Our Management Consultants Recommended That We Kill Our Free Email Plan; We’re Increasing It Instead

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When it comes to hosted email options for your business, there is not a whole lot to choose from unless you want to compromise on quality. There’s Microsoft’s Office 365. There’s Google Apps. And there’s Zoho Mail. We think Zoho Mail is better, but then again, we’re kind of biased.

And if you’re a small business, your options are even more limited. Until some time ago, Google Apps had a free edition. It started with unlimited users and decreased then gradually until they finally canceled it. Microsoft chose to never give anything away for free (shocker, I know!).

Now, here’s something we haven’t told anyone: When Google Apps Free Edition went the way of the dodo, Zoho Mail registrations shot up through the roof. Want some proof?

Of course, I was just being facetious with the title. We didn’t hire a management consulting firm, because we already know what they would say. Their recommendation would be: ”Well, your two other competitors don’t have a Free plan, so why would you? Don’t offer anything free now, and instead make more money.”.

Instead of spending money with the consulting firm, we decided to spend that money with you, our users. Starting today, we’re increasing our Free plan for Zoho Mail, making it even better and making it completely free for up to 5 users. When we say completely free, we not only mean that you pay nothing for it, but also that you don’t have to deal with ads. Free and ad-free.

Even though Zoho Mail now is the only viable option for small businesses looking for a great -and free- hosted email solution, we’re not backing away from our commitment to our small business friends.

Rodrigo

Latest Zoho Calendar Updates: Sync for Google Calendar, Birthday Calendar

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Managing your daily appointments, events and meetings can get overwhelming as you switch between your favorite calendar applications; on your mobile, desktop, web browser. Keeping them all in sync is no easy task and to do this manually will simply not be pleasant.

With Zoho Calendar, we would like our users to be in sync with their daily events automatically, even while using other calendar apps. In this light, we are glad to announce 2-way sync for Google Calendar, available for users of organizations / businesses subscribed to a Zoho Mail suite standard plan.


You can enable this feature from the Zoho Calendar settings page by selecting ‘Sync’ from the left options and then following a few simple steps. Once the synchronization is complete, whenever you create, edit or modify event details in your Google calendar, the same will reflect in your Zoho Calendar and vice versa. Please be advised that it takes around 5 minutes for changes to sync at this time. We are working towards making this instantaneous.

On a lighter note, we have also rolled out a birthday calendar feature to keep track of your contacts’ special day. After all, however grown up and mature we may consider ourselves to be, doesn’t a birthday wish invoke a smile at the least? In fact, a simple birthday wish may even score some brownie points with a business prospect. Just subscribe to Zoho Contacts’ birthday information in a few simple steps from Zoho Calendar and be prompt with your good wishes.

We hope to come up with more updates that will help you stay in sync and be on top of your daily agendas. Please spare some time to provide feedback and suggestions on how else we can improve your calendar experience.

Context Is Everything: Introducing Zoho Mail Contextual Gadgets

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Keeping focus on users’ information and its context in connection with other applications and services has always been the Zoho way of developing apps. We have after all been altruistic to have integrated our top apps like Zoho CRM, Zoho Projects and Zoho Invoice with external applications such as, for example, Gmail for the benefit of Google Apps users with whom we compete in some market segments.

Considering the fact that Zoho’s own portfolio of apps is one of the broadest around, developing tighter integrations between Zoho Apps tops our list of priorities. The goal is to move towards a ‘one Zoho’ experience so that whichever app a user happens to be, it pulls relevant information from other apps, and displays it in the right context.

Today, we are happy to announce contextual gadgets in Zoho Mail. You will now notice an uncanny strip with action icons at the bottom right corner of the Zoho Mail UI (can be disabled/enabled under Zoho Mail settings), when you open an email message.

These action icons provide connections to Zoho CRM, Zoho People, Zoho Contacts, Zoho Tasks and Zoho Notes, right when you go through your daily dose of emails; your mind fresh and ready to take action in context to the messages received. Here is a quick summary of how each gadget action can help:

CRM:
We are confident that Zoho CRM users will love this Zoho Mail gadget. From within a message view in Zoho Mail, users can view existing tasks, events, notes and potentials related to the sender from the associated CRM contact records and also add new items.

Let’s say you are an ardent sales person, ever ready to garner information about your prospects. When you click the CRM gadget action, all existing notes, events, tasks and potentials relevant to the contact will be automatically pulled from your business’ Zoho CRM account and displayed without you having to navigate away from the email view. Loaded with additional relevant information in seconds, email interactions with your leads and prospects can be fine tuned for better impact to close more deals in less time.

In combination with the MailMagnet feature in Zoho CRM, this means a 2-way handshake between the two services. And stay tuned for more news on the CRM+Mail friendship.

