Posted by & filed under Ebook, Exotel, Startup.

Over the last 2.5 years, we’ve had the privilege of working with some of the most talented folks in the industry. And we’ve also had other startups ask us about our hiring process and what we did right. So, I’ve put together an ebook on Hiring for Startups. The short video above should give you an idea of what all we’ve covered in it.

Click here to download the entire ebook .

And please pass this link on to other startups who’re trying to scale and grow their teams as well.

Posted by & filed under Business, Exotel.

vote-360x240

Our country is at polls and it is our duty as citizens to make sure that our vote counts. The voter turn out in the 2009 elections was a dismal 58% (source ). Let’s put up a better show at Elections 2014.

Please take some time off from your official work, personal life and everything else, to cast your vote. Support your employees and help them take some time off to go out and vote. And here’s how Exotel can help you. If you’re an Exotel customer (or even if you’re not), you can use this recording to let your customer know on election day that there might be some delay in attending to their issues.

Click here to download the audio file.

Make sure your vote counts.

PS: Our polling day is the 17th of April. Since we’ll be out voting, please expect some delay in answering your calls on that day.

 

Posted by & filed under Business, Customers, General, Video.

We get quite a few queries at Exotel from business owners who already have a number for their business. These companies have advertised/publicized a number and their customers have saved it in their phone book.
It is not possible for a business to phase out a number because in time it becomes their identity in the market.

So is it possible for someone with an existing number to use Exotel?

I believe that technology can solve any problem. This issue of using an existing number(mobile or landline) with Exotel can also be solved by just doing a call forwarding from that number to your Exophone.

Also now the power is in your hands. If you’re unsatisfied with Exotel (we hope that never happens :) )you can easily switch over to another product and in case of any down time (we take our promise of uptime very seriously. Have you checked out http://status.exotel.in/ ?) you could simply cancel the divert so it won’t hurt your business continuity too.

Here’s a short video explaining how simple it really is to set up a call divert

Posted by & filed under Business, CRM, Customers.

Lead Management and Aggregation is a common concern for every business that is starting to evolve. We, at Exotel, experienced this problem during our early days. We wanted a tool that can aggregate leads from various sources (Emails, Calls, Websites) at one place. In addition, we wanted to take action and track every activity related to every lead from the same platform. The good thing with us was that we had a strong tech team (still have :)) who could solve this problem. We integrated Exotel with Pipedrive and we have been happy since then.

But, not every startup or SMB is able to integrate itself with a CRM tool , neither they can afford to spent significant money on such tools. This realization has been strengthened by the continuous demand from our existing clients for a solution that can help them aggregate leads from Calls, Emails, and Lead Generation Websites. Many SMBs are getting leads from Emails and Websites in an Email inbox and leads from Calls on the Exotel dashboard. Further, they are entering all leads into a spreadsheet manually, followed by manual entries of every tracking activity.

The following are the problems associated with this manual lead management:

  • Inefficient and requires at least one full-time employee
  • Requires effort to check co-workers’ availability and manual assignment of leads to them
  • Requires effort to followup with co-workers who are engaging with leads, to take update from them, and to enter update and task everyday into that spreadsheet.
  • Time wastage on duplicate leads (same lead from different sources)

These problems have direct negative impact on Cost (because of inefficient process) and Revenue (because of delay in acting on leads or missing a few leads).

Realizing these problems, we designed a “Lead Management Application” that can help SMBs aggregate leads from multiple sources – Emails, Websites, Calls, and Missed Calls. Further, the application helps in assigning leads efficiently to available co-workers, followed by the tracking of lead stages.

The following detail will help you understand how this application can help you in managing your leads in an effective manner.

This simple application aggregates all leads in a single Google Spreadsheet. Further, these leads are distributed to your available co-workers who will follow up with your potential customers and enter feedback or action steps in the lead management sheet. The following are the key features of this application:

  • Auto Distribution: All leads are automatically distributed among multiple co-workers. No manual intervention required.

