Two CRM Seminars Given with TEAM

During the last two weeks of March Robert Schuldenfrei, President of S. I. Inc., gave the seminar “CRM for Small Business.”  CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management.  The event was jointly offered with TEAM Computer Systems of Needham, MA.  For more information about TEAM read the next feature article.  It was given in the TEAM offices.  Bill Ten Eick, President of TEAM, was our gracious host for the evening.  Originally scheduled for one evening, the seminar was so oversubscribed that it was repeated a week later.  The picture on the left shows some of the attendees during the first presentation.  The one hour evening format was so successful that TEAM and S. I. Inc. plan to do these events every eight weeks or so.

The next seminar is scheduled for May 21, 2003.  The topic will be “Maintain Your Own Web Site.”  The idea is that once a site has been established, you can use Microsoft Word to make changes in the content.  Since this is the concept introduced in the feature article below, you can get a preview of the seminar by reading the WORKS.

The two seminars on CRM were one hour in length with a half an hour of discussion following the presentation.  The theme was to allow small business to take information that they have on file and turn this data into a powerful CRM system.  Having data on file usually means having a computer based billing system.  Other sources of CRM data can come into play.  In the past CRM was the sole domain of large enterprise.  This was due to the fact that CRM systems were large, expensive, and time consuming to implement.  However, the principles of CRM are simple, practical, and can be driven from small business information sources.  The meat of the seminar was explaining how small businesses can make this happen.  We can help the owners and managers get involved with CRM.

During the first twenty minutes of the seminar Bob laid out just what CRM entails.  There were some general concepts which apply to organizations of any size.  Here he stressed that customers have needs which must be satisfied if the firm is to succeed.  There was a discussion of three types of data.  They are: customer profile, deal progress, and sales activities.  While this is not the sum total of all CRM information, it does cover the basics.  Bob pointed out that sales need to be managed, not just observed happening.  Finally, he explained that a good CRM system makes a distinction between company data and data on contacts with in that company.  This is important because information about the company is likely to be billing data while information about the contact should be marketing data.  For example, the address of Accounts Payable is not likely to be the address of an engineer who could be your customer.

Some time was spent during this first third of the seminar explaining deal management.  Bob stressed that you do not have infinite memory and that everything about the deal needs to be recorded in a computer system.  This will help you organize your work.  Even if people leave your firm, the customer information stays behind.  This helps you manage through the system.

There are some issues that are unique to small business.  CRM must be done in a “low cost / no cost” manner.  Bob said that this could be “carved in stone.”  When you keep track of what people are buying you have opportunities to up-sell, cross-sell and narrow cast.  These, in turn, help a small operator fight a much larger competitor.  Examples were given to demonstrate the advantages which emanate from concentrations of customer/contact data.

The remainder of the hour was spent showing real small business CRM systems built from a variety of computer packages.  First up was a system built from an existing accounting system.  Bob explained that this was done often in larger firms where the source code for the accounting system was at hand, but it did not happen too often in smaller firms.  Next he showed a popular commercial package, ACT!  The same information that went into the accounting system could be implemented in that system.  For the third system, he took the same data and built a CRM system out of Microsoft Access.  Bob pointed out that this was the direction he has taken for a CRM system at S. I. Inc.  The last system described was building a CRM capability out of Microsoft Outlook using the contact function.  The group looked at some of the features of the Beta release of Outlook 2003.  Bob pointed out that this was something that the attendees could start using the next day.  While there are some limitations of this approach, it conforms to the low cost / no cost concept.

Much of the seminar was based on some consulting work Bob did last year.  This was written up in the Winter issue of the WORKS that can be viewed by following the link.  Everyone believed that the seminar was well run and very informative.

TEAM Computer Systems, Inc.

Since mid February TEAM Computer Systems, Inc. and S. I. Inc. have been working on joint ventures.  We have been doing joint projects with TEAM’s founder and President, William Ten Eick.  One of the tangible results of this relationship is the seminar series noted above.  Like the relationships with other firms, S. I. Inc. likes to leverage these partnerships for the benefit of our clients.  As new capabilities result from these associations, they will be reported here and on the web site.  The following information was taken directly from their web site.

TEAM Computer Systems was founded in 1983 to provide software and system design services for small businesses. We offer the technical know-how for smaller organizations that cannot afford a staff of full-time systems support.

Since 1983, changes in the small business world have prompted TEAM to evolve as a business. The abundance of personal computers, networking, and Internet applications has brought about the need for a technical networking systems consulting group. As such, you can look to TEAM as your small business IT management support.

TEAM’s expertise includes

·         System design and specifications for new and upgraded systems

·         Installation of PC-based networks

·         Email systems

·         Internet access sharing

·         Antivirus systems for networks at the server and workstations level

·         Network backup solutions

·         Installation of applications software

·         Hourly, monthly, or annual system support

·         Assistance with hardware and software purchases

·         Web site development and maintenance

·         Hardware, software, and product evaluation services

TEAM offers a free introductory consultation. Call (781) 444-2700 today for more information.


Maintaining a Web Site Using Word

It is interesting to note that many small businesses now have a web site.  That is a good thing, however, most of these sites are little more than a static billboard.  They have never changed since the day they were created.  This is probably because they were established by someone outside of the organization which we might generously call a “professional.”  The site was created, loaded up on some Internet Service Provider (ISP), and left there for eternity.  What a shame.

