Imagine this: You just opened up your business or consultancy and are ready to get your first sales. You need something, anything to help you take care of the components that make up your business – marketing, customer service, sales and invoicing. Understandably, you’re confused as to what to do next, so you do some research and find that a CRM (also known as a customer relationship management platform) is exactly what you need. But which CRM should you choose? This is an important question that many new businesses (and even established ones!) ask themselves.
You may have heard of Salesforce – it is a popular platform that integrates a support system for customers, sales reporting and marketing tools for your business. In fact, they’re one of the largest CRM systems available for small businesses and perform especially well in terms of marketing and sales tools. However, once you close the deal with a customer, the majority of what SalesForce does is complete; they don’t specialize in what occurs after a sale. For instance, there is very limited support for accounting software that can connect to SalesForce, which limits your choices in terms of billing which may require you to make changes to your current systems. In addition, you’ll find that support for certain features is missing, especially in the area of customer retention. Consequently, SalesForce may not be the best choice for your business.
It is important for you to consider the pros and cons of a bespoke CRM and Salesforce. Walking through the set up for SalesForce, you will notice that the majority of the options that you’ll find on the navigation bar are ones designed for sales: marketing, leads, opportunities, campaigns, and social media management, depending on the focus points you chose on sign-up. These are great tools to secure your first sales and there’s certainly merit to it; after all, a business must generate revenue to keep afloat. However, you must also consider the costs that you’ll incur to use SalesForce. At the time of this post, the base plan starts at $25 US dollars per user, per month, which can quickly add up for a small business. Worse, you’ll find that you are essentially locked onto their platform once you’ve gotten yourself set up, so upsizing means you’ll be required to upgrade your plan instead of considering alternative solutions.
This is where a bespoke CRM platform can help. Instead of focusing entirely on sales, there are options for you to manage customers after a sale and automatically process financial information so that your accounting process is simplified. Everything from stock management to orders to customer retention can be performed within a bespoke CRM. In terms of costs, you’ll pay a one-time development fee for the custom CRM and all updates are optional; in fact, the solution that Coherent has created for you can be taken to another company if you so choose. In this way, you’ll save money in the long run – not only on the software itself but on accounting hours and more.
It’s always a special moment when a small business makes its first sale. Now that the initial payment is finalized, what should you do next?
As with all transactions, communication is key for the continued success of a customer relationship with your business. Therefore, the next thing you should do is make sure that your customer is informed every step of the way as their order is processed.
With SalesForce, you may notice that it is geared primarily toward service-based businesses. As a result, there are quite a few options for you to communicate with your clients. However, there is a lack of support for timesheets within SalesForce by default. To enable it, you will likely be required to purchase a third-party integration or add-on to add support for it, given that the free add-on released by SalesForce hasn’t been updated since 2009. Furthermore, you’ll find it difficult to track the services you’ve completed for your client, which can complicate billing.
Once more, a bespoke CRM can resolve many of the issues that SalesForce cannot solve. For instance, timesheet functionality can be built into the platform, as well as progress tracking so that you can bill your customer as the components of an order are completed. Everything in a bespoke CRM is designed for your business; whether your business focuses on retail or providing services, we at Coherent can craft a solution that enables you to be successful as a small business owner.
As mentioned before, SalesForce is a CRM designed for sales and marketing. This aspect is important, but as other components are lacking, the experience you give to your customers is less than ideal. The CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, once said, “If you do build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” In this regard, SalesForce’s less than ideal order experience can affect customer satisfaction, leading to a drop in referred sales, which for many businesses can make up a significant portion of revenues received. It is important, then to equally prioritize customer satisfaction.
In a bespoke CRM, features such as follow-up emails can be baked in to improve customer relations, or even staff performance monitoring. With the right tools, you’ll find that managing clients is easier and that your customers are happy. Satisfied customers are ones that return, and most importantly, bring you additional orders.
Especially with the base SalesForce plan, certain integration features are locked, making it difficult to automate day-to-day tasks that your business performs. The interface required to access it is hidden behind higher tiered plans, which can vary from being four to thirteen times more expensive per user than the standard option.
The namesake feature of a bespoke CRM is that it is designed to significantly reduce the amount of data you need to input. Not only do you not have to pay additional recurring fees for this automation, but you also won’t be wasting your precious time that you could be spending growing your business.
So, what solution is right for you?
Of course, SalesForce does have its benefits: the tools you have to make sales are excellent and especially at this age, being able to integrate social media platforms can be an important feature for businesses. So if you only need a sales tool, then SalesForce may be right for you. However, if you want software that doesn’t just help your sales team and software that helps you in every aspect of your business, consider having a bespoke CRM made for you.
