Author Archives: Chad Stewart

Looking for a Small Biz CRM tool, a SmartThought review of SwiftPage ACT! Since 1997, I have been working with Customer Relationship Management software. In fact, I remember a time before the term Sales Force Automation, Customer Relationship Management, and even! If you remember the Rolodex you likely recall the early days as well! We all needed a better way and thanks to many of the pioneers  like Pat Sullivan, the founder of SwiftPage Act!, and Jon Ferrara, the founder of Goldmine, we all have a better way to handle our customers today! In this article, I wanted to take a stroll down memory lane and revisit an oldie but goodie, SwiftPage ACT! Looking to replace this with CRM Software? Yes, I recall with great clarity the day when Act! Software and Goldmine Software ruled the roost in the small business software space. Knowing this, I wanted to take some time to share some thoughts on one of the oldest contact managers in the market, SwiftPage Act! which has grown into a mature sales force automation tool for small business users today. Indeed,  Act! is still considered one of the best-selling contact & customer Manager, trusted by individuals, small businesses, and sales teams to get organized and take the guesswork out of marketing to drive sales results. If you are not familiar with Act!, Act! by SwiftPage helps organize all your contacts, leads, prospects and customer details in one place. It helps market your products and services more effectively, driving sales results while creating customers for life. While it is not the right fit for everyone, I believe that SwiftPage Act! still excels in combining many features which are difficult to find in even some upperclassmen in this space.

Here the top 10 features which make SwiftPage Act! still relevant:

  • Integrated email marketing solution
  • Easy to use interface
  • No limits on the type of data that can be stored
  • Easy to use integrated word templates for communications
  • Opportunity Management is capable
  • Linking between accounts and contacts data
  • Tailoring of the system is easy
  • Integration with Word, Outlook, Gmail clients
  • Business automation with Smart Tasks
  • Your choice of deployment options (Web, Local, Hosted, Synchronization)

Certainly, there is always room for improvement! For example, it needs to incorporate more social selling signals and feeds like Nimble. I have written a review on Nimble and Nimble clearly shines in the area of social selling prowess. However, outside social selling area, it lacks the ability to handle account centric selling needs for the B to B selling environment. It does well with dealing with the “contact” centric nature of the design with the linking of fields but still isn’t the best “account” centric selling tool. These two items may or may not be applicable to you so you will need to decide. In this day of “Cloud Software“, I believe that Act! has still earned the right to be at the table if you are a small business embarking on a journey to find your first sales and marketing software tool. To be sure, SwiftPage Act! still delivers value in the age of the Cloud.   If you would like to learn more, I am a contributing author on TrustRadius. And, you may find a full review by clicking My review of Swiftpage ACT! on TrustRadius here. I will be reviewing more soon! Looking for a Small Biz CRM tool, a SmartThought review of SwiftPage ACT!


Marketing plan

In this article, we wanted to cover what a marketing plan should look like and what it is not.

Recently, I visited with an owner of a small software provider who is looking for ways to increase leads at his respective business. We began to discuss his goals and vision for the company and embarked on a conversation with regards to execution and planning by his organization thus far during his tenure.

I simply asked “where is your marketing plan”? And, I received a spreadsheet with some events and trade shows displayed on it. That was the extent of the “plan”.

I was not shocked. In fact, I knew the answer before I had even asked. Most small businesses today do not work off a fluid and dynamic marketing plan. In most cases, the “marketing plan” in the minds of many small business owners is the “business plan”. Which to be clear, are two very distinct and different items all together.

With that interaction firmly in my mind, I wanted to discuss what a “marketing plan” is and is not. First, let me tackle some of the items which it is not:

  • A marketing plan is not a spreadsheet of activities
  • A marketing plan is not an editorial calendar with pretty colors and trade shows listed
  • A marketing plan is not one campaign for emails, outbound calling, or blog content to be produced
  • A marketing plan is not just the amount of $ you have to spend on marketing for the year
  • A marketing plan is not, I repeat, not, something you conjured up one weekend to execute the following week
  • A marketing plan is not your business plan

According to Entrepreneur Magazine, a marketing plan, is the written document that describes your advertising and marketing efforts for the coming year; it includes a statement of the marketing situation, a discussion of target markets and company positioning and a description of the marketing mix you intend to use to reach your marketing goals.

Here are four critical topics that should be covered in your marketing plan before you embark with any specific marketing activities in the next year:

1. Situation Analysis

  • What are your assets? Focus on People, Technology, Dollars.
  • What does the market space look like?
  • What strengths does your team have now at this very moment?
  • Competitive environment?

2. Marketing Strategy

  • What is your business vision and mission?
  • What are you business objectives at this time?
  • What is your value proposition today?

3. Craft your marketing program

  • What is your Product Messaging?
  • Should you review or alter your pricing strategy?
  • What communication channels have you used? Should you explore?
  • How about some fresh and new promotion activities?