Info:
Have you realized that a simple phone call or a quick face-to-face meeting with someone within reach could save you a lot of time from having to go through frivolous exchange of emails? Ever sent classic one liners like “Hey, coffee at 4pm?”, to someone 3-4 cubicles away? In Zoho Mail, you can now rather use the info gadget to load the direct contact details of your peers, prospects and colleagues and communicate naturally during situations where exchanging emails is in fact redundant.

Notes:
If you are not in the habit of taking quick notes while perusing emails, you have no idea how many key points, cool ideas and crucial information you are allowing to evaporate into nothingness. We do understand that it can be nagging to scribble away on paper or switch to a notepad app now and then. Well, using the Notes gadget, users can fire up a simple notes editor in seconds from within the email view, making it downright easy for users to cultivate the habit of taking notes. All notes can be accessed later from the Zoho Notes app.

Tasks:
The most productive way to deal with email overload is to convert incoming requests, suggestions, discussions that require action into tasks. With the Task gadget action, users can add tasks without having to move away from the email view. So not only does this make it easy to compile a list of tasks but also helps in defining tasks with utmost clarity with the context of the original email retained during task creation.

This is just the tip of the ice berg towards providing a tightly integrated experience while using multiple Zoho apps. Contextual gadgets for more Zoho and external services on the way; because context is everything.

As always we humbly request you to spare some time to share your opinions and suggestions to fulfill our appetite for feedback.

The Incredibly-Shrinking Google Apps Free Edition Is Gone; Zoho Committed To Helping Small Businesses

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Google just yesterday announced it is giving the axe to the free edition of Google Apps (i.e. the Standard Edition). So from now on Google Apps only has a single version: the paid one. This is not exactly news to those of us who do business in this space. Google Apps free edition has gone from “unlimited users” to 100, to 50, to 10 and now, well.. to 0.

This is bad news for small businesses who are just getting started and who would rather use their limited amount of funds somewhere else. Although, software services are not expensive these days (for the most part), every single dollar counts when you’re getting started.

That’s the reason why we at Zoho remain committed to helping the small guys – new businesses just launching, the ones who are not able to commit just yet. That’s also reflected in our pricing structure – we’ve never required a yearly contract for any of our services. Sure, we’ll give you a nice discount if you do, but you can choose to subscribe on a monthly basis.

For those users looking for a great web mail service, and who want to get started for free, we’ll continue to offer our free plan for hosted mail – that is not going away anytime soon. We want to continue servicing Small Businesses.

It’s not just email – the vast majority of Zoho services are free for our growing customers –  from attracting more customers with Zoho CRM to having a mobile-enabled website presence, for free to online invoicing so you can get your money faster to…  well, pretty much everything Zoho offers.

And of course, with over 14 Apps, we continue to be one of the leading vendors in the Google Apps Marketplace. So whether you start with Zoho Mail or you start with Google Apps, you still have access to all the rest Zoho has to offer.

Thats why over 7 million people have chosen Zoho to, as we say, “Work Online”!

Rodrigo

Great Ideas Start As Random Scribbles

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Be it the iPhone, Statue of Liberty, Tower Bridge, or for that matter the laptop, tablet or phone you are reading this post on, their designs most probably started as a scribble.

Who knows, even Jony Ive may have drawn a rough rectangle on a paper napkin, the casual scribble causing the edges to be curved, resulting in an ‘aha!’ moment and the iPhone design took its first form (purely imagined situation).

The freedom of being able to express an idea, feeling or thought with a quick, simple sketch, is any day a more fun and easy way to unleash ideas (that mostly flash at odd times, all of a sudden) than to toil with a Photoshop tool that demands professional skills.

At Zoho, we have always been fond of the freedom to scribble. That is why we have now made it possible for you to get your fingers do more exercise than just tap on letter keys while composing emails. You can now find a scribble button in compose view when you access Zoho Mail mobile version from your iPhone, iPad, Android touch devices. Tap it to load an ultra lite drawing interface and scribble away.

We surmise that this feature will score first as a fun tool, especially with people who love to draw, like Draw Something mobile app enthusiasts.

Since it’s Thanksgiving season, you could try bringing your latent drawing skills to the fore. How about draw a cool ecard, egreeting, cartoon to your friends and loved ones or get cute while inviting someone for lunch or coffee, right from Zoho Mail compose? Here are a some samples for inspiration:

Well, fun is good but we wanted to make this feature useful for business and official situations too. We thought about how people send emails with images of bar charts, flow charts, design sketches etc., as attachments, seeking reviews and opinions while collaborating.

