Knowledge Base

If you’re thinking about launching a new marketing campaign, the first thing you need to do is check whether it’ll benefit your company or not. To measure how much revenue a certain campaign will generate, marketers check its ROI. ROI is an acronym for return on investment. It’s a common concept in the business world. To give a straightforward answer to the question from the title of this article - “What is ROI in marketing?” - we can say it’s a strategy that helps determine how much money you spend on a marketing project vs. the amount of revenue you gain from it. As this is one of the vital calculations in marketing, we’ll focus on its purpose and explain how you can analyze the marketing ROI for your company. The Importance of ROI in Marketing Marketing professionals and business owners, in general, rely on data-driven evaluations to help them decide how to assign their marketing budgets. And that is where ROI steps in, as it allows marketers to develop a more successful strategy by using their resources more effectively. Now let’s see what the key functions and the true purpose of ROI in marketing are. Prioritizing Projects By calculating the ROI of multiple marketing campaigns, you’ll be able to see which one of them brings you the most value, and that can help you correctly prioritize campaigns to boost your company’s revenue growth. ROI will also shed light on which projects aren’t bringing enough revenue and possibly hurt your business. Once you measure the ROI of each campaign, you’ll be able to decide whether to reevaluate your marketing strategy or end some of those projects.  Selecting Future Projects Once you learn how to prioritize your current projects, it’ll be easier to find a pattern to successfully target your audience in the future. Measuring ROI in marketing will help you learn from experience and develop new strategies when choosing your future projects. Understanding Your Audience One of the greatest advantages of knowing your ROI in marketing is that it allows you to better understand your audience and its behavior. It doesn’t just give you an insight into the numbers coming from various projects; it also shows which strategies have the best impact on your audience. Once you know that, it gets much easier to decide which type of advertising to go with to draw in new clients.  To fully answer the question “Why is marketing ROI important?” we shouldn’t overlook client satisfaction. If you work in a marketing agency and your clients are other businesses, one of the most important things to keep in mind when creating a new marketing strategy is how you’ll present it to your existing and potential clients. Apart from reliable CRM, which has already become a common practice among real estate companies, brokerages, and many other businesses, incorporating the predicted ROI of your campaign into the presentation is also something that can boost your clients’ trust. Understanding Competition Knowing how to define your ROI in marketing and measure it correctly can take you a long way. However, many experienced marketers go one step further and compare their marketing ROI with that of their competitors. This helps them determine how their marketing campaigns relate to others in the industry in terms of efficiency. Studying the business strategies of your competitors who have a higher ROI percentage can give you an idea how to improve your own business. Better Budget Allocation The ultimate goal of understanding ROI in marketing is better budget allocation. Marketing budgets are always lower than you’d like them to be, so learning how to use the funds you do have at your disposal wisely is essential. To achieve better results, you need to know which projects require less investment but bring more revenue. How To Calculate ROI in Marketing The easiest way to determine your marketing ROI is to compare your revenue to your marketing expenses.  One of the simplest equations for calculating ROI is: (Revenue − Investment) / Investment If, for example, you invest $10,000 in a particular project, and generate $20,000 from it, your ROI formula will look like this:  ($20,000 − $10,000) / $10,000 = 1 To calculate your marketing ROI percentage, you should multiply this final number by 100. In this case, your marketing ROI would be 100%.  There are a few things to keep in mind when calculating your marketing ROI. Here, we’ll go over each in more detail. Set a Time Frame One of the crucial things when determining your marketing ROI is to set an appropriate time frame for data gathering. If you wish to see if your latest marketing campaign was a success, you need to allow enough time for it to reach your clients before looking for a return on your investments. Also, be consistent and use data from the same business cycle. Measure the Marketing Cost and Sales Growth Now that you know the meaning of ROI in marketing and its importance, your next step should be to collect all the relevant financial data about your marketing project. If you need to calculate an ROI and have a large amount of data to process, seek help from the bookkeepers and accountants. Consider keeping a marketing record where you could enter all your ROI calculations to gain insight into which factors influence your marketing ROI the most. What Is a Good Marketing ROI?  Marketing ROIs are usually expressed in ratios. What is a good ROI ratio in marketing? You should aim for a 5:1 ratio at least. Anything below a 2:1 ratio is considered unprofitable; anything below 1:1 is negative ROI, while an ROI ratio above 5:1 is deemed to be strong for most businesses.  When calculating your ROI, you should factor in all the marketing costs your campaign will incur, including: Pay-per-click spend Media spend Content production costs Outside marketing and advertising agency fees Make sure you don’t overlook anything because understating your costs will result in an incorrectly calculated and unrealistic ROI.  Marketing ROI Examples and Strategies Now that you’re familiar with some basic reference values, let’s go through a couple of practical examples.  Pay-per-Click Campaigns PPC is an advertising model in which you pay a certain provider to promote your ad based on the number of user clicks on your ad, whether or not it leads to a sale. The ROI formula can help you track your ad performance and manage your PPC campaigns. For example, according to some PPC stats, Google search ads have an average ROI of 200% - for each dollar invested, marketers gain $2. Video Marketing For what else is ROI in marketing used for? For assessing the profitability of video marketing campaigns. Although video marketing can be pretty expensive and time-consuming, video marketing statistics indicate that 88% of marketers are satisfied with their social media video marketing ROI. Email Marketing Even though many think sending emails is outdated, it’s still one of the key marketing tools. Recent statistics show that email marketing is the most effective way to promote your business. This type of marketing brings $40 back for every $1 spent, so it comes as no surprise that many marketers see it as their number-one tool for revenue generation. Paid Social Media Promotions  We already know the importance and numerous benefits of ROI in marketing. Now let’s see what it can tell you about the effectiveness of your social media promotions. Suppose your company targets an audience that regularly uses social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. In that case, you might think about boosting your posts to get promoted on the newsfeeds of your targeted audience. Tracking the ROI of your campaign can help you see if this strategy works for you and determine the types of posts that lead to the revenue increase. If you look at social media marketing stats, you’ll notice that 94% of marketers use Facebook in their marketing campaigns. This isn’t surprising as Facebook is the biggest social media platform, with about 2.89 billion monthly active users. The Bottom Line Understanding ROI in marketing is a vital part of any marketing campaign. And even though calculating it might get complicated, it comes with great benefits. It enables you to gain a better insight into your marketing strategies, how they need to be tweaked, and determine your future marketing goals. Your marketing decisions and marketing budget should be based on fresh, verified, and detailed data - only then will you be able to calculate your ROI properly, adjust your business strategy, and ultimately, improve revenue growth.

By Milja September 24,2021

If you’re into sales or run a small-business company, you already know how difficult it might be to keep track of everything. Most small-business companies are using some form of CRM to help them keep on top of things and increase sales, but there are also some tactics that you can start implementing on your own. Cross-selling and upselling are the key strategies that can help grow your revenue by boosting the average order value. We will start this article by explaining what each of these terms actually means before discussing how cross-selling vs. upselling works.  Cross-selling definition and purpose Cross-selling is the strategy of offering customers additional items related to their initial purchase. By implementing this strategy, companies encourage customers to spend more money by purchasing additional items that complement their original purchase. In most cases, cross-selling includes products that users would buy anyway. As people sometimes tend to forget those items, it is beneficial for both sides to point them in the right direction. They will get all they need, and you will get your sales boosted. What is upselling? Upselling encourages customers to spend more money by purchasing a more expensive or upgraded version of their initial purchase. To apply the upsell, a salesperson needs to suggest an upgrade or persuade a customer to purchase add-ons. Upselling increases the average order value and helps customers get even more satisfied with their purchase.  The difference between cross-selling and upselling Now that we know what both of these terms stand for let's summarize their differences. Here is one of the upselling vs. cross-selling examples we have all experienced. When you’re at your local fast food buying a cheeseburger, the salesperson will always offer to add some fries with that. That is a clear example of a cross-sell, and it’s a win-win situation cause who would say no to fries? If they offer to supersize your meal instead, and you agree, you have just become a “victim” of an upsell.  How to successfully cross-sell and upsell There are a few things you should know if you wish to master the art of cross-selling and upselling. Learn all about your product. The most important thing to do before you start implementing cross-selling and upselling strategies is to get familiar with the product you’re offering. Make sure to look into all of your products and all of their features well to know how those products fit together. By combining two wrong products, you can turn the customer off instead of convincing them to purchase more.  Get to know your audience. Try to collect as much information about your customers as you can. Real estate companies use CRM to easily keep track of amenities a property might have to ensure they’re presenting the customer with the best option possible. Collecting demographic and psychographic information about your customers and paying close attention to their feedback will make place for the new cross-selling and upselling opportunities. In the long run, these tactics can help you enhance customer satisfaction, which is crucial for running any successful business. Keep things simple. Offering too many products might be overwhelming for the customers, and it can create unnecessary confusion. You should always strive to build a long-term relationship with the customers and target a few items that would provide a clear benefit for them. Offer loyalty perks. Based on your business model, you should try to establish a loyalty scheme for regular customers. Customers who buy more should enjoy some loyalty offerings and get rewarded for their commitment to your store. Do follow-ups. Although there is a clear distinction between upselling vs. cross-selling, you can find the opportunity to implement both of these selling techniques after the customer has already made their purchase. You can achieve this by doing a follow-up after each successful sale to ensure they are happy with the purchase, and if they are, you can easily suggest appropriate upsell or cross-sell products. Cross-selling and upselling in eCommerce eCommerce is probably the best environment for cross-selling and upselling. According to eCommerce stats, online retail shops generated 14.34 billion visits in March 2020. These numbers show how the shopping trends have changed over the years. Learning how to make the best out of the new trends is vital, as there are multiple benefits of cross-selling and upselling to consider. eCommerce gives you a great opportunity for cross-selling and upselling because you have access to customer data and their shopping history, which can help you come up with the targeted offers. It’s also great as you can insert different cross-sell and upsell products throughout the shopping process or in the post-purchase confirmation email.

