I got a FABULOUS question from “Dee” on the LKR Members Forum (if you haven’t seen it, check out her Social Media Marketer program + special member’s forum) about client surveys and databases, and couldn’t resist sharing.
I am in the middle of setting up my coaching business and wondered if you can recommend a database/software system to use which compiles registration forms from potential clients, who submit their name email address and a questionnaire on my site in order to book a free coaching consultation.
I would also like to have a system in place which stores client information, synopsis on sessions etc.
This is a very common request and there are definitely a million was to solve this.
For most of us, however, it just doesn’t make business sense to use expensive uni-tasking software apps for EVERY aspect of our business, it’s not realistic for most of us to afford enterprise-class software applications, and most of us probably prefer not to spend the time and money on custom development. These are the “traditional” ways to get this solved, which is why “the big boys” are so big, and why many solopreneurs and small business typs feel “stuck”
Who can afford all that, right?
WELL – it’s time for a paradigm shift!
As technology rapidly progresses, it’s getting easier and easier to solve our problems the same way “the big boys” do it. We can have databases, analytics, tracking, automated marketing, and much of the technology that was previously unavailable. As Seth Godin says, “the lever is getting longer” – we’re able, as small business types, to stop being small businesses, and to start being SMART businesses. We now have the technology. We now have the resources.
And the best part? We’re WAY faster and more flexible than any establishment with layers of costs and decision-makers.
NOW — the solution.
Dee – if you’re not already using this, I highly recommend it (And everybody else). — GOOGLE APPS.
1) Go to http://www.google.com/apps — click on PRICNG — and select the one that is best for you (The FREE version will work best for the majority of us. I use the free.)
2) Follow thier step-by-step directions. You or your webmaster (and/or hosting company) will have to change your email servers (MX Records), and/or install a file or some script into your website. If you cannot complete this step, your favorite web techy can help.
3) You’re done.
WHAT YOU GET:
Your business’s email will now run through google’s GMAIL system – BUT- you will retain your (@yourdomain.com) address. I use it and my email is an @getcultstatus.com (not @gmail.com) — but the back-end looks just like gmail.
INSIDE of google apps (and also inside a traditional gmail account), there is a “Google Documents” link that lets you store create and upload spreadsheets and databases. It also lets you create web forms to drag/drop onto your site; so, when someone goes to your site and fills out the questionnaire, it saves in a spreadsheet in your Google Docs.
THE WAY TO PULL THIS OFF
Dee- the way to pull this off in your situation would be to
1) create a client info spreadsheet/form in google docs
2) Create a new page in your wordpress site (or other), switch to “HTML MODE” instead of visual, and paste in the form code from google. Publish the page.
3) On your opt-in and/or sales/services page, have a link/button that says “Book My Free Appointment” which links to the page where your form will sit.
As always, you can download, save, export, etc. the data from your spreadsheet into any other program you use from there (or print it out, or just store it securely in Google’s cloud)
Benefits: It’s free, it’s relatively quick and easy to set-up (either for you or for your tech person), and it gets you most of the functionality you’re looking for.
Draw-backs: It may not have every feature or do everything you want, but it’s great for 99% of small businesses and solopreneurs.
If you require anything beyond this level of awesomeness, your next steps are to look at Industry-Specific software (there are a billion niche softere companies that do client-management for specific industries. since they know your industry best, they’ll often have the best solution available to you), OR to do a custom build out.
In my very extensive research and experience, the rule of thumb I like to use is to:
1) Figure out the IDEAL functions you want
2) See what the free and open-source options are
3) See what boutique solutions are
4) Ask yourself, is the free “good enough for now?” // if now, is the paid version “good enough” for now?
5) IFF the previous two solutions are not enough, seek a consultant or developer to figure out the problem for you.
YOU’RE A BUSINESS – your time is best spent working on business things. Stuff like this makes life easier, but the longer you deliberate about it, the longer you’re spending away from your biz. Do what you do best. Use the “good enough” solution until you out-grow it or can pay for better.
Thanks for the great question!!