So we further added the ability to use any attached image as a canvas in scribble mode, when you reply to such messages. This way you can quickly express yourself by drawing on top of the image, save it as an attachment or inline in your message, hit send to reply.

 

So there! Next time you are on the move and have a ‘eureka!’ moment or even a hunch, take out your iPhone, iPad or your favorite touch device, log in to Zoho Mail on your mobile browser, scribble email the idea to your colleague(s) right away and set your idea into execution mode. Because great ideas start as random scribbles.

As always, we’d love to hear your comments and feedback on how this feature worked for you.

Embarrassing Things Happen When You Don’t Use Zoho CRM With The Mail Add-On

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I’m not going to preach about the benefits of Zoho CRM, or why you should use it with our Mail Add-on.

Instead, I’m just going to highlight what happens when you don’t.

Below is an email, a real email, I just sent to the VP of Sales or a company that was trying to sell us some service. Fine company, but they are not using Zoho CRM with the Mail Add-On.

This is not the first time, in the recent past I’ve had the same experience with other companies trying to sell me stuff. From now on, they’ll get similar emails. I just made this a template in Zoho Mail.

Rodrigo

ps. I changed the names  to protect the innocent ;) Everything else is verbatim.

——————-

============ Forwarded message ============
From : <my email>
To : <VP of Sales Email>
Date : Wed, 29 Aug 2012 14:56:37 -0500
Subject : Fwd: Re: New Partners
============ Forwarded message ============

<VP of Sales> -

Hello! We have never spoken before, but I’ve spoken to two of your sales reps – <Sales Rep 1> and most recently, <Sales Rep 2>.

The reason you’re getting this email is because, see, after some lengthy discussions with <Sales Rep 1>, I decided not to sign-up with you guys, and we left it there, amicably.
Then, <Sales Rep 2> contacted me again this week – starting from scratch (I understand <Sales Rep 1> left).

Now, this is not the fault of your sales guys. It’s just they don’t have the right tools.

The most valuable communication between you and your prospects/clients is stored in your email. When you combine your email with your CRM, not only you can avoid embarrassing situations like this, but most importantly you can provide better service to your customers; and everyone in your team can stay informed about what’s going on with each prospect.

Zoho CRM allows you to combine your email (any email you’re using) with your CRM. Painlessly. No BCC:, no nothing.

Yes, I understand you’re currently using Salesforce, but well, we just saw how that is not working too well for you guys!

Let me know if you’re interested in learning more and I’ll connect you with one of our account managers.

best,

Rodrigo


Group Calendar Support & Other Neat Updates in Zoho Calendar

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There is no refuting the fact that be it work, family or friends, in order to get things done, it is necessary to be on the same page as a group or with your group.

Group CalendarAt times, it is crucial for each person in a group to be aware of everyone’s calendar of activities. This is tough considering other complications like employees in the same company sitting at different time zones, teams changing frequently and what not.

Well, in relation to these thoughts, we are glad to share with you the latest update to Zoho Calendar. We have added group calendar support and other neat features to help you close these communication gaps and collaborate more effectively with your co-workers, team mates and groups.

Group Calendar
It can be overwhelming to plan and track group activities, especially when someone is a part of many groups. In Zoho Calendar, you can now create separate group calendars with different lists of members and also subscribe to other group calendars. Members granted access to these group calendars can create and modify their events, view events of other members and always be in sync with team proceedings.

You can view all your group events combined as a single unified view to get a feel of how stuffed or free you actually are. If you feel your combined view is far too busy, you can right click on a particular group calendar to load it up in a separate tab and then make some event modifications in individual calendars if necessary.

Send / Receive invitations across calendars
We realize that preferences vary from one person to the other and there are many other calendar applications in use. You can now send event invitations and receive RSVP from users of other calendars too. This is made possible through email event notifications via Zoho Mail, playing the part of a mediator between the two calendar services. What is neat is that even if the host does not check his mail, the calendar is kept up-to-date.

Add/View events in different timezones
Scheduling events with participants on different time zones can be really tricky. A little miscalculation of half hour and late arrival for a webinar with a good prospect can be quite damaging. In Zoho Calendar, you can now add /view events in different time zones without having to mess with the time zone of your calendar.

Merge multiple calendars & embed
Embedding your calendar of events on your blog or website is a good way to keep your fans and followers intrigued. If you are someone who maintains multiple calendars, you can now merge events across several calendars and embed a single view. So when you have a form for people to request appointments, they will be able to exactly know when you are free.

Check this what’s new page to learn more about these latest updates to Zoho Calendar. We are confident that these updates will make it easier for you to manage your group activities, events and meetings.

Do post your comments on how these updates worked out for you and other suggestions on improving the Zoho Calendar experience.