ERP on Saas Model

Software as a Service (Saas), a model of delivering software applications to customers over the Internet, has today reached and inflection point and is poised for a powerful take off. By 2010, Gartner predicts around 30 percent of new License purchases (In APAC excluding Japan) will be in form of Saas, or delivered through the Saas model. In a recent survey of 1,017 technology decision – makers, Forrester found that worldwide adoption of Saas in large enterprises is now at 16%, up to 33% from the previous year’s 12% Coming into the Picture is the enterprise resource planning (ERP) on a Saas model. It is becoming the next big thing in enterprise software and offers enterprises of all sizes a viable, scalable and flexible model that will take them to the next level in terms of technology.

Why ERP on Saas Model?

Pay for what you use: Saas model offers just the “right” functionality because 80% of people don’t need 80% of the functionality is software. Secondly, with Saas, there is less of a culture of big discounts based on big upfront payments as there is in perpetual licensing, so it also is less of an incentive to buy more than you need, which then turns into shelf ware. Thirdly, the Saas provider knows how much you are using on a real-time basis. Although the charging is immediate, there is no exposure to lengthy and often painful on premise audits, which are the main mechanisms on premise vendors rely on to check compliance. Faster Implementations: One of the primary reasons for quicker implementation is because organizations do not have to concern themselves with installing underlining in-frastructure and all SaaS implementations are purely platform – independent. Configuration of application data occurs often via a browser. Simplified application integration: Built on open standards and Web services standards, inter- SaaS application integration is considerably easier than the integration of propriety applications, While on-premise to on-demand integration is still a challenge, the overall integration burden is considerably reduced through Saas.

Reduced Infrastructure investments:

Acquiring software has traditionally produced the requirement to acquire new infrastructure (hardware, middleware, networks and so forth) to enable it. Through a Saas model, much of this investment is unnecessary and can be eliminated.

Reduced operational management requirements: Saas can be a boon to resource-constrained companies that do not have the resources, such as database administrators,to implement an on-premise application.

Lower upgrade costs:

The Saas model reduces the cost of upgrading from one version of the software to another considerably compared with on-premise costs. Since the model is a multi-tenant architecture, the cost of all software, in-frastructure and expertise is shared by a large number of customers.

Lower switching costs:

The Saas gives the customer the freedom to easily make the switch from one solution provider to another. This freedom to easily walk away from a provider, works as a motivator to introduce better features and ensures optimum performance. Many customers would have invested a considerable amount of money in implementation,integration, customization, testing, training, maintenance and upgrades (sometimes five to seven times othe amount of money spent on licenses). Despite of the problems in the set-up, the on-premise ERP will exist as a necessary evil and the difficulty arises when the customer wants to evaluate any new vendor.

Increased Accessibility and Productivity:

Web based applications gives the freedom to access the information from any part of the globe at the click of a bottom.

Why Ramco On Demand ERP

Ramco OnDemand ERP is the first ful-fledged ERP catering to the needs of growing business. A wolrd-class software, delivered as a service, it helps to streamline and integrate the business processes. As easy to use as e-mail, it requires minimal training and can be accessed from anywhere. For an affordable subscription, Ramco takes care of all the infrastructure, maintenance and support needs. Ramco OnDemand ERP is configured to meet the business requirements and typically takes less than a week to deploy. As the business grows, the solution can be scaled up to accommodate multiple locations, currencies and business units. It integrates multiple functions and systems into one solution which gives total visibility and control of operations. In the process, it helps to focus on growing business.

This piece looks at software on demand or software as a service (SAAS) option for startups and medium enterprises looking to reduce their upfront technology investments as well as technology management headaches.

Technology investments form a significant part of the expenditure of any organization, big or small, If you listen to the pundits, without technology investments, you are dead. And if you listen to those who have tread the path, then the headaches associated with even a simple setup can leave you with a similar feeling. This is why many startups and medium businesses either avoid technology investments or spend too much of their time, money and energy on the subject. Web technologies and bandwidth availability have now matured sufficiently for us to look as hosted, managed applications as a way out of being caught between the devil and the deep sea.

