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Using Evernote to track your competitors

Research your competitors with Evernote

Research your competitors with Evernote

I saw this great post by Joshua Zerkel on the Evernote blog and wanted to share it with you. We’ve looked at using Evernote for prospecting but, of course, there are many other things that you can use it for and tracking your competitors is an ideal task. As Joshua outlines, Evernote also makes it easy to share your research with your coworkers. It’s no use if you have great information on your rivals but keep it to yourself.

It’s great to understand your competitors and what they are up to, but remember to be very careful about knocking your competitors when dealing with your customers. It can easily backfire on you.

When you have insight into your prospects and competitors, you’re able to make better decisions. Since Evernote lets you collect many different types of information, it’s an ideal tool for capturing business research.

Read up on prospects. When you’re going into meetings and sales calls, it’s helpful to have background information on the individuals you’re meeting with and the companies they work for. Using the Evernote Web Clipper, capture industry information and recent news about your prospects in Evernote. If they’ve sent you white papers, reports, RFPs/RFQs, or other data, store those in Evernote as well. To keep things organized, tag notes with the prospect’s name or put them in a notebook for that prospect. As you prepare for a meeting, you can quickly refer back to the notes you’ve collected.

Keep an eye on the competition. No business operates in a vacuum. Chances are there are multiple players in your industry, and even if they’re not direct competitors, it never hurts to keep an eye on what they’re up to. Again, use the Web Clipper to capture press mentions, relevant blog posts, and articles about what companies in your industry are doing. If your competitors are using email marketing for newsletters or updates, forward the messages they send to your email-to-Evernote address to keep them permanently.

Review the notes you’ve collected as you’re planning what’s next for your business.

Know what your team knows. If you work on a team and have multiple people who perform research, create a Shared Notebook so everyone can contribute in an organized way. Evernote Business can help your team further leverage each other’s efforts. For instance, as you’re clipping articles about a prospect, you’ll automatically see Related Notes your colleagues have previously collected about them. The same is true for researching competitors.

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Using Evernote for prospecting – part II

Prospecting is easier with Evernote

Prospecting is easier with Evernote

If you followed my last post you should now be in the enviable position of having some target companies, prospects names and contact details in your Evernote system. You’re no doubt keen to get to grips with them and have your phone or keyboard at the ready. Read on…

What’s the big idea?

First things first. We are prospecting here, not selling. Which is to say that we want to find out if we are talking to the right person, if they have a need for what we’re selling and if we can have a meeting with them. The goal is to get a meeting, or suitable follow-up such as a conference call but not to sell them on your product the first time you contact them.

Which way is best?

Whether you use phone, email or some other method to prospect depends very much on your business, the value of your product, length of your sales cycle, social and business norms in your field and geography. In the old days prospecting was done door-to-door which may still work for you if you have a very small territory. A technology client I worked with would stick their heads around the doors of other companies in the shared innovation centre they inhabited to introduce themselves and find out if they could help them. This is a perfectly valid prospecting campaign, but most companies will be prospecting by phone or email.

Historically when prospecting by phone the key issue was getting past “the gatekeeper” which may be a receptionist, or in the case of a senior person, their personal assistant. Nowadays this is probably the least of your problems. Most people hide behind their voicemail, only taking calls when they wish. In fact the gatekeeper may be your best friend, persuading the prospect to take your call rather than putting it straight through to voicemail.

For this reason I favour prospecting by email. But what we’re talking about here is a customised email specifically targeted at each prospect, not a “cookie cutter”, mail-merged marketing campaign. I’ll blog in detail on how to do this in a separate post.

If you decide to prospect by phone it’s useful to have a script to work from. If you get through it’s important not to waste the limited time that you have rambling. I use a script that is little more than a few bullet points so that I know where I’m going, but don’t come across as phoney. I suggest that your script is an Evernote note that you can have open in front of you whilst you talk stored in our “sales” notebook and tagged “script” (since you may have a number scripts for different prospects or campaigns).

