What is Zoho Suite
Zoho Corporation has come a long way since they released their first SaaS apps, Writer and CRM, in 2005. The writer became the inseparable part of the productivity apps and CRM has grown to be of the core Zoho products today, serving millions of people around the world, yours truly included.
From the app diversity and completeness of offerings perspective, Zoho still holds a unique and strong position in the market while other companies have focused on one or a few products around a core objective.
There are many fantastic SaaS apps out there; however, none of which I used or read about offer the selection Zoho does. This allows users to use a wide range of apps with a single sign-on, familiar look and feel, and interoperability (i.e., ability to exchange and use information between apps) out of the box.
Zoho apps are divided into six categories:
Sales and Marketing
Email and Collaboration
IT and Help Desk
Now lets’ have a very quick look at each one of these categories and their respective apps.
Zoho Sales and Marketing Apps
The beating heart of any business, be it a home-based solo operation or a multinational conglomerate, is sales. Marketing, on the other hand, provides insights into the market and helps the business stay competitive while promoting its products and services to the world. The duo of Marketing and Sales is inseparable.
At the core of the Zoho suite, there are a number of apps that help you manage almost all your marketing and sales operations, all connected in the cloud.
Zoho CRM is arguably the star of the show with the highest number of users among Zoho apps. First released in 2005, CRM has grown from a small solution for beginners to a full-fledged suite of an application competing with the industry leaders on many fronts.
The landscape of cloud-based CRM systems for small- and medium-size businesses is quite competitive, and there are formidable contenders in the market for every requirement and budget.
The spectrum of SaaS CRM systems seems endless with open source and free offerings inside of the spectrum to full-fledged industry-specific solutions on the other hand. Bitrix24, Highrise, Hubspot, Infusionsoft, Insightly, Microsoft Dynamics, Pipedrive, Salesforce, and Sugar CRM are just a few that come to mind.
Well, this blog is about Zoho CRM, so I know which one I will be recommending. That said, Zoho CRM may not be an answer for everyone. The premise of this blog is that CRM is one of the most important, if not the most important tool, for your business. So, choosing the right one early on is crucial.
We will see how Zoho CRM addresses the requirements of a wide range of businesses. No matter if you are about to start your business in a month, currently bootstrapping, or you have been in business for the past 15 years managing a team of 100 salespeople across the globe.
Zoho CRM can play a key role in managing and streamlining your marketing, sales, and client service efforts.
Zoho CRM offers five different editions with each packing a host of features suitable for different tastes and needs:
Free edition: This edition offers core modules such as Leads, Accounts, Contacts, Feeds, Documents, and mobile apps for up to 10 users, completely free of charge. This is a great way to start using Zoho CRM and upgrade to one of the paid editions as your business needs grow.
Standard edition: In addition to the features available in the Free edition, you will have access to sales forecasting, reports and dashboards, document library, roles and profiles, mass email, call center connectors, and the ability to store up to 100,000 records of information.
Professional edition: Similarly, the Professional edition offers all the features available in Free and Standard editions, plus email integration, social features, Google AdWords integration, workflow automation, inventory management, macros, and the ability to store unlimited records.
Enterprise edition: This edition offers territory management, custom applications, custom buttons, workflow approval processes, page layouts, custom modules, and multiple currencies on top of the features available to the Professional edition.
Ultimate edition: Last, but not least, the Ultimate edition adds even more features to make it the choice for larger organizations by throwing in the sandbox, a dedicated database cluster, priority support, advanced customization, advanced CRM analytics, and enhanced storage.
Zoho CRM Plus:
A recent addition to the CRM family, CRM Plus provides a more holistic approach to the traditional CRM system by combining the Enterprise edition with Zoho Campaigns, Desk, SalesIQ, Social, Projects, Survey, and Reports.
This package allows users to centralize all their marketing, sales, and client servicing processes in one place without the need to jump between different platforms while saving considerably in direct and indirect costs.
A new addition to the Zoho suite, SalesInbox claims to be the first mailbox specifically designed for salespeople. According to Zoho, SalesInbox automatically organizes and prioritizes sales activities based on the sales pipeline and the stage in which each deal is.
Using Zoho CRM criteria and rules features, SalesInbox could become a sales team’s best friend and put an end to the manual work between email and CRM.
SalesIQ is a live chat solution that you can install and enable on your website to understand how visitors are interacting with your website in real time. It provides the visitors of your website with a familiar chat box placed on a corner of a webpage, so they can ask the sales or support team for help right away, or leave a message without leaving the page.
You can use SalesIQ in conjunction with Zoho CRM and streamline the conversion of site visitors to prospects and ultimately buying customers. You should consider using SalesIQ if you are serious about capturing website visitors and turning them into customers or providing them with an interactive support channel.
The Free edition provides a decent set of features for you to get up and running with SalesIQ and later upgrade to one of the paid editions as your requirements grow.
To learn more about SalesIQ, check out https://www.zoho.com/salesiq/help/
Zoho Survey is a versatile tool to create online surveys and collect information from leads, prospects or existing clients through a number of questions. You can dispatch surveys on your website, via mobile, or email and have the collected information from these channels store in the back end of Survey for later analysis.