By Milja September 24,2021

Both demand generation and lead generation are highly valuable marketing strategies that businesses need to employ in order to generate new leads and boost their customer base. In other words, a lead generation effort cannot be effective without a demand generation component.   As such, the demand generation vs. lead generation comparison can sometimes get a little confusing. But even though these two strategies work towards the same goal, they are fundamentally different. In a nutshell, demand generation involves activities that build awareness about your service or product, whereas its counterpart is tasked with turning that interest into leads.  In an effort to dispel some of the confusion, our guide delves deeper into the main characteristics of both strategies.   What Is Demand Generation? Demand generation or demand gen is the process of getting the public interested in your company’s products and/or services. The idea is to develop a targeted marketing program that drives awareness of what your business is offering and draws visitors to your website. Most people think that this comes down solely to improving the visibility of your content on different social media channels. However, a big part of demand generation is helping your target audience identify problems and then offering your service as the solution. For example, a demand generation strategy targeting small business owners who are uncomfortable with the idea of being their own bookkeeper will highlight the importance of focusing on growing one’s business while passing off this ‘confusing’ and ‘overwhelming’ task to bookkeeping service providers.   Demand generation, or rather awareness, is on top of every sales funnel, followed by lead generation strategies. Think about it as the starting point of a consumer’s journey through the sales funnel. Demand generation content comes in a variety of forms, including influencer posts that show how effective your services are or sharing free tools and articles. It’s important to note that B2B demand generation content is non-gated, meaning that your audience doesn’t need to provide personal information in order to engage with it.   What Is Lead Generation?  Unlike demand gen, which focuses on calling attention to the need for your product/service,  lead generation activities seek to convert your audience into leads. If implemented properly, the combination of lead generation and demand generation will bring in new clients and boost your consumer base.  Lead generation is built on demand gen marketing strategies. If your company has a successful demand generation program, the big pool of potential prospects is then directed to the lead generation team that will nurture them into leads. Lead generation relies on strategies that include collecting names and contact details from the audience that show some interest in the company’s services.  The contact creation process in the case of lead generation marketing involves free webinars and tutorials, product guides, whitepapers, ebooks, free trials, and other content that visitors can get access to if they disclose their personal details.  The Difference Between Demand Gen vs. Lead Gen  A B2B marketing strategy that blends demand gen and lead gen components enables the company’s sales team to convert more leads into prospective buyers and thus increase revenue. But if your business uses both strategies without knowing the purpose of each, you’ll probably end up with a poor audience pool. Even though demand gen and lead gen are similar processes and work hand in hand, businesses must acknowledge the clear distinction between the two in order to implement a successful funnel strategy.   In the lead generation vs demand generation comparison, the key difference comes down to the content being used. When it comes to demand generation, the purpose of the content is to generate brand awareness and capture an audience interested in the company’s products and services. The content created for lead generation is lead-oriented, and its purpose is to turn the audience into leads.  Simply put, demand generation produces content that is focused on demand, while lead generation produces content that’s focused on collecting information about leads.  Another key difference between demand generation vs lead generation is the marketing funnel and the way targeting is used in both cases. The most important thing to identify is the distinction between people who don’t know about your products or services and those familiar with your brand.   Demand generation is not about creating content that will reach as many people as possible but creating brand awareness and reaching those who actually might be interested in your products and services, and thus, most likely to become leads.  In the demand creation vs lead generation comparison, content promotion is also different. Demand generation programs don’t pay for sharing content with people who are familiar with the brand. Once you have a base of people who know about your products and services, lead generation programs enter the fray.  Bottom Line  If you want to run a successful marketing campaign, both demand gen and lead gen strategies must be incorporated. It’s pointless to drive the right traffic to your site if you don’t have the necessary tools for lead conversions and following up with prospective clients. And although these two components work towards the same objective, it’s important to remember that they play uniquely distinct roles in the sales process.