Note taking

Record-keeping is important so that we can see how our campaign is going and follow up appropriately, and Evernote makes this easy. Remember that you can save searches on say your “sales” notebook and “camp1” campaign tags and drag them to Shortcuts for quick access.

For emails blind copy (bcc) your Evernote email address and forward any responses so that they go straight into your system. You can direct them into a specific folder by adding @ followed immediately by the folder title in the email subject and tag them by adding # followed immediately by the tag word. Using our previous suggestions we could add @sales #camp1 #email.

To make notes of your phone calls I suggest that you use a template to record the information. You could even combine the template with your script so that you have your prompt and jottings in the same note. Check out this post on how to create templates in Evernote.

To easily see how your campaign is progressing you should tag your contact notes appropriately. I use the following tags, you can use your own…

  • no_response: I’ve called or emailed but had no response
  • dead: I’ve called/emailed multiple times and had no response. No further action.
  • no_thanks: I’ve had a response and they don’t want to take it any further. This may be an outright “no”, or they could be the wrong person in the organisation (if so ask who the right person is and put them into your prospecting campaign as a fresh contact record).
  • pending: I’ve had a response and the timing is wrong (e.g. run out of budget, busy on old project, re-org underway), so I need to set a reminder (below) and get back to them appropriately e.g. in 3 months time.
  • meeting_arranged: Success! They are willing to meet us. At this point you may wish to put them into your CRM system (if you use one) or continue using Evernote to track progress.


Critical to successful prospecting is relentless and timely follow up. Whether you use phone or email it’s unlikely that you’ll get a response from the prospect first time round. I suggest you give them a few days to respond and then you need to schedule a follow-up call or email. There are two or three easy ways to do this…

  • Using Evernote’s reminder capability. You will now notice in desktop and web versions of Evernote a small alarm clock in the top right of each note. Clicking this you can set a date and time for a reminder associated with that note, in this case your “contact” note. Mobile versions of Evernote now support this feature.
  • Using followthen.com, a great service that let’s you simply bcc an email to say, 1week@followupthen.com, and almost magically the email will appear back in your inbox a week later regardless of what email system you are using. This is an incredibly fast way to set reminders when email prospecting.
  • Boomerang for Gmail does a similar job to followupthen.com but is specifically for gmail users. It can also schedule emails if you want your prospecting email to pop into someone’s inbox just as they are sorting their mail at 9am.
  • Use Outlook or a similar email/calendaring app to schedule a follow up reminder.

When email prospecting I allow myself three goes at a contact. The original email, a reminder and a final reminder. If at that point I’ve had no response I bin them, or in the case of Evernote tag them “dead”. Usually I get my highest response on the first reminder. If the original email was personally targeted at the prospect and relevant, and your reminder was polite then guilt often drives them to respond. I’ll be posting in more detail on the hows and whys of email prospecting soon.

So there you have it. Evernote is a great tool for researching and tracking a prospecting campaign. If you have any thoughts or questions feel free to comment below.

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Prospecting using Evernote – part I

Prospecting using Evernote

Prospecting using Evernote

So far we’ve seen how Evernote can help sales people by providing them with a free-form way of capturing data such as contacts and notes from meetings, phone calls, emails, etc. So now let’s mix that Evernote goodness with a core sales task and see how it can empower us.

Prospecting is an aspect of selling that many people dread. In my experience there are two reasons for this. Firstly the fear of rejection and secondly the monotony of the task. There’s not much we can do about the former other than to realise that it’s a necessary evil and we are aiming to help people with our product or service. In psychological terms, the more time we spend prospecting the more we will undergo systematic desensitisation i.e. we get used to it! So we are playing a numbers game, which is fine, but it can be very repetitive and dull. Many prospects nowadays hide behind voicemail and rarely return emails, which can prove frustrating and means that you need a cast-iron follow-up procedure. Evernote can help us with this.