How does it work?

They go by different names- managed software services, software as a service (Saas), cloud computing or the older, application service provider (ASP), But the basic business model is the same. With SasS, you do not buy, install or run the application at your end, all that is taken care of by the vendor at his data center. As there is no installation, there is no need to buy expensive hardware either. You pay on a per-use basis (times number of users, messages, documents, etc.), usually every month, in advance. Depending on the service, there may be a setup and configuration fee. For some services, customization is also possible, that at times could end up being higher than the annual fee. In most cases, it is as simple as going to their website and signing up. You pay with a credit card, configure the service yourselves and you are ready to go. And in most cases, you get a free trial period, which I would strongly advice you to use to get a feel of what can be done and more importantly, what cannot be done.

What is the Advantage?

SaaS takes away your upfrong investments, which in most cases can be fairly heary; and converts that into smaller monthly payouts that would be easier to organize and manage. As your business scales up, (or God forbid, down), you can change your usage slab and payouts, mostly instantaneously. There is no lead time to buy and install new systems nor are their associated capital costs. Finally you are free to concentrate on your business and not on how to get particular software or hardware working; and to that extent, you need to maintain only a leaner team (less lots of IT people)

Budgeting:

Are you amongst those who are sick of budgeting with spreadsheets? Where increasing complexity leads only to increased frustration? Where you lose track of versions with everyone finally carrying a different set of numbers? Adaptive Planning probably hasan answer for you.

The software extends the paradigm of spreadsheets, but brings in SBU level flexibility to add specific budget heads as required. It also does modeling and sales planning and workflow (Enterprise Edition) amongst other things. There are three versions-express (free),corporate and enterprise. Pricing models are comparatively more complex depending on the number and types of users, support levels, training needs and son on. So, you are best advised to contact them or their partners.

Lower switching costs:

The Saas gives the customer the freedom to easily make the switch from one solution provider to another. This freedom to easily walk away from a provider, works as a motivator to introduce better features and ensures optimum performance. Many customers would have invested a considerable amount of money in implementation,integration, customization, testing, training, maintenance and upgrades (sometimes five to seven times othe amount of money spent on licenses). Despite of the problems in the set-up, the on-premise ERP will exist as a necessary evil and the difficulty arises when the customer wants to evaluate any new vendor.

Increased Accessibility and Productivity:

Web based applications gives the freedom to access the information from any part of the globe at the click of a bottom.

Why Ramco On Demand ERP

Ramco OnDemand ERP is the first ful-fledged ERP catering to the needs of growing business. A wolrd-class software, delivered as a service, it helps to streamline and integrate the business processes. As easy to use as e-mail, it requires minimal training and can be accessed from anywhere. For an affordable subscription, Ramco takes care of all the infrastructure, maintenance and support needs. Ramco OnDemand ERP is configured to meet the business requirements and typically takes less than a week to deploy. As the business grows, the solution can be scaled up to accommodate multiple locations, currencies and business units. It integrates multiple functions and systems into one solution which gives total visibility and control of operations. In the process, it helps to focus on growing business.

Collaborations, Meetings and Conferences

In these days of soaring travel (and other) costs, web-based conferences go a long way in bringing your budget back to shape. What if you could take a potential client through a discussion on your engineering drawings without actually flying out and physically displaying the drawings in fron of him? What if you could do a quick sales conference without having to get the full sales team into the same room? What if you want to play around with an idea with your team that is in different cities? In today’s world of managed services, all of these are possible, and at a cost that is only a fration of a Delhi Chennai return ticket !

Webex brings to the table web meetings, desktop sharing and audio conferences (and a few other services) on a pay-as-you-use model. So, if you have a sales presentation to make to a client in another city, you could share the presentation over the net with the cleint. alternatively, you could have an interactive employee conference without anyone having to travel. Pricing depends on a number of permautations and combinations and typically you enter your details on the website and then someone contacts you.