With a bespoke CRM, many shortfalls of SalesForce can be addressed. Furthermore, you won’t be locked in after its development, and updates are optional. A bespoke CRM, most importantly, is owned by you. You receive full rights to the software after it is finalized.
Make the right choice for your business and book a consultation with us today. It’s free, and no commitments are necessary.
We are proud to announce that we are now an Authorised Sage Developer!
Sage is one of the most established providers of accounting software, offering on-premise accounting packages for small (Sage 50) and medium-sized (Sage 200) businesses as we as payroll and CRM systems.
As one of the earliest Xero Developers in the UK, we have long helped businesses throughout the world to keep data in sync across their systems, to run specialised reports and to develop bespoke systems with an accounting integration. Our Sage Developer status enables us to bring the same benefits to businesses that use Sage products.
It also demonstrates our commitment to flexibility in terms of the integrations that we can offer and strengthens our position as a business-focused software development company.
If you are interested in finding out how we can build on top of Sage to save your business time and money, or want to explore the possibility of developing a bespoke system, such as a CRM, with a Sage connector, please call us on 0800 292 6474, or firstname.lastname@example.org, to arrange a free consultation.
This year, we exhibited again, at a much larger and more colourful stand. We demonstrated an iPad app that we built to help shops, cafés, bars and restaurants improve their social media presence. We gave away stickers and brochures describing some of the great work that we’ve done over the past year.
Thanks to all who stopped at our stand on Sunday and Monday. If you put your business card in our box, you have a chance to win a bottle of champagne! We’ll be drawing the winner tomorrow and dropping off the bottle shortly after.
We’re next due to exhibit at the Merseyside Business Expo on the 19th of October. If you missed us in Lancaster, come and see us there!
Edit 27/09/18: The winner of our prize draw is Elaine Wood from Bespoke Wedding & Occasion Stationery. We’ve reached out to deliver your prize!
Our company turned has just entered its fifth year of trading. It is widely reported that over 50% of companies fail within five years and the odds may well be worse in our industry where barriers to entry are low and a desire to grow as quickly as possible is common.
Within the last year we have:
A huge thank you to all of our staff, customers and other stakeholders who have made this possible.
To catch the eye of top prospects and keep hold of the best you have in your business, you need to be able to offer benefits that are no longer just financial. Flexible working has become demanded by employees and job seekers and choosing a work schedule that suits their chosen lifestyles has provided many benefits to both employer and employee.
At Coherent, we have found that flexible working arrangements have brought many positive benefits and is just one of many things we have done to increase our company culture. Both for the company and the employee. Flexible working hours and the ability to work remotely has given many employees better control in their lives.
Some employees are more productive first thing in the morning, others mid-morning and in the afternoons, therefore their levels of productivity, motivation and happiness has increased greatly due to the fact they are no longer having to fit into a traditional 9-5 that doesn’t work for everyone. Being able to balance work and life has reduced stress and anxiety, giving employees more loyalty to their company and a greater level of job satisfaction.
“Your employees are your company’s real competitive advantage. They’re the ones making the magic happen-so long as their needs are being met” -Richard Branson
There are solid grounds and very tangible benefits to offering flexible working arrangements. Many have seen improvements in recruitment and staff retention, reduced absences and improved commitment and productivity. The millennial generation no longer focus solely on high pay and bonuses. They also value flexibility and having a good work/life balance.
Recent research from Cranfield University revealed that “Flexible workers, managers and co-workers of flexible workers reported a generally positive effect on the quantity and quality of work performed. In comparison to those on standard working arrangements, flexible workers had significantly higher scores on organisational commitment and job satisfaction and nationally and internationally, our research has informed debate in several policy and professional organisations and has been cited as evidence in a number of policy documents” -Professor Clare Kelliher.
Finding the right people for your business is often difficult so in order to attract and retain a talented workforce, businesses need to understand what drives them.
“Being able to negotiate on when I start, and finish work has saved me £197.00 in childcare, I no longer have to juggle my family and work all at once. I am far more productive earlier in the morning, so by starting earlier, I feel I can achieve my daily objectives to a higher standard. Some of my colleagues are more productive later in the day and by having flexible hours they are able to work when they are at their most productive. Whether you’re a morning person or feel sharper in the afternoons, flexible working enables you, within reason, to be on the job when you’re feeling at your best. This will help employees to approach their role in a more positive way which benefits both the company and the employee, as employees look forward to work while the boss will enjoy the higher performance levels you’ll achieve in peak condition’’ said Office Manager Chantelle.