Market and Companies

The first stage in this process is deciding on a target market for our prospecting. This will be specific to your business and based on factors such as geography, product fit, growth markets, sales cycle, events and seasonality. Having decided on our target market we need to do some set up in Evernote. Let’s create a notebook called “sales” and three tags, say “sales_companies”, “sales_contacts” and “camp1” which will allow us to tag notes specific to our sales activities and this prospecting campaign. Feel free to use tag names that you are more comfortable with, but you get the idea!

Having done our prep we now need to find some target companies in our selected market. Once again, how you do this is going to be largely dictated by your business. For a geographical market it may involve using everything from local directories, to networking events to plain old googling. Remember that with Google’s advanced search you can select region. For some niches great lead sources are trade bodies and events. Many of these have members lists that you can clip straight into Evernote using, for instance, the Evernote web clipper. So one way or another we have a number of target companies, all of which should be captured into our “sales” notebook and tagged with “sales_companies” and “camp1”. You may wish to set up one or more saved searches in your shortcuts to make it easier to find your prospecting campaign data quickly.


Next we have to find some contacts at our target companies. Perhaps you already have contact names from your initial digging but if not let’s do some research. If your most effective point of contact in a company is a senior person, for instance the CTO or CFO, you will often find that information on the company’s website under “About” and “Executive Team” or similar. Use the Evernote web clipper or helper app to clip the information that you want into Evernote and store it in your “sales” notebook and our “sales_contacts” and “camp1” tags. I often don’t bother to tag as I clip information, it can be faster to go into Evernote afterwards to move and tag several records at once. While you’re on their website you will want to check out their contact details such as phone number, address, etc. You’ll find them under “Contact” and, of course, we’re going to clip them into Evernote into the “sales” notebook and tagged appropriately with “sales_companies” and “camp1”.

A great alternative source of contacts, especially if your contacts aren’t on the target companies’ websites, is LinkedIn. If you are lucky enough to have 1st degree (direct) LinkedIn contacts at your target companies you can not only clip the person’s identity and background, but also their contact details into Evernote. For 2nd degree contacts you won’t be able to see their contact details, but we’ve already got their company phone number and should be able to work out their email address (more on that in a minute). For 3rd degree contacts and beyond, you might not be able to even see the person’s full name. For instance you might just be able to see, say, “Mark G”. Not to panic there’s a neat way around this. Cut the person’s full job title and paste it into Google search along with the company name and “linkedin.com”. Press return and lo & behold up comes their full name, “Mark Goodson” in this case!

Contact Details

If you’re going to do your prospecting by email, something that I’d recommend (see Part II), then you will need an email address for your prospect. If you haven’t got it already during this process it shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out. If you google “@company.com” you should eventually find in the results (most likely one of the later results pages) an email address from someone at the company. You will then know what the corporate email format is e.g. fred.bloggs@company.com or fbloggs@company.com. If you can’t find an example address there are services that can help you do so, such as email-format.com, and then you can use Free Email Verifier to confirm the format very quickly. You might also want to try out 192.com to find someone’s address. Worst case you can send two or three prospecting emails, one to each address variant and see which one doesn’t bounce. Once you have the email address it’s time to squirrel it away in Evernote.

We should now have a nice collection of companies, contact details and prospects stored in our “sales” notebook on Evernote, tagged appropriately and ready for us to get to work on. In Part II we look at how to go about doing this.

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Using Evernote for contact management

card file

Before Evernote

Computer, tablet or smartphone users have many ways of storing their contacts. There’s usually a default contact manager, which can suck in contacts from your email system, social media, a CRM system, etc. You can search all of those systems independently to find the contacts that you need. But often storing and retrieving contact data is not a problem the real issue is entering that data in the first place, and the productivity hit that it causes.

