In the past few years it’s become a necessity for small businesses to use online tools for their business, regardless of whether it’s a web-based company or not. Social media tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and blogging have become the new pillars of a company’s marketing plan, supplementing or even replacing traditional marketing channels like direct mail.Today, your company is judged more on its website or reviews on sites like Yelp and Google Places than on your advertising efforts.
Your company probably already has a Twitter account, a Facebook Page, and a blog (and if not, what are you waiting for?). But those aren’t the only tools that will amp up your marketing plan and keep you on top of online trends. And it’s not all about marketing – it’s about optimizing your website and making sure your customers have a streamlined purchase process. Here are a few sites and tools you should be using that can make your online efforts more effective, and some suggestions on how to make them work for your business:
Instagram – Sure, you’ve heard of Flickr, and you probably shared photos of your last vacation on Facebook. But the newest trend in photos is real-time sharing. Instead of snapping a photo, uploading it to your computer and posting it to your social sites, app Instagram lets you do it all in one fell swoop. Available on the iPhone, you can snap a photo, add filters and immediately cross-post to Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc. The app also has social features – you can follow other users and like/comment on their photos. If you have a product with a great visual, or you just want to share pictures of life around the office, Instagram is a great way to do it quickly and easily.
99Designs – When you’re first starting your business, you can’t always afford to have a web or graphic designer on staff. But it’s important to have a well-designed logo and website – no 90’s style graphics allowed. That’s where 99Designs comes in. It’s a crowdsourced design marketplace that connects you with designers around the globe for affordable design services. You can use 99Designs to source designs for print and packaging, Wordpress themes, web design, logo design, banner ads, and more. It’s an affordable way to get custom designs for your website, blogs, or social profiles without hiring someone full-time or on contract.
Unbounce – You probably have Google Analytics installed on your website to track your visitors – where they come from, how long they stay, and the bounce rate (how many visitors immediately leave). If you’re looking to increase your conversions, Unbounce is a DIY landing page platform that can help you create, publish and optimize landing pages. Whether you’re looking to A/B test your homepage or create pages for specific campaigns, Unbounce provides a template that allows even the most non-tech savvy business owner to create landing pages in minutes. It provides analytics so you can track campaigns, and plans start at $25/month.
Square – The idea for Square came from watching an artisan turn away a customer because he wasn’t able to accept credit cards. The Square Card reader allows anyone to accept credit card payments on their iPhone. The reader and application are free, and it charges a 2.75% fee per swipe for all credit cards. While it’s not a marketing tool, it does mean that you can accept payments for your products wherever you are – conferences, the bus, walking down the street – using only the application and reader. The tool isn’t available in Canada yet but will be shortly - until then, Payfirma is a great Canadian alternative.
Marketing your small business is important, but so is making sure your website and purchase process are streamlined and effective. These online tools will make sure that you’re a leader, not a follower, when it comes to adopting online tools for your business.
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