Tips for Local Food #4 : Leveraging Free & Low Cost Tools

As part of our series on Top Tips for Local Food Distribution, we’re diving a little deeper into each of the 5 tips we gave. This week is ‘Leveraging Free & Low Cost Tools. You can also read our guide to Social technology, Funding, or Giants!

More Tips for Local Food from Bucky Box - Leveraging Free & low Cost Tools

 

Have you ever tried to run a local food business armed only with a telephone, Microsoft Excel and email?

 

Many people around the world are still forging on down this path, but there’s a revolution happening around the internet which can make things easier, create more time to do the things that matter, and free you up from painful admin.

 

Core components of local food distribution mainly involve Ordering, Customer Accounts, Communications, Packing & Delivery Logistics, and Payment Reconciliation, so lets take a look at what’s out there that can help you do these things, better.

 

Ordering

It’s time to take your customer’s orders for the week! How do they make orders at the moment? Phone? Email? Facebook?

 

Well a shopping cart can be a good way to handle online ecommerce transactions, and there’s heaps of options. Of course, generally you will need to already have a website (which you could build through services like WordPress [free]), which you can then use a plugin for – just search WordPress Ecommerce, and you’ll find many options!  Or you can use a specialised ecommerce service like Shopify (paid service), which provides themes and payment options.  Most of these options will cost either a) ongoing hosting fee, b) upfront cost, or c) % on every transaction and/or monthly service fee.

 

You’d generally be able to expect an email when orders are made, or a spreadsheet of orders at the end of the day.  Some of these options are quite flexible to create a catalogue of products so for example, you may offer a Standard Vege Box, plus a list of extras – you should be able to do this, but most of the shopping carts are created for a ‘stock list’ of say 20 or 30 products which do not change regularly.

 

Customer Accounts

Managing your database of customers needs to be carefully done to ensure you don’t drop the ball!  Some people will be regular customers, some will be ‘inactive customers’, and some will be ‘potential customers’ who have expressed interest but not ordered yet.  You’ll likely have different tasks for each of these, so you’ll likely need a to-do list of actions too.

 

You might run a spreadsheet with all these names, contact details & orders against these people, but as we all know – spreadsheets can be fickle beasts – prone to human error (ever written over a cell and found a moment later that the Undo button wont work!?).

 

A customer relationship database might be another way to deal with this.  There’s some great tools like OnePageCRM (paid service) which are created as lite-Sales tools which could be adapted to house all those relationships and schedule reminders & follow ups, or there are a number of free options in the Mac App Store, or Google Chrome Marketplace.

 

You might also like a to-do list app which synchs across all your devices so you can keep track of things – take a look at Wunderlist (free), Trello (free) or Todoist (free).  These are great if you’re not tied to the desk all day – whether you’re out on the farm, rushing around suppliers or markets, or simply on your day off & want to run a couple of chores.

 

Communication

Well if you’re not in communication with your customers, you’re likely to be out of business pretty quickly.  There’s a proliferation of tools in this space now – we wrote a little about some of them (and how to use them) in our Get Social : Using Social Media tools for Local Food guide.

 

We would heartily recommend you’re using a suite of communications including:

  • – Phone or VOIP services – such as Skype (free or low cost)
  • – Email – you can’t go past Google Mail (free or low cost)
  • – Support Desk – if you want a simple & powerful helpdesk & knowledgebase, check out Uservoice (free or low cost)
  • – Social Networks – Twitter (free) is a great service for business-to-customer communication, and channel for storytelling & reaching out to new customers. Also a Facebook Page (free) is a great way to connect less formally with your customers, tell your story and share pictures of your products, customers & suppliers.

You can also check out our blog about finding new customers & Marketing guides, as well as our roundup of existing support & resources for local food.

 

Packing & Delivery Logistics

This is where things sometimes start to get tricky. It’s one thing taking all the orders, it’s another thing making sure they get to the right place at the right time, on the right day.

 

Unfortunately there’s not a lot of tools in this space which haven’t been developed for courier companies or logistics firms shipping products around the country.  There are systems like Delivery Biz Pro (paid-service), which seem angled a bit more at home delivery services, and we expect some more to arrive with the rise of Ebay, Etsy and the likes, but mostly those goods head out in the regular post services.

 

Of course you can use Google Maps (free) as a way to pinpoint where your deliveries are headed, but it’s not highly adaptive to delivery runs with multiple drop offs.