  • Availability Tracking: By tracking co-workers’ availability, the app ensures that leads do not get distributed to absent co-workers.

  • Multiple Lead Sources at One Place: Lead data come from multiple source, such as Emails, Websites, Calls, Missed Calls, are all integrated and then de-duplicated into one common system.

  • Duplicate Elimination: Duplicate leads are eliminated so that the customer doesn’t get unnecessary multiple callbacks and your co-workers are not wasting time on duplicate leads.

  • Efficient: The tasks of adding co-worker, keeping attendance records, and managing callbacks are all easily manageable through a convenient Google spreadsheet.

  • Toll-Free Number Not Required: This app eliminates the need for an expensive toll-free number. Since this app also tracks missed calls, no need to make the customer pay anything. You can always arrange a callback at a time when it is convenient for for the customer.

We are sure that this application will help you significantly in your attempt to “not to miss any lead,” and hence you will be able to see direct impact on your monthly cost and revenue. We look forward for your thoughts/feedback on how can we improvise/modify this application to offer precise solution to our problem.

If you’re interested in implementing this integration in your Exotel account, click here .

Posted by & filed under Business, Marketing, Startup.

startup guide to PR [Guest post by Sudhir Syal,  Founder and Editor of the Starting Up show on ET NOW]

I’m often asked what some of the secrets are to getting more start-up coverage on print or television. I think that question really should be re-phrased, are there any secrets to getting more media coverage for startups? Frankly, after flashing my memory though the over 1000 pitches I might have received in the 5 years in the trade, I don’t really think there are.

There is no one silver bullet. There are practices of course, practices one can follow. And as an old professor of mine used to say, ‘some practices are better than others’. But again not one practice, and often it’s ‘how’ you use some of these practices that are most important.

Let’s see what some of them are:

 

1. Don’t Pitch. Not Yet. Listen

don't pitch, listen

Being a journalist at a start-up event is a lot like being a hot blonde in an all men party. Before the journalist goes back to his ridiculous deadline and his measly pay, it’s an all empowering feeling. Entrepreneurs pitch all sorts of things to him using the old adage ‘Throw everything, something will stick’. Frankly, with over 50 start-ups using the same formula, the wall is over-crowded and things seldom do.

Instead, listen to the journalist and in some ways make him pitch. After that’s done, add your story as an extension to his. For example, if he were to say, “I cover the mobile space, and my last story was on mobile gaming”. Add to it by finding a link with your mobile app. Else, speak about some of the other entrepreneurs you know doing interesting work. This as opposed to blatantly pitching your story regardless. Often, journalists come into an event or an interaction in the middle of an unfinished story and the question “What are you working on presently?” could yield surprisingly positive results

 

2. Focus on the ‘How’, not the ‘What’

Often when an entrepreneur meets a journalist, he thunders him with a bunch of numbers. “And now we have 200k uniques on our site, with 400 paying members”. Is that good or bad? Frankly, the journalist doesn’t know but nods to ensure he doesn’t come across as stupid. What finally happens is that both the pitch and the entrepreneur are forgotten.

Instead, the pitch should really be centered around a demo of the product. Even If it’s a general chat, bring it to the demo, it’s what you know best and will help the journalist gather his thoughts. Then discuss and showcase, how your product does something rather than ‘what’ it does.

3. Relate to the journalist

I’ve seen this many times, an entrepreneur will try and explain something to someone from the media and the journalist will say, “Ah yes, it’s like this other product but with video”. The journalist won’t be too far from the truth, but the entrepreneur to come off as all conquering will completely deny this and go on to re-explain his product all over again leaving everyone confused.

It’s alright for the journalist to be right and your product needn’t be un-understandable and completely revolutionary to be successful

4. Help

Some of the most media-friendly entrepreneurs I’ve seen are those who have a point of view or a connection regardless of the topic. Be open to sharing and don’t expect anything back in return. Help with data, facts, images, links; anything. You will be paid back manifold.

