It’s an exciting time to be a small business owner because an endless number of resources make running a business easier than it’s ever been. Best of all: Many of these resources are apps that are either free or very inexpensive.
Another amazing thing about some of my favorite apps is that they’re created by people who know exactly what they’re doing! And I’d much rather use an app someone else has built based on his or her expertise than to try and reinvent the wheel.
My advice: Spend your time focusing on what you do best and let some of these apps and platforms help make your life a little easier.
MailChimp is one of my favorite apps for several reasons. For small businesses, it’s great because it is free if you have 2,000 subscribers or fewer. When a small business is just getting started, email marketing is crucial.
Unfortunately, a lot of businesses use Outlook or Hotmail to send mass emails, cc’ing dozens of people. The emails don’t look professional. Plus, most of the time email providers won’t even deliver mail if it goes out to more than 25 people at a time. MailChimp is the solution.
There are a variety of user-friendly templates and MailChimp staffers provide best practices and tips about how to grow an email list. The folks over at MailChimp are also forward thinkers, as evidenced by their mobile-responsive templates. More people are accessing email through their phones than their desktops or laptops so having mobile functionality is a must.
The MailChimp app integrates with third party platforms making it easy to collect email addresses on blogs and social media sites. We use MailChimp for auto-responders, monthly newsletters, big announcements and for our website and blog subscriptions.
Geckoboard is a favorite of mine for small businesses because it displays company metrics in real time. You can monitor social networks, sales, website up and down time and a variety of other metrics. Businesses typically have to pull reports or wait for staff members to gather this information but with Geckoboard you can dedicate a monitor, television or even an iPhone as a port. By having the metrics available at all times, you can react quickly to anything that comes up. It’s a great tool to track positive and negative opportunities.
This one seems obvious but many small, non-tech businesses don’t realize the benefits of Google Analytics. Understanding your web traffic is so important in today’s world. The great thing about Google Analytics is that it’s free and really robust. If you own a Chinese restaurant, you can use Google Analytics to see how people are getting to your site and the search terms they’re using to get there. You might find out that a majority of people are coming to you by searching “Chinese take-out.” But what if you don’t offer take-out?
The search results might motivate you to add this service, or you might consider updating your website to include SEO keywords that you’d prefer your site rank for. There are many different details you can learn from Google Analytics; this article includes details about some things you might not know that Google Analytics can tell you.
Improvely is a tracking tool that can be a super helpful tool if you’re doing advertising on the web. Whether you’re running Facebook ads, doing content marketing, giving out PDF goodies, creating videos or doing any other form of online marketing, including an Improvely link lets you see where your leads come from and which ones convert.
When advertising online the most important thing to track is the conversion from your ads. There are ways to do this with Google Analytics and other ad services but most options usually end up showing you the number of clicks but not conversions. With Improvely, if someone clicks a link and then during the following 90 days makes a purchase, you are alerted to it. At the end of the day you know where your advertising is working – and where it’s not. This intel allows you to double down on your most successful online marketing efforts.
I’m a little biased, but ShortStack allows small businesses, agencies, and individuals to make the most of their Facebook presence in fun and engaging ways. We created the platform to be reasonably priced, and even offer a free plan for users with fewer than 2,000 fans. ShortStack’s most popular features include contests and sweepstakes, newsletter signup forms and integrations with MailChimp, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and more.
We deliver these services through a do-it-yourself platform that consists of more than 40 tools, 70+ templates, and an extensive library of support documents, videos, case studies, and an email support system.
There is an amazing amount of customization ShortStack customers can implement without having crazy programming skills or having to hire a programmer.
There are several other small business apps that I use myself or have used for my business, so this is just a taste. New apps and resources are released every day so I recommend staying in the know and keeping an eye out for new products that can make running your business easier.