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Let’s Talk About Your Sales Emails

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Custom workflow software is a necessity for any sales team that is not operating optimally, solely with an out of the box CRM…basically all of them. Over the years, we have worked with many sales teams. We’re the guys who create the software that makes sure all of the promises made by a vendor or service provider are followed through on: on-time delivery, security, accurate ordering, automated communications, and a whole bunch of other great stuff that keeps customers happy and coming back.  

Given all of our success working with sales teams and managing our own sales, we thought it would be a nice change of pace to talk about the beginning of the sales cycle, rather than the end, where we spend most of our time. More specifically, we’d like to talk about sales emails! Here’s what we know…

A little effort, please?

We get that there is a diminishing return when you spend too much time optimizing your sales emails with personalization and customization. There really isn’t any practical way to ditch the templates and canned emails, but a little effort can go a long way.

Take your sales email template and add fields within to make customizing each email quick and easy. There are the obvious point of contact fields and company name, but be sure to add specifics about their business challenges and industry insights that add value to your communication.

Get down to it.

Lead with the benefits of your product or service. That is really all these people care about. What can you do for me? What will I get out of speaking with you? What is the value? The sooner you can provide these answers, the better your chance of getting a solid lead.

The proof is in the puddin’.

People want to see results. They want proof that you can and will deliver on whatever it is you’re peddling. Hard numbers and statistics can be really powerful. Not everyone has time to read your case study, so make it short and sweet with a powerful proof point, before and after pictures, or client testimonials.

Use your CTAs wisely.

“Learn More” is getting a little stale, right? Remember up there when we talked about adding specifics and industry insights to your email copy? Use those bits of information to create eye-catching, customized CTAs.

Let’s say Volano wants to work with a trucking company, building their employee portal (which we totally did). We might add a “Let’s Get Truckin’” linked button within our sales email, or a “Portal to Your New Portal” link. Cheesy or professional, these are really simple customizations that grab attention and prove your eye for detail.

We hope this helps our sales team friends out there. Generic emails to huge lists will only get you on the spam list. Taking just a few more small steps to add personalization to your sales emails will prove worth it! Even if fewer emails get sent, a dozen well-written, thoughtfully crafted sales emails can be more impactful than a cold, canned email sent to thousands.

Top 5 Reasons to be a Developer at Volano

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We are one of many custom software development agencies in Omaha looking for great developers, but that’s where our likeness with local firms ends. Everyone offers cool perks and the promise to deliver great code, but those are expected variables, not differentiators. The same way a ping pong table isn’t an employer brand.

It’s tough to find great talent that’s in it for the long term and fits the company culture. It requires more than a classified ad, it requires real transparency of the value proposition of employment. So, away we go…

Project Diversity: At Volano, you get to work on a myriad of projects, not just the same old project month after month. We have a diverse client base and lasting relationships, meaning our developers and clients work together long enough to establish a true understanding. Still, new and exciting projects are always coming down the pipeline. As a custom workflow software development agency, it’s not only clients and industries that change, but the problems, solutions, successes, and strategies that change as well.

Software De Novo: There’s nothing quite like a blank canvas to foster collaboration and ignite creativity. This is how most of your projects will begin: from scratch. Our tagline is, “We make work flow.” We revel in finding dynamic, innovative ways to optimize processes and workflows with our clients. You will never deliver a product you’re not proud of because we don’t offer 80% solutions.

The Latest Software Development Tools: Around here, we’re picky about a few things: clients, technology, and whiskey (or whisky, depending on your palette). We want to be the best, so we settle for nothing less. We fully understand and appreciate the ROI of using the right tools, being selective about clients, and… who cares about the cost of whiskey as longs as it’s amazing.

An Open, Collaborative, Team Based Environment: We’re not siloed here. In fact, our software developers work directly with our clients. We saw an intrinsic flaw in the traditional client>project manager>developer flow of creating custom software: a massive game of telephone in which all parties speak a different language. We saw work environments in which developers would walk in, soak up some third party information about a client, and code for hours to create software for problems, organizations, and people they’ve never met and have no chance of understanding. Little to no collaboration seems to be the norm, but that’s not how we develop. We believe in an open, collaborative, team-based approach to innovative software and solutions.

Fun As a Core Value: Be it daily darts, Whisky Wednesday, or ‘putting the week in the books’ on Friday, we provide a fun work environment. We’re in this together and we’re in it for around 40 hours each week. Fun and a work/life balance are not lost on us. From the top down, we want everyone to walk into and contribute to a positive work environment. Something, somewhere along the way sparked an interest, or dare we say passion, for software development–the way it challenges you, the excitement of “going live,” or when you finally find the bug! We want to keep that spark alive.