MindMeister is an online mind-mapping tool. Mind mapping? A mind map is a visual representation of ideas, tasks or thought processes. A mind map helps you express (and change) graphically, the logical sequencing and relationships between events and ideas and anything else. Mindmeister offers three plans- a basic plan with six mind maps is free and comes with advertising, a premium plan at US$49.9 per year and a team plan that includes a team administratoin interface, pre-populated friends lists and custom sub-domain. The team plan starts at US$ 235 per year for five users.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)/Sales Management :– So you got a small sales team out there and you need to ensure that they are making the requisite number of calls. You need a handle on the status of each caller and finally, when one of them leaves, you need the replacement to be able to step in quickly and seamlessly and start from where the other person left. In short, you need a sales management application.

The most famous and perhaps the most successful of all managed applications, available at falls in this genre. You can extend Salesforce partner to customize the application to suit your specific needs. Be aware that customization comes at a hefty prize. Appexchange offers additional applications that you can buy (some are free) and install onto your part of Salesforce to increase or improve functionality. Another SaaS application in the same genre is SageCRM.

Document Management.

If your business revolves around documents and it is important for you to manage and track document creation and use, then you are in the market for document management services.

Knowledge Tree has a basic offering of 1GB storage and three users that is free and has a premium option of US$ 15 per month per user and ofers 10GB storage per user.

Email Management

All businesses have catch-all email addresses – ones like or And you need to allow many employees to access and reply to these mail addresses. Employees also need to know what mails have been answered and what the previous mails from a given sender have been.

Sproutit’s Mailroom service attempts to do exactly that. The Sproutit mailroom, which calls itself a “simple email helpdesk”, is very much ‘work in progress’ with many rough edges. It sometimes gets tracking information wrong, and does not have facilities to print or to backup locally. But at a base price of US$ 9 per month for three users and 500 messages (free for 100 messages and an ad inserted into every mail out) that is worth living with. We use sproutit.com’s mailroom to handle mails [email protected].

Market Research Surveys.

One of the major elements of cost (and time) in a market research project is the survey. Reaching across to all the respondents takes both time and money. And that is where online surveys come in. You set up the survey online and invite respondents to come to the page and fill it up. You can set it up as an open survey that anyone can answer or a closed one that, only those who get an invite from you can fill in.

Survey Monkey is an online service that lets you configure and run online surveys.

SurveyMonkey offers three plans, a basic free one and a monthly plan at US$ 19.95 and an annual plan at US$ 200 per year. The key difference between the plans is the number of responses you can get per month and the number of questions for a survey .

Survey Monkey offers multiple (15) question types and questionnaire templates. The paid versions also offerthe ability to download your responses to a spreadsheet (or database).

Zoomerang Basic is free and is limited to 30 questions and 100 responses per survey and the responses are available only for 10 days. Otherwise you have professional education and non-profit plans. Professional comes at US$ 599 per year (US$ 799 with mobile, including 100 mobile credits), Zoomerang also does cross-tabs, filtering and customizable charts.

Network Monitoring

If your organization runs on a smallest to Medium network, then someone has the added headache of ensuring that everything is up and running; that everyone’s mail is synchronizing and everything from printer toner to bandwidth is available. Good network monitoring tools are few and far in between and are costly; way to costly for a medium or even many large businesses to implement them on priority.

Time to welcome Spiceworks Spiceworks is many things- network monitoring tool, help ticketing system, IT asset management, and more, rolled into one. You download and install a small piece of software onto a PC and then run it from your browser to get started. The Spiceworks website states that it works well with up to 250 devices, and slows down with more. And the good thing is that it does Windows, Linux, and Mac! spiceworks is free, supported by ads. If you do not want the ads, then there is a monthly free of US$ 20. As for me, I am happy with the ads!

Newletters and Email List Management

If you are in the habit of keeping in frequent touch with your audience- customers, potential customers, well wishers- then you must be doing a lot of emailing. Do you know how many of the indented recipients have opened the message? Or how many have clicked on which link? or even how many email ids are no longer working? Newsletter managers help you do all this. They let you manage your address lists, manage bounces and provide you with open, and click statistics.

Constant Contact charges montly, based on the size of your contact list. You can send as many mails as you want to these contacts. Plans start at US$ 15 a month for 500 contacts.