 

Payment Reconciliation

Headaches at 11pm at night trying to match up bank accounts with customer accounts? Hastily scribbled notes on delivery sheets not making sense at the end of the month? This is one of the areas we’ve heard the most frustration about.

 

Yes, there’s 101 online accounting services – being proud Kiwi’s, we’d point you in the direction of Xero (paid service) – we use them in fact, they’re ace, and we reckon they’re streets ahead of the competitors like MYOB (paid service). That said, we don’t think they really cut it for local food distributors when it comes to matching up multiple payments, with multiple customer accounts, on a weekly basis.

 

Of course, there is another option.  Bucky Box has gathered all these insights from hundreds of conversations with local food distributors around the world – and we’ve built our tools for a better food system with them in mind.  Bucky Box helps you with Ordering, Customer Accounts, Communications, Packing & Delivery Logistics, and Payment Reconciliation, all in one turn key solution.  Check out our website to sign up for a trial.

 

#NotInOurName – Salesforce misses the point

Have you heard of the term ‘Social Enterprise’?

***************  GREAT NEWS!!!! ***************

Salesforce has dropped it’s trademark attempt of the term Social Enterprise!

We would like to give a big Hi-5 to the team at Salesforce who decided to pull the pin & leave the term ‘social enterprise’ to mission driven businesses like ourselves, who put purpose before profit.

*********************************************************

 

Recently Salesforce.com went somewhat under the radar in applying for the trademark for the term ‘Social Enterprise’.  In some ways, we wondered how long it would take for this situation to blow up, since various companies had begun using the term ‘social business’ referring to businesses that use social tools (such as Facebook & Twitter) for customer service.

 

Truthfully, using social tools has been a big part of business for awhile – email & phone, customer forums and message boards have been a dominant part of communication in business for well over 20 years now. It doesn’t mean you’re suddenly a ‘Social Enterprise’ or ‘Social Business’ because you’re using them.

 

That said, the backlash that has sprung up against the attempt to trademark the term ‘social enterprise’ is interesting to watch.  It’s largely been led by the UK social enterprise networks such as Social Enterprise UK which launched the #NotInOurName campaign to stop Salesforce – you can follow it here on twitter. Due to Richard Branson’s outspoken support to ‘screw business as usual’, he’s even been asked to intervene through the Virgin group too!

 

The term ‘Social Enterprise’ has been used for businesses which are trading to achieve a Social, Environmental or Cultural mission for longer than Salesforce has been trading (13 years).  Here at Bucky Box, we think of it as ‘more than profit’, as we focus on maximising positive impact instead of simply the dollar value.  The distaste that has been expressed at Salesforce’s move to trademark the term is clearly evident and well founded – a company seeking to cash in on the term threatens to undermine a movement, and an entire sector which contributes millions of dollars to economies around the world, creates positive social & environmental impacts, and is seeking to redefine the compass of ‘good business’.

 

That’s why we’re standing up & giving our voice to Social Enterprise UK’s #NotInOurName campaign. Here’s our line in the sand. We believe Salesforce’s recent reply totally misses the point and shows their naïve dismissal of the issue:

 

When it comes to trademarks, businesses or organizations in different sectors can use the same trademark. Salesforce.com does not own or intend to own the trademark rights for the term social enterprise within the nonprofit sector, and is not seeking to restrict descriptive uses of the phrase by others in philanthropy, social responsibility, community involvement or mission-driven organizations.

 

Salesforce don’t seem to realise that social enterprise is not just about a sector – about philanthropy or not-for-profit, it’s a revolution in the business world which is blending social & environmental return on investment with financial.  For example, Bucky Box is a social enterprise, which is creating software for local food distribution.  So we are working in very much the same sector as salesforce, but we have a more than profit business model.  Under the trademark, we wouldn’t be able to call ourself a ‘social enterprise’, which we believe is a ridiculous attempt by a corporation to control the use of this term.  Pro bono Australia agrees with us.

 

So join us, and millions of people around the world who benefit from the work of the huge numbers of Social Enterprises, in telling Salesforce to back down and recognise that there’s something bigger than profit at stake here.

 

Editor’s note: we’ve also just had a discussion about which CRM system to use, and needless to say Salesforce did not get a look in. We highly suggest taking a look at the very awesome OnePage CRM who have a great solution which is highly intuitive compared to the cumbersome Salesforce interface!