Apart from standard survey building and distributing features, Zoho Survey automatically translates your surveys to 30 languages,1 and integrates well with email campaign apps such as Zoho Campaigns and MailChimp.
To learn more about Zoho Survey, check out https://www.zoho.com/survey/help/.
Another powerful app in Zoho’s arsenal is Campaigns, which offers all the tools you need to run successful email campaigns. It integrates well with other core Zoho apps, especially CRM, removing the need for third-party solutions in most cases.
Any modern organization needs to include email marketing in some shape or form in their business practice. Staying in touch with customers as well as prospects is crucial and Campaigns allows you to do just that.
Despite social media being a major channel for connecting with your audience, email still remains the most effective way of communication and making sales happen.
Moreover, Campaigns offers email templates to get you up and running in minutes, plus email automation features to save you time and help your campaigns be more effective. It also provides you with detailed campaign reporting tools for monitoring and fine-tuning your efforts.
There is a free edition that allows storing up to 2,000 contacts and sending up to 12,000 emails every month, so you have little excuse not to start sending that monthly newsletter that you have been delaying. To learn more about Zoho Campaigns, check out https://www.zoho.com/ campaigns/help/.
Unless you are visiting us from a planet where websites are so passé, you most probably have a website for your business and chances are that setting it up was not particularly a pleasant experience.
Times have changed for the better. Now everyone can build a usable website that looks modern, has most of the functionalities of a business website, and works on mobile phones as well. Services such as Weebly and Wix allow you to simply drag and drop building blocks on webpage skeletons and create a website ready for prime time.
Zoho, too, happens to have their own website creation wizard: Zoho Sites. Zoho Sites provides you with a platform to easily and quickly create a professional looking website with all the modern features you need, such as blogs, social, multimedia, e-commerce, and forms.
What is great is that you can do all of these without writing a single line of code or knowing what the difference between HTTP and HTML is.
Similar to other Zoho apps, you can start with a free plan, which offers enough features to get your website up and running; and opt for the paid, more feature-rich edition down the road.
To learn more about Zoho Sites, check out https://zohosites.wiki.zoho.com/.
Social media management has become a part of the business routine of every forward-thinking business. The immense power of social media allows you to delight prospects and clients by conveying a more personal and conversational message across multiple channels.
With a multitude of available social channels, however, it is hard to stay on top of publishing, monitoring, and responding to communications and staying productive and keeping your sanity in the process. Fortunately, there are tools that help you manage social media, including Zoho Social, a capable social management tool.
As of this writing, it allows you to centrally manage Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Instagram. You, and your team collaboratively, can publish on selected channels in one go, schedule messages, and monitor the performance of your messages.
You can also listen to a social channel for what people are saying about your business or personal brand.
Another useful feature of Social is that it connects to Zoho CRM effortlessly and improves your productivity by providing you with contextual information about your social connections that may be on the CRM as well.
As usual, you can start with Zoho Social free of charge and upgrade to a paid plan when you need more features. To learn more about Zoho Social, check out https://www.zoho.com/social/help/.
Zoho Contact Manager
Having a stand-alone app for managing your contacts may seem totally unnecessary, but don’t mistake Zoho Contact Manager for your average contact on your laptop or smartphone. Contact Manager is actually a mini CRM allowing you to store and manage your contact database more effectively.
You can share contacts within your team, define and assign tasks and follow-ups around contacts, manage deals related to contacts, and integrate your contact database with third-party services such as Google Apps or MailChimp.
If you believe you don’t need a full-fledged CRM solution, Contact Manager is a great way to start introducing order to your sales processes and centralizing valuable client information. To learn more about Zoho Contact Manager, check out https://www.zoho.com/contactmanager/help.html.
Sometimes you need to collect information (online) from staff members, local community, clients, or your website visitors. To do so, you usually place some sort of form on a webpage and encourage people to fill it up and submit it back to you. However, not all forms are created equally.
A form could be a simple Contact Us form, a long survey, or a complex form with automation workflows embedded for approval collection.
Traditionally, you or someone you hire would need web programming knowledge to create a form with such capabilities. With Zoho Forms, all you need to do is to drag and drop the form fields to a form, do some configurations, and then publish your modern-looking form online for people to populate.
Zoho Forms allows you to quickly create functional forms, collect data, analyze the performance of your forms, and integrate them with Zoho apps, such as CRM; or third-party apps, such as MailChimp, to automate tedious data entry tasks.
Again, you can start using Zoho Forms for free and upgrade to a paid edition as your requirements grow. To learn more about Forms, check out https://www.zoho.com/forms/help/getting-started.html.
Another newcomer to the Zoho suite, Motivator, is a sales activity management tool. It allows you to set sales targets and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for your team.
Then it automatically analyzes sale information extracted from Zoho CRM to generate team member performance so that top salespeople are identified, acknowledged, and rewarded for their achievements.
Motivator has a feature called TV Channels, which allows you to show a leaderboard of your team performance on big screen TVs to motivate the team and encourage employees to compete in a healthy and rewarding environment.
To learn more about Zoho Motivator, check out https://www.zoho.com/ motivator/help/.