If this sounds like a company you can get behind, contact us and let’s see if we’re a fit. Or, if you know someone that sounds like a fit, we are hiring a mid-level and/or senior-level developer with placement bonuses for referrals after 6 months. Thanks for your time and we hope to see you slingin’ darts in the Volano office soon.

What Does a Successful Project Look Like at Volano?

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There are a lot of components that define the success of a project. Most would use budget and timeline to define the success or failure of a project. However, if the project is completed on time and under budget, but the product of the project isn’t optimal, that can hardly be called a success. So, we think it’s important for our clients and prospective clients to understand how we define a successful project.

Complete or Complete Success?

Everyone defines a successful project differently. Beyond that, successful project management doesn’t always necessarily mean project success. An author at the International Project Leadership Academy classified common definitions into five tiers:

  • Tier 1 – The project was a success if it delivers all or most of what it said it would (the scope), regardless of schedule or budget performance.
  • Tier 2 – The project was a success if it delivers what it said it would, on schedule and/or within the agreed budget.
  • Tier 3 – The project was a success if it delivers what it said it would, on schedule, within the agreed budget and to the expected quality standards.
  • Tier 4 – The project was a success if it delivers on all agreed project objectives, be they scope, schedule, budget, quality or outcomes based (i.e. goals to be achieved or strategic positions to be attained).
  • Tier 5 – The project was a success if the product produced by the project creates significant net value for the organization after the project is completed.

Communication is Key

It’s a lot right? Because there are so many different definitions of success, it’s important to have an open dialogue with clients about what the success of every project looks like. When you’re on the same page from start to finish, expectations can be communicated and met at every step. I know what you’re thinking, Shouldn’t this all be mapped out in the initial contract or scope of work? Well yes, but there aren’t too many projects that go exactly to plan and sometimes that’s for the best. And since we know to expect it, we can communicate it.

Our Client Relationships Are Never Complete

Not only are there many different definitions of success, there are different perspectives. A project can be deemed a complete success, but then a few months down the road things start to look quite different. Let’s assume we’re talking about custom software to fix a pain point. The software development project might stay on budget, get done ahead of the deadline and do exactly what it was designed to do. However, after some time, it becomes apparent that no one is using the software, they don’t know how, they don’t have the time to learn the new process and keep up with business, etc.. Whatever the reason, at the end of the day, that’s not a successful project.

All of this is to say, we actually don’t define what a successful project looks like. Instead, we work with clients to flesh out what their definition of a given project is. After all, it’s theirs -their software, their investment, their solution. Let’s talk about what this all means to you and your organization.

 

3 Common Development Roadblocks in Custom Workflow Software

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Our whole schtick is, “We make work flow”. So, it wouldn’t go over too well if our process wasn’t optimized for a smooth client experience. Can you imagine having the people promising to make your life easier guiding you through a total mess of a process? Yeah, that can’t happen.

Every custom software development project is different, because every organization is different. However, we’ve been in this business long enough to identify the common roadblocks in the custom software development process. If you’re thinking about investing in custom software, this is a quick and easy read to help you prepare for success.

Disconnect Between the Decision Makers and the People Actually Using the Software

The decision makers for investments like this are usually not the people who will actually be using the software. That means they are also not the same people facing the everyday pain points that lead to the decision to invest in custom software. Naturally, there is almost always a disconnect here.

Be sure to have a team of people who will be using the software involved in the development process. Ask them to supply you with a list of client-facing pain points, as well as their own. Then, ask them for a wish list -a list of tools or features that would be great to have, but aren’t necessarily must-haves. You might find that some of those wish list items make a lot of sense financially. We often find daily manual processes that can easily be automated, saving large amounts of company resources as time passes.

Desired Features vs Wishlist

Speaking of wish lists, they have a tendency to get a little…out of control. There is a big difference between automating a workflow and deciding what you really wanted looked more like the Star Ship Enterprise. Don’t get us wrong, we love when the creative juices get flowing, brainstorming gets exciting and problems begin to untangle. It’s exciting, and we definitely depend on our clients’ unique insights and industry experience for that to happen. Just be sure to have a firm understanding of what you would like a solution to look and feel like. It’s never too late to add the bells and whistles.

In fact, that’s part of what makes us different at Volano; we don’t enter agreements, we enter relationships. We make sure our clients know software updates are necessary and they’re given the support to know how to maintain their software and get the upgrades they need.

