Tag Archives: crm

10 common business card mistakes

Bad Business CardI’ve just come back from a two week business development campaign with a client where I collected about 100 business cards through one to one meetings and event attendance. I then went back to my office and spent 10 minutes scanning every card for import into my contact list and the organisation’s CRM system. I then spent another hour or so verifying the information was allocated to the right field (e.g. Mobile number in the cell number field) and ensuring any mistakes were corrected.

When I first started working, all business cards ended up in Rolodexes – and the fax machine had its own operator :)  Today is very different – I normally scan and destroy a business card within 24 hours of receiving it.

So in age of smart phones, ubiquitous wireless internet and CRM in the Cloud – I have found myself asking “do business cards still matter, and has their information and design needs changed?” Whilst scanning and fixing up the business cards, a number of thoughts flitted through my head about “good” and bad” business card design. So time to share…

  1. Putting half your contact details on the front and half on the back is irritating as it means the card has to be scanned twice. I don’t care what your corporate image people say – I’m your customer not them.
  2. Putting your details on more than one plane plays havoc with the scanner. Put your details either landscape or portrait. Not diagonals and certainly not both.
  3. Paying a premium for a funky shape or rounded edges is a waste of money as I am am going to rip up your business card up within 24 hours – not save it and sleep with it under my pillow.
  4. The scanner doesn’t like tiny business cards the size of my thumb. I don’t like them either as the text is normally tiny and difficult to read when I have to enter it manually.
  5. Funky colour combinations such as green on purple are difficult for the scanner to read, which means I need to retype the details (getting more cross now).
  6. Poor contrast between the letters and the background (e.g. feint grey on white) is difficult to scan. I then have to retype whilst squinting.
  7. Only having your company name in the logo means that I will almost always have to type it in.
  8. Raised text or logo increases the chance the business card may get skewed as it passes through the scanner, meaning more retyping.
  9. Exotic and flowery fonts don’t OCR at all well, nor for that matter read well. Massively irritating.
  10. If you do international business, write your number as +61 3 9014 9600  not
    +61 (0)3 9014 9600 as the scanner picks up the (0) and automatically puts it into the system. When the (0) gets synced to my phone the number doesn’t actually work.

Because we (people I met) don’t have standards and simple process for exchanging information electronically, business cards are still critically important. I think that will change in the future but for today designers need to recognise that every business card is going to end up electronic form and they can either facilitate that process, or ignore it. Great business card design lasts a couple of seconds, but irritation can last a lifetime.

Are your details going to end up in someone else’s contact list, and if so how are you helping that process?

Open Source & Free CRM

I’m connected to Jodie Benveniste of Parent Wellbeing via LinkedIn . I’m not exactly sure how we met (She’s in Adelaide, I’m in Melbourne) , but I think it was because she read some of my articles and liked them. And because I have kids, I read some of hers. Anyway, she sent me an email, the other day about CRM systems. CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.  Basically contact systems on steroids. Although I’m not an expert, I have deployed 6 or 7 different systems, so decided to share my (slightly fleshed out) answer on free systems to a slightly wider audience.

You’ve been blogging about freeware, webbased software on smartcompany – which is great! Just wondering whether you’ve found any decent CRM solutions?   Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Cheers, Jodie.

Hi Jodie,

I have been using Maximiser on the desktop for the last couple of years in the past, to keep a record of contacts, event attendance and newsletter mailouts. But as part of my new cloud computing push, I am evaluating new CRM solutions. And being me, I wanted to look at the free versions first.

In the Open Source space I am currently having a look at vTiger CRM . Previously I had a look at Sugar CRM (the other main player), which didn’t necessarily impress me (as it was a bit pseudo Open Source, with the yummy bits unavailable).

The Web 2.0 interface of vTiger appears to be nice as it speeds things up. It runs on my standard software configuration (LAMP Stack ) and seems to have all the bells and whistles
– Sales force automation
– Customer support & service
– Marketing automation
– Inventory management
– Activity management
– Security management
– Calendaring
– E-mail integration

It also plugs into Outlook, Microsoft Office and Thunderbird (my email client).

I have also tried FreeCRM , which is a hosted solution with the lite (bannered) version being free. Banners irritate me though.

Its hard to make recommendations on CRM though, as my experience is that every business runs in a unique manner (other than franchises), and that CRM systems tend to be configured uniquely to each business. Therefore everyone will have a different opinion on what is best and a different solution will be best for them.

For instance, I am separating the Churchill Club CRM solution out from my general Brendan Lewis solution.  I have completely different needs from the Churchill Club.

The Churchill Club’s new ( Joomla based) website will use a CRM solution integrated into it, combining a couple of free modules. On the Joomla platform I have added the Community Builder module to store information, the JEvents Module for running events, and the AcaJoom module for sending out newsletters. I have also integrated some eCommerce into the mix so the whole thing will be one, stand alone system.