By Danica Jovic September 23,2021

In an era where information sources are abundant, and competition is extreme, it’s becoming complicated for companies in any field to reach, track, and engage with potential clients. Traditional email blasts used to be enough to attract customers a decade or two ago. Nowadays, however, businesses need to implement smart lead generation strategies to attract potential customers. But what is lead generation, and how effective is it really? As a marketing technique that focuses on stimulating and capturing interest in a product or service with the aim of developing a sales pipeline, lead generation allows companies to nurture contacts until they’re ready to make a purchase. No matter if you run a B2B company or a B2C company, you’ll find lead generation beneficial. It helps increase brand awareness, build relationships, and ultimately close important business deals.  Lead generation marketing is important for real estate, eCommerce, and many other businesses, and email marketing is still one of the most effective digital marketing channels. Gathering potential customers’ contact info allows the company to market to them later, even if they do not make a purchase immediately. In online marketing, acquiring leads typically involves collecting a site visitor’s contact information (called a “lead”) via a web form. Before we dive deeper into explaining the benefits of implementing lead gen strategies and describing the process itself, let’s start by defining what a lead is and talking about different types of leads. What Is a Lead? In the context of sales and marketing, a person who indicates interest in a company's product or service is considered a lead. From customer referrals to digital marketing efforts, there’s a wide variety of sources that leads can come from. Whether they come through offline or online lead generation channels, leads usually learn about a business or organization after opening communication by themselves instead of receiving a random cold call from someone who purchased their contact information. This is generally done by submitting personal details while looking for a quote, trial, or subscription to a product or service. Still, given that people have different preferences and needs, not every contact is a lead. Many businesses make the mistake of marketing their products and services to a broad audience when they should instead focus on those individuals who have already shown interest in what the company has to offer.  Finding a New Business Lead Let's say an individual takes an online survey to learn about accounting and bookkeeping for a small business. A few days later, they receive an email from the accounting software provider who created the survey to generate leads. The information the accounting software company gathers about the prospective customers helps it personalize that opening communication to address their specific problems and challenges - and not waste time calling individuals who aren't interested in this type of business service. This process is a lot less intrusive than it would be if the accounting software company just got in touch with you out of the blue with no knowledge of whether you even run a business.   Leads are part of the lifecycle that consumers follow when they move on from the visitor to the customer stage. Still, not all leads are created equal. One of the most crucial lead generation tips we can give you is to determine whether your leads are “qualified”. So, what are qualified leads, you may wonder. Also referred to as quality leads, these are contacts who have taken a step showing they are considering a purchase. While some leads may be ready to do so right away, others may be taking a little more time to research their options.  Assuring the quality of leads you find using lead gen tools is essential. Sending the wrong message at the wrong time can waste your time and resources while ruining the relationship with a prospective customer. Here’s an overview of several different types of qualified leads: Marketing qualified leads: A marketing qualified lead, or MQL for short, is a contact who’s engaged with the efforts of a company’s marketing team but still isn’t ready for a sales call. Marketing leads are contacts who, for example, have stumbled upon your landing page and filled out a form to receive a downloadable guide.  Sales qualified leads: Contacts who have taken actions that show immediate interest in becoming paying customers are referred to as sales qualified leads or SQLs. A contact that fills out a form inquiring about a product or a service is an example of a SQL.  Product qualified leads: A product qualified lead (PQL) is a contact who has tested out a free or a limited version of your product. After signing up for a free trial, PQLs get in touch with your sales team to learn more about the features which are only available to paying customers. Service qualified leads: Lastly, service qualified leads have an active interest in your offerings as they already use the products or services and pay for them. These types of leads are customers who get in touch with a service representative with a request to upgrade their current subscription. Lead Generation and Inbound Marketing So, what is inbound marketing, and how is lead generation related to it? Inbound marketing is a type of marketing strategy that aims to attract customers by creating valuable content tailored to them, thus encouraging individuals to engage with the company’s brand actively. In contrast with outbound marketing which interrupts the audience with content they may or may not be interested in, inbound marketing offers solutions to problems your prospective customers already have. Implementing an inbound marketing strategy typically involves creating digital resources or content marketing materials such as newsletters, ebooks, blog posts, and social media posts that offer value to potential customers. Most inbound marketing efforts aim to raise awareness, build trust, and manage the relationship between customers and your brand. Although closely related, lead generation techniques and inbound marketing aren’t the same. In fact, lead generation is a part of a broader marketing strategy. While the process of creating leads helps bring more interested people to your company, inbound marketing efforts aim to nurture those prospective clients and turn them into paying customers that will eventually come back for more. In short, a synchronized implementation of the two practices ensures a sustainable approach to digital marketing. The Importance of Lead Generation Strategies When an individual shows interest in your company’s offerings without getting contacted first, the steps they take towards making a purchase seem more natural to them. After all, you’ve just helped them fulfill a need or solve a problem. On the other hand, if people show no interest in the products or services you provide yet you still try to convert them into customers, they may feel like they are being forced to spend their money on something they don’t need. This could ultimately hurt your brand’s reputation, which is far worse than losing a couple of leads. Using inbound lead generation techniques to find your target audience helps ensure that your brand is matched with the right customers in the right markets. Here’s an overview of some additional lead generation benefits : Increased awareness: Lead generation can be beneficial when it comes to building brand awareness and reputation.  Collecting prospect information: Another advantage of this practice is that it can gather vital marketing information from prospects. Being aware of your customers’ needs, wants, and preferences can prove invaluable when it comes to adjusting your product or service to suit your audience. Brand loyalty: A strong lead generation strategy can assist you in building larger communities of like-minded customers, thus improving overall customer loyalty. The Process of Lead Generation  Now that we’ve pointed out the importance of lead generation and explained how it fits into a company’s inbound marketing strategy, it’s time to walk through the actual process of generating leads online: First, a visitor discovers your business through your website, blog, social media page, or another social media channel.  In the next step of the lead generation process, the potential customer clicks on your call-to-action (CTA), which can be in the form of an image, button, or message that encourages website visitors to engage with your brand. After that, the visitor will be taken to a landing page - a web page designed to capture lead information in exchange for an offer (an ebook, a course, etc.) that visitors must perceive as valuable enough to submit their personal information in exchange. Once on the landing page, your prospective client takes the final step of filling out a form in exchange for the offer. That’s it - as long as you’re following the lead-capture form best practices, you should have a new lead in your CRM system. The process of generating leads is quite straightforward. Still, if you want to make sure that your efforts are rewarded with guaranteed success, here are a few more pieces of advice we suggest you follow:  Know your target audience: You won’t be able to target and market your product effectively unless you make sure to define your audience first. Skip this step, and you’ll find it much more difficult to engage with potential customers.  Provide value to users: As a part of an inbound marketing strategy, business lead generation is all about attracting potential clients to your company. To achieve that, you must be able to offer something valuable and helpful to them - free of charge. Depending on your target audience, options may include everything from free trials to freemium subscriptions, blog posts, and white papers. Define your lead magnet: Take some time to figure out what types of content or free products resonate the most with your target audience. Conduct A/B testing and make sure to experiment as much as you can with different lead magnets. Don’t forget to ask for feedback. After gathering all the needed information, focus on developing content that appeals to your target audience the most to improve your lead generation campaign. Develop relationships using newsletters: Once potential customers decide to share their contact information with you, remember to use that data wisely. Use email marketing to keep prospective customers aware of your brand and entice them to convert to paying clients. It is also an excellent tool for nurturing existing customer relationships. Be present on social media: Similarly to email marketing, you can use social media marketing strategies to your advantage. Not only will your presence on social media make it more difficult for a potential customer to forget about your brand, but it will also allow you to connect and engage with your target audience in real-time.  Common Problems Lead Generating Practices Can Solve By now, you’re probably aware that a simple batch and blast approach to advertising doesn’t appeal to most customers. However, having a solid lead generation system in place can help you navigate the complexities of finding prospective clients in today’s crowded market. Let’s take a look at a few common problems the concept of lead generation can help solve. Problem: You need to generate a high volume of leads.  Solution: What is lead generation good for? Generating lots of leads, of course. The great thing about it is that you can use this practice just as effectively if you’re just starting out or an experienced marketer with a thriving business. If you’re at the beginning, a lead generation program can result in increased brand awareness, improved relationships with your audience, higher quality leads, and, ultimately, more sales. If you’re looking to optimize an existing inbound marketing strategy, we suggest reevaluating your audience profiles, buyer journey roadmap, marketing tactics, and communication channels.  When developing a lead generation network, make sure to keep your goals, challenges, and customer concerns in mind at all times. That way, you’ll be able to create and deliver content that solves your target audience’s problems. Problem: You don’t know how to generate higher-quality leads.  Solution: There are several ways to explain why your sales team is struggling to convert leads into customers. Your sales and marketing teams should work together on planning lead generation strategies and agree on what constitutes a qualified lead. If the sales team approaches prospective clients too soon, they may feel put off. When it comes to sales lead generation, lead quality is of utmost importance, so we advise patience. Problem: You’ve figured out how to bring in leads but don’t know what to do next.  Solution: The act of generating customer leads is just one part of lead generation. Once you bring these contacts in, you must use lead scoring and nurturing to qualify leads before your sales team can step in and do their job. In other words, the best way to generate leads is to let your prospective buyers gather some information about your products or services on their own first.  Problem: Your lead generation program isn’t bringing results anymore.  Solution: If your lead generation efforts have yet to catch up to the age of the self-directed buyer, it’s time to rethink the whole strategy. Statistics reveal that companies using CRM successfully improve their sales by 29%. Why are we mentioning this? Let’s say you’re a real estate agent who uses a CRM software solution to collect and track buyer and seller data. Did you know that your CRM tool can be very useful as a sales lead generator? The insights these programs provide can help you choose the most effective way to nurture your leads. Focus on increasing the brand visibility of your brokerage but also look to capture leads’ interest with informational content. You can focus on topics such as home staging, applying for a mortgage, relocating to a different part of the county, and more.

