A week ago we returned from a very productive trip to the Adobe San Francisco office, where we met both our SVP, as well as a couple of very influential partners – Brent and Jason. One action item that we took from that trip was to make sure we very clearly and openly state what is our strategy and roadmap to the whole Business Catalyst partner community.

This blog post is about these concepts, explaining them in the simplest fashion possible.

Business Catalyst Mission

Our mission is to enable online businesses, not websites through a vibrant partner network.

Value Proposition

All in one as key differentiator, both for you as partners as well as for the business owners.

For you it’s the one stop shop that enables you to meet all your customers’ demands, allowing you to grow to be a successful agency, and for the business owners it’s the one place where you go to manage and grow your online business.

Business Catalyst Strategies

  • Treat our partners as real partners, not simply resellers of our solution.
  • Invest in the all-in-one aspect of business catalyst as main differentiator.
  • Reinventing Business Catalyst into a great platform that enables you to make your customers successful online, allowing the right engineering team velocity, scalability and elasticity.

All in one, explained

It's all about integration. It's not about how well the e-mail marketing side of Business Catalyst compares to our competitors (feature-by-feature comparison), it's all about how we can take advantage of the fact that our system offers e-commerce, analytics, CRM and CMS next to e-mail marketing, and how we can combine ALL these to make the world's best e-mail marketing tool by taking advantage of these integrations.

It’s about workflows that will enable partners to sell the integrated solution and all in one vision to business owners.

Tactics / Roadmap

September 2012

Better e-mail marketing/CMS integration, start working towards the platform vision.

  • Enable better integration between e-mail marketing and CMS and e-commerce, by allowing CMS content to be reused in e-mail marketing campaigns.
  • Start executing towards our platform vision, by improving the extensibility of the list layouts on web apps and e-commerce modules.

November/December 2012

Better e-mail marketing/CRM integration; advance e-commerce.

  • Better integration between e-mail marketing and CRM, by enabling things like list exclusions.
  • Expand e-commerce stock capabilities to product attributes.

February / March 2013

Better e-commerce integration; continue working towards the platform vision.

  • Enable better flexibility for e-commerce by enabling liquid in a production-ready fashion.
  • Better e-commerce reporting.

May/June 2013

Platform reinvention.

  • Enable flexibility for our webapps by enabling liquid and web apps API enabling partners to further extend Business Catalyst to SBO needs.
  • Enhance webapps up to a point where an average BC partner will be able to recreate and enrich most existing BC modules (blogs, photo galleries, etc) using web apps.
  • Enable webapps import/export to fuel an ecosystem of partners helping each other.

If you want to learn more about our strategy and focus for the near term, please attend our September 24th partner conference in San Jose, where the BC team members will be present, and more than open to get into more details.

- Bogdan

View Comments
Cristinel Anastasoaie

Important Security Policy Updates for CRM Users - Effective February 8th

Effective February 8th 2012 we will further update the way we handle CRM user passwords, for security reasons. The new release will impact lost password workflows, add or update System Messages / System Emails and alter the way customers retrieve their passwords.

This is the second step in a larger update process. The first phase was released during December and was detailed previously as part of the Important Security Policy Updates - Effective December 14th blog post.

Summary of the changes:

  • Case sensitive passwords - beginning with the February release, passwords for new CRM users will be case sensitive. Existing customers will be gradually migrated to case sensitive passwords as they login into the system.
  • System Messages (Pages) - added Password Retrieve Request (new) page which contains a form when the user can input his username or password in order to receive the password reset email; similar content to existing Lost Password form
  • System Messages (Pages) - updated Password Retrieve Confirmation page
  • System Messages (Pages) - added Password Reset (new) – opened via the link in the password reset email; contains a form in which the user inputs his new password
  • System Messages (Pages) - added Password Reset Success (new) – displayed to the user after he has successfully reset his password
  • System Messages (Pages) - updated Unauthorized Access page so that it contains a Lost Password link by default
  • System Emails - Updated Lost Password and Secure Zone Details emails to replace {tag_password} with {tag_passwordresetlink}; {tag_password} has also been updated to send a password reset link instead of a clear password;
  • Email Marketing > Create campaign - {tag_recipientpassword} will be deprecated and replaced with {tag_recipientPasswordResetLink} which will send a link to an update password form instead of clear passwords; when running already built campaigns, the {tag_recipientpassword} tag will return a link to a reset password page.
  • APIs - ContactList_Retrieve, Contact_RetrieveByEmailAddress, Contact_RetrieveByEntityID, Contact_RetrieveByExternalID, Contact_RetrieveByUsernamePassword, Contact_Retrieve, Contact_Retrieve (message name Contact_Retrieve2), Contact_Retrieve (message name Contact_Retrieve3) - Password field will return an empty value.
  • APIs - we have added a new API named Contact_RetrieveZonesByEntityID which retrieves the secure zones to which a given contact is subscribed