Personally, I have different needs. I have a couple of thousand contacts that need to be:
– Categorised

– Available to me in all three offices
– Integrate with other bits of technology I use
– Can export all records easily if I get bored with it.

Hope this helps.



2000 I was running a multimedia business called Carradale Associates and had the opportunity to vend it into a new IT support business. I pretty much let all the contractors I was employing go, other than the oldest one who I really wanted to look after. Unfortunately he and I had a difference of opinion. I wanted to make a lot of money, and he wanted to work in a New York style loft office, with a cool coffee shop downstairs.

Slight disconnect.

Anyway fast forward 8 years and my friend now has his own IT business. Amongst the product set he has developed is an email marketing solution. And everyonce in awhile when we get together, he suggests I should be using it to send out my Churchill Club emails (at about $200 a go). Traditionally I kind of wanted to, but the CRM system I was using on my windows based laptop was working just well enough and it was free.

However, now that I have moved to a linux based netbook (as discussed in previous weeks blogs), I had to come up with a new solution.

Unfortunately for my friend, a quick look around the open source solutions, and I came up with a free product called PHPlist . PHPlist seemed to be the goods, and when I compared it to my friends solution, I knew I had to give it ago. (My features comparison table is below).


The Mates Paid Solution

The Open Source Free Solution

Expected cost PA



Send HTML & Plain text emails



Send attachments?



Reusable templates?



Personalised emails, eg: Hi Brendan



Track emails opened?



Track click throughs to links?



Bounce management



List cleansing



Scheduled deliveries



Throttled delivery

No (Not Necessary)


Inifinite users

No (but over 100K+)

No (but over 100K+)

Infinitie Lists

No (one at a time)


User subscribe



User unsubscribe





English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Traditional Chinese, Dutch, Vietname and Japanese

Automatically send updated content from websites to your list?



Integrated into your website? no Yes

Getting it going was easy and took me around 10 mins to setup (note the more you mess with this stuff the easier and quicker it gets). The steps (using only a web browser) were:

  1. Download the zip files from http://www.phplist.com/download (actually it flicks you across to sourceforge then automatically downloads the product).
  2. Logged on to one of my unix based webhosting services Bluehost (www.bluehost.com) and used the graphical control panel there to upload the zip file.
  3. Used the control panel to unzip the PHPlist package and install the files into their own subdirectory (which I cleverly called /phplist ).
  4. I then went to the website I used and typed in the address for the installed phplist package. In this case it was a work area I happened to call http://churchill.l2i.com.au/phplist
  5. I then followed the instructions on the screen which involved creating a database (sounds scary but that the graphical control panel made this easy to do).

This PHPlist appears to be pretty cool and the concepts behind using it are fairly easy to understand.

  1. You have email templates that you can put content into.
  2. You have users whom you can put on one or more mailing lists.
  3. You send the email (template & content) to a mailing list and chack the stats fior what happened.

So, I can now send out the fortnightly newsletter from a web based solution which costs me nothing. The best things is though that other directors of the churchill club can now add or delete members from the list with out me getting involved = forces me to be a better collaborator.

And in regards to my friends email marketing solution? Sorry mate– but at least you’ve still got the funky office.

Next week I thought I might go through how I am handling documents: without paying for software, freeing up my time, and becoming a better collaborator.

Everyone can be in business

About once a month I go to the movies with a mate of mine, a kind of very tame boys night out.  Anyway, whilst we were having a beer after the movie he mentioned to me that he had run into a women who owns a couple of hair dressing salons in the UK.  Apparently she is able to travel around as much as she likes, but still has a vice like grip on her businesses.  Using webcams, a web integrated accounting system and Skype, she’s able to monitor almost every aspect of her salons in real time from her home, or from a hotel room from another country.  How cool is that?

Which got me thinking about how virtual I could make a business, and here’s what I came up with.  A business setup for under $1,000 , that can be created without leaving the house, and run from anywhere I have an internet connection.

My products will be the books that I am currently writing on business development. If my product was soft toys or say specialized lamps, I would change the warehousing arrangements.

Firstly I am going to buy a domain name to develop my own brand and make it easy for people to find my products, something like www.brendans-brilliant-business-books.com.au (maybe not that one actually). I can buy the domain name on the cheap at Intaserv or a bit more expensively at Melbourne IT .  Intaserv,  is the cheapest for com.au domain names but their domain name management tools are no where near as easy to use as Melbourne IT.   You get what you pay for, no surprises there.

The products will be advertised online using campaigns purchased from Google Adwords and via the Sensis site .  Of course my online shop will be Search Engine Optimised so it can be found easily.

I will keep a record of what’s happing and run email campaigns using a web based CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.  The one I have chosen in SugarCRM as; Its Open Source, which for me means its more robust and free.  The trade-off though is that the documentation can be crappy.  SugarCRM requires the same supporting technical environment as my shop.