Failure to Properly Integrate and Train

Let’s say you’ve got this beautiful, customized Ferrari and then you realize that no one knows how to drive a stick shift. Don’t invest in custom software and then let it collect dust in the garage! Training and integration of your custom software is vital. There will often be an aversion to new technology or processes in the workplace, but that is easily overcome with the right leadership and encouragement. In true Volano fashion, we have a blog for that, here. Here’s the general outline:

Give Context -Why is this change happening? What benefits can the employees expect? What are the benefits to the organization? How will this change their everyday routine?

Customize TrainingInstead of whizzing through a one-size-fits-all training course, communicate with employees on a one-on-one basis about their specific training needs.

Plant Ambassadors -Target your most tech-savvy go-getters and get them familiar with the technology before you introduce it to the entire team.

Reward Buy-In -Consider gamification of the training process; making it fun, engaging, and exciting. Creating a buzz around the change with rewards is a really effective tool.

Avoiding these common roadblocks is easy; do some internal research, have a vision of the desired solution and don’t sabotage your own investment by not properly integrating or training. Custom software is intended to save resources and optimize processes. We want to do everything we can to make sure the entire process is as smooth as your new workflow.

We Love Building Stuff

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The developers at Volano have a passion for building. Some of our developers are into woodworking, some of them are part of the Omaha Makers Group (http://omahamakergroup.org), and every one of us loves to build solutions. We love building solutions for businesses in the form of customized software; it’s what we’re great at. That being said, we don’t mind copping to what we aren’t so great at, and that is design.

There is something to be said for playing to your strengths and embracing your weaknesses. We know that design is not in our wheelhouse, so we have always brought in a partner for creative design talent. When design and function can work together, it’s a beautiful thing. In our process, design comes first, then we go to work on building the software to make that design interactive. After years of refining this tandem process, we have mastered the collaborative process between developer and designer to ensure we hold to the designer’s vision, while providing our technical prowess.

Our focus has always been understanding the flow of business operations and building solutions that make work easier, reduce resources or increase efficiency. Because we’re so confident in our proven process, we’re evolving. Our mastery of workflow solutions combined with our ability to implement the designs, incorporate interactive details and manage hosting, gives us the ability to be holistic in our technical approach with our partners.

We’ve decided it’s time to formalize this offering as Volano Interactive. We have partnered with local branding and design firm, Turnpost (http://www.turnpost.com). Their work speaks for itself, but we’ll go ahead and attest to it anyhow. For over 20 years, Turnpost Creative Group has been engaging and developing brands at every level of enterprise. Their strategic and tactical approach to developing the aesthetic of a website pairs perfectly with our approach to creating customized, seamless software that simply flows, beautifully we might add.

Put simply, we now have a core group dedicated to taking design work and building it out for the web. Our partnership with Turnpost allows us to offer the best in the worlds of design and software that Omaha has to offer.

Not only are we offering a superior finished product, our differentiator is that the completion of your site isn’t the completion of our working relationship with you; it’s the beginning. The “build and bye” firms won’t last. That business model is simply no longer sustainable with rapidly evolving technologies and consumer trends. We don’t enter transactions; we enter partnerships. We’re excited to take this relationship with Turnpost, and our passion for creating and building to the next level of website development.

Customer Question: Why Does Software Need to be Updated?

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Does it rot? Well, yeah, it does. Like everything else in business, life, the universe -software, the technology and people surrounding it are always changing and evolving. After discussing this with a client, we realized the discussion would lead to the meat of a great post. We want our clients to understand the necessity of software updates.

Software isn’t a set it and forget it solution. In fact, the investment in software is just the beginning of your relationship with it and with your provider -us. Workflow software in particular has to be able to grow with your team, other technology, and industry trends…

Software and Your Organization

Is payroll handled the same way it was 20 years ago? Are your operations the same? Are your marketing initiatives the same? Nope, nope, nope. Your organization is constantly changing. To think you will be running on the same workflow processes in the coming decade (or even five years) is even more unlikely than going back to ledgers and paper files (no offense if you’re still there).

We’ve done total overhauls on workflow software and we’ve done small tweaks. It’s important our clients realize that the creation of their software is really just the beginning of our relationship with them. The best part? The more we work with an organization, the more seamless and holistic their workflow software becomes.

Software and the Technology Surrounding It

Do you remember when your first generation iPad just started sucking? Or when you tried to update an application on your phone and it said you can’t because you need the newest IOS? Or when that Millennial made fun of your Hotmail address?