The systems that I’ve described are great at capturing standardised data, such as the address from someone who emails you. But often the information that you receive isn’t in a standard format, it could be from a…

  • Web page, or online press release
  • Business card or other printed material
  • email sig
  • Conversation over the phone or at a networking event
  • LinkedIn profile
  • Other social media profiles such as Twitter or facebook

To use this freeform data you have to get it into a system, but manual entry is slow and painful; and we all know how busy sales and small business people are. Furthermore after you’ve taken the time to enter it into your system, will you ever need it again? This explains why many sales people detest using a CRM system, it turns them into data-entry clerks. I understand this well, over the years I’ve been obsessive about entering contacts into my database only to look at them now and wonder how I ever knew some of them.

This is where Evernote can be invaluable. Evernote provides multiple methods to quickly capture information and make it searchable. So let’s go through the examples above and consider how we get the contact data into our system. But firstly a bit of preparation is in order. I suggest you set up a “contacts” tag in Evernote, or even a “contacts” notebook to hold your contact data…

  • Web pages or online press releases. There are a couple of ways to capture contact data here:
    • Firstly using the Evernote web clipper. This is the browser add-in that lets you capture whole web pages, articles, a selection or just the url from within your browser of choice. The clip initially goes to your online Evernote account where it can be viewed immediately. If you’re using the Evernote app running on your Mac, PC or smartphone the data will be available there after your next sync.
    • The second way to capture data from a web page, or for that matter any document on screen, is using the Helper app that sits in the Taskbar on a Windows machine and the Menubar on a Mac. However this has an extra feature. It also lets you select a rectangle on screen and capture that as an image. This allows you to capture contact data when the web page is complex and trying to select the text is difficult. Although this is an image, Evernote’s optical character recognition (OCR) capability means that it is still searchable.
  • Business card and other printed or even handwritten material.
    • A scanner can be used to capture physical data. These vary from specialised business card scanners to desktop scanners or combined printer/scanners. Some scanners integrate directly with Evernote.
    • But by far the easiest way to do this is with your smartphone. Smartphones have great cameras nowadays and the ability to run an Evernote app. You can take a photo directly from the Evernote app on Android which will, of course, sync with your web and desktop apps.
  • email sig. Often someone’s email sig will contain all of their contact details such as job title, landline, mobile, Skype address, Twitter username, and even the name of their assistant. Fortunately we can send emails directly into Evernote using the custom email address that is provided for each user. So if you want to capture someone’s sig just forward the email into Evernote. If you don’t want all of the email text you can delete it just leaving the email address and sig when you forward it, or do it in Evernote. When forwarding it you can add #contacts or @contacts to the subject to either have Evernote automatically tag it with “contacts” or add it to your “contacts” notebook.
  • Conversation over the phone or face-to-face. What a low tech way to communicate! But still there are options…
    • Jot the contact details down on paper and later scan it into Evernote using your phone.
    • Create a new note using your smartphone Evernote app and type in the data.
    • The Evernote mobile apps on Android and iPhone let you record audio directly into a note. So you can dictate the contact details and listen later on phone or Mac/PC and transcribe the note.
  • LinkedIn profile. This is a web page so can be captured simply using the web clipper or Helper app. You may wish to clip all of their information (career history, education, industry bodies, etc) or just keep it short and sweet and clip only their contact details.
  • Other social media profiles such as Twitter or facebook. Well once again, these can be viewed as web pages so content including contact data can be clipped using the helper app or the web clipper. For instance the web clipper, when set to clip “article” will neatly capture someone’s Twitter profile.
Screenshot of LinkedIn data clipped to Evernote

Clipped from LinkedIn

So there you have it, a whole bunch of ways in which you can capture rich contact data into Evernote. Evernote’s powerful search capabilities mean that finding a contact is then easy, but how we organise those contacts and use them, for instance when prospecting, we’ll cover another day.

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Three easy ways to create templates in Evernote

Evernote is great at capturing all kinds of information from photos, to audio clips, to web clippings and beyond. However often we want to capture similar information, such as the minutes of a meeting, or a sales phone call. In such a situation it’s also useful to have some “prompts” to make sure that you ask the right questions and record everything that you need to follow up effectively.