Note: For existing sites, the content of the modified system messages/emails is not changed automatically. In order to use the new templates Admin users should perform a "Reset to original" operation on the affected messages/emails.

February Security Update FAQ

Q: Can a Partner or Site Admin still update a CRM user password via the Admin UI?
A: Yes, Site Admins and Partners can still enter a new CRM user password through the Edit Customer UI. The new value will be saved and used by site customers to login to secure zones.

Q: How can a Partner or Site Admin help CRM users recover their passwords?
A: Since the CRM user password is no longer readable by Site Admins or Partners in Report or in Manager Customer UIs, we encourage Partners to use the following methods to help customers retrieve their passwords:

  • Use "Email Login Details" from Customer Details > Manage Customer Subscriptions screen; this will send CRM customers and email that includes a link to a forgot password form which they can used to reset password.
  • Update login pages to include a link a "Forgot Password" form that customers can use to reset secure zone passwords; Following the release, it is recommended to use the new Forgot Password page. Read the Allowing Customers to view and update CRM details article on the Business Catalyst Knowledge base for more information on how to help secure zone customers retrieve their passwords.

Q: What happened to the "Lost Password" form?
A: The "Lost Password" form has been deprecated and replaced with an automatically rendered form. Existing Lost Passwords form will continue to work and will send customers an email with an email and a link to change the password. The new Retrieve Password form is linked from all login screens and can be customized from System Messages section.

Q: What happens when the password field is left blank in the import file?
A: We have updated the import functionality so that it does not overwrite the existing password with a blank password. Leaving the password field blank in the import file will keep the existing password. The following uses cases are applicable when updating or inserting customers through import & API:

  • If contact exists in CRM and password field is left blank in the import file, the system keeps the value existing in the database
  • If contact exists in CRM and password field includes a value in the import file, the system updates the password with the value provided in the import file
  • If contact does not exists in CRM and password field is left blank in the import file, the system creates a new contact and doesn't generate a password for it
  • If contact does not exists in CRM and password field includes a value in the import file, the system creates a new contact generates a password based on the value provided in the import file.

Q: Following the February release, can Partners or Site Admins still automate the Secure Zone login by appending username and password to an URL?
A: No. Starting with our February release, site customers will have to enter username and password when accessing a secure zone. To avoid entering login credentials the next time they access the site, site customers can check the "Remember me" checkbox.

Q: Following the February release, can partners send passwords by email to all contacts created using import or APIs?
A: No. Starting with our February release, Partners will be able to include in the email a link to an Update Password form which can be used by CRM customers to setup a new password.

Q: Where can I find documentation about the new CRM APIs so that I can update my customer sites ahead of the February release?
A: You can find a description of the new API on our knowledge base. For more details, read the "Retrieve Secure Zones API Reference" article.

Please make sure that your customers and team members are aware of these important updates.

Thank you for all of your help and support,


View Comments

Here at BC, we make extensive use of email campaigns to keep in touch with our community.

From fortnightly and monthly newsletters through to on-going loyalty campaigns for new users, email newsletters help us keep our 1,000s of Partners in the loop and up to date with helpful hints and tips for building Online Businesses with BC.

Combined with a range of other mediums, email marketing remains a crucial element of BC's online strategy, with our Business Success newsletter sending to our wider community of over 10,000 web designers and developers each month.

In this article, we'll share some tips we've picked up over time that we hope will help you fine-tune your own email campaigns and better communicate with your customers.

Where do I subscribe?

Subscribe Box

Before you even get started:

How do your visitors sign up to receive your newsletter?

Having a healthy list of opted-in recipients is your first step to a successful email campaign, so make sure your subscribe box is easily found and takes no more than a few seconds to fill out.

Another great way to encourage subscriptions is to add the option to any web forms your visitors may be using. This includes "Contact Us" forms through to the checkout form if you run an online shop.