By Milica Milenkovic September 24,2021

To run a successful business and transform leads into customers, you’ll really need to be taking advantage of your sales pipeline. So what is a sales pipeline? In short, this is a visual snapshot of every stage in the sales process that tells you at a glance whether you’re going to reach your goals. If used properly, it can have a positive impact on your growth. Our guide dives into more details, outlining the different stages, benefits, and ways to create and manage a pipeline.  A Rundown The sales process involves many different stages, including identifying potential customers, contacting them, pitching the product or service, negotiating, and, of course, closing. The ultimate goal is to gain and retain loyal customers. Having a visual representation of this journey can help you make revenue forecasts, get insight into buyers’ trends, and keep track of sales prospects. So what does a pipeline mean in sales? Simply put, this is a breakdown of the whole sales process into smaller and trackable pieces.  Pipeline analysis enables you to track the evolution of sales opportunities into shopping orders as they move through several stages. The entire process is backed by recording and storing relevant data and activities. The pipeline helps you gain better insight into your deals and shows you the possible trajectory of your business. If you’re running a small business, using reliable CRM software that can generate a fully customizable pipeline can boost your profits.  The Shapes of Success: Pipeline and Funnel Many people make the mistake of confusing a sales pipeline with a funnel. But these are two entirely different things. While the sales pipeline is a representation of the actual sales process or closing the deal, the sales funnel is all about leads and the process they undergo to become regular customers. In other words, the sales pipeline is brand-focused and outlines steps that your marketing and sales team need to go through in order to gain and retain customers. On the other hand, a funnel is customer-focused and offers a representation of the buyers’ journey, starting from brand awareness to buying a product and staying with the company.  This clear distinction also expands on our original question: what is a sales pipeline? In short, the pipeline showcases the seller’s actions throughout the sales process, whereas the funnel tells you about the percentage of leads that advanced through each stage of the pipeline.  Benefits of Sales Pipeline Having deciphered the sales pipeline, it’s time to look at some of the perks of using this strategic tool.  Insight into deals: For starters, using a pipeline to track your sales process gives you insight into your teams’ progress and helps you identify areas for improvement. A sales pipeline, by definition, keeps track of your business’s financial metrics, so you’ll know which deals you’re most likely to close and which processes are ineffective and need to be removed. Sales pipeline analysis quickly exposes the weaknesses with certain deals and helps you plot a course of action to boost sales.  Measure team performance: Selling a product or a service requires teamwork, and if one link in the chain performs poorly, the whole process will suffer. Optimizing the sales pipeline allows you to monitor sales representatives and if they’re hitting their targets. Thanks to sales pipeline reporting, you’ll be able to identify the weak links and improve the number of leads transitioning into sales. Predict profits: Crunching the data tells you where each sales representative stands in the sales process and how close they are to inking the deal. By seeing the number and percentage of deals that are likely to be closed and their value, you can easily make accurate forecasts regarding revenue. Help increase sales and profit: Building a sales pipeline won’t only assist you with monitoring and organizing your sales team. It’s also a useful tool for making projections by identifying the number of deals that your business needs to close in order to meet the targets and increase profits. Moreover, it helps you zero in on the steps that speed up the deal-making process and thus increase profits. Step by Step: Pipeline Stages Just like every industry and every individual business, sales pipelines are unique. Instead of simply copying one of the many templates, try to invest some time and effort into building pipelines with well-defined sales pipeline stages and adjusting them to fit your company’s needs. Consider employing CRM software to generate a pipeline, as statistics show that using it increases customer retention and satisfaction rates by 47%. When setting up your own pipeline management system, think about sales targets, prospects, and the number of steps in the process. Make sure to have somewhere between five to eight stages that hinge on identifying prospects, evaluating their needs, convincing them to buy your product, closing the deal, and retaining them as customers through regular follow-ups.  Remember to tailor the different stages to the relevant industry. For instance, real estate’s customer relationship management strategy must include a house-viewing stage. In another sales pipeline example, a car salesman should probably include a test drive stage. Lead generation. Prospecting new leads interested in your product is the very start of every sales process. Raising brand awareness and reaching out to potential customers can come in different shapes. Some companies might use downloadable content, phone, emails, and ads on social networks. Others might go on the hunt for cold leads, and some might even hire lead generation companies to do the leg work. Whatever your chosen method, make sure to consolidate all new leads and follow them throughout the process.  Lead qualification: To define a sales pipeline strategy, the next step should focus on identifying the potential buyers by researching their shopping preferences. Skipping this vital step can lead to sales reps losing a lot of time on cold leads. Sorting them from hot ones might be a game-changer and lead to successful closures.From the moment they enter the sales pipeline, contacts need to be researched. Conducting a phone survey or another questionnaire can help you determine whether the lead has the budget to afford the product if they need it and whether they’re ready to purchase it. If you’re wondering, what is a healthy sales pipeline, the answer is simple: it’s the one with hot leads. If the answer to the aforementioned questions is “no”, the lead should go down the drain; otherwise, it might clog your pipeline. Initiate contact: Those who make it through the sieve should immediately be contacted by sales reps. Leads that reach these stages of the sales process are interested in closing a deal with your company. That’s why you can safely ask them if they are eager to buy your product and present all the perks of purchasing it. Make sure to engage with the lead by sending a series of emails that educate them about the product. Schedule meeting or demo: What is a sales pipeline without an actual pitch? This is the part where you make your proposal. It can be done in person, via phone, e-mail, or even social media. Make sure to track and record conversations because searching through old emails can be time-consuming. Also, be well-prepared for meetings and demos because these brief moments can transform prospects into clients. Negotiation: If the lead expresses interest in buying your product or service, it’s time to start more strategic discussions. This usually involves the unveiling of the price and the terms and conditions of the contract. If you’re wondering how to get to this stage and what is the best process for a sales pipeline, always remember to align sales and marketing. This is a great strategy for getting to the negotiations stage. Closing the deal: From the very moment a lead enters the sales pipeline, the only desirable outcome is closing the deal. Once negotiations are completed, you can sign the contract, and you officially have a new customer. If you never make it to this stage, you were either trying to sell to the wrong person, or the sales rep failed to create/build value. So what do you do if a deal is lost in the sales pipeline? In these situations, it’s important to keep the conversation going and reconnect with lost prospects. Of course, the customers you gained shouldn’t be neglected either. Provide them with a good service during the onboarding process, inform them about upgrades and fresh promotions, ask them for referrals, and make sure they’re satisfied with the product.   Sales Pipeline Management Understanding the pulse of the industry and adequately managing your sales pipeline is crucial for running a company in today’s digital world. Having access to a wealth of information and analyzing it enables you to use the numbers for strategic goals and boosting sales. That’s why we’ve answered the ultimate question: what is a sales pipeline, and how do you use it? Now it’s time to focus more closely on each stage of the process.  With careful sales pipeline management, you’ll be able to track and then evaluate all stages, identify bottlenecks, better understand the weaknesses and strengths of your deals, and thus predict and prepare for potential plunges or sudden growth.  The pipeline management process is made possible by six key characteristics: metrics, maintenance, optimization, sales team management, sales forecasting, and tool integration.  So, what is a good sales pipeline size? The truth is size doesn’t matter. You can add as many stages as you think are needed, but what matters the most is good pipeline management. So let’s dive deeper and explain the details.  Sales pipeline metrics: Analyzing the sales process wouldn’t be possible without a wide variety of metrics to show you where your business stands. Pay close attention to the number of deals in your sales pipeline, their average size, the average percentage of closed deals (deal close rate), and the average lifetime of a deal before it’s closed (sales velocity). A common question entrepreneurs ask is: what is a good conversion rate for my sales pipeline? In the beginning, the percentage of opportunities that turn into leads should be around 50% to 60%. However, as time goes by and you get a better insight into the flaws and merits of your sales process, a pipeline report should show a conversion rate of around 80% to 90%. Make sure to track the data on a weekly basis so that you can predict future sales trends. Unhealthy measurements monitoring: Pipeline health spot-checks can show you bottlenecks, such as dead leads or too many unresolved deals that cause stagnation. Improving these metrics is crucial for boosting your revenue. So, what is a quota in the sales pipeline competition? This is an essential question for every entrepreneur. Keeping an eye on target sales your reps have for a certain period can help you understand them better. According to MarketingProfs research, 67% of sales representatives do not meet their individual quotas. That’s why regularly checking up on your sales pipeline report and keeping it organized is crucial. These are the steps for unclogging your pipeline: - Pinpoint sluggish leads - Decide what to do with them - Get in touch and reevaluate their interest Update your sales pipeline stages: When trying to figure out how to build a sales pipeline, the first thing to consider is your individual business preferences. But over time, some of the steps that you thought were initially important may become inconsequential. Some cycles might become too lengthy and time-consuming, while some can be too cumbersome. Consider removing them because pipelines that are too long risk having prospects fall through the cracks or change their mind. The sales cycle length is an important factor, so keep it short and effective but do not cut out the critical stages to achieve that. While building a sales pipeline, keep in mind that including a follow-up stage is a must and that a precise prospecting stage means more closed deals. After all, what is a pipeline management strategy without adding extra stages? Keep an eye on new trends in the market and adapt to them accordingly by implementing additional steps in the sales process. Coach your sales team: By assisting the sales representatives and coaching them on pipeline management, you’ll empower them to get more control over their targets. Working with your team will help them better understand the amount of time that leads need to spend at each stage and use it to their own advantage. Another thing to pay attention to is teaching the sales reps how to clean pipelines effectively. Being a good pipelines manager also means knowing the answer to the question: what is a pipeline report? Instruct your sales reps to monitor sales pipeline metrics and generate reports on the gathered data to get the most from the numbers.  Bottom Line: Being a Good Plumber Knowing how to be a good plumber to your sales pipeline, how to unclog the bottlenecks, and regularly clean and maintain it is a skill worth mastering. A healthy sales pipeline is the beating heart of a business. It can show you and your team members where your company stands, how many deals are closed, how many prospects turned into customers, where the process is stagnating, and which elements need to be removed.  If you can answer the question: what is a pipeline in business, you’re probably all too familiar with the difference between closed deals and cold leads. The visual snapshot shows the trajectory of your prospects on their buying journey and can provide you with helpful insight into the metrics and boost your sales.

By Milja September 20,2021

As technology evolves, our ways of working and running a business change rapidly in an everlasting push for more efficiency and productivity. When you apply that principle to customer relations - a key factor for most businesses - you get Customer Relationship Management tools. As your business grows, adding customer data manually to sheets, or worse, notepads, will inevitably become futile. That’s where CRM tools come in to save the day. Let’s Get Started: A CRM tutorial Not all CRM systems are the same, so having a clear picture of the different types of CRM can help you choose the best way of managing vital customer, prospect, and lead data. Congrats on deciding to use one in the first place! A good CRM can make a difference in your relationships with customers, boost your CLV (Customer Lifetime Value), and promote business growth. According to CRM statistics, companies that use such systems successfully have improved their sales by 29% on average. Employing such an ecosystem for customer data, along with a set of far-reaching solutions, brings a whole new dimension to company life. CRM approaches rely heavily on sales forecasting, lead management, and dashboard-based analytics. The best CRM tools for your small business can help you organize and grow your customer base. Their most important asset is that the software can turn data into valuable insights you can then translate into transformative actions for your business. Different CRM Software  One of the uses of a CRM is benchmarking your business against the best companies out there. Still, you don’t want to use the first option you come across, as there are many types of CRM software, and their benefits vary greatly. All customer relationship management programs fall into one of the five main buckets: Operational, analytical, collaborative, campaign management, and strategic CRMs. Let’s dive into the details of each: Operational Customer Relationship Management If you’re running a business and both you and your staff are overwhelmed with the administration, data entry, syncing, and updates, we feel you. Workflow automatization would be a game-changer for your company: Having all the information in one place would help avoid miscommunication, and facilitate marketing, sales, and service processes. This, in turn, would take much of the manual burden off your employees’ shoulders. The hero you need is an operational CRM.  To ensure that everything goes smoothly, such CRM systems leverage the following tools: Marketing automation Sales automation Service automation The automatization of manual tasks frees up valuable time for much more complex tasks your employees need to tackle. For example, coordinating email campaigns, reaching out to potential customers, and distributing content can all be easily streamlined using CRM software. Different sales processes that help bring consumers on board, as well as communication with customers via live chats, email, and other customer service tools can also be delegated (partially or in full) to the right software. Businesses that can benefit from these types of CRM products include those with more linear sales processes and those in need of help with sorting out and storing customer data. Real estate companies, in particular, can benefit from specialized operational CRM software to boost their productivity and profits. Analytical CRM If streamlining sales isn’t your top priority, but you’d rather focus on using customer data to understand your audience better - say, their shopping habits - then analytical CRM software might be just the thing. Gathering information about your customers can get you insight into their preferences, trends, and behavioral patterns. The crucial components are: Data warehousing Data mining OLAP tools Using analytical CRM tools enables businesses to store customer data in a single, easily reachable place and, more importantly, track and analyze it for patterns and trends. OLP stands for Online Analytical Processes and can help you realize when, how, and where your customers reach out to your company and its platform. This information can be further applied in marketing strategies that target specific customer categories. When choosing your fighter in an operational CRM vs. analytical CRM duel, keep in mind that the first focuses on facilitating relationship-building and maintaining tasks, whereas the latter attunes to the data you have on your customers to help you develop business strategies. Both types of CRM could benefit your company, but if you want to focus on pinpointing your audience’s needs, an analytical CRM is what you need. Collaborative Customer Relationship Management The third major CRM type deals with the gathered information in a different manner. Namely, this breed of CRM emphasizes collaboration and customer support services. It allows the various teams in your organization to share data and improve cooperation between departments such as marketing, sales, and support. This type of software use the following tools: Interaction management Channel management  Using collaborative CRM products will help your business better cater to its customers through different channels: live chat, e-mail, phone calls, or social networks. Determining the best communication channels isn’t the only thing this CRM type can help with: Tracking interactions between the company and its customers using logs gives all relevant departments insight into the minutiae of support processes.  Keeping in mind that 33% of Americans think about changing their provider for something after only one poor customer service experience, employing this type of CRM can be crucial for companies that are still in the process of establishing a loyal base. Campaign Management CRM One of the five important types of CRM, useful for strategies of all kinds and yet often overlooked, is a campaign management CRM. It mixes the functionalities of operational and analytical systems in the service of sales or marketing campaigns. Running campaigns wouldn’t be possible without gathering, organizing, and analyzing data to distribute the content to the right people, and these CRMs make that process much more streamlined. Strategic CRM By constantly learning about its customers and adjusting to meet their needs, businesses can boost their profits and establish themselves in a given market. To that end, the main goal of strategic CRM software is to use data for forming and implementing business strategies to foster long-term customer relationships. Instead of predicting customer needs, this type of CRM lets the customer inform the business strategy. Bottom Line Different types of CRM systems help businesses speed up operations, handle extensive data, share it among departments, and create and execute business strategies. They all serve the same purpose - helping your business grow and minimizing manual labor - but have different approaches to achieving that. In the ever-lasting competition between companies to win clients, choosing the right CRM software can be a game-changer.

