So you’ve taken the steps to start your own business, or perhaps you’ve been running a small business for quite some time now. Either way, your overall goal is pretty much the same: to grow your customer base and increase profits.
You don’t need to have a marketing budget the size of Apple’s in order to increase brand awareness and sales. There are several free tools available that can help you stay organized and get the word out about your business.
Here are three of my favorites that I use on a daily basis:
- Hootsuite: The Social Media Tool
By now you probably know that social media is the #1 way to grow your business. It’s basically free and is absolutely the quickest and easiest way to reach your target market. At the very least, you should have a Facebook and Twitter account. (If you sell things that photograph well, you should also have Instagram and Pinterest accounts.)
The biggest argument I hear from small business owners is, “yes, I know I should be more active on social media, but I just don’t have the time.”
Well, let me introduce you to Hootsuite. Hootsuite is an online application that allows you to create a dashboard of your social media accounts and schedule postings to go out automatically on certain days at certain times. You can also track and monitor competitors’ social media efforts and industry news to stay on top of the latest trends.
With the free basic version of Hootsuite, you can schedule and track up to 3 social media networks (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Google+). If you upgrade to the Pro version for $9.99 per month, you’ll get up to 50 networks along with enhanced analytics.
- Trello: The Project Management Tool
If you’re a fan of post-it notes and whiteboards when it comes to your “to-do” list, then you will love Trello. Trello is a project management portal where you can create a unique online “board” for each project you’re working on.
For each board, (i.e. “Content Management”), you can create a series of individual cards, which might be something like “Blog Posts” or “Case Studies.” Underneath each card, you then create your to-do list for that particular project. You can assign certain cards and tasks to team members and set deadlines as well.
Trello is a great tool not only for collaborating with co-workers, but also for keeping track of your own individual goals. Trello allows you to set up “private” boards that are for your eyes only. So, if you’ve just started a diet and workout plan, you could set up a Trello board to track your progress and keep you honest at the same time!
The free version of Trello will work just fine for any small business. However, if you want integration with other tools such as Salesforce, you can always upgrade to the Business version for $8.33 per user per month.
- MailChimp: The Email Tool
If you are just getting started with your email outreach, MailChimp is the perfect email application for you. The free version lets you build a subscriber list of up to 2,000 contacts and send out up to 12,000 emails per month.
The greatest thing about MailChimp is how simple it is to use. There are several pre-designed templates to choose from that make it super easy to create a monthly newsletter, weekly coupon mailer and more. You can also customize logo and header images in order to keep your email marketing efforts in line with your overall branding.
Another benefit of MailChimp is the built-in analytics tool that tracks opens and click-thrus for each email you send out. This helps you determine which promotions or subject lines work for your business and which ones don’t.
The free version of MailChimp will work fine until you reach the 2,000 contacts limit. Then you can upgrade to paid versions starting at $20 per month.
So, if you’re looking to grow your business (and isn’t everyone?), why not give these freemium applications a try? You’ve got nothing to lose and more customers and profits to gain. Plus, once you get them all set-up properly, you really will notice how much time and effort they can save you throughout your workweek. And couldn’t we all use a little more time?
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