Aweber communications get you started as US$ 19 for a 500 database and includes signup forms on your website, auto responders and analytics of recipient responses.

Project Management

Project management is a particularly critical need for startups and other organizations that have to manage feature lists and schedules and fast approaching milestones. But they often have to resort to spreadsheets instead of good project management software, simply because of affordability.

Dream Team from DreamFactory comes in two versions- Pro and Enterprise. Pricing is not that straightforward. There is a monthly subscription fee and separate fees for storage, data transfer in, data transfer out, and different types of requests. It also requires the DreamFactory player to be installed.

Liquid Planner allows three project members and 2 GB storage for free. Users above three require payments of US$35 per month or US$ 300 per year. Paid accounts get 50 GB of storage. Basecamp comes in three versions. Basic (US$ 24 per month), Plus and Max. There is also a free option with one project and no file sharing. Base-camp offers to-do lists, file sharing, group message boards, milestone lists and tie tracking.

Shared To-do Lists.

If you are working in teams,then keeping track of shared or delegated to-do lists is a pain. And if the team is spread out, then it becomes an even greater pain. To-do lists that are shareable are a good way to avoid this pain. Remember The Milk is a service where you can not only maintain to-do lists, but also share them and have them finished by others. The location of your task can be noted on Google maps from within the application itself.

You can have taks sent in as email by anyone who knows your Milk Account email id or have them added to your calendar. The basic plan is free, while the pro account costs US$ 25 per year.
Web Analytics

Google Analytics is free and many websites use it, Google Analytics is easy to set up and you can be up and active in minutes literally. the service gives you an overview of the visitors to your site and you can drill down to get more details, including where the visitors came from, what lead them there, what browser they were using, what screen resolution and so on. IT also gives you a map with drill down, which shows you where your visitors are coming from.

Google Analytics tracks pages at the page level. If you want to go even finer, like, where in a page users are concentrating, then you need something more. And that is where ClickDensity comes in. ClickDensity does clickmaps, heat maps and hover maps. All of these help you track where on a page users are clicking. With ClickDensity, you have plans ranging from a starter pack of US$ 5 all the way to a premium pack at US$ 400. The key difference between the different plans is the number of clicks stord to create the maps and the number of sites tracked.

Web Server Monitoring

If you have one or more servers or sites up on the net and you are managing them on your own, It isimportant that you be alerted when any of them go down or otherwise become inaccessible from any corner of the world . Server monitoring services do exactly this at specified intervals from locations across the world and alert you over SMS, email and other services when problems arise.

Pingdom offers a number of reports including uptime and response time along with monitoring. Pingdom offers nine different checks including HTTP, TCP, Ping, DNS, UDP, SMTP, POP3 and IMAP checks and you can set up different checks to alert different people. You can be alerted, both, when a service comes down and when it comes back up. You can also set up the check interval to vary from one minute to sixty minutes. They also have a check location in Mumbai. Pingdom offers two plans, Basic and Business at US$ 9.95 and US$ 39.95 per month respectively.

We use Pingdom to monitor all servers and services that we run and I must confes to an occasional false positive that has made us wake up and get connected in the deep night.

Host Tracker offers many more plans, has more monitoring points and is cheaper but offers only basic HTTP tests.

Inventory Management

If you have inventory to track (like infield service parts, multi-restaurant consumables or IT infrastructure. Particularly at multiple locations, then SeeControl is worth looking at.

The See Control website, unlike other SaaS vendors, does not have any price or plan lists or a place where you an sign up. You need to contact them through a form on the website and they will bet back to you.
Human Resources Management

HR is an area that gets divided into further niches, with each having its set of players. Thus, you have services that do online tests for profiling and those that do e-learning. Then there are payroll services and of course, the recruitment portals. Our primary focus here is on basic HR- employee information (HRIS), appraisals and payroll being available in one place.

Empxtrack from Saigun offers HRMS, applicant tracking, employee self service (leave tracking, HR help desk, employee handbook, personal data update), employee portal and appraisals as a managed package. Pricing is on slabs of number of employees and you have to contact them to get started. Adrenalin from Polaris also offers a hosted variant of their HR package.