By Milja September 20,2021

Both the enterprise resource planning system and customer relationship management software are valuable business solutions that help increase profitability and productivity. And although these are complementary technologies, they have different core functionalities.      As part of our ERP vs. CRM showdown, we’ll tell you more about what those differences are. We’ll also delve deeper into some of their key characteristics, enabling you to decide which of these systems your business needs. What is ERP? ERP is a process that companies use to integrate and manage the most important parts of their daily business activities. As such, ERP software solutions are highly useful when it comes to the implementation of resource planning.  ERP serves as a shared database that employees with relevant job functions can access and use to complete their daily tasks. Nowadays, it’s used for everything from risk management and compliance to procurement and accounting. Perhaps the most accurate ERP definition would be to describe the system as the glue that holds together all the financial and operational data. This is also one of the main benefits of using the system, as all of the data can be retrieved from a single source, making it easier to compile ad hoc and static monthly reports. Moreover, it gives employees access to financial insights, speeding up the decision-making process.      It’s worth noting that ERP grew from the material requirements planning system. This probably helped immensely when it came to creating ERP as a software that can also handle inventory management and provide help with production and distribution.  Another one of the more commonly cited examples of how ERP systems benefit businesses relates to the software’s role in closing the books. That’s because companies no longer have to waste time on data entry and consulting different departments. The ERP system automates many of those tasks, reducing monthly close times to just a few days. It can also provide an additional level of security, as having role-based permission - one of the key features of every sound ERP system - reduces financial risk.  What is CRM? This is another system designed to streamline business operations. But unlike ERP, this software manages how customers interact with your company. Of course, this CRM software definition is somewhat broad.  In peeling back the layers, you’ll quickly learn that CRM can assist your marketing, sales, and support teams in ensuring your clients are as happy with your services as they can be. Just like ERP, it provides businesses with a central database. This one is used for customer data, tracking all customer interactions while providing the aforementioned teams with the necessary information. The teams then use the analytics part of the software to identify important metrics within the CRM database, meaning the sales team gets the details it needs to improve sales and customer support services.  Initially, this software was developed exclusively for sales departments and was known as sales force automation or SFA. Over time, other systems were designed and integrated into the original software to create an all-in-one solution for growing your business. Some CRM systems include sales performance management or sales incentive compensation. However, these add an additional level of complexity and are often sold separately.  Ultimately, the CRM system, by definition, is created to cover all areas of customer interaction, and CRM statistics show that it’s more than helpful to small businesses. Keeping customers happy with your services and products guarantees returning customers who are much more valuable to a business than new ones.  That’s not to say that CRM can’t help you find new clients - lead generation and identifying potential prospects is another feature of every CRM. From there, the system helps you lead the new customers through the sales process to close the deal - and then helps you bring back these customers for more.  What Does Your Business Need? The objective of this CRM vs. ERP  showdown isn’t to pick the better system. Identifying the key components of these business solutions is intended to help you decide what your company needs. In most cases, the answer is both.  The two typically go hand in hand and complement each other. In some instances, they even overlap - there are platforms that allow the easy integration of both systems.  Big corporations probably don’t think twice about using both. However, small and medium-sized businesses have to consider the cost. And this is where knowing the difference between ERP and CRM comes in handy. CRM systems start at $12 per user/month but can go as high as $300 per user/month. Meanwhile, the average ERP project costs $7,200, and depending on the number of employees, the total cost can be anywhere between $150,000 and $750,000 for a mid-sized business.  So if your business is yet to scale to the point where you can afford these services without batting an eyelash, you might have to settle for either one or the other. A thorough ERP vs. CRM comparison will help you decide which one is more suitable for your business model.  If your business revolves around your customer base and its success depends heavily on obtaining new and maintaining old customers, then investing in CRM and delaying the implementation of ERP is probably the best course of action. For example, real estate brokerages would undoubtedly benefit from a real estate CRM instead of dishing out a ton of cash for an ERP system. In this situation, having CRM software that can handle customers and spare you the cost of employing a lead generation company could prove invaluable.  Of course, you might already be asking: what does ERP stand for? If that’s the case, your company probably has a small number of customers but a complex financial system. In these instances, integrating an ERP system is a better solution than relying on QuickBooks or other accounting software designed for small businesses. But as your business grows, both systems will become equally valuable. Until then, choose the software that will elevate your business to the next level. All in All It’s no secret that every business benefits from having all the relevant data in one place that’s easily accessible to all those who need it. That’s why having this ERP vs CRM software debate is crucial in establishing whether the integration of one or both solutions is required to grow your business.  One can provide guidance for establishing relationships with customers, while the other helps you boost your finances and behind-the-scenes operations. While CRM manages interactions with your customers, you can rely on ERP to handle all your financial and operational data.