Adapting office space has also seen a rise in employee morale, satisfaction and creativity. Creating flexible workspaces where employees no longer have to be “glued to their desk” has the advantage where they can work in a group or on their own in a more informal setting such as in a café or on the office sofa with a laptop, giving employees better control of their wellbeing.
So why not see if flexible working will suit your business and reap the same rewards as we do at Coherent.
Python is a general-purpose, interpreted and high-level OOPs based dynamic programming language that focuses on rapid application development. Writing a program in Python is often five to six times faster and due to ease of syntax in Python, the programmers can complete coding in fewer steps as compared to Java or C++. Python’s ever-evolving libraries and support makes it a viable choice for any project, be it Mobile App, Web App, IoT, Data Science or AI.
Software development is a dynamic field. Developers need to constantly be learning new skills to stay relevant. At Coherent Software, we’re continually evaluating which programming languages are in high demand from those seeking bespoke computer software due to the world’s growing reliance on technology.
“In my opinion, the customer benefits when the developer benefits because if code is quick, easy to write and quick to compile and test then that is saving the customer time and money, combine that with our experience of using it and the good community, documentation, frameworks, and support and you can ensure that not only is the code quicker to develop, it’s probably less buggy…” Said Coherent Software Engineer Dan James.
Businesses in today’s world need dedicated software for successful operation and growth. It is, therefore, a crucial business asset to choose your software carefully so that it matches your business needs. Due to Pythons flexibility and the fact it can be integrated with many other programming languages, it is no wonder that it has been adopted by companies like Google, NASA, and Intel. That is why the demand for Python specialists keeps growing at an incredible rate.
“Python enables us to develop efficient and secure software in less time and encourages our developers to follow modern best practice” Said Managing Director James Hadley.
Coherent Software has managed to hire a team of skilled Python professionals, which gives us an important advantage over the competition. If you are considering an app or new business software, call us today on 0800 292 6474 or fill out the contact form on the right . We can tell you free of charge how feasible your ideas are and what a development roadmap might look like.
If you’re considering developing a mobile app for your customers, or an internal business system, you might feel overwhelmed by your options. Before you commit, you need to know that whichever agency you choose has the right skills and processes to make the project a success.
That’s why Coherent Software has become accredited to the world-renowned ISO9001 and ISO27001 standards. Our recent accreditations demonstrate that we have the skills and processes to ensure that projects run smoothly and quality and security are at the heart of what we do.
Are you still worried about your GDPR implementation?! Coherent’s commitment as part of ISO27001 demonstrates a higher level of awareness and a deeper understanding of information security so that you can feel safe, knowing that security will be a key part of any software built by Coherent.
If you are considering an app or new business software, contact us using the contact form on the right or call 0800 292 6474. We can tell you free of charge how feasible your ideas are and what a development roadmap might look like.
It’s no easy feat to get your business up and running online. There are a variety of solutions to pick from — from free solutions such as Magento, Opencart, WooCommerce and Prestashop to paid solutions such as Shopify or Amazon.
Picking a platform
For most brick and mortar businesses, they generally opt to move onto an established platform such as eBay or Amazon. While these platforms provide much needed traffic, they can charge fees that range anywhere from a few percent to up to 20%, which is why many times it is desirable to choose a self-hosted solution such as Magento.
eBay vs. Amazon for sellers
If you’re considering eBay or Amazon as your platform though, know that they have drastically different fee structures. While eBay is much cheaper to sell on, you are responsible for paying shipping fees and a 10% fee assessed on most items on the final value. Amazon however provides affordable and quick shipping costs that you pay for indirectly with the small flat fee you pay on each sale (unless you’re using the Pro plan) and a certain percentage on the item value.
Setting up on your platform
If you’re selling on a major platform like Amazon or eBay, there really isn’t much setup except for getting a PayPal account at most before you get to the next part.
If you’re using a free, self-hosted option, you’ll need a domain name, hosting and a well-supported theme. Alternatively, you may hire someone to create one for you to make your store stand out, but it can get costly to do this. Furthermore, you’ll need to configure miscellaneous settings that range from the site title to payment gateways. Don’t fret, Prestashop for example as well as other free platforms are generally well supported and have full documentation to their software.
Choosing what to sell
Once you decide on a solution and set everything up, you’ll need to decide what to put on the store. For example, you might opt to add items that you have a lot of stock for to also have some in store. If you’re selling products without a physical storefront, things don’t get much easier as you still need to find suppliers willing to produce your merchandise.