ERP

ERP, the big daddy of enterprise applications, is also available as a managed solution from many vendors. Here the offerings, typically tend to be industry or process-specific.

Ramco for example, offers process- centric solutions (vendor management, customer management, storage and distribution, accounting, planning and stock management) and have particular focus on selected verticals like auto components, chemicals discrete manufacturing , distilleries, electronics, engineering, etc. .

Delantt Consulting offers hosted SAP BASIS , including sandbox hosting (evaluation stage), development hosting and production hosting. Pricing is dependent on type of hosting and number of user ids. SAP offers its own hosted solution, Business ByDesign at

Before You Choose

Before you choose a provider, there are some points to keep in mind that will ensure a better experience as you go along.

Do The Trial

Almost all SaaS vendors will give you a free trial, usually of thirty days or of a limited number of users. In fact, many, like sproutit and 01.com offer a mandatory free trial period of 30 days, during which you can delete your account without being charged. It is a good idea to use the trial to check out how the service works, and to find out what is missing. If a service provider does not have an upfront free trail offer, ask. you will most likely get one.

Choose The Right Plan

You signup for one of the many available slabs and the vendor will have an over usage charge, which is normally somewhere in the small print. Typically, charges for using extra will be many times the standard rate. So, when you go for a hosted server, you may signup for a server with 1000 GB per month of data transfer. Any usage above 1000 GB in a month will have an extra charge per GB, and this varies from service provider to service provider..

Let’s take the example of Sproutit, which provides a shared mailromm service and charges US$ 0.05 for every message sent or received above plan limit. so, if you sign up for a personal plan with them (US$ 9 for 500 messages in and out ) and just happen to do 900 messages instead, you would end up paying US$ 29 as against the US$ 19 that you would have paid with the next higher plan that covers 1000 messages. So with all SaaS signups, it is important that you choose the right plan and monitor your usage as you go along and adjust plans if required.

Service Level Agreements (SLA)

An SLA sets out what level of service availability is being promised and what make good you will get in case the stated service level is not met. Yawn! Who wants to read boring legalese? However, you will be surprised. Let me give you one recent example. I was negotiating with a leading regional data center for managing emails. Somewhere buried in the middle of the proposal was the SLA and in it were a few gems. How about “Intermittent downtime for a period of less than ten minutes will not be counted towards any downtime periods” or “There will be no more than twelve hours of scheduled downtime in a calendar month.” Give me a break. Schelduled downtime of up to 12 hours a month for an email service? And if the mail is down for nine minutes after every two minutes, that will be fine? Wait. That is not all. “All burnouts are exclueded and shall be charged on actual.” Excuse me! You burn your equipment for whatever reason and then want to charge the customers for it? Obviously, this service provider has some serious rework pending on their SLA contains. Give it a look once over before you sign on. At least the known devil is better than the unknown angel !

LOOK OUT FOR “OTHER CHARGES”

Many SaaS services run on a sign-on-and -start model. But many like email services have set up fees. But you also come across some fees that are let’s say, unexpected. Take the case of LuitDox, a document management offering. You need to pay them in advance, either for six months or for a year. That may be okay. But every time you make a payment, there is a processing fee of $35!

Salesforce.com will have their partners do some customization of the site to meet your exact requirements. But most customization quotes I have come across have been equal if not more than the annual charge for a small organization. (Such customization charges are of course open to negotiation)

INTERGRATION ISSUES : One of the problems with opting for multiple SaaS providers is the lack of integration across vendors. Your users will have to login to each of the services separately, using separate pass words and possibly user names. And you would have to create, delete and otherwise administer users at each service separately. It would have been nice if all services could acept logins using some thing like OpenID or and LDAP- based directory service like the Windows Active Directory Services (ADS), Until that happens, we are left with having to manage a different user name and password at each vendor.