Zoho Email and Collaboration Apps
To complement the core apps mentioned above, Zoho offers essential apps helping you manage your emails, projects, and documents, all improved for the Internet age and built from the ground up to house modern features, such as social and collaboration features.
A number of other apps help you stay connected with your team and perform a number of essential tasks, such as safely storing your passwords in a centralized location.
Zoho Mail is Zoho’s answer to popular services such as Gmail, or Outlook.com. Although it may be much less popular compared other old-timers, it is arguably one of the easiest to use and most feature-rich mail services in the market. Plus, it is ad-free. No more pesky ads in the sanctity of your inbox, ever.
In addition to the default web interface, Mail offers native smartphone apps for iOS and Android. You can also configure your favorite desktop or mobile email client (Spark, Outlook, Apple Mail, etc.) to check your Zoho account emails.
For business users, Zoho Mail integrates well with other Zoho services such as CRM. You can enjoy a single sign-on feature (one user account to use multiple services) and host one domain (i.e., yourwebsite.com), plus up to 25 users, all free of charge. To learn more about Zoho Mail, check out https://www.zoho.com/mail/help/.
Notetaking apps are everywhere. Many of them are average at best, and some of them are amazing. Good notetaking apps, such as Evernote and Microsoft OneNote can massively contribute to your productivity and help you minimize clutter.
Zoho offers its own version of a notetaking app, Zoho Notebook. It helps you organize your notes in a variety of formats: text, image, audio, checklists, and sketches. Notes offer a smartphone app for iOS and Android and a web clipper to capture content snippets while web surfing.
As of this writing, Zoho is yet to release a desktop version for Notebook, similar to what Evernote and Microsoft OneNote offer.
As an avid Evernote user since 2009, I can see that Zoho Noteblogshows promise, especially that it sports a pleasant and easy-to-use interface and is 100% free. To learn more about Zoho Notebook, check out https://www.zoho.com/notebook/.
Zoho Docs is a cloud-based storage space on steroids. You can store up to 5GB of files on a free edition of Docs, sync your files between devices, and use Zoho productivity suite (Writer, Sheet, and Show) to edit your documents in the browser or via their native mobile apps.
You can download the Zoho Docs desktop synchronization tool and your documents between a local folder and the Docs folder seamlessly. If you are already a Google Drive or Dropbox user, you will feel right at home with Zoho Docs.
The free edition of Docs offers features almost identical to the free edition of Google Drive; however, the paid edition gives more bang for your buck compared to the paid edition of Google Drive. To learn more about Zoho Docs, check out https://www.zoho.com/docs/ resources.html.
With hundreds of free and paid options available in the market, finding the right project management tool that covers all the bases and doesn’t break the bank seems like a daunting job.
Luckily, Zoho has a powerful project management tool called Zoho Project. It offers a decent combination of ease of use, features, and cost-effectiveness making it a formidable choice in the crowded market of cloud-based project management tools.
With Zoho Projects, you can run multiple projects across multiple teams, share information with clients and outsourced teams easily, create time sheets for your projects, create Gantt charts and other complex reports, collaborate seamlessly with all the stakeholders, and manage project documents and in a central environment.
You have access to your projects via browser and native mobile apps. You can also connect Projects to other apps such as Zoho Books and Zoho Invoice as well as third-party services such as Google Apps and Dropbox to maximize your productivity and efficiency.
Zoho Projects comes free of charge if you are planning to manage one project at a time. You can always upgrade to paid editions if you need more from your project management tool. To learn more about Zoho Projects, check out https://www.zoho.com/ projects/help/.
Zoho Connect allows you to create a private social network for your organizations. It provides you with all the basic tools and features to set up a social network for your team to connect and collaborate in real time.
By allowing you to create custom apps and integrate other services such as Zoho Projects, Zoho Docs, Google Drive, and Calendar services, Connect helps you streamline internal communications processes and keep employees engaged while boosting their productivity.
Similar to other Zoho apps, Connect offers a free edition for you to start building your organizational social network and later upgrade to paid plans if you need more features. To learn more about Zoho Connect, check out https://www.zoho.com/ connect/resources.html.
If you are into software engineering, you know that during the software life cycle, proper bug tracking is very important, and using a powerful bug tracking service will make the lives of everyone involved in the project easier.
Zoho BugTracker offers all the essential features a robust bug tracking service should provide, plus bug automation features with workflows, out-of-the-box integration with Github and BitBucket, file sharing, collaborative dashboard environment, and SLA (Service Level Automation) automation.
To learn more about Zoho BugTracker, check out https://www.zoho.com/ bugtracker/help/.
Zoho Meeting is an easy-to-use and powerful web conferencing and lives collaboration tool for you to take your remote meetings to the next level. You can schedule and run unlimited meetings with up to 20 hosts (paid edition) and 100 guests (paid edition) to join your web meetings.
Zoho Meeting allows you to remotely control a participant’s computer, making it a great tool for remote demoing or troubleshooting.
Although there is a handy desktop plug-in, Meeting doesn’t need you to install an app to run or join meetings and is completely browser based. It also integrates well with other services such as Zoho CRM, Zoho Chat, Zoho Calendar, Google Calendar, and Google Apps.