By Milja September 13,2021

Maintaining good customer relationships is the pillar of any successful business. Still, a few decades ago, the process of collecting, tracking, and managing client data within a company was fragmented and a lot more time-consuming. Companies would keep details about their customers in spreadsheets, Rolodexes, and filing cabinets.  These methods were imperfect in so many ways - they involved a lot of manual work and often prevented proper information distribution across different departments. Many business opportunities were missed prior to the introduction of CRM.  What is CRM software?  Short for customer relationship management, a CRM system is a piece of software businesses use to store information about their customers, manage interactions, and automate a number of processes related to a client’s life cycle through the company’s marketing and sales funnels. Given that it helps nurture customer loyalty, turning it into revenue, a reliable CRM system is a vital tool for almost any company, regardless of what products or services it offers.  Used by marketing teams, sales representatives, and call center agents to maintain contact with clients and quickly respond to their needs, a CRM platform enhances a company's interaction with clients. What does a CRM Software Solution Do? The purpose of any CRM program is to allow salespeople and marketers to establish, manage, and analyze relationships with a business’s existing and prospective customers. It simplifies the process of tracking interactions and collecting information. Thanks to these functionalities, marketers and sales representatives always know who these customers are and their history with the company when they get in touch with customers. Not only does this information help personalize the communication, but it also strengthens customer trust and increases the chances of conversion.  CRM services allow businesses to track interactions between the company and its actual and potential customers through a number of channels such as emails, phone calls, social media networks, contact forms, and search engines.  Another great thing about these software solutions is that they can automate repetitive tasks, set reminders, and display alerts if certain matters require immediate attention. Furthermore, some CRM solutions come with analytical capabilities which you can use to track and evaluate the efficiency of different functions or identify sales patterns. For example, let's say you run a real estate brokerage. You can use your real estate customer relationship management system to track and manage your leads and listings while getting valuable market insights.  CRM statistics indicate that 91% of US businesses with more than ten employees use some kind of client relationship management software. This piece of information is hardly surprising given how powerful CRM solutions can be. Combined with marketing automation, they provide sales and marketing teams with valuable tools for end-to-end management of sales and marketing funnels, from lead generation and qualification to forecasting and deal closure. Features of CRM Programs Here’s an overview of functionalities typically provided through a CRM platform: Lead management: A CRM software as a service tracks the company’s lead generation efforts, allowing marketing team members to add new leads to the system, either manually or automatically, and to track and analyze data about them. Workflow automation: CRM platforms help companies focus on more creative tasks with higher importance levels by optimizing repetitive processes and streamlining mundane workloads. Marketing automation: Some client relationship management systems offer marketing automation functionalities for certain tedious tasks. For example, you can set up your CRM to automatically send customers marketing emails or publish social media posts at chosen times. The goal here is to make sure that sales leads are kept engaged so they can be converted to paying customers.  Sales automation: Similar to marketing automation features, most CRMs come with marketing automation capabilities. Business owners can use these to track client interactions and automate certain elements of the sales cycle that make it easier to follow leads and attract new customers. Analytics: Most CRM business solutions also offer built-in analytics tools that provide insights and help increase customer satisfaction rates. Marketing teams can put this data to good use while creating targeted campaigns. To top it off, analytics features help track attribution and offer valuable information about the overall quality of the customer experience. Personalized customer experiences: Another way to make the most of CRM data is to use it to create individualized and consistent experiences for your prospective customers across different marketing channels. Not only do personalized customer experiences help boost brand awareness, but they also increase conversions. Artificial intelligence: Certain CRM solutions come with built-in AI capabilities that automatically recognize patterns, which lead to successful sales. Ultimately, AI can help any business build more accurate and efficient strategies for future marketing campaigns. Benefits of CRM Software Solutions  There are multiple advantages of using CRM solutions, whether you run a small business or a large enterprise. The benefits of customer relationship programs are available to marketing teams, customer care specialists, and anyone in the company who comes in contact with clients.  Organization Perhaps the most significant advantage of a CRM tool is the organizational capability that it provides. A contact management software helps centralize your client data so that anyone who’s part of your company can find all the information they need in one place. As you transition to a CRM system, you’ll be able to enter basic contact information such as your clients’ phone numbers and addresses. Once your software solution is up and running, you’ll be able to follow, track, and analyze everything from basic information to advanced data about each customer.  In addition to your organization, your clients also benefit from a solid information management system because gaining a better understanding of customers enables you to offer a better service. Task Tracking Another reason why businesses of almost all types and sizes need CRM systems is the program’s ability to integrate with your company’s workflow. This saves lots of time you’d otherwise spend on daily tasks. Automation can significantly increase the overall customer engagement level as it provides consistency. In fact, consistency is one of the underdog benefits of a CRM tool - when clients (or prospective clients) get mixed messages, they can grow confused instead of excited about your offerings. Additional Sales Opportunities Why should you stop at 100 or 1,000 customers? Although business owners rarely have a finite number of customers as their goal, many companies often struggle to come up with good ways to generate leads and grow their customer base. A CRM program can help you with that. These software solutions track purchasing patterns and can provide valuable insight into market trends. By learning more about the people who are already your customers, you’ll have enough information to create micro-targeted strategies and encourage more conversions at specific times.  Sales Management By now, you’re probably aware that a customer tracking software solution can make the task of managing your client base a lot less complicated. But did you know that a good CRM program can also track sales progress across your whole organization? Once again, these advantages of CRM solutions are available for companies of all sizes and structure types.  If you run a one-person shop, you’ll get the assistance you need for lead tracking and follow-ups. If your company has a large sales team, all representatives will be assigned new sets of leads, and their journey will be tracked starting from that point. That way, not only will you receive insights on how and when to act on sales trends, but you’ll also get an opportunity to track the progress and performance of your entire sales team. Personalized Communication Finding a way to use your sales resources more efficiently with the help of CRM applications is an excellent way to make your business more successful. However, this isn’t where your efforts should stop. CRM tools also provide personalization features such as the ability to nurture campaigns based on industry or to address customers by their first name. In other words, all the information stored in your database can be put to good use to build more profound client relationships through personalized communication. Increased Retention Another way a customer relationship management software solution can increase sales is by helping you identify your highest revenue-generating and most engaged clients. For example, you use your CRM to determine a subset of customers who open all of their emails or attend webinars.  A CRM can also improve retention rates among your existing customers. Thanks to the program’s ability to aggregate customer behavior, you’ll have a chance to spot different patterns, such as when a client is about to churn. Collecting data and gaining insights about client behavior can prove invaluable when it comes to creating a strategy on how to retain at-risk customers.  On-Premise vs. Cloud-Based CRM Finally, let’s take a moment to discuss different types of CRM solutions. Depending on your organization’s objectives, you may find on-premise solutions more fitting or lean towards the advantages of cloud CRM deployment. The most apparent difference between the two options is where the information is stored. With the on-premise solution, the software is located on your company’s servers, so this is a better choice for organizations with very strict security policies. The downside of an on-premise CRM is that the implementation can take a long time. There’s also the requirement to invest in suitable IT infrastructure. On the other hand, if you go for the cloud solution, your data will be kept on the software provider’s remote servers. Accessible via an internet browser of your choice, the service doesn’t require any type of software installation. Additionally, if you decide to go with the in-house option, you’ll need to purchase a license beforehand and maintain the system on your own. Subscribing for a cloud-based solution, however, means choosing the pay-as-you-go approach and letting someone else take care of the CRM application’s flawless operation and data security. Cloud CRM software solutions are much more popular these days than their on-premise counterparts. There are several reasons that can explain this trend - a cloud-based option is a good choice for business owners who want to have their data accessible at all times and value the ability to scale the service up and down with ease. Furthermore, choosing a cloud CRM is a no-brainer for smaller-sized companies as it allows them to be productive and enjoy all the benefits of CRM technology without the need to strain their budget. 

By Milica Milenkovic September 24,2021

If you’re thinking about settling down and finding your dream home but don’t have enough cash for that just yet, you might consider getting a mortgage. In 2020, 842,000 houses were sold in the United States, and realtors had their hands full. Some of them used various CRM software to keep track of all the properties and help everyone find their dream home. Choosing the right type of mortgage can save you a lot of money, which is why it’s so important to understand how mortgages actually work. There are various types of mortgage loans, and the best option will depend on your current circumstances and future plans. Now let’s see what are the possibilities you have and how do they differentiate. What is a mortgage loan? Before we continue, let’s go through some basics to see what a mortgage is. A mortgage is a type of loan that helps you buy or refinance a home. Although mortgage rates had a serious drop earlier this year, many people still do not have enough cash to purchase a home, and a mortgage might be their only solution. As a mortgage is a long-term commitment, it’s crucial to take time and think about it carefully.  Different types of mortgage loans As there are multiple options for mortgages, you should do the proper due diligence before choosing one. Ensure to understand the key advantages and disadvantages of each type of mortgage and the requirements they come with. Generally speaking, there are two main types of loans: Conforming Loans Non-conforming loans Conventional mortgages Fixed-rate mortgages Adjustable-rate mortgages USDA loans FHA loans VA loans Conforming loans Conforming loans are the ones that can be acquired by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, two government-sponsored enterprises (GSE) that buy and sell most conventional mortgages in the US. If a loan meets specific requirements set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency, it can be purchased and then resold through a mortgage by one of these institutions. There are different types of conforming mortgage loans; however, they all include the same requirements. They need to be below the maximum dollar limit, they can not be federally backed, and they must meet the lender’s specific criteria. The maximum dollar limit is the total amount of money an applicant is authorized to borrow. In 2021, in most parts of the US, the maximum conforming loan limit is $548,250 for one-unit properties. Conventional mortgages Conventional mortgages are the most common type of mortgage. To be more precise, they are a type of conforming loan funded by private financial lenders. Conventional mortgages are a popular choice as they don’t have strict income regulations like some other loans do. All types of conventional mortgage loans require a credit score of at least 620. In case you have a down payment of 20%, you are not obligated to buy private mortgage insurance (PMI). But if you still need to pay for the PMI, a good thing to know is that conventional loans usually have lower mortgage insurance rates than the other types of loans. So to summarize, here’s what you should know before getting a conventional mortgage. Advantages of conventional mortgages: To qualify for the loan, you need a down payment of just 3%. The overall borrowing cost is less than with unconventional loans. Although it’s the most popular out of all types of mortgage loans, conventional loans do have a few downsides, too. Disadvantages of conventional mortgages: The minimum credit score you need is 620. All down payments lower than 20% require you to buy PMI. Fixed-rate mortgages Fixed-rate mortgages are the ones that have a fixed interest rate throughout their whole duration. They are a great option for people that know (or want to know) exactly how much they’ll have to pay each month. This information can help people make a long-term budget as the monthly payments are already set. There are multiple types of fixed-rate mortgage loans depending on the repayment period you choose, but most are two-year or five-year deals. The longer the repayment period, the higher the interest rate will be, so that is something to think about. Advantages of fixed-rate mortgages: Monthly payments don’t change over time, which helps borrowers plan a budget and stick to it. Disadvantages of conventional mortgages: Interest rates might be higher depending on your mortgage period, and you may end up paying more in interest over time. Adjustable-rate mortgages Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARM) are the opposite of fixed-rate ones. They are loans with interest rates that fluctuate depending on how the market changes. To compare the types of mortgage loans, let’s see how an ARM looks and what its requirements are. All ARMs start with an introductory period of fixed interest which normally lasts for five, seven, or ten years. After this period ends, your interest rates may vary based on the market trends. ARMs, however, include rate caps to give you an insight into how much your rate can change over time, and they protect you from rapidly increasing interest rates. Advantages of fixed-rate mortgages: The introductory period has below-market rates. Disadvantages of conventional mortgages: Monthly payments can significantly increase along with the rate. Non-conforming loans Non-conforming loans are the ones that don’t meet conforming standards set by  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If you are interested in types of mortgage loans with no down payment, you should think about getting a non-conforming loan. According to real estate stats, the average down payment for a new home is $59,880, which is a figure that many people simply cannot afford. Non-conforming loans have less strict rules than the conforming ones, allowing you to take a larger loan than you would typically qualify for. They are also known as jumbo loans as they exceed the conforming loan limits. What’s great about nonconforming loans is that you can apply for one even if you have a lower credit score. Financial institutions don’t like non-conforming loans as they don’t match up to GSE guidelines, and they are harder to sell.  Government-backed loans There are three main types of government mortgage loans: USDA loans, FHA loans, and VA loans. For each of these loan types, the government agency insures the loan amount and protects the lender in case a borrower can't repay their debt.  Advantages of government-backed mortgages: Easier to qualify for as they have less strict requirements. Can allow you to save on down payments. Government protection in case you cannot afford to repay a debt. Disadvantages of government-backed mortgages: Some government-backed loans come with a mortgage insurance premium, which can cause higher borrowing costs. USDA Loans USDA Loans are the ones issued by the United States Department of Agriculture. They are zero-down-payment mortgages for those who can’t afford a traditional mortgage. If you’re looking for a home in a suburban or rural area and you’re interested to know what types of mortgage loans are available, a USDA loan is a perfect choice for you.  USDA loans are issued through the USDA Rural Development Guaranteed Housing Loan Program, and there are three main types: Loan guarantees: The USDA guarantees a mortgage issued by a participating local lender, allowing buyers to get low mortgage interest rates. In some cases, they don't even have to make a down payment; however, they will have to pay a mortgage insurance premium. Home improvement loans: These loans allow homeowners to repair or upgrade their homes.  Direct loans: These loans are reserved for applicants with very low income, and interest rates can be as low as 1%. Different types of mortgage loans have different income limits you need to fulfill to qualify, and when it comes to USDA loans, those limits vary by location and household size. To become eligible for the USDA loan, you need to: Have US citizenship or permanent residency. Agree to a monthly payment (principal, interest,  taxes, and insurance) that’s around 29% of your monthly income. Have a reliable income for a minimum of 24 months. Maintain a good credit history for at least 12 months before applying for a loan. FHA loans FHA or 203k loans allow you to buy or refinance a home that needs work by letting you pay for the renovations over time and roll the renovation costs into the mortgage. FHA loans are considered a type of mortgage loan for bad credit, as you can qualify for it with a credit score as low as 580 and a down payment of 3.5%. FHA loans are issued by the Federal Housing Administration, and they usually offer more relaxed qualifying requirements than other renovation loan types. They do, however, include rules on how much money you can borrow and how you can use it for renovating a property. There are two categories when it comes to FHA loans: FHA limited loan and FHA standard loan. The limited loan provides up to $35,000 for renovations but can’t be used for major structural repairs. A Standard loan is for renovations that cost at least $5,000, including major structural repairs. As both types of FHA mortgage loans have specific requirements, let’s see how you can qualify for them.  You need to have a credit score of 580, although some lenders even allow a score of as low as 500.  If your credit score goes above 580, your down payment will be 3.5%. On the other hand, if your credit score is between 500 and 580, your down payment will have to be 10%. Your application will probably be denied if you had a foreclosure within the past three years. Max loan amount depends on the state and the area you live in, but it usually goes from $356,362 to $822,375 for a single-family home. VA loans When talking about what types of mortgage loans are available, we need to also look at the VA loans. These are loans issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and it has lower interest rates than most other types of loans. You can even buy a home with a $0 down payment. VA loans are for current and veteran service members and their spouses. In cases of VA loans, the government is the one that guarantees for the borrower and will repay a portion to the lender in case the borrower is unable to do so. If you have served in the military and are now checking out the best types of mortgage loans for yourself, a VA loan might be just what you need. Here’s what makes you eligible for a VA loan: You are a military member of a veteran that fulfills length-of-service requirements. To check these requirements, you can visit the US Department of Veterans Affairs page, which has detailed explanations. You meet the minimum requirements for credit and income issued by a lender. Although VA doesn't set a minimum for the credit score, lenders can set their own standards. If you don’t meet the requirements, you might have to check what other types of mortgage loans are there. You're the spouse of a service member who died while on active duty, and you have not remarried after December 16, 2003, or after turning 57. This also applies to surviving spouses of veterans who are missing in action or became prisoners of war.  The property you're planning to buy will be your primary residence, and it meets the safety standards.

