realized I was loving building WordPress sites from scratch. At first it was just themes, then some plugins then eCommerce sites.

I was a developer but still a generalist and that’s how I billed myself. Heck right now on my about and services page I’m still billing myself as a generalist. Guess it’s time to edit some copy.

For at least another year I wasn’t the person to talk to about eCommerce and Membership sites. I was the guy to talk to if you needed a theme built or an HTML newsletter. Oh and I can build plugins. Don’t forget UI work, I can do that too.

By saying I could do everything I was saying that I wasn’t really focused on anything.

Now I say that I do eCommerce and Membership sites. Yes that means I can build a theme if the project requires it and any other custom plugins we need, but my entry to a project is the eCommerce and Membership angle.

At first I was barely passable at those. I had no idea what PCI compliance was. I didn’t have proven strategies to help retain members on your site. I hadn’t built 50 tools for membership sites and tried to use existing tools.

I was just starting to go deep. My rates went up a bit as I specialized but I wasn’t really good yet.

Step 2: Focus on what you are truly good at.

Step 3

Now that we know what we are good at let’s focus all our efforts on that thing. All of your marketing and all of your introductions should be about what you specialize in.

When I meet someone and they ask what I do I say:

> I build eCommerce sites and Membership sites based on WordPress.

That’s it. No laundry list of things I can also do. That hits right at the core of what I do so there is no question about it.

That doesn’t mean I turn away work in other fields. I recently did a bunch of work on the Pods UI specifically around loop fields. It was a blast to do something that was outside of my typical specialties. Pods was happy and I was happy.

I’ll be refactoring their CSS to Sass and building the Grunt tasks soon for Pods as well. In so many ways it’s a welcome break from what I normally do.

But it’s not my focus.

Step 3: Keep that focus narrow and go deep. Stay on Task.

After that it’s mainly time. Keep focusing on one thing and marketing towards that one thing. Read Get Clients Now and Book Yourself Solid and Duct Tape Marketing to improve all your marketing skills.


Other Awesome reading

photo credit: antonychammond via photopin cc