By definition, software is the programs and other operating information used by a computer. It’s technology within technology that operates with other technologies. Whew! What we’re getting at here is that you and your software aren’t in a vacuum. Your workflow software works with outside technologies. Depending on the purpose of the workflow software, it was can work in conjunction with any number of other technologies like your CRM, email marketing platform, accounting systems, employee or candidate portals, and the list goes on. As these other systems and technologies change, so must your workflow software.

Software and Your Industry Needs

Staying relevant means staying ahead of the curve, or at the very least, being able to keep up. I like to use Blockbuster as an example. When Redbox came out, it completely antiquated their business model. This happens to the best of us in business -someone comes out with a better, cheaper more awesome product. In those situations, what matters is that you’re able to make effective, swift pivots to your products and services. It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, it’s fast-paced.

So, what we really want our clients to know, is we’re in it for the long haul. We won’t set you up for a Blockbuster fail. We’ll help you create that nimble, pivot on a dime company you need to be to survive. Let’s talk about how to get started today.

3 New Year’s Resolutions for Small Business Owners With Some Hustle

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Anyone can think of New Year’s Day as just another day. Nothing really makes it different from any other, except your perception of it. You can watch it pass by, or you can join the millions of people who are choosing to, at the very least, say they want to make this year better in some way.

Over the last 8 years, we’ve had the pleasure of working with small business owners from every walk of life, in every industry. To put it plainly, we don’t get too many calls from business owners who aren’t driven or seeking out a way to improve. The stagnant, happy somewhere-in-the-middle business owners aren’t exactly flooding our inboxes with RFPs and frankly we like it that way. So, in the spirit of a better 2016, these are three New Year’s resolutions we propose all of the small business owners out there with some hustle consider…

1) Work on customer retention.

On the blog, we’ve discussed the importance of the 80/20 rule -about 20% of your customers bring in about 80% of your revenue. Finding out who that 20% is comprised of and how to retain them should pretty obviously be on your to-do list. You can’t and shouldn’t try to please your entire customer base. Consider how much further your marketing dollars can go and how much more tailored, refined, and effective your message can be, when you target that 20% as opposed to 100%?

Want to know more about figuring out who your 20% are and how to keep them? Click here.

2) Take control of marketing initiatives and understand their impact.

Do you have your finger on the pulse of your marketing efforts? Not everyone is a marketing expert and not everyone has time to stick an iron in every fire, but we strongly recommend business owners have a basic understanding of what is happening and what results are coming from their organizations’ marketing initiatives.

In order to measure the impact of marketing efforts, the right software is essential to determine the success of campaigns. While it’s fantastic to have an expert at the helm of your marketing, ultimately the buck stops with you. It’s hard to make pivots or call shots when you’re in the dark.

Need help getting started? Start here.

3) Invest in workflow management.

Whether you’re a helicopter boss, or you spend an average of two hours in the office per week, you need workflow management. Workflow management isn’t just about fixing a broken process (although we do plenty of that). It’s about finding the cut corners, locating the mysterious cracks that everything seems to fall through, and in general, making organizational resources go farther. What could be getting done with fewer steps, people, or processes? How can this department or entire organization run better? If nothing else, that’s the question to start the new year with.

If you’d like to talk about customer retention, gaining a better understanding of your marketing efforts, or running your organization in a more effective and efficient way, we’re the guys and gals to talk to. Let’s make 2016 better.

The 3 Ways You Can Start Supporting Your Sales Staff

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The sales team. Their success is your success, yet so many companies do little more than offer the same standard, played out incentives to drive success. Investing in your sales team makes so much business sense, but you have to know what investments to make. Maybe let’s skip the ping pong table this year and reconsider what your sales staff actually needs from you to be successful.

Implement Workflow Queues

We run into this often. A sales team works their collective butt off to lock customers in, and then the customer is lost to poor customer care. Instead of that customer representing recurring revenue they are likely bashing your products or services. The crying shame here is that it usually isn’t a person’s or department’s fault, but rather the unfortunate outcome of a flawed process. When something is no one’s job, no one is doing it.

Workflow queues should be put into place to, well…help work flow. Consider all the steps between the sale and when the product or service are delivered. Depending on your industry, there can be dozens. Workflow queues are created to make sure that once a step is completed, an automatic queue is given to keep the process in motion with right people and information needed to get to the next step, in a transparent effective way.