5. Change the ‘exclusive’

pr for startups Unfortunately, most journalists are ‘hard-wired’ for exclusives. The truth is if you’re an entrepreneur, giving the journalist an exclusive isn’t your biggest priority. It seldom works to your advantage anyway. Besides, apart from random rumors about a company getting acquired, the biggest exclusive you can offer is on your fundraising. If in fact you are raising funds, you want everyone to cover it, not only one paper. So throw the ‘exclusive’ out of the window.

What you should do however is create an ‘exclusive spin’. Mine your user-base for important trends, come up with a paper on an interesting development. One gaming entrepreneur for instance once gave me a ‘spin’ on how a lot of his games were being played by jawans on the border; what a great story. Yes, it’s an exclusive. And everyone is happy!

6. Become a ‘thought-leader’ in your field

It’s important to understand that as a journalist covering start-ups, there are broadly 3 types of stories. A start-up ‘profile’ story, An industry trend story and something that is often a response to a current news development, let’s refer to it as a ‘current’ story. After a company has been covered for a ‘profile’ and ‘industry trend’ story, he is discarded. Unless, unless of course the entrepreneur is knowledgeable. The journalist then also goes to him for every ‘current’ story, this could mean the difference between two press mentions in the year and eight or even more.

The best way to do this is to yourself be up to date not only with what is happening globally in the industry, but also what is being covered. Look for the gaps, unearth them. This is your opportunity.

7. The Deadline is always ‘NOW’

Too often, a journalist will ask an entrepreneur for a quote or try and fix an appointment with him for a byte and the entrepreneur will say, “Let me just get back to you”. More often than not, the entrepreneur will get back later in the day, but it’s just too late. By then, the journalist has got a quote / byte from someone else and made the structure for the story. Later in the day even if you are the better person for the said story, chances are you will not get a look in since that would mean changing the rest of the story depending on what you might or might not say. Too much work.

Instead, try and give him what he wants there and then. Won’t take you more than 2-5 mins. Then you can always say, let’s have a chat little later if you’d like a more elaborate view. The journalist has your view and suddenly you could be the key person in the story since he spoke to you first.

8. Freebies are not a good idea. In most cases.

The worst thing you can possibly do is offer a journalist a free gift. The good ones will never accept and the bad ones you shouldn’t care about, worse still they will tell everyone you offered a bribe. Privileged access for a limited duration to a product, perhaps but gifts never.

What you can do however when a journalist meets you in your office is offer them food. Nothing fancy, a pizza, something to drink will always work. A good journalist is almost always on the road for over 50% of his day and is almost always hungry and thirsty. Treat him well, he will stay longer too. The surest way to a journalist’s article is through his stomach.

9. Research and reports are your friend

Whichever industry you are in, you have the potential to come up with research or a ‘point to’ source which are a great source of PR. Some of the best examples I’ve seen are Pinstorm’s Top 100 influential people resource on Social media which simply combines scores from Klout, Peerindex and Kred to come up with this listing . Results – articles from NY Times and HT . Another great example is what Komli does with its Vizisense report on the web in India, another great source of media

10. Don’t forget the color story

Too often, we get caught up with stories on our business that we forget that journalists are also often looking at off-beat, what they call ‘color’ stories. One great example was the Snapdeal.com village story which got featured on Techcrunch. As it says, they spent a total of 5000 USD on a CSR initiative, which got them media worth far more. You needn’t invest 5000 USD, there always stories around you. Look around!

Finally, remember it’s a continuous learning process. Continue to experiment, the cost of failure is low and when something works for you, stick to it. More than anything, build meaningful relationships with journalists , show a genuine interest in their work and respect them. You can never go wrong!

 

 

sudhir

Before committing the unpardonable sin of doing a MBA, the author was the Founder and Editor of the Starting Up show on ET NOW. He has covered over 400 start-ups on television and print across India and the Silicon valley.