Deciding on carriers to ship your items
At this point, your online storefront is just starting and you might not ship very much just yet. It’s difficult to find a good balance between revenue and costs, especially when you’re dealing with shipping as pricing is never fixed and can potentially ruin your business. In the UK, one of the most affordable and reliable shipping options is the Royal Mail. It’s great for lower cost items that ship within the UK and abroad. However, if your inventory consists of high value items, you may opt for courier deliver via DHL, for example.
Advertising your business
After you add your products to your store and have everything ready, it’s time to get your store known. There are many ways to do this, ranging from social media to local advertisements. In today’s day and age, most businesses will benefit the most from social media advertising, specifically through Facebook and Instagram. They are terrific options as you’ve the ability to choose the demographic you’re targeting, and with Instagram (a photo-oriented social networking app), people can see your products in action which improves customer conversion.
One implication of running both a store and website is that you need to maintain inventory levels for both storefronts. If you’re using an inventory management solution within your store, we can help you get it integrated with your online store, whether you’re running it on Shopify or Opencart. If your business runs primarily on a paper-based inventory system, our team can help you migrate from your current system to one that is electronic and integrate that to your online store.
Depending on what you choose for your online storefront, you can expect to pay just a few dollars a month up to tens to hundreds or even thousands. Assuming you’ve stocked your inventory already, you need to pay for your domain name, hosting, advertising and/or software fees. In terms of platform fees, Shopify for example charges $29, $79 and $299 for their basic, general and advanced plans. If you choose to get the Pro plan on Amazon, you’ll need to pay £25 per month.
With advertising, you can expect to pay anywhere in the range of a hundred pounds when you’re starting out. However, the profit you make through these ads directly drives your business, so it’s usually worth investing into.
In terms of getting a domain name and hosting, you really only need this if you’re not using an established platform such as eBay. When you use Shopify, you’ll need a domain name and with other free software you’ll need both hosting and a domain name. Make sure you choose a reliable provider, though, as a low-quality hosting company can drastically affect your sales if it is slow or unreliable. As an established UK development and hosting company, we provide fully managed hosting services which means you won’t need to worry about downtime or performance should you choose to host your business with us. Alternatively, a reputable managed hosting provider can be a great choice for many users.
Xero is a popular small business cloud accounting solution. This idea is further reinforced by the 200 employee limit as well as other lesser known “soft” limits on invoices, expenses and transactions. You may wonder whether or not is is a viable option for when your small business grows. With some creativity, you can avoid moving to a more expensive, enterprise resource planning system.
Accounting systems like Xero are not affected as much by the amounts recorded in transactions compared to the sheer number of them. Small businesses tend to make a plethora of small, low value transactions which can quickly add up to hundreds or even thousands of entries on Xero. The issue for Xero is that the more entries you use, the more it costs them in terms of processing power.
As a result, many small business accounting systems place limits on the number of transactions that can be used in a given period (e.g a month).
However, Xero does not actually have any hard limits on the amount of sales or purchase invoices that you process nor does it have any limits on the number of bank transactions that you record. Note that there are limitations to Xero though, and if you push through too many records, it will slow down and will eventually resemble the drawer on the left, where completing even the smallest changes will take significant periods of time. In the worst cases, the software simply stops working and freezes.
Now, do you need to plan your migration out of Xero then? Do you need to avoid it completely? Well, despite what was just said, the answer is probably no. With some clever thinking, some rearranging might be all you need to stick with the popular cloud accounting option.
The following 4 tips represent some solutions for common issues that businesses experience as they grow with Xero. They might not apply to you, though, so you may need to consider hiring a consultancy to assist you.
Usually, if you’re taking advantage of a POS system or inventory management software, your vendor will likely support transaction batching. Ask your vendor, you never know if they might have it.
For example, if you run a small business that processes large invoices that contain many invoice items, you may encounter the limits of Xero. It will likely slow down to the point of timing out!
Issues can become so severe that you may even struggle to generate financial statements from Xero.
Fortunately, transaction batching can be used to limit this. Instead of processing the individual invoice items, we can take the final invoice amount and use that. This can cut the number of “invoices” listed on Xero from tens of thousands to mere hundreds.
Many businesses run a variety of different systems to manage inventory, their online stores, etc.
As sales begin to pick up, naturally Xero begins to get bogged down by the number of transactions you make. Just like the previous tip — you guessed it — you’ll eventually reach the point where Xero will fail to generate business activity statements and other important documents.
