With over 300 million users, LinkedIn is the largest professional network and third most popular social platform overall. Last year, LinkedIn announced that it was opening up its publishing platform, Pulse, to the public. This offered a new way to reach a massive audience and anyone could do it.Read More
When you’re trying to get a business off the ground, you can’t afford to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on marketing software each month. When the typical solution costs $800-$2000 per month, you need a way to be able to do everything that an all-in-one solution might offer at virtually no cost. Luckily, there are lots of great tools out there that are available for next to nothing and they offer some pretty fantastic features.Read More
What counts as good content marketing for a mid-level budget? Your strategy should employ a balance of your strengths (speed and focus on good content) while avoiding things that businesses with large budgets might do better (such as trying to cover every aspect of your market’s concerns).
If you’ve been searching for marketing solutions for your small to mid-sized business, you’ve likely combed through a lot of information about social media, content marketing and pay per click advertising. While all of these marketing methods are important and effective, some advocates and advisors insist on putting them far ahead of SEO. The truth is search engine optimization is still a valid and very effective way to get more traffic to your website and draw in more quality prospects.
As sales continue to migrate online, many small businesses are trying to figure out how to create a web presence. Businesses offering products or services might feel like a more natural fit to move into online sales. However, I think you’ll be surprised with the businesses who are finding online success. There is an audience waiting for your business, too.
We’ve discussed the benefits of blogging to market your business and increase sales by driving traffic to your site. We’ve also talked about topics to blog about that may not be about your specific business, but may be related to your business. Still wondering where to start? Let’s take a look at some small businesses that are making their blogs work for them.
You can’t get something for nothing. True. But these days, customers can often get something for half. Websites like Groupon and LivingSocial are deal-a-day sites that offer discounts on services from business within the markets they serve. The premise is that the coupon or deal of the day serves as a contract. If enough people buy the coupon, the service or product becomes available to all. For example, a restaurant would offer an $80 meal at $40. Once enough buyers grab the $40 coupon, the meal coupon is available. According to its website, as of October 2010, Groupon serves more than 150 markets in North America and 100 markets in Europe, Asia and South America and has amassed 35 million registered users. That’s a whole lotta coupons, and a whole lotta leads. Here are some positive points that small business owners have reported after using digital coupon marketing sites:
A visit to my hometown’s website gave me an idea to blog about…are small towns, and by extension small businesses, missing the boat on keeping their residents and customers engaged by maintaining stagnant websites? The information that I was looking for was basic – how to purchase a dump sticker – yet difficult to find, as the site was hard to navigate, with many links leading nowhere. I finally found the information buried below a story about the preservation of a historic building. I really hope they’re not looking to preserve it by moving it to the dump.
Here’s a look at my town’s website: http://www.town.scituate.ma.us. They have improved the look and navigation since my first visit, but the template of the site is a dinosaur and starts to look very familiar when visiting websites of other towns in the area. Here’s one from a town nearby http://www.townofnorwell.net. Norwell’s website is cleaner, but doesn’t feature an “important links” section which can be helpful for one-stop shopping.
I was recently on the hunt for a new plumber. In days gone by, I would have just grabbed the Yellow Pages and called the first one listed in my area. But in this social media era, I posted a request for recommendations from my local friends on my Facebook page. Lo and behold, in about ten minutes, I had five different recommendations. Recommendations, contact info, the whole nine. One, in particular, was repeatedly recommended – so, done and done. Plumber hired and within twenty-four hours I was released from my job babysitting a leaky pipe.
This process made me start thinking about the power of social media for small business. And then I started thinking about my recommended plumber. He has no online presence, and doesn’t want any. Yet, he was helped by social media as well. What if his small business was “liked” on Facebook by all of my neighbors? Would my search have been made even shorter?
This led me to a Google search of plumbers in my area, which returned more than eight local phone listings. Of those eight, only one had a website. It was short and sweet, but did the trick by listing all necessary contact info. as well as a brief bio. of the company. Are plumbers and other trades service businesses missing the boat in online marketing and social media for small business, or does the “Mom and Pop” feel of contacting a plumber actually make the relationship more comfortable? I think the former. The plumber that had a website was the most well known in the area, but definitely not the best. However, if I were new to the area and doing a quick online search, they would most certainly be the one that I would go with.