For the online shop, I am going to use OSCommerce.  This is another Open Source product available at Source Forge or at www.oscommerce.com Again its powerful, robust and free.  It also uses the LAMP stack (Linux operating system, Apache webserver, Mysql database & Php language) as its operating environment.  I will connect the shop to my bank account using a merchant account I will setup at paypal

I going to create the company online at a company registration site such as www.incorporate.com.au  Sites such as this have a web based wizard that walks you through all the steps required then sends you the company register as a pdf document once the bill is paid.   The end result is a not big sexy leather look binder, but I’m not looking for that anyway.

The shop and CRM system need to be hosted somewhere.  I’m going to choose someone like Quadrahosting Which have customer control panels to make life easier.  For around $150 a year I can get around 20 websites hosted and my email chucked in as well.

Since I have purchased some web hosting that comes with email, I can use the control panel at Quadrahosting to setup a whole lot of email addresses that forward email to my gmail account.  I can then get my email, anywhere in the world, that is sent to addresses such as accounts@brendans-brilliant-business-books.com.au and sales@brendans-brilliant-business-books.com.au

Now since I want to be as virtual as possible, I don’t particularly want to hold stock.  I’ve decide to use an online book sales site called www.lulu.com to layout and print my book on demand.  I simply (warning : loose use of the word simple) upload a word file, and select the design and title.  I believe a 100 page hardback will cost about US$16 to produce for a
print run of one.  Lulu will effectively become my on-demand warehouse, printing and sending out books as I want.

My banking is of course easy to setup online.  Many companies now have the internet only account.  Its normally an interest paying, zero fees account that you can tack onto another fee paying account you have.   I tend to use The CBA as my other accounts are there and I like suing the one net banking interface to manage my affairs.  And as mentioned before I will also setup a paypal account that will be the gateway between my bank account and my shop.

Since I want to have a local landline number (rather than giving out my mobile) I am going to use skypeIn .  I can have a local landline number that I can forward to my mobile, or simply leave it as an internet based voice mail system.

Now I can simply have my home as the postal address or the traditional Post Office Box.  However there is now a large number of virtual office suppliers in the market.  I can have a Collins St address for as little as $10 per week.  Companies such as Silent Partner offer you the ability to have that address and rent meeting rooms on as ad needed basis.

To keep track of what’s going on I need a good Accounting System that I can create GST compliant invoices with.  A quick search reveals a number of Open Source (free and configurable) web based (accessible anywhere) solutions, including  SQL Ledger .  There are also some interesting paid solutions for nominal amounts such as SAASU at around $250 per year.

Finally since things are now working well and my overheads are minimal, I am profitable.  Therefore I need to be paying tax (both income and my GST). Just as well that he ATO allows me to do everything online at www.ato.gov.au

My estimate is that I have invested about $800 (before marketing) to get the virtual business up and running and worked for maybe 2 days in total over an elapsed time of 2 weeks.


There are lots of other options for doing all of this.  For instance if I was selling art or t-shirts I would probably use Red Bubble as my shop and warehouse, if I was selling services I probably wouldn’t use a shop,  maybe I would use a free online content management system such as Joomla to run the website.  The principle is the same though, there is now no reason (investment, physical space or time available) why every technically literate Australian can’t be an entrepreneur on the side.

Why Free CRM makes me happy

I got an email from FreeCRM today. Free means that it costs nothing (but if you want the really good bits you have to pay $US14.95 per month per user!).

CRM means customer relationship management or, in plain English, a database of customer details, records and contacts that does cool stuff such as remind you to call people back, or report on what your sales pipeline looks like.

It’s great for doing things such as sending out personalised emails to every sales manager you know that barracks for Collingwood but hasn’t been “boned”.

FreeCRM, as its name implies, provides a free CRM system on the internet. I think that a free CRM system is a pretty cool thing because my friend the business broker says lack of customer records is one of the main reasons a business might be unsellable (and no, the debtors ledger doesn’t count as customer records).

Anyway, in today’s email said: “FreeCRM.com has had 99.99% uptime in 2005, and will give you a rebate if we do not hit at least 99.9% uptime.”
Marketers for the IT industry decided that uptime was a fancy way of saying “it’s working”‘ — the converse of downtime, which means “it’s broken or I turned it off”.

So I wondered what the difference might be between 99%, 99.9% and 99.99% in practical terms. As the Americans say: I did the math. Using trusty Excel, I worked out there are about 31.5 million seconds in a year (31,536,000 in a usual 365-day non-leap year). Uptime of 99% implies downtime of 1%, or 87.6 hours per year — a bit over two weeks. Unacceptable. Uptime of 99.9% means 8.76 hours of downtime — a third of one day a year isn’t too bad. Crank that uptime up to 99.99% and it means just 52.56 minutes of downtime — less than a lunchbreak — in a whole year. Yahoo!

I must say I was quite astonished to think that the difference between 99% and 99.99% is effectively two weeks of work time. So I am pretty happy with FreeCRM’s performance. Mind you, a rebate of zero dollars is still zero dollars.