What we need is a template. The question is how to create one, given that Evernote doesn’t have a simple way of creating and managing templates? Here are three ways to do just that finishing with, what is in my opinion the most powerful method –

1KustomNote is a web app that links to Evernote letting you create templates/forms, fill them in and save the data into your Evernote account.

  • Pros
    • Integrates well with Evernote
    • Creates interesting looking templates using in-built themes
    • Integration (at a price) with Evernote Business
  • Cons
    • Costs up to $4/month depending on the features you require
    • The default themes are a bit “cutesy”. They look nice, but take up a lot of room and some people (myself included) would prefer a clean, text-only template.

2. Export a Note from Evernote and use this as a template. Create your template note in Evernote. Select “File” –> “Export Note” and save it to somewhere handy (e.g. your desktop) under a suitable name. This will create a file in .enex (Evernote export) format. When you want to create a note using the template, just drag & drop the .enex file back into Evernote and a new note will be created with the template contents and even the same tags as the template.

  • Pros
    • Works fine
  • Cons
    • Slightly clunky way to do things
    • Could get messy with multiple templates

3. Use a Text Expander. Text expanders are apps that let you enter a preset keystroke sequence, preceeded or followed by a “hotkey” combination which will then insert a string of text. More powerful text expanders when triggered can produce a pick-list, open an app or even a web page. Good examples are TextExpander on the Mac (from $34) and PhraseExpander on the PC (from $56).

So, for instance, on my Mac I can open a new note in Evernote, type “phc” (for phone call) followed by a space and Text Expander will expand that to…

Name : _


Company :

Phone :

email :

Date :

Notes :

Next action…

– Who? :

– What? :

– When? :

You can also tell it where to put the cursor when it generates the text. Here it’s in the top field (next to Name:)

I prefer this approach because it’s a really fast and easy way to generate templates in Evernote, but also for that matter any other tool. For instance I use it in prospecting emails where there are chunks of text that I often use, but I want to customise the email and don’t want a complete “boilerplate” email. I also use it for email sigs because I work for myself as well as a number of clients, so have different email sigs depending on which client I’m representing that day!

If you want to learn more on how to use Text Expander I suggest Take Control of TextExpander

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How to Win More Sales Using Evernote

Using Evernote to research prospects

Using Evernote to research prospects

Francis Bacon (1561–1626) said that “knowledge is power”. Nowhere is this more true than in sales, whether you are professional sales person or small business owner. To sell your product or services you first need to find a prospect, which means targeting a market, finding the right companies and then digging out the right contacts within those companies. Having found your prospects you need to talk to them, do your “sales magic” and get some business from them. If you want to do business with them on an ongoing basis (and who wouldn’t) you need to record meetings and phone calls with them, follow up in a timely fashion and keep up-to-date with them and their company.

There are a bunch of tools that can help you do this, but Evernote has justifiably built a reputation as being your “external brain” allowing you to easily save, find and use information wherever and whenever you want. To track sales and contacts many people use a CRM (customer relationship management) system which may be software running on their computer, or more recently a web-based solution. These can be great for seeing all of your sales opportunities at a glance, but often turn the user into a data-entry clerk, tediously entering information about prospects, customers and opportunities.

This results in users entering core information such as contact name, company url, phone numbers, etc but not having the time or inclination to capture the rich information available that lets you really understand a customer and their business. This is where Evernote can give you a real competitive advantage. The ability to clip information as you find it, then search and organise it across all of your devices is indispensable. For instance when researching prospects you can clip financial information from the company report, key officers of the company from the About section of their website and press releases on new product developments and reorganisations. After meetings you can use the camera on your mobile phone to capture the business cards of your contacts directly into Evernote. Evernote’s optical character recognition (OCR) capability means their details will be searchable without you having to tediously transcribe information into your CRM system

Over the next few weeks I’ll be developing the theme of how to use Evernote to increase your sales, but in the meantime as a general introduction to Evernote I would recommend Evernote: The Unofficial Guide to Getting Things Done.

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