Frequency vs. Value

While it's always good to keep the flow of communication alive, it's also important that you endeavor to provide high value content to your readers.

By all means send a weekly email to your customers, but ensure that it doesn't cross the line into "spam" territory.

Spam Folder

The best way to test this is to ask yourself a simple question: "As a reader, why does this matter to me?" If you're stuck for an answer, then maybe you should go back to the drawing board and rethink your content strategy.

It's difficult to define "value", as it's all about your unique set of subscribers. If you're a web designer providing a weekly update to your clients however, this may include articles on effectively running an Online Business, guides to marketing through social media, or information on post-sales services you offer that will help them succeed online.

Penning a Potent Subject Line

Never underestimate the power of a killer subject line.

At the end of the day, without a clear understanding of what the email contains, it's unlikely that your readers will even open the campaign, let alone see your carefully crafted content.

Keep your subject line to-the-point and make sure that even on face value, it's easy to understand what your newsletter is all about.

If your campaign is part of a series, it's a good idea to include the series name and issue number in the subject line, so the reader has an idea of it's context.

Hint: If you have a customer database of a reasonable size, try your hand at A / B testing. Simply slice your list down the middle, then send each half the same campaign, but with different subject lines. Leave it a few days, then compare the open rates of the two subject lines to determine which was more effective.

Monitor, Review, Repeat

Subscribe Box

Your best friend in improving the effectiveness of your email campaigns is performance monitoring.

Figures to watch out for are your open rate, click rate, and if you're a BC user, your action rate.

If you're aiming for increased visits to a page on your website, but are seeing poor click-through rates, perhaps rethink the placing of your calls to action. Again, A / B testing is a great way to test what works and what doesn't.

The next time you go to send a newsletter, you'll have a better understanding of what attracts your reader's attention and what they're clicking on.

What's Next?

Crafting a successful email campaign is all about finding that unique formula that works for you and your business.

The best way to fine-tune your newsletters is to constantly try, test and revise your methods, taking in knowledge from the wealth of resources available online. Here are some of our favorites to get you started:

View Comments

You may be a professional web designer, but that doesn't mean you're also a mind reader - that's why it's crucial to have a process for communicating with your clients effectively.

This is the first post in a new three-part series, "Your Guide To Better Client Communication". Over the coming months, we'll be exploring how you can establish a better flow of communication with your clients, starting on day one of your business relationship.

Talk About Their Business

When meeting with a client, what's the first thing you talk about? For most successful Web Designers out there, the answer is unanimous: talk about the client's business.

It doesn't matter if they're a cold prospect or someone who's found and approached you - this is your chance to make your pitch about genuinely improving their business rather than focusing on technology or your own skills.

It's a matter of one simple question:

"So, before we get into it - tell me about your business"

Find out when they started, how business is going, what they sell and how they sell it. Show interest and ask questions - "that's an interesting sales process, how does it affect XYZ?" - you're fishing out information about the way they sell and run their business, so you can customize a solution for them.

Your goal is to set the agenda of the first meeting as being about your client's business and what you can do in your capacity as a web designer to help them improve. Everyone loves to talk about their own business, so this is also a nice way to break the ice.

Understand What They Want

Now that you have a firm grasp of how your potential client's business works, the next logical question is: "what are you hoping to achieve online?"

You've got to understand what their expectations are, their motivation and their desired results. Why are they going online? Why do they want to work with you?

Try and get them to express their goals in business oriented terms - I need to: "reach a wider audience", "generate online sales", "get old customers to come back" etc. Some clients are not going to have a clue and look to you for guidance. Others will think they know everything and promptly go about showing off how much they know.

Both the content of their answers and their attitude in answering gives you important information. You may need to alter their expectations, dialing down their enthusiasm to a more realistic level. On the other hand, you may need to significantly ramp it up, opening their eyes so they can see the possibilities they're missing out on.

The key here is to get inside the head of the client and understand how they work and exactly what they want, before proceeding with the project.

What's Next?

What's Next

So you've talked in-depth about their business and gained an understanding of what the'yre looking to achieve online - all from the very beginning of your designer / client relationship.

The open flow of communication and level of understanding you've established has set the stage for better results and a happier a client.

In the next post, we'll be continuing the series by looking at how you can start talking strategy and setting business targets with your clients.

View Comments