As with most Zoho apps, you can start for free and set up one-on-one meetings right away.To learn more about Zoho Meeting, check out https://www.zoho.com/ meeting/resources.html.
We all use a myriad of apps and services every day, each requiring an account, which as prehistoric as it may be, requires a username and a password to log in. Until technology comes up with a better way of authenticating users, there is no escape from memorizing or storing account information somewhere in a secure place.
Fortunately, there are several apps and services such as 1Password, or Keychain Access in Mac OS that store our passwords for us, so we can spend our precious brain power on Candy Crush, or something less disappointing.
For teams and businesses, Zoho Vault promises to alleviate this very challenge and make password management easy.
Vault manages all your passwords securely and centrally, logs you into sites and services without the need for manual password entry, allows you to share managed passwords with select team members, monitors usage of each password, and grants or denies password access accordingly.
To learn more about Zoho Vault, check out https://www.zoho.com/vault/
If you teach or train people for a living, or just give occasional presentations to a large audience, you know how important it is to keep the audience engaged and turn them into active participants during a session.
Zoho Showtime builds on this simple but crucial fact and provides a tool for you to run a smooth show while keeping your audience fully engaged during and after a session.
You can motivate the audience to express their opinion, run polls, ask questions, and later when the session is over, send feedback from and monitor how people engaged with your content.
Showtime is a promising and possibly game-changing service for forward-thinking trainers. The great news is that it is available for everybody to use free of charge. To learn more about Zoho Showtime, check out https://www.zoho.com/showtime/help/.
Zoho Chat provides a powerful communication platform for your team, free of charge, where you can create channels, share documents, and do more in a modern environment available on your computer and your mobile phone.
Zoho Chat is very easy to use and you get it up and running for your organization in a few minutes. You will feel quite at home if you used other tools such as Yammer or Slack.
To learn more about Zoho Chat, check out https://www.zoho.com/chat/help/
Zoho Business Process Apps
Another powerful set of apps that distinguishes Zoho suite from the competition are the business process apps.
Using these apps, you can build complex database applications to run your entire business, or complement other Zoho apps, such as CRM. You can also generate sophisticated business and scientific reports based on stand-alone databases or tie them back to other Zoho apps.
Zoho Creator is a powerful platform for creating fully customized cloud-based applications. If you have a specific set of business requirements that you can’t find in any existing tool or the available solutions are too expensive, too trivial, or too advanced, you can quickly create your very own solution with Creator.
One of the things that makes Creator great is that in many cases you don’t need to do a single line of coding to make functional apps. Creator offers many tools to program and automate your business processes, but for simpler apps, you don’t need to know any coding.
Simply drag and drop data fields (text boxes, lists, buttons, etc.) to create forms and Zoho Creator will do a lot of magic in the background to turn those forms into a full-fledged application.
My first encounter with Zoho was through Creator. Back in 2008, I was in charge of the marketing department of an international real estate brand.
We had a clunky CRM system, which no one used properly, and it quickly became a bottleneck in our daily business processes. We were losing valuable information because salespeople refused to use that behemoth of a CRM.
To mitigate this, I ended up creating a mini CRM for the sales team from scratch only using Zoho Creator. The app was multiuser, secure, always available, and accessible from everywhere. It even generated listing data automatically to send to the local media for advertisement.
The team loved the app and used it even after I left that company. I could have created a web app from scratch using HTML, PHP, and MySQL, but it would have taken me a month to create, test, and deploy something usable. With Creator, I took the app from concept to launch in four days while running the marketing department.
Zoho app creator
Another recent addition to the Zoho family, AppCreator allows you to quickly and with minimal or no coding create native mobile apps for iOS, Android, and Windows phones and tablets. With AppCreator you can publish your apps internally within your organization, or publicly through one of the app stores.
As of this writing, AppCreator is quite new and available via invitation only. To learn more about Zoho Creator,checkouthttps://www.zoho.com/appcreator/help/overview.html.
If you are into data crunching and analysis, and spreadsheets don’t meet your requirements anymore, Zoho Reports is a great option to consider. We live in the age of big data and data science is the talk of the town.
A plethora of powerful tools such as R, Python, and Tableau are available; however, not everyone needs the data scientist’s toolbox.
Zoho Reports is one of the less-known gems that provides you with a powerful toolset for collecting data from multiple sources, performing calculations and analyses, collaborating, data visualization, and more.
Using Zoho Reports you can manage millions of records and create business intelligence to contribute to the success of your business. You can also integrate it with Zoho Creator and other apps and services.
Zoho Reports offers a free edition for you to crunch up to 100,000 records of data, plus a number of paid editions for heavier use. If you still rely on spreadsheets for data analysis and visualization, I strongly suggest you give Reports a try.
Site24x7is for organizations, IT professionals, and developers who want to monitor the performance and availability of websites, servers, and web applications. With a host of features to let you monitor that your business platforms are doing alright and make sure everything stays in check, Site24x7 could be a great help to your business.
To learn more about Zoho Site24x7, check out https://www.site24x7.com/contact-support.html.