Find a Sales Friendly CRM

When decision maker considers the tools, software and technology for their sales team, they don’t often hit the mark. Consider these stats from the 2011 CSO CRM Sales Effectiveness Study-Key Analysis

  • Only 19% of companies reported that increased revenues was a benefit of CRM.
  • 64.1% rate their CRM system as Somewhat Useful or Minimum/No Value in understanding consumer market.
  • 50.3% rated their CRM as Somewhat Useful or Minimum/No Value in ensuring their reps have identified key stakeholders.

You wouldn’t give a chef an Easy Bake oven, and you shouldn’t give the staff that drive the success of your organization tools that aren’t right for them. Instead of the out of the box CRM, go with a customizable option. Your company is unique, your processes are likely of your own design. Bring something to the table that complements and supports your team. The software should tailor to your team, not the other way around.

Revamp Your KPIs and Incentives

Out of date and irrelevant performance metrics have a sad way of sticking around. Be sure your KPIs are measuring the actual factors that drive success among your sales team, the rest is just plain annoying and a waste of company resources. In an earlier post on the blog, about common KPI mistakes, we learned that no more than 10 KPIs are useful, beyond that it can get hairy.

Still giving away those blenders when someone hits a sales goal? Ditch the old school incentives and find out what actually motivates your team. We’ve found the best way to find out what your team’s drivers are is to -get ready, this is very scientific- ask them! Days off, flexible work schedules and work from home time are gaining popularity, especially among Millennials. The best part? These types of incentives won’t put a dent in your budget.

These are just a few of the simple, yet effective ways you can start supporting the backbone of your company -your sales team. Help them help you by providing them with the support and motivation they need. Find out what Volano’s role in that looks like now.

Video: How the Volano Culture Delivers for Clients

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Yeah, I would love to come in, soak in some third party information about a client, and code for eight hours to create customized software for a company and process I know little to nothing about.  Said no software developer ever.

It can be hard for some to wrap their head around what we do here at Volano. Put simply, we build customized software to improve and automate workflow processes, but there’s more to it. While we are in a very specific niche of the software industry, our company culture differentiates us even further.

How We Make Work Flow

When we take an organization from spreadsheets and whiteboards to fully automated workflow solutions, we do it differently. We take out the middleman. Instead of the client, project manager, business analyst and software developer playing a rousing game of telephone with boat loads of information, our developers work directly with our clients. This allows not only for transparent communication and expectations going both ways, but this direct interaction facilitates a bond between the software developer and the person using the software.

Our unique approach to workflow solutions eliminates creative roadblocks in the process -perhaps one of the strongest and most overlooked parts. When the client and developer have their own cohesion, we have found that this fosters the most comprehensive, yet simplistic of solutions. When we first meet with clients, we explain that this won’t be your typical development project and by the way, meet your software developer…

Meet Your Developer

We realize that every organization will have their differentiator –The [Company Name] Difference! We chose not to get too complicated with it. We follow the school of thought that satisfied, engaged employees make satisfied, engaged clients. So far, it’s working out phenomenally.

Creating a work-life balance for employees is no doubt an investment, but it’s one with amazing returns. Software developers aren’t a dime a dozen, and software developers who invest discretionary effort into their work are most certainly not a dime a dozen. We like to keep things laid back in office -beer, darts, casual conversation -all welcome around here. Burnout is a very real thing in this industry, so we crafted our company culture and management style with that in mind. Beyond the physical work environment at Volano, these are the folks our clients are interacting with, these are our brand ambassadors, if they’re not happy and engaged, it shows.

So, yeah, you could call it the Volano Difference (insert stock photo of business person smiling here). Our company culture was thoughtfully made a solid part of our strategy. We create effective solutions for businesses with a unique approach that goes beyond your typical project interaction. We dive in, we build things, and we make work flow.

The primary route to efficiency

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“Differentiation is the essence of strategy, the prime source of competitive advantage. You earn money not just by performing a valuable task but by being different from your competitors in a manner that lets you serve your core customers better and more profitably.” Chris Zook and James Allen

Process or product differentiates you from your competitors. Volano knows that as you scale your business – you must follow the same process and create the same consistent product despite your growth.

Custom software provides efficiency.Repeatability

Repeatability is a measure of a system’s consistency to achieve identical results across multiple teams and multiple cycles. The ultimate goal is to have both a highly accurate and highly repeatable business process. Repeatability is the primary route to efficiency and scalability. Custom software can enforce business processes in a highly repeatable way. This kind of software brings differentiation, scalability, and repeatability. This is how software can be your competitive advantage.

We call this workflow. Volano builds workflow systems that allow you to repeat what works…and efficiency follows. Software to Make Work Flow.