WHEN YOU LEAVE : When you leave a service that you were using (and paying for), ensure that you have confirmation from them that your account has indeed been terminated and that you will no longer becharged. Else, you may have the unpleasant experience of your credit card being charged even when you are no longer using the service.

CAN YOU CONVERT YOUR VENDOR INTO A SaaS MODEL?

Finally, if you cannot find a hosted model, can you make your selected vendor offer a pay-as-you-use model? We were negotiating for the implementation of a new HR system. And the final question we had of the short listed vendor was whether he would implement it at a data center of his choice and manage it for us, against monthly payments instead of an up-front payment plus annual maintenance charges. The first reaction was one of incredulity. But a month of cajoling with an assurance of a three year contract and a year’s payment as advance cheques helped them to agree to the deal. For us, a huge one-time payment got converted into more comfortable monthly payouts, and we did not have to bother about having to manage the backend. The funny part is that today, they sell a hosted model based around what we cajoled them into doing just for us, and I am not getting anything for the idea!

When Evaluating Performance Consider The Intangibles

Decision making can take many forms depending upon the specific aspects of performance being identified and addressed. When leaders are making performance-based decisions regarding their organizational units, the decisions are typically based upon individual performance of the leaders, managers and employees under their direction.

Although performance can be documented in tangible and measurable terms, it invariably points to the performance or lack thereof of the individual(s) accountable for specific results. However, because decisions concerning these individuals are never made in a void, a number of more subjective factors must be considered.

This is important for leaders to appreciate because the performance evaluation program in an empowered organization incorporates all pertinent factors and contexts in order to yield more informed decisions regarding individual and corporate performance.

Since performance decisions revolve around the individual employees within an organization, the following less tangible factors need consideration. Often leaders are subconsciously aware of these aspects when making decisions, but they require more deliberate and formal weighing.

However, where possible even subjective factors should be linked to something tangible. In some cases overall employee performance and behaviors can be benchmarked, giving leaders a tangible backdrop against which to evaluate an employee when a decision is needed.

Cooperation

Certain employees will cooperate to the extent they are compelled to do so, while others will cooperate and offer their services beyond what is expected. In a union environment, some employees will hide behind negotiated rules to mask their lack of willingness to cooperate.

Undoubtedly when performance decisions must be made concerning individual employees, the level of cooperation among them becomes an important factor to consider. Within the empowered organization, cooperation tends to increase as more decisions are driven down to frontline employees.

Enthusiasm

As companies face continual change and evolve into empowered organizations, individual employees may become fearful or resistant to adjustments being made. With little other choice they may accept them, but not be enthusiastic. Leaders should watch for these tendencies as they can produce a drag on individual performance and even spread to others, further affecting motivation and morale.

Motivation

Personal levels of cooperation and enthusiasm are indicators of the individual employee’s motivation. As a leader transitions his or her employees into a cohesive organizational unit, employee motivation should shift from, “What’s in it for me?” thinking to a more group-oriented outlook.

As organizations transition from the traditional centralized and polarized bureaucracy to an empowered organization, employees also undergo a transition. Some will undoubtedly progress faster than others, but there comes a time when all should be motivated at least more by the group than the self. Thus an employee’s perspective must be considered in making performance decisions. If one or more employees have problems in this area, the leader must address them lest they fester and impact the progress of the organization.

Feedback and Insight

Employees that have worked in a job for a long period of time develop what is known as “native knowledge.” As this is developed, these employees begin to know all the “tricks of the trade” enabling them to be more efficient in their jobs. This is the information that leaders must tap into and share with the rest of their employees.

However, many longtime employees are reluctant to share this information since it provides them with “insurance” and a sense of job security. They are fearful that once they have shared this information, lower-paid employees may replace them.

As leaders evaluate their organizational performance, the feedback and insights shared by individual employees must be considered. Leaders should know the level of contribution an employee is capable of providing through daily interaction with them. They should be aware of those employees who are sharing their expertise and those who are not, and this is then factored into decisions made regarding performance.

Teamwork

The role of the leader is to lead and form the employees under them into a team focused on mutual goals and objectives. The more cohesive the organizational unit, the more productive and efficient it becomes. Thus as decisions are made about performance, the level of teamwork becomes an increasingly important consideration.