Finance AppsNo business can afford to ignore to manage finances properly. As you might have guessed, Zoho has you covered. A number of finance-related apps will help you keep track of your expenses, manage complex accounting operations, issue invoices, and streamline how you get paid by clients.
There is even an app for managing your inventory, albeit, it may not quite fit under the “finance” category.
Zoho Books is a powerful, yet affordable, accounting software in the cloud. With Books, you get all the features you (or your accountants) expect from an accounting and bookkeeping software, plus a host of other useful features.
You can issue customized invoices and accept online payments via a service such as PayPal, connect to your bank accounts for automated cash flow and account monitoring, create powerful reports that management and clients can understand, track your inventory, and let clients see what concerns them during a project.
You can also connect Zoho Books to other apps such as Zoho CRM, Projects, and Reports and make them all operate as a big connected system to manage your entire business.
To make your life easier, Books offers mobile and smartwatch apps, so you are always up to speed with what is happening in your business financially.
To learn more about Zoho Books, check out https://www.zoho.com/ books/support/.
If you are happy with your current accounting software or don’t really need a complete accounting software, Zoho Books may not seem so appealing. Sometimes all you need as a solopreneur or freelancer is to be able to issue an invoice now and then.
In this case, the Zoho Invoice may just be the answer. With Invoice, you can define your products and services, add clients, and quickly issue estimates and invoices. You can also customize your invoices to your liking and include the option to get paid online from within the invoice you send to clients.
Moreover, you can track expenses, set up reminders for your customers to pay you on time, and track time for your projects, so you can get paid accurately for the amount of work you put in.
The good news is that you can start using Zoho Invoice for free for up to 25 clients with all the features available to you. To learn more about Zoho Invoice, check out https://www.zoho.com/ invoice/support/.
If you have recurring billing in your business, for example, you accept monthly payments for the subscription site you run, then Zoho Subscriptions can take care of the entire back end of the payment system for you.
With Subscriptions, you can create your pricing model, automate billing and payment management, monitor your payments, and make strategic decisions accordingly.
Zoho Subscriptions connects to most of the common payment gateways such as PayPal and Stripe, and, of course, Zoho apps such as CRM and Books to make your life easier. To learn more about Zoho Subscriptions, check out https://www.zoho.com/subscriptions/support/.
Zoho Expense is an affordable and effective way to get your team expense management in order. You can upload receipts for your daily business expenses on the go via a native mobile app, which is quite handy for business travelers.
Employees can create expense reports by entering receipts and importing card transactions, and then submit the expense reports for approval and reimbursement.
Accounts will love this way of receiving clear and structured information. You can connect Zoho Expense to Zoho Books, Invoice, and CRM, as well as QuickBooks and Slack (for notifications).
To learn more about Zoho Expense, check out https://www.zoho.com/expense/support/.
Zoho Inventory offers an easy-to-use and cost-effective inventory and order-management solution in the cloud.
Using Inventory, you can create and manage sales and purchase orders, keep track of available stock, and get real-time reports on your logistics operation. All of these are possible while you work from your office or on the go via the Inventory mobile app.
Zoho Inventory offers integration with shipping services, such as FedEx, UPS, and DHL; online stores such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Shopify; as well as other Zoho apps such as Books and CRM.
If you manage a small inventory and shipping operation out of a single warehouse, you can give Zoho Inventory a try for free.
As your business grows, you can opt for a suitably paid edition and manage tens of thousands of orders per month in multiple warehouses. To learn more about Zoho Inventory, check out https://www.zoho.com/ inventory/support/.
IT and Help Desk Apps
Zoho’s IT apps will help organizations that need IT support tools to streamline their processes and stay productive. Four apps (as of spring 2017) will help your IT team provide online and remote support, and manage IT issues and mobile devices.
Per Zoho, Desk is the “industry’s first context-aware help desk software.”Customer-centricity must be at the core of every business, and not degraded to merely a fluffy statement in marketing campaigns.
Customer experience actually starts before customers buy your products or services and continue as long as the customers use them. Zoho Desk tries to improve the often underwhelming (or worse) experience of dealing with help desks.
Apart from standard issue tracking and ticket management tools, Desk offers a centralized, focused, and contextual interface to support teams to stay on top of the tasks in hand and manage incoming inquiries from various channels, such as phone and email, efficiently.
Zoho Desk also allows you to create a customer service portal and knowledge base for your customers, from which they can find solutions to common problems, or file and manage their tickets to new issues.
Detailed reporting, a mobile app for customer service on the go, and integration with other Zoho apps such as CRM and Projects are also available out of the box.
Even if you are a tiny operation, customer service should still be a key aspect of your business culture. That’s how you get loyal customers, repeat business, and referrals. To learn more about Zoho Desk, check out https://www.zoho.com/desk/help/.
Zoho Assist provides an easy way to remotely access computers inside and outside your organization for tech support and troubleshooting.
Zoho Assist is a great tool if you need to show a customer how to do a certain task, or better, do it for them remotely while they are watching (and hopefully learning). You can save time and money and most possibly reduce your carbon footprint by minimizing site visits for trivial troubleshooting tasks.