4. Determine your Controls, Measure of Success, & KPI’s

  • What kind of budget do you have this year? Increase it!
  • How will you know you have achieved? Name your Success Factors.
  • How will measure your KPI’s? Top of the Funnel, MOF, BOF? Conversions? Sales?
  • Is this the year for a Marketing Automation help to help enable the mission

The Marketing plan should not be viewed as a “one and done” event. Rather, the Marketing plan should be kept front and center. We encourage clients to pull it out at least monthly but at the very least at your quarterly meetings. I would be remiss if I did not state that this shouldn’t be devised and implemented in a vacuum.

If you are a small organization where there is one “sales and marketing” person, you will have your work cut out for you. You must enlist the entire team (consultants, developers, executives) etc. in this effort. Otherwise, it’s your plan. And, your plan will mean nothing unless it’s shared with the rest of the organization.

Using the plan in a positive ways will provide “Cheering” material for everyone to “Rally” behind. In other words, fire the team up with what everyone has accomplished and what’s left to do.

Certainly, after you secure that first small business loan. Marketing plans are not required. However, they should be mandatory to ensure that you will have a viable business long term.

If you would like to discuss your current plan or would like to discuss best practices for preparing one, please give us a call.

Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.


marketing automation will make your organization be a man

In this article, we will discuss the importance of having a “Social Selling” methodology in place and using “Marketing Automation technology”  as necessary components in “becoming” an organization in the 21st Century.

You’ll be a man before your mama is! This is an expression which my father used to say quite often to many of my friends growing up as a youth. In a joking and playful manner, it usually happened with good friends which he had known for years or younger relatives at the close of visiting with them. You could say that it was one of his “Signature Expressions”, “Tag Lines” or “Parting Words” that got a chuckle out of the guys growing up.

After recently enjoying Fathers Day, I found myself thinking about that expression a bit. And, it was interesting to note that not once through those years (which I can recall) did any of my friends or relatives ask my Dad, “What in the heck does that mean?”. It’s a legitimate question, right? Anyone in their right mind knows that no one is going to be a man before their mom. It’s ridiculous. And, that, in and of itself is what makes the expression funny.

Honestly, looking back , I didn’t think much of the expression growing up. I simply thought of it as a funny way for my dad to play around with my friends and possibly add some humor as we departed. I shrugged it off as just something which made my Dad, well, my Dad. A very hard working affable man, who does his best to do his best. However, on this past Fathers Day, I began to contemplate the meaning a bit.

What does this expression actually mean? Where did the expression come from? And, is there more to this expression than just a lighthearted phrase expressed by my dad throughout the years?

After some searching, Nietzsche, the well-recognized German Philosopher, believed that we were all in a state of “becoming”. In other words, Nietzsche believed that there is no final state of “being”; that we are always evolving & changing.

Hmm? Could the expression actually have merit?  Was my Dad capable of actually coming up with something quite profound? If so, please don’t tell him is all that I could think about! However, after some thought and some deep down humble pie, I have come to conclude that the expression was a way to say that we are always striving “to become”.  Albeit, a little backwards way of bringing a point across, but the expression is quite prophetic. Wow!

The point of my Dad’s “Signature Expression” and “Nietzsche” philosophical belief (wow, never thought those two would ever be in the same sentence) is that whether one is a sales or marketing professional, a sales or marketing department, or for profit or nonprofit organization, we will never become the final entity which we believe we want or can possibly be. One is continually changing, evolving, and becoming. And, whether we focus in one concerted fashion to achieve some level of significance or simply fall into whatever we have become, we are never going to be “finished”. We will always be in a state of “becoming”.

Today, organizations are faced with many challenges but Sales and Marketing is a big one. What once worked in marketing and sales isn’t effective. We live in a “buyers” market now. No longer are the days of “sellers” being in control of the way their audience “sees them”, “connects with them”, and “chooses” to do business with them.

Today, your sales and marketing unit along with your entire organization has a chance to be different from your competition. As an executive, you have a choice now to “become” on the leading edge and embrace the “new” norm or “become” different by remaining the same. We have a choice in how we “become”.

In our mind’s eye, “social selling” is a major shift from old school conventions.  Your sales professionals must embrace the new paradigm. Transparency is the order of the day. And, truly caring about your audience and being authentic is expected and requirement of your “buyers”. In order to perform, sales professionals must be armed with the right tools and skills to be able to provide your constituents with information they need, when they need it, and how they need it. Are you and your organization prepared to do this today?

It’s a fact, “Buyers”  have more information than they have ever had before. As an organization, you have to be able to attract, educate, and continually delight your “future advocates” with information on how your firm understands how to solve their business challenges. In order to “become” able to do this, you must have the right tools found in Marketing Automation software in order to provide your “future advocates” with what they need at the right time throughout their buying journey with you.  Organizations must be capable of nurturing buyers with multiple opportunities for engagement, as opposed to the old philosophy of “show up and throw up” of your content and information.

Social Selling and Marketing Automation is the key

While the expression may be a bit odd and provide a chuckle, the point adds verisimilitude ( I never thought I would be able to use that word, thanks Dr. Hall!).

So, “Will you be a man before your mama is?”

If you would like to discuss how you may embark on a new path or simply would like to chat more about the various software tools available today to help in the area of “social selling” or “marketing automation”, please contact us. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.