Certainly, to keep efficiency, you wouldn’t consolidate transactions by hand as that wouldn’t be beneficial to your business. In this case, it may be worth speaking with a developer to create a bespoke integration so that your business can keep using Xero efficiently.
Once you begin consolidating transactions, not only can you keep everything automated, the system will likely speed up significantly if the reason for the slowdown was due to a excessive number of records.
When businesses first use Xero, many times they choose to use it as a billing solution as well. However, this can cause problems as more and more transactions are processed.
Instead of bogging down Xero with billing, you might consider using a billing engine such as Chargify or Chargebee. Taking the heavy lifting of billing from Xero can significantly increase the speed that it works at.
In fact, you’ll get benefits such as prorated billing, automatic cancellation handling and service provisioning with Chargify that Xero doesn’t normally provide. This means that Xero can do what it does best — bank reconciliations, the plethora of accounting statements, etc.
Not only does it provide plenty of additional benefits, many billing engines tend to have integrations with Xero. Many of these billing engines submit hordes of transactions though, so you may need to consider the first and second tips while using a billing engine with Xero.
The default integration between your trading and accounting system may suffice for now, but may need to be replaced later on.
Most popular systems come with well documented APIs (interfaces usable to connect software that perform tasks automatically). As a result, it is generally possible to create a system that pulls data from your trading system automatically, puts it all into a single batch and posts it to your accounting system.
This would require you to turn off the default integration to some degree (in some cases, completely.)
There’s a huge benefit to having a customized integration. It can be modified to suit your business’s continued growth and leaves you much more control over your systems, which allows for better software solutions that work for your business.
If you can’t build your own integration for Xero, or you’ve followed all the tips and Xero is still slow, it may be time to hire a developer that can create a bespoke solution for you. It’ll save you time and resources to have professionals examine your system and assist you with its issues.
Many online store owners wonder, “How on earth am I supposed to compete with Amazon?”
With their product selection and fast fulfillment times, it’s no wonder customers
are flocking to these eCommerce platforms.
Since Amazon’s platform is so large, many shops opt to have products fulfilled by Amazon. However, the fees are undeniably high and can take away the profit you make on each item.
Lowering your seller fees is no easy feat, though. Amazon runs a complicated system where users are a flat fee per item as well as any associated category fees while eBay runs a percentage based system, taking anywhere from 8% to 15% of the item value.
Using Amazon, you can drop the £0.75 item selling fee by purchasing their £25.00 upgrade seller plan, which is great for larger stores on the platform. You may also opt to contact Amazon to purchase products directly from you, so they maintain inventory and you don’t lose any profit whatsoever, though this is a rather difficult process that will likely end in a rejection.
With eBay, opt to remove any of the additional “highlighting” features offered. A well written listing with professionally taken pictures will do wonders, compared to a bolded title, etc. You can save up to £3.00, so it’s definitely worth a look.
While you can lower your seller fees with these popular eCommerce options, opening your own eCommerce store can be a great option to keeping more of your profit while also having greater control on customization. You might opt to have someone host your store for you, host it on our platform or perhaps run it yourself. Some options include Shopify, a cloud hosted shop platform and Magento, a free Adobe-owned eCommerce platform.
Costs for the software can range anywhere from the low, low cost of free up to hundreds of dollars, so be sure to weigh your options carefully. Shopify allows for easy dropshipping, while Magento’s most attractive feature is that it is free.
However, if you opt to use a self-hosted platform such as Magento or WooCommerce, it needs to be run on a server. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a cheap shared hosting plan though, as it will likely end up that you’re upsold to a virtual server or are suspended due to overuse of shared resources. As the old adage goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Seeing your store grow and turn a profit is every shopkeeper’s aspiration. However, as you emerge as a retailer, you will eventually need to pay your staff and produce financial statements for tax purposes, especially in Europe, where value added taxes (VAT) are leveraged differently across member nations.
Whether you choose Xero or Sage, managing your accounts payable and receivable can be a nightmare, especially if you’re manually inputting client transactions. We can help you increase your business’s efficiency through the automatic posting of transactions, automated staff invoicing and more. Not only will this save you time, it can increase your business’s revenue as you can spend more time on what you love.
A moderately sized business will usually have at least a few employees working to manage inventory, find suppliers, etc. Your team is the core of your business — it simply cannot run without them. Make their jobs easier with software — we can create something that manages stock, assigns work to staff and more. They’ll spend less time performing menial tasks and more time running your business, allowing it to flourish.