With Zoho Assist you can also remotely access unattended computers (needs software installed), so you don’t need someone on the other side to give you access. You can transfer files, reboot devices remotely, and access multiple monitors on the host machines.
You can start using Zoho Assist for free for basic tasks, so nothing stands between you and helping your clients, colleagues, or your mom remotely with troubleshooting tasks.
Now you can help her bring back that document that magically disappeared from her desktop. To learn more about Zoho Assist, check out https://www.zoho.com/ assist/resources.html.
For serious IT support, Zoho offers ServiceDesk Plus On-Demand from ManageEngine (IT management division of Zoho). It allows you to track and manage IT tickets, resolve issues, and maximize end-user satisfaction.
With ServiceDesk Plus, you have various automation options at your disposal, self-service portal, out-of-the-box ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) workflows, SLA (Service Level Agreement) creation, and a host of other features to ensure successful service desk operation for your business.
To learn more about Zoho ServiceDesk Plus, check out https://ondemand.manageengine.com/service-desk/support.html.
If you need enterprise-level mobile device management for your organization, then Mobile Device Manager Plus could be for you. Offered by ManageEngine, the IT division of Zoho, Mobile Device Manager Plus lets you set up, supervise, and secure your enterprise mobile devices and apps.
Human Resources Apps
It is argued that people are a company’s greatest asset. Whether you agree with this statement or not, it is important to ensure human resource operations are managed properly at all times.
Zoho offers two powerful apps for small to medium businesses (SMBs) to manage to recruit fresh blood and also smoothly manage the existing workforce.
Zoho Recruit is a cloud-based recruitment solution for recruiting agencies and corporate HR (Human Resources) departments.
You can create and manage job postings, publish them on company websites as well as job boards such as Monster and Indeed, parse resumes, manage candidates and communications, and automate tedious HR tasks with workflows.
There is a mobile app for HR ninjas and a free edition for you to give applicant tracking and interview scheduling features a try. To learn more about Zoho Recruit, check out https://www.zoho.com/ recruit/resources.html.
As you grow, your team grows too. Usually, the moment you pass five employees, HR requirements, if not handled properly, start to impact productivity and other business processes.
So, considering an HR solution early on may be a prudent way to go forward. On the other hand, for companies larger than 5-10 employees, in-house or outsourced HR management will become a necessity.
Zoho People is a cloud-based HR management service, which helps you manage all HR-related tasks without losing your mind to needy employees.
You can manage employee information securely, provide self-service features for managers and staff, perform time tracking and attendance, and create performance reviews and other important reports about your people. You can start for free to manage up to five employees with Zoho People.
Then as you hire more people, possibly through Zoho Recruit, you can upgrade to paid plans and utilize all the features that People provides in your HR processes. To learn more about Zoho People, check out https://www.zoho.com/ people/help/home.html.
Where to Start
As you saw in this blog, Zoho offers a dizzying list of apps. Most of these apps work beautifully together and help you streamline your business and stay more productive.
Some of these apps have overlapping features, and it may be confusing which one to choose if you are just starting with Zoho or are new to SaaS.
So, I try and give a number of recommendations in order, which I believe would be applicable to many small businesses:
No matter if you are a solopreneur, a freelancer, or an organization of one thousand employees, start with Zoho CRM. Make CRM a part of your day-to-day business process as well as long-term growth plans.
The free edition is a great place to get started. In this blog, I will cover in detail how to best utilize CRM and make it work for your business. Become more productive by moving your emails to Zoho Mail for better integration with CRM.
Although CRM offers integration with Google Apps and Microsoft Outlook, nothing beats native compatibility between Zoho apps.
One big bonus here is that you can host up to 25 users on Mail for free, and that is with your own custom domain. Incorporate Zoho Campaigns as soon as you can.
Almost no business, no matter how small, can ignore digital marketing. A big part of digital marketing is email and social marketing and Zoho Campaign will help you win big here. Get serious about accounting and use either of Zoho Expense, Zoho Invoice, or Zoho Books, depending on the size of your operation.
Zoho Projects should be another key part of your cloud suite. With great integration with CRM and Books, you can easily stay on top of your projects and manage the operation of your team more effectively.
When your team grows and requirements become more complex, use Zoho Creator and Zoho Reports for more advanced business processes and adapt Zoho Recruit and People to manage human resources.
Once you have these apps utilized, you will see how streamlined your processes will become and how much time and money you will be saving. Your team and your customers will be happier, which means you will be happier too.
Getting Started with Zoho CRM
To start with Zoho CRM, open your favorite browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, etc.) and log onto https://crm.zoho.com/.
I will assume that this is your first time here, so before we do anything else, we will need to create an account. This account is a universal Zoho account and you can use it to access other Zoho services, such as Mail, Campaigns, Books, etc.
To create a new Zoho account, follow these steps:
\1.\ On the homepage, type in your name, email, and a strong password.
Note Building strong passwords for all your accounts, especially the accounts in which you keep confidential business information, is paramount. You can use tools, such as Keychain Access for Mac OS, LastPass, or Zoho Vault to create and manage strong passwords for your accounts.
\2.\ Click on the Create Account button to initiate the sign-up process. Within moments, you will receive a confirmation email from Zoho asking you to confirm your email address.