By Milja September 06,2021

What is due diligence in real estate? Many struggle to find the answer to this question, especially those who don’t have much or any experience in home buying. It’s a well-known fact that there are plenty of steps that need to be taken before the final contract is signed. But what exactly are those steps and how to go about performing them is an entirely different story. Due to this, we’ve decided to create a simple guide that’ll hopefully make this a far less intimidating and stressful process.  What is Due Diligence in Real Estate? Due diligence in regard to real estate can be defined as thoroughly researching the property in which you are interested. Shopping for a house or office space involves high stakes, so no detail should be overlooked. Therefore, aside from performing the standard inspections and appraisals, you should always do your homework, and that means doing some investigating on your own.  We have to mention that some experienced real estate investors choose to skip certain parts of due diligence, which is fine since they have the knowledge to do so. However, those purchasing their very first home or trying to get into the business of property investing should carefully follow a real estate due diligence checklist, such as the one we’ve prepared below, and resist the urge to rush any of the listed tasks. Due Diligence Checklist for Buying Real Estate Shop around. House hunting may be interesting at first but it can get quite tiresome after a while, causing some to look at a minimal number of options. Without seeing as many properties as you can, you can’t be certain that your final decision is the best one you could make. Also, keep in mind that it’s pretty easy to get the wrong impression of the real estate market by looking at homes in a single area.  Investigate the surroundings. Our next piece of due diligence real estate advice concerns analyzing each and every neighborhood thoroughly. You can learn a lot about a property’s value from its surroundings. The area’s demographics, the state of the homes in it, and crime rates can tell you if the value of the real estate you’re interested in is going up or down.  Organize inspections. Once you’ve done your own research, you should call in the professionals, experts who can spot potential problems you may not be able to. There are many types of inspections and, depending on your budget and due diligence deadline, you should try to organize as many of them as possible. Here are the most common types of inspections: General inspection: A general inspection report should include information on the state of the walls, floors, staircases, roof, heating and cooling, foundation, porches, plumbing, electrical installation, and the like. These inspections are only visual and are required by most lenders. Wood-destroying organisms inspection: Some lenders will also ask for a WDO home inspection. The inspector should tell you if the structure has any wood rot caused by either termites or moisture and how severe the damage is. Even if your lender doesn’t request it, we suggest you don’t skip this real estate due diligence task as wood rot-related repairs can be costly. Lead-based paint inspection: This type of inspection is mandatory for any house built before 1978. If the seller knows that lead-based paint has been used in or outside of the home, they are obligated by law to inform you about it. Radon gas inspection: Not many people know that a radon gas inspection even exists, but if you have the time and money, we would definitely recommend that you have it done. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, radon, a radioactive gas, causes thousands to get lung cancer every year. Therefore, although a radon test usually isn’t a part of a typical real estate due diligence process, you might want to consider it. Defective drywall inspection: Another rare inspection is the defective drywall test. It’s used to determine whether or not a home was built with defective drywall, which was manufactured in China, imported to the US, and used in construction between 2001 and 2009. Not only do the high levels of sulfur in the contaminated drywall affect the quality of the structure but they can also lead to respiratory health problems.  Arrange appraisals. If you’re planning on obtaining your funds through a crowdfunding platform or from a bank, you should expect the lenders to request an appraisal. Even those who don’t plan on taking out a loan should think about adding an appraisal to their due diligence real estate checklist because it determines the realistic value of a property and, as such, can keep a seller from attempting to inflate the property’s price. Compare rates. When looking for property financing, you mustn’t forget to take the time to compare interest rates from multiple lenders. The first few offers that you get may turn out to be similar, but don’t let that stop you from exploring further. In the long run, even the smallest of differences could end up saving you a good amount of money. Assess the property’s eligibility for insurance. Before your due diligence deadline passes, you should make sure that the property you intend to purchase meets the minimum standards of insurance companies. There are three main types of insurance that we’d like to mention here: Homeowners insurance: If you plan on living in the property you bought, you should consider getting a homeowners insurance policy. It protects both your home and the assets inside it from unforeseen circumstances such as tornadoes, fires, or thefts. Your insurance rates will be higher if your property is, for instance, old or in a flood zone, so keep that in mind during your property due diligence assessments. Landlord insurance: No matter how careful you are when screening your potential tenants, accidents happen, which is why we’d advise all those intending to rent their properties to buy landlord insurance. This type of coverage provides financial protection if your property is damaged, becomes unavailable due to a catastrophic event, or if someone gets hurt while living in or visiting it. Vacant property insurance: Vacant property insurance is typically the most expensive of the three, but if you’re planning on flipping a property, you might want to look into getting this kind of policy. Empty homes are at high risk of theft, vandalism, and fire. Perform a title search. A key part of due diligence in real estate is doing a title search. During this process, public records and other documents relating to the property are examined to determine the property’s legal ownership and if any lines or claims are associated with it. If you fear that your title search might not uncover every single issue, you might want to think about purchasing title insurance. Title insurance covers disputes that occur both during and after a sale.  Check the restrictions of the homeowner association.  Owners of properties located in communities managed by homeowner associations have to follow the rules these organizations make and enforce. Whether you’re conducting residential or commercial real estate due diligence, you should remember to check what these rules are. Although this may not seem like a very important step to you, know that some HOAs impose extremely strict requirements, which you may not wish to adhere to. Consider getting some assistance. Navigating the home buying process and all the paperwork that comes with it shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially if you’ve never done anything similar before. To avoid getting overwhelmed, you might want to consider hiring a real estate attorney. Note that online legal firms tend to be more affordable than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. As you can see, the answer to the question of “What is due diligence in real estate?” is quite a long one. If, while reading it, you felt like there was far too much to remember, there are some great free task management apps you could download to help you keep track of everything.