In the future, we’ll undoubtedly see more and more of these businesses use an online presence and social media activity to reach more customers and expand their businesses.
Photo by chrisjfry.
Mediasync is a PR tool works to help target press releases to the media most likelly to write about yoru business. Instead of drafting press releases and sending them blindly to the world, search by industry or subject matter to find reporters who want to take your story and write about it.
Here’s another PR site that can help small businesses. Reporters use the site when they are looking for contacts to interview for a story. Read through the requests and send your pitch to reporters who can then let the world know about your business. HARO the best small business software for finding PR opportunities.
This customer relationship management software is an online database that helps you track contacts, deals, and customer communications. Multiple users can access the database and it tracks emails along with other notes. It also integrates with other popular apps like Wufoo and Mailchimp.
This is the best small business software for email marketing. Constant Contact makes it easy to create mail lists and email campaigns. Constant Contact offers a 60 day free trial.
Because Hootsuite lets you put all your social media communication under one free umbrella, it’s the best social media management tool. The software includes sites like facebook, twitter, and linked-in to allow for easy posting to multiple accounts. It allows you to schedule messages as well.
Once you start using applications like these, you wonder how you ever managed to work without them. Try them out and come back to let us know how you liked them. Know some great best small business software not mentioned here? Tell everyone about it with your comments!
Finding the time to sort through all the options while remaining productive is a challenge. That’s why I’ve put together this list of the best small business software for productivity and marketing. There are so many great applications that I need to cover these in two posts. Today we’ll focus on productivity. In Part II, we’ll take a look at the best software for marketing.
The best small business software for maintaining easy and fast access to all of your notes is a toss up between Evernote and Onenote. These programs both let you gather notes of all kinds, importing images, annotating them and altering them any way you wish. It’s like having a journal with all your important notes pasted on each page where you have included your comments. These programs are better than a journal, though, because you can organize your notes, copy and paste items easily and even share your notes with others.
Evernote runs in the cloud making your information more accessible, but also more vulnerable. To get the fully featured software, you pay a yearly subscription of $45, which increases your upload limits from 40MB per month to 500MB per month. If you think you’ll be uploading more than this, you might prefer Onenote’s single one time cost of $79.99. You can share Onenote data by creating an html version of your files that others can read but not edit.
Many small businesses swear by this Web application. It offers a real-time back-up, free up to 2 GB, creating an easy way to share documents among employees. Plans are affordable for $10 - $20 per month with limits of up to 100GB storage.
To use Dropbox, you simply drag and drop files you want to back up and they are automatically synced online and to other computers that have Dropbox installed.
iGoogle offers just about everything you need for communications and administration of your business. This fully customizable homepage acts as a virtual desktop and lets you include Gadgets (sometimes called Google Apps) for quick access to many commonly used apps like:
- Calendars, including Outlook and Google calendars
- To-do Lists like Remember the Milk and Todoist
- All-in-one Email
- Various Analytics Apps
The virtual desktop can be configured any way you like, with drag and drop functions. Applications can display at all times, or be minimized to keep them out of the way until you need them. Most popular Web applications can be installed and accessed from iGoogle.
There are endless Google Apps to add to your iGoogle page. These applications work best when used with Google’s Chrome Web browser. Chrome offers additional functionality with many extensions to common Web tools, similar to the iGoogle Gadgets. When all your important Web tools are organized in one location with one-click access, productivity soars.
Check back for Part II of this article, or just subscribe to the blog for notification when it comes out.
Once you’ve chosen a platform and have your blog set up, you need a small business social media plan in place to ensure maximum return on your investment. Good maintenance requires consistency in creating interactive content for your readers. If your blog is to be an entryway for establishing your social network and communicating with your customers, then you need to keep your blog stocked with relevant content.
As a small business owner I spend a lot of time trying to find new customers. Many of the concepts that I learn about and implement successfully will also benefit my clients. One of these is an approach to attracting customers through "inbound marketing".