\3.\ Click Confirm your account button in the email. Upon successful confirmation, you will be redirected to the login page.
\4.\ In the login page, enter your email address and the password you chose in step 1 and then click Login.
\5.\ In the next page, you will be asked to enable Two Factor Authentication (TFA). I strongly suggest you enable this feature as it will dramatically improve the security level of your account against possible attacks (hacking, etc.). Click Set up to Protect Now and follow the onscreen instructions to enable TFA.
If you want to do this later, you can click the link below the button that reads Skip Two Factor Authentication. If you opted not to enable this feature during the first setup, you can always enable it at https://accounts.zoho.com/u/h#security/authentication.
\6.\ In the next page, you will be asked to update your company information. Enter relevant information for the following:
\ a.\ Company Name
\ b.\ Phone Number
\ c.\ Mobile Number
\ d\ Time Zone (of your headquarters)
\ e.\ Language
\ f.\ Currency Locale
\7.\ Click Save to continue. You will be redirected to the CRM homepage.
Quick Tour of the Homepage
On the homepage, you’ll be greeted by six big buttons, each helping you get started with the CRM. We will skip these fancy buttons.
On top of the page, there is a menu bar with items such as Home, Feeds, Leads, etc. Each one of these menus items loads a CRM module (more on this later).On the right-hand side of the menu bar, there are six buttons that allow you to access other features of the CRM, such as set up, messages, and calendar.
Below the menu bar, there is a contextual bar with a welcome message on the left side and three items on the right to switch between different views of the homepage:
Getting Started (the current view,) Customized View, and Classic View.
Go ahead and switch between them. There is not much to see now, but after data is entered into CRM and with some customization, you can view the current state of your business right in your homepage.
Right next to the welcome message is a message in red warning you that you have 14 days until your Enterprise trial expires. By default, all new Zoho CRM accounts come for a limited time with all the features enabled for users to test all aspects of CRM and then choose the edition they need. You can ignore this for now.
Zoho CRM comes in four different editions: Free, Standard, Professional, and Enterprise Edition. Learn more about all the features available to different editions of CRM here:https://www.zoho.com/crm/help/erutaef321.html.
Each one of these editions comes with a different set of features and capabilities with the Free edition being the most basic and the Enterprise edition the most advanced one in the mix. As a courtesy (and a way of trying all the features), Zoho gives new users a 14-day trial of the Enterprise edition.
After this period your account will revert to the Free edition. The Free edition is quite capable for small operations; however, you may need one of the paid editions as per your business requirements.
Zoho CRM Terminology
The key to effectively managing the sales processes of your organization is to know exactly in what stage of the pipeline (or sales funnel) a potential customer or a deal is.
CRM manages the entire pipeline in a central location, automates many mundane processes, and improves the productivity and efficiency of the sales force.
In a typical (sales-focused) business environment, terms such as lead, prospect, customer, opportunity, validation, account etc. are commonplace. Naturally, CRM systems adopt such terms in their terminology and Zoho CRM is no exception.
Below are four of the key terms used in Zoho CRM:
Lead – A lead is an unqualified contact or sales opportunity. For example, the business cards collected in an exhibition, or a cold referral received from a partner is a lead. Leads enter the sales pipeline from early stages and need to be qualified (validated) via follow-ups and other methods.
Contact – Once a lead is qualified it gets converted in the CRM. One output of this conversion is a Contact who is a person with whom you interact during a sales process.
For example, suppose you are trying to sell raw material to a company overseas. You have found and contacted the procurement manager who happens to be interested in listening to your offer. This person becomes a contact.
The deal – When you qualify (convert) a lead, it generates a second output, which is the potential deal between you and your client. This is called a Deal and goes through various stages in the pipeline.
Account – Finally, the last outcome of converting a lead is an Account, which is a company or a department within a company that you do business with. Each account can have one more Contacts assigned to it.
Note You can create contacts, deals, or accounts directly without taking them through the lead conversion process. This is particularly useful when you work with existing contact, deals, or accounts and just want to import them as they are into the CRM. There is more to CRM terminologies.
Setting Up Zoho CRM
CRM has a powerful Setup page in which you can customize its many features. We will be visiting the Setup page often, but for now, we simply need to modify some general settings, namely:
Zoho Email Settings
Follow these steps to configure the general settings:
\1.\ On the top right of the page, in the menu bar, click on the tools button and select Setup in the context menu. Setup page opens.
\2.\ In the Setup page, under GENERAL group, click Personal Settings. Personal settings page opens.
\3.\ Click on the small pen icon next to each field and edit the values.
\4.\ Next, click on Company Details on the left sidebar. Company Detail will open.
\5.\ Click the Upload Your Logo link under the logo placeholder.
\6.\ In the Upload Your Logo dialog box, click the Browse Local Files button and select your logo image.
\7.\ Click the pen icon next to company name. The Company Details dialog box will open.
\8.\ In the Company Details box, enter your company information and click Save when you are done.
\9.\ On top of the Company Details page, click the Fiscal Year tab.
\10.\ In the Fiscal Year tab, change the month in a Fiscal year begins drop-down, if January (default value) is not the start of the fiscal year for your organization and click Save to apply the change.