What your web site does for you

Your web site can be an ever changing window through which the world can look into your organization.  People can return to the site time and time again to learn what is new.  This can be new products and services, new people, a newsletter, and a list of up coming events.  Although hardly an exhaustive list, you get the flavor of the type of things which are dynamic in nature, rather than static.  These are the types of things that we do at S. I. Inc.  Our site is always changing as the date at the bottom of the home page indicates.

Why is a web site so valuable to a small business?  If you believe in “low cost / no cost” marketing, and we do, there is no cheaper form of advertising than a web site.  For a tiny monthly fee even the smallest of enterprises can have a kiosk in the world marketplace.  If you are clever your site can do many of the things that traditional, and expensive, media can do.  It can augment or replace direct mail, print advertising, or even radio and TV spots.

Not only can a web site replace the “old” media, it can do things that the old media could not do well if at all.  Take for example e.commerce.  Your web site can be an on-line store front where your customers can purchase goods and services directly from your organization.  Even if you do not want to take that big a step, your web site can send you e.mail from customers so that your sales force can close the sale.  All this at a fraction of the cost of a toll-free telephone number.

Establishing the site for the first time

Unless you know HTML programming, it is probably a good idea to let a professional “webmaster” build your site for the first time.  For reasons listed below, I would instruct your webmaster not to use Microsoft FrontPage.  My preference is to code in straight HTML, but Word or some web page editor is fine.  It is important for the webmaster to fully qualify all images on pages that users will update.  Care should be taken to isolate those pages and keep them simple and short.  “Features,” like Flash movies, should not be placed on pages a user would want to maintain.  This document is an excellent example of a page a user could maintain.  It has only three images and no advanced features.  It does have frames and links, but these are supported by Word.

One might ask, why not have the user maintain the page in Microsoft FrontPage?  There are a number of reasons why I do not think much of this idea.  First, and by far the most important, is that Word is widely known by users the world over.  FrontPage is not well known.  Users gravitate towards what they know and are afraid of what they do not.  Second, FrontPage is slow and unless you know how to avoid it, will load the whole web site every time the page is “published.”  Third, except for the “help” screens, there is no documentation for using FrontPage.  In contrast, there are hundreds of books on Word ranging from the simple to the very detailed.

Many users shy away from maintaining the site even after it has been launched.  Those who do usually prefer to let their webmasters take care of the updates.  “Let George do it.”  Unless you have a full time webmaster on your staff, more times than not, the site languishes for years.  Webmasters are expensive and small businesses finds it easy to let well enough alone.  For all of the reasons listed above, I feel that web sites should be dynamic.  Here is how a user can get it done.

Using Word for maintenance

So your are convinced and you are ready to take Word out for a spin.  What are the steps necessary to make this happen?  Step one is the move towards self-preservation.  There really should be two copies of the web site.  One is the “real” site at the ISP.  The other is the backup site in a folder on your local computer.  Should disaster strike and your ISP “trashes” your site, you can reload and repair the damage.  In addition, ISP have been known to go out of business!  With a backup you are prepared.  For the purpose of this example let me establish my local site at C:\My_Site and my site with the ISP as  For those readers who know us will recognize the URL as the real S. I. Inc. site. 

Step two is to start Word and load the file from the local site into Word using File | Open.  As I began to update this newsletter I opened the file spring2003.html.  Your local file might be events.html or news.html.  All of the usual options for typography in Word are available to you.  I have set my body type in Arial 10 point in my favorite color.  Headlines are in 24 point type.  I have made it a habit to save my file often.  Every time I do this I am saving the file to the local copy in my C:\My_Site folder.  Now comes the really interesting part.

I can actually upload my file to my ISP with a Save As operation in Word 2000 or the version of Word in Office XP.  This is done by prefacing the file name with the ISP location.  In my case it would be:  You can click on the link just given to see that this newsletter did indeed get uploaded.  Now in the interest of security, your ISP will ask for a password in order to make this upload operational.  If you supply the correct one you will see the file being sent.  To prove that the transfer really took place, just point your browser to the correct address and see what happened.  If you want to make a change to the file at a later time, don’t forget to save the change to both the local file and the file stored at the ISP.

For most people, the text changes noted above is all that they need or want to do.  For the more technically inclined, the next few paragraphs will provide some further insights.  Sometimes you want to provide a hyperlink to some other page.  The easiest way to do this is just to type the fully qualified name of the page as was done in the last paragraph.  You can, alternatively, make a link out of any random words.  Notice that “random words” in the last sentence was a hyperlink to the same place, the Spring 2003 newsletter.  In order to form a hyperlink, select the words and Insert | Hyperlink.  In the text box called Address type the fully qualified name of the link.

As of this writing, I have found no way of putting pictures in an update and having them transmitted to the ISP.  What happens is your URL for the pictures is the local site.  You can upload the pictures to the ISP using the FTP program, however, this defeats the purpose of doing all of the updates in Word.  Let’s assume that you or your webmaster did place the picture on the ISP web site.  Now you can insert the picture into the text using Word.  Click Insert | Picture | From File.  In the text box at the bottom marked File Name enter the fully qualified name of the picture.  For example: would insert the picture that was currently stored at the ISP.

Everything that I want to do with text has worked using this technique.  The premise that we began with is we wanted a quick and easy way to maintain a site to keep it fresh and up to date.  I have found this very useful for maintaining my own site in spite of the fact that I can program in HTML.


For additional information:
     Phone: (781) 329-4828

     Or send USPS mail to:
     S. I. Inc.
     32 Ridley Road
Dedham, MA 02026