By Milja September 06,2021

If you’re moving for the first time into a community with a homeowner association, you must be wondering how much it’ll all cost you. What do HOA fees cover, are they negotiable, and how are they collected? Do you have to pay HOA fees even if you aren’t using the services it offers, and what happens if you don’t pay them? We’ll guide you through all the details, explain HOA rules thoroughly, and provide an insight into how a homeowner association functions.   Understanding a Homeowner Association  Homeowner associations are formed within communities, buildings, or neighborhoods where properties are owned by multiple parties. The aim of these organizations is to create and enforce rules regarding the properties within their jurisdiction regarding the cleanliness and the condition of the properties and their uniform appearance. What else is a homeowners association in charge of? An HOA can also be in charge of minor tasks such as seasonal lighting, snow removal, etc.  HOAs have the legal authority to require residents to abide by the terms of the contract they signed. If the property you bought was previously in an HOA, in most cases, you’ll automatically become a member of it. That’s why getting acquainted with the HOA’s rules should be a part of your due diligence when buying a home. Failing to abide by these rules can lead to penalties such as monetary fines, the restriction of some privileges, or even legal actions.  How Much Will It All Cost You? Let’s shed some light on homeowners association fees. Depending on the neighborhood, the monthly or annual HOA fees members are required to pay usually range from $200 to $400 per month. In luxury neighborhoods, fees can go up to $10,000, while HOAs in less attractive areas can have lower-than-average fees of about $100 per month.  The prices vary depending on the city or area, too. According to a Trulia study from 2015, the lowest were in Warren, Mich ($218 per month) and the highest in New York City ($571). The same study established that older buildings entail a higher average fee due to more extensive maintenance requirements.  What Do Homeowner Association Fees Cover?  Before we get into detail, please note that this isn’t a definite list. Different HOAs offer different services to their members, so you should always check the rules of the particular HOA your (prospective) home belongs to. In this section, we’ll discuss the most common, basic services. Communal Areas Maintenance The homeowner association will usually cover the expenses of repairs in common areas, lawns, roads, and pavements maintenance, as well as snow removal. What else do HOA fees cover? It can be the maintenance of common areas, such as patios, lobbies, elevators, landscapes, and many other things. City Services Sometimes, HOAs cover certain communal utilities: trash removal, electricity for communal areas, water and sewer fees. Pest Control Residents of condominiums often struggle with cockroach infestations, and single-family houses sometimes have to deal with rats, termites, squirrels, or even rabbits that can seriously damage gardens. Having your HOA deal with pest control - especially roaches in buildings - is only logical because these insects spread from one unit to another, so getting rid of them has to be a joint effort if it’s to be successful. Insurance Condos association fees won’t cover the insurance costs for your humble abode but only for the communal areas and the exterior of the building. In case, for example, your condominium and/or the surrounding property is damaged in a natural disaster, you can lean on your HOA. But make sure to purchase homeowner’s insurance to protect your home.  Additional Amenities  We’ve listed some essential services covered by HOA fees. However, those who reside in more luxurious properties might get additional perks included in the (higher) price, such as security services or access to spas, gyms, tennis courts, swimming pools, community clubhouses. Do You Have To Join an HOA? After learning the answer to the question “What are HOA fees?” your next question is likely whether HOA membership is mandatory. With more than 350,000 homeowner associations in the US running about 53% of all properties, future homeowners don’t have much choice unless they’re lucky enough to find a home within the jurisdiction of a voluntary HOA. Voluntary HOA If you reside in a community with a voluntary HOA, you don’t have to sign up for its services. By refusing the HOA payment, you probably won’t have (free) access to communal facilities or community clubs reserved for members only. On the bright side, apart from not having to pay the steep fees, you won’t have to abide by the rules imposed by the association.  Mandatory HOA If typing “What do HOA fees cover” into the search box is what landed you here, it’s more likely than not that your real estate is in an area with a mandatory HOA. That means you will have to pay a monthly fee and abide by its rules. The good side of the situation is that you won’t have to deal with maintenance and bureaucracy yourself. However, painting your house in loud colors, keeping a zoo at home, or renting your apartment to just anyone without going through a thorough tenant screening process first probably won’t be an option.  Breaking HOA Rules  An average HOA fee is a major budget item for most families, so many people are tempted to just skip their payments. A word of caution if you’re thinking about dodging the fees and/or rules of your HOA: Penalties against rule-breakers can be harsh and might lead to legal action against the homeowner or even foreclosures of the property.  To avoid all that unnecessary trouble, take enough time to study the rules of your future home’s HOA. According to real estate statistics, home buyers spend 10 weeks on average searching for a new home, so there’s plenty of time to examine all the possible sanctions and restrictions a HOA might impose.

By Milja September 06,2021

Becoming a homeowner is one of the best experiences one can have, but purchasing a property comes with many decisions. Finding the right home to fit your lifestyle and budget in your preferred location can seem like mission impossible. Add to that the interchangeable terms for property types, and the confusion can become mind-numbing. We’ll focus on handling one of those issues and explain the difference between a townhouse and a condo. We’ll also briefly cover other types of properties so you can walk into a realtor’s office with the knowledge and confidence you need to find the perfect place to start your new life as a homeowner. Keep in mind, though - real estate is one of those niches where definitions can vary even in theory; in real life, the line where a condo ends and a townhouse begins is even more blurred. However, once you have the basics, you’ll be able to tell one from the other much easier. What Is a Condo? In the realtor playbook, a condominium is a style of joint ownership - as a new owner, you’d be purchasing a piece of a building, which would give you exclusive access to some of its areas. Having a condo means living in an apartment building, but you own the apartment instead of renting. You also share joint ownership of the whole building with other owners, including the gym, pool, grounds, or any other common areas the building has. This solution is typically cheaper than the others, but it can also be limiting for some people. Living in a condo makes you a part of a community, but where that will land on the list of pros and cons of buying a condo depends solely on you. What Is an Apartment? Now, you’ll often hear the word ‘apartment’ used interchangeably with ‘condo,’ which can lead to confusion. However, the term ‘apartment’ typically refers to the individual units that make up a specific style of building. These units are usually occupied by tenants based on a lease. In practice, an apartment building is owned by a person or business that rents the units to carefully screened tenants and oftentimes relies on property management software or a company on call. Even though this is the main difference between a condo and an apartment, it isn’t always the case, and there are exceptions to it, too. You usually can’t tell whether a building consists of apartments for rent or if it’s part of a condominium just by looking at it, as they’re built more-or-less the same. Some modern condos look more like multi-level townhouses, which only adds to the confusion. Luckily, this is where brokerages and real estate agents can help, as it takes them a quick look into their real estate CRM to find precise information about the property you might be interested in. As mentioned before, there are always exceptions, but the main difference in the condos vs. apartment struggle lies in who owns the units in a building - those living there or landlords. What Is a Townhouse? A townhouse is a type of building: To first-time homebuyers, it’s easiest to explain by saying, “think row houses.” A townhouse shares one or more walls with other townhouses, but the owners don’t have to worry about downstairs or upstairs neighbors. You’ll also likely get your own basement, front yard, or backyard with a townhouse. Townhouses come with the convenience of a condo and some of the flexibility of a single-family home. With this type of property, you get more privacy than with the former, as it’s very close to owning a single-family home. The critical difference between a condo and a townhouse is that townhouses are more expensive. On the other hand, they’re much more affordable when compared to the price of a single-family home. In other words, it’s a reasonable middle ground, which is why this option is so popular with new homeowners. Homeowners Association (HOA) It is essential to take a moment here to discuss the role the Homeowners Association (HOA) plays with these types of properties.  When you purchase either a condo or townhouse, you’ll have to abide by HOA rules, but also cash out for HOA fees. HOA’s fees are typically higher in condos, as the HOA is responsible for most of the maintenance, which allows for a lock-and-leave mentality, where you don’t have to worry about repairs. This is another difference between a townhouse and a condo, as HOA fees for townhouses cover only a few services, such as water bills or lawn maintenance. Any repairs on a townhouse may be a bit expensive, and you might have to pay for them at a moment’s notice. Now, let’s quickly go over the remaining property types: Single-family and semi-detached homes. Single-Family Homes Single-family homes or fully detached, stand-alone properties are the dream of many wannabe homeowners, but these can be very expensive. Still, they come with much more space, privacy, and rights than the other options on this list. Semi-Detached Homes A semi-detached house shares some similarities with the townhome definition, except you get to share a single outer wall of your home with someone else, whereas with a townhouse, you usually share both. These houses are typically mirrored images of each other. So, Which Home Is Right for You? As usual, the answer is: It depends on you and, more specifically, your lifestyle. People who chose condos typically appreciate living with neighbors, sharing common areas, and take a lot of comfort from it. Not having to worry about maintenance in a condo is a nice bonus, even though it might mean paying a bit more in HOA fees each month. On the other side of the condo vs. townhouse debate are the people who appreciate their privacy more. They could also prefer the type of lifestyle that requires a backyard, for example, but cannot yet afford a single-family home. All in All Either way, both have their pros and cons, which you should carefully consider. However, you should now have a clearer picture of their differences, which will help you on your quest to own a place you can proudly call home!

By Milja September 06,2021