As decisions are made over time, the levels of teamwork should rise accordingly. Undoubtedly, if problems are identified with one or more employees, factors of cooperation, enthusiasm, motivation and performance also become issues with these employees. All of these factors are interlinked when making decisions regarding performance.

Performance

As all evaluative decision making factors are interlinked, deficiencies in one or more of these areas will contribute to personal performance problems. Conversely, strong indications in all of these decision making categories will contribute to enhanced performance.

Most performance decisions are based upon end results alone. However, when the sum total of these factors is evaluated, the problems behind the lack of performance are highlighted, making the leader’s decisions more meaningful.

When the root causes behind a problem are identified, it is easy for leaders to take the specific actions required to solve the problem.

Uncontrollable Circumstances

The final factor that must be considered in making performance decisions is the impact of uncontrollable events upon individual performance. Obviously factors of global competition, economic downturns and situations such as a shipping strike, internal production issues, and even weather can impact individual results. These realities and circumstances must be given appropriate consideration in making equitable performance decisions.

Excerpt: Strengthening Leadership Performance (Majorium Business Press, Stevens Point, WI 2011)

Successful Ways to Market Your Small Business

One of the most vital steps for a small business is to put together an integrated marketing plan. It is often times referred to as Integrated Marketing Communications, or IMC. IMC is an integration of advertising, PR, social media and other communications into a cohesive whole all sharing the same unified message.

Instead of dividing marketing communications into separate groups that don’t communicate, businesses succeed by integrating marketing disciplines under one umbrella, and integrating them so as to communicate the one message and have them share the same strategy. One of the most famous examples of IMC is the Nike footwear company. Their integrated approach includes traditional advertising (billboard, magazine, and television); sponsoring sporting events and players such as the Superbowl and Tiger Woods; and engaging in online marketing initiatives by allowing consumers to customize their Nike shoes.

The key to creating a successful IMC campaign is to communicate effectively with your businesses’ prospective customer. In order to communicate effectively you need to understand who your customer is and hit on every possible touch point in this prospective customer using a variety of marketing disciplines. No one advertisement or press release will do this. You need an integrated strategy.

But what are your customers ‘touch points’? Take some time out to think about your market. Only a certain percentage of the population is ever likely to purchase your product or service. If you gear your marketing strategy toward this niche you will be more productive and save both time and money. As you are no doubt aware there are substantial differences between small and large businesses. One of these differences is that for most small businesses their marketing budget is limited. But does this mean a small business can’t compete with the larger organisations? Absolutely not. All this means is that small businesses have to be more creative.

One way to make the most out of your marketing as a small business is by tracking your marketing campaigns so as to gauge its relative effectiveness. You can do this by coding ads, using multiple tollfree numbers and asking prospective clients where they heard about you. If your strategy is not working this allows you to swiftly replace it or adopt a better or more suitable method.

A good way of keeping your strategy on track is to hold yourself accountable for contacting and tracking a certain number of customers per day. This figure is entirely up to you. The more ambitious you are, the more you will see your company grow.

Another important area to look at is all of the inactive client files you have in your database. Remember it is easier to sell to a person who has dealt with your company previously. They know and trust that your company will provide the service they are looking for. When marketing it is also important to bear in mind the 80/20 rule: 80% of your business will stem from only 20% of your customers. That is why it is important to focus on that 20%… what is that 20% looking for and how can you cater to their needs?

Never assume that if you provide a service once for a customer they will return of their own accord. Look at the old files in your database and ask yourself “Why have I never heard back from them?”

Analyse the potential reasons. Was the pricing too high? Did they have an unresolved complaint? Did they feel your business didn’t care? This can assist you in your marketing strategy and also help you grow and improve your customer relations. If you take on board any of the points mentioned in this newsletter you can guarantee an increase in your profit in no time at all. In an area with only a small pool of clients you need to be aggressive in following through on a solid IMC and keeping your existing clients satisfied. All it takes is a little bit of effort and your profit will double overnight. It’s that simple!