\11.\ Next, select the Business Hours tab. Here you can set various business hours for different operations based on different time zones. For instance, if your tech support team is available 24/7, but your head office works only Monday-Friday from 9a.m.-6p.m. PST, you will need to create two different sets of business hours.
\12.\ In the Business Hours page, click the Create New Business Hour button. Business Hours Detail page opens.
\13.\ Enter a meaningful Name and the applicable Time Zone. Then set the operational hours for each applicable day and leave the unoperational hours unchanged (01:00 AM). Finish by clicking Save.
Zoho User Management
You should create new users for every employee who will use the CRM. Sharing accounts is usually not a good idea due to security and accountability reasons.
There are cases when you might want more than one person to access the same account, such as the administrator account, but for salespeople, it is always a good idea to assign one account per person.
In CRM, you can define as many users as you like, and the Free edition allows a maximum of 10 users to be created. ten free users are often plenty because if you have 10 or more employees, you should be investing in one of the paid editions and utilizing more advanced features not available in the Free edition.
Although you may not actually need to add new users to CRM at this stage while you are still learning, it is still a good idea to add one or two of your colleagues to test the features of the CRM together.
Follow these steps to add a new user to CRM:
\1.\ If you are continuing from the previous section, click Users and Controls and then Users on the sidebar; otherwise, open the Setup page and click on Users under USERS AND CONTROL. A list of users will be displayed.
\2.\ Click the Add New User button on top of the list. Add New User dialog box will open.
\3.\ Enter First Name, Last Name, and Email for the new user.
\4.\ Next, click on the Roles button next to the Role field. Roles List dialog box will open.
\5.\ In Roles List box, click on Manager. Manager role will be assigned to the new user.
\6.\ Select Standard from the Profile drop-down list and click Save to add the new user.
At this point, the new user will be added to the list of users. CRM will send an invitation email to the new user, which must be accepted before the user can access your CRM.
Zoho Email Settings
Despite all the efforts and newer technologies and modern takes on messaging, such as Slack,3 a majority of business communications still happens via Email. This 50-year-old technology, with all its shortcomings, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, so it is smart to at least use it in a more productive way.
Zoho CRM has a solution to this dilemma. It is called SalesInbox and it allows you to incorporate your email account into CRM for better sales and client management.
Instead of going back and forth between your inbox and CRM, you can access all relevant information from one place and improve your efficiency dramatically. To enable this feature, you need to first integrate your email account with CRM.
You can integrate all common email services; however, in this example, we will be connecting a Gmail account to CRM. Connecting other services should be fairly similar and even less complex.
To integrate Gmail with CRM, follow these steps:
\1.\ If you are continuing from the previous section, click Emails Settings on the sidebar; otherwise, open the Setup page and click on Email Settings under GENERAL.
\2.\ Click on Gmail button to continue.
\3.\ In the next page enter your full name, Gmail address, and Gmail password. Click Continue to proceed.
\4.\ The page will expand by asking for email sharing permissions. Leave the default selection, Private – Only Me, as is and click Continue.
\5.\ At this stage, the integration wizard may get stuck, even showing you an error message. This is due to Gmail security measures that stop third-party apps and services from connecting to Gmail in the background.
You will receive a warning email from Gmail telling you about the incident. Since we know this is caused by Zoho CRM attempting to connect to Gmail, we can ignore the warning. To proceed to click on the link in the email reading “allowing access to less secure apps.”
\6.\ You will be redirected to the account page of Google where you can allow what Google calls “less secure apps” to access Gmail. Go ahead and select Turn on.
\7.\ Then log into Gmail and open Settings.
\8.\ In the Gmail Settings page, select Enable IMAP and click Save Changes.
\9.\ Now go back to CRM and click the Proceed button again. You may need to reenter your Gmail password from before. Upon a successful connection, a message will indicate that the sync is in progress. You can leave this page now. You will receive an email after a successful sync between Gmail and CRM.
Note Integrating emails with CRM could prove tricky, especially with email services changing their settings often. Refer to Zoho help at https://www.zoho.com/crm/help/ email/configure-IMAP-account.html for a complete email configuration guide.
Enabling Zoho SalesInbox
One last step is to enable SalesInbox, so you can start doing actual work and converting leads into paying customers.
Follow these steps to enable SalesInbox:
\1.\ Click SalesInbox on the main menu bar. SalesInbox page opens waiting to be enabled.
\2.\ Click the TRY NOW button. A dialog box will appear asking you if you would like to import the existing email filters in your email account.
\3.\ Click Skip for now. You can import filters (if you have any) later from the SalesInbox settings page. A moment later the SalesInbox page will refresh, showing your emails in a familiar inbox interface, only with more features for CRM.
\4.\ Click one of the emails to see more details about a specific email. All essential features, such as Reply and Forward, are available for you to manage your emails from within CRM.
There are, however, two curious buttons on the top right of the screen: LEAD and CONTACT. These buttons let you add the sender of the email directly to the CRM process. After that point, all interactions between you and the lead (or contact) will be logged and managed in the CRM. Pretty awesome!