Social Media and Your Brand

This post is a response to a post on Sage’s ACT! Leadership Blog

The question was: How do you protect the value of your brand when "the creation of value is in the eyes of the consumers?"

Every product will have unhappy users or even competitors posting on-line about them. This is unavoidable, if you don't have any problems, either the product does nothing or you don't have very many users :-)

The most important focus in the current market is for the vendor to properly engage and respond to their users. The number of complaining ACT! consumers has dropped since Sage North America has started talking to their users via their Community Site – something I blogged about previously

The new wave of consumers, the "Millennial generation" (born 1982-2002), are starting to be a larger percentage of the market. But they are much more likely to look for product information and references from on-site forums than vendor sites. The power of communications is in the control of these users and it is necessary to realise this in-order to attract, serve and retain users in this new market.

In these times of social media, it is necessary to meet the user base where they choose, not  simply hope they will come to you. It also requires doing regular searches of the most common sites (like Twitter) for comments (positive or negative) and actually respond to show that they are being listened to.

With the global effect of the internet not fitting into the regionalisation that Sage's corporate structure uses, it is also necessary to encourage the regional OpCos to step up... to take part on this site, to create their own blogs and Twitter accounts. I have been speaking to Aldo in the Sage AU office about providing them some training in social media and helping them get up to speed with efficient ways to utilise these technologies. But they don't always have the resources necessary. Maybe this is one area that Sage Global can assist the regions in?

These steps should not just be looked at to "protect the brand" but, if done correctly, they can be a significant step in enhancing that brand.

This view has additional implications for Sage. As users of their three CRM products (ACT!, SageCRM and SalesLogix) their own user base will be looking for leadership in this area from Sage. It has certainly been positive to hear that Sage is working at integrating social media into the products so that their users will be able to better monitor and enhance their own brand’s reputation in the market.

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Updated: New GL Computing ACT! Fanatics Toolbar

In our desire to further support and add value to the ACT! Community, we’ve added this new toolbar that you can install into Internet Explorer or Firefox.

Please click on this tool bar to add it to your browser:

We will be updating it with additional content over time, so please add Comments with anything you’d like added or changed.

Updated: Getting the table structure and links from ACT! by Sage with Visio 2007

For some advanced reporting functions, you may want to figure out how all the tables in an ACT! database link together. Here is a quite powerful method to do that.

Note: This requires the ACTReader utility, which is now included with ACT! by Sage Premium 2009 11.1. If you have an earlier Premium version of ACT! (2005-2009), the Actreader is now downloadable from the ACT! Knowledgebase Article 22989. I do not think it will work with non-Premium versions.

If you have ACT! 2009, you should start by reading ACTDataDictionaryDocument.rtf. This is usually in the folder: “C:\Program Files\ACT\Act for Windows”. This will explain the content of the tables and fields.

You must be on the machine hosting the ACT! database (the server)

  1. First you need to use the ActReader.exe utility to set the password:
    1. Open Windows Explorer and browse to the ACT! program directory (usually: “C:\Program Files\ACT\Act for Windows”. If using ACT! Premium for Web, then replace "Act for Windows" with "Act for Web" in the path.
    2. Locate the file ActReader.exe and double-click on it.
    3. You will get an ACT! Reader dialog box with a current password and the choice to change the password. If you do not know the current password, then create a new one and click Reset.
      ActReader.exeYou will use this password to set up the ODBC connection with ACT! Reader.
  2. Create an ODBC connection for your database as per ACT! Knowledgebase Article 22989
  3. Open Visio 2007 (this may work in previous versions, but I haven’t tried it)
  4. Select: File | New | Software and Database | Database Model Diagram
  5. Select: Database | Reverse Engineer
  6. Select Microsoft SQL Server and the ODBC Database Source you created in step 2
    Visio - Reverse Engineer Wizard 1
  7. Click Next
  8. Connect to the Data Source with User: “ACTREADER” and the password you set in Step 1.
  9. Select the Object Types you want to include
    Visio - Reverse Engineer Wizard 2
  10. Select the Tables and Views you want to include – use the ACTDataDictionaryDocument.rtf to determine which you need.
    Visio - Reverse Engineer Wizard 3
  11. Select to add the shapes
  12. Click Finish.

Depending on your selections and the specs of your machine, this may take a bit of time, but you should then have a nice document with a visual view of the ACT! database structure. This can be exported to various formats available in Visio.

Here is an example image (click on image for a larger version):
ACT! 11.1 Demo tables in Visio2007

If you find this useful, please post a comment to this blog and share how you’re using it.

Using Conditional Controls in ACT! Templates

Copied with permission from Linda Keating of JL Technical

[Note: This article is for a very advanced user. This is a great concept, but it may take a bit of trial and error on your part to get it to work properly. If you don’t have a good understanding of how Word’s Field Codes work you may want to invite an ACT! Certified Consultant to help you with this.]

How often have you had this thought: Wouldn’t it be great if I could use the same template to print letters that inserted custom text in the letter depending upon the value that appeared in an ACT! field. This would spare you the need of performing repetitive look-ups and mail merges.

If you set up your ACT! Word template properly, you can! Here’s an example.

A Sample Application

Let’s say you are running a fund-raising campaign and wanted to send out different letters to your individual and corporate donors. A third letter would go to your volunteers. You could perform three separate lookups and then print a separate letter to the individuals, the corporations, and the volunteers.

But here’s an easier way: Create an ACT! field called Donor Types and categorize each contact. Then perform a mail merge and let Word select which letter goes to each contact based upon the value in the Donor Type field.

This is how you set up your template so you’ll be able to print all three types of letters during a single mail merge.

Setting Up ACT!

First, you’ll need to create a new ACT! field or rename a User field to Donor Type. Then you must tag each record as either Individual, Corporation, or Volunteer.

ACT!Tip: To add the fields to the ACT! database, select Edit, Define Fields, and click the New Field button. You can also rename any of the User 1-15 fields if you are not using them for other data.

Remember: Once you’ve added new fields to your ACT! database, you need to add them to your layout in order to view them. You open ACT!’s Layout Editor by selecting Tools, Design Layouts. If you haven’t customized your ACT! layout yet, you should review the ACT! documentation.

Create the Custom Insert Text

Next you need to create the Word document files that contain the text for each of the letter types. It should be formatted as you want it printed. For this article I’ve used files named Example1.doc, Example2.doc, and Example3.doc.

WordTip: If the text is short, you can insert the text directly into the conditional command. I have found it easier to maintain separate files.

Create a Template

The third step is to design a basic template. You can create a new template by selecting File, New from the ACT! menu and then Microsoft Word – Template.

ACT!Tip: You can also start with a template you’ve already customized for things such as margins, headers, footers, and so on. This is done by selecting Write, Edit Document Template. Don’t forget to do a File, Save As before making your modifications.

Insert the Condition Controls

When entering control statements, you need to have the Word options set so you can see the Field Codes. You do this by selecting Tools, Options and then selecting the Show Field Codes option on the View tab. (You can also press Alt+F9 to Show/Hide Word’s Field Codes.)

This is how you insert Word fields:

1. Place your cursor at the position where you want to insert the conditional statements. From the Word menu select Insert, Field. The Field box appears. From the Field Names column select IF and uncheck the Preserve Formatting During Updates option. Select OK and return to your template. You should now see {IF } on your screen.

2. Place your cursor one space after the IF and enter a pair of quotation marks ("").

3. Place your cursor between the quotation marks and enter the ACT! field from ACT!’s Mail Merge Fields box. In this example it’s the Donor Type field.

4. Now insert an equal sign (=) and type "VOLUNTEER". (Note the quotes.) The expression should now look like this:
{IF "[[Donor Type]]"="Volunteer" }.

5. Place your cursor to the right of "Volunteer" and select Insert, Field and then select INCLUDETEXT from the Field Names list. Uncheck the box "Preserve Formatting During Updates" and click OK. (This tells Word what to do if the condition is True or False. The action in the first string will occur if the condition is True, otherwise the second string is used. In this example we’re going to insert text from a file.

6. Enter the path for your file — "C:\\act\document\\Example1.doc" — one space to the left of the INCLUDETEXT statement and enclose it in quotes. NOTE: the path must have double back-slashes.

7. The final step is to put a double quote ("") between the right french bracket that closes the INCLUDETEXT statement and the right french bracket that closes the IF statement. These quotes tell Word to do nothing if there is no match.

WordTip: Copy and paste this expression into the template, change the condition text and insert document name to create the rest of the choices.

After you’ve completed the template and you’re satisfied, you need to turn off the Show Field Codes option by select Tools, Options from Word’s menu, or press Alt+F9. 

Merging Your Letters

To perform the mail merge you must first perform a lookup to locate all the donors that you want to send the letter to. Select Write, Mail Merge and select your template. Select the send output to Printer option (this is a MUST).

ACT!Tip: If you select the Send Output to Word Processor when you are
generating the Mail Merge from ACT!, the conditional statements will not work after the first page. To test the template, you should select a small sample and print directly to the printer.)

Things To Watch For

Because ACT! inserts the text from the database and formats it as you have specified with the Edit, Define Field settings, you need to be certain to specify Word’s compare options properly.

For example, Word allows you to force all text to upper case for the purpose of comparing. There are other options for dealing with numeric comparisons. You should refer to Word’s manual or Help instructions for these settings.

Some Other Things You Can Do

Here are some additional ways you can use Word’s conditional statements:

  • If the company address is empty, than the mailing will go to the home address.
  • If the quantity is 500 or greater an additional discount of 5 percent is offered, otherwise the standard discount applies.
  • Replace the True/False field from a check box with ticked or unticked checkboxes
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Selling ACT! in tough economic times

This was done as a response to a a post in the ACT! Leadership Blog

It is useful to note that during previously perceived "tough times", ACT! does quite well.

  • It's an easy argument to make that, during these times, businesses need to make the most from their assets - especially the ability to mine the valuable asset of their client base and providing better customer service for new and current contacts. CRM is a MUST HAVE to survive these times.
  • Compared to other CRM solutions, ACT!'s pricing makes it an easier choice - especially against SaaS solutions as ACT! isn't tied to regular payments that drain cash-flow. The lower entry point, while also using a powerful SDK allowing add-on and custom solutions to provide the answers to business needs.
  • The general reputation of reliability and support for ACT! (that did admittedly take a hit with the 7.0 and 8.0 releases) is enviable. A product that doesn’t require expensive support contracts is another way to keep the cash-flow in your favour
  • The stated aims of Sage, now that the core product is back to it's desired quality, to integrate better with back-end ERP (accounting) systems and with social media will further cement the product as the central repository for business intelligence.

This is a time that Sage and its channel should capitalize on and, if the users are well looked after, will create long-term clients for Sage Software - with ACT! itself, and also users who may eventually upgrade to SageCRM / SalesLogix and even those who incorporate Sage ERP products.