Starting a new business can be a daunting prospect, but the good news is that once you’ve established a presence online there are a host of tools you can use that will boost your fortunes - tools that require no expertise at all.
Here are four great pieces of software that will help you market your business and sell more product.
Mastering social media - Hootsuite
Social media is a great tool for any small business. Whether you’re letting people know what you do or advertising a new product, the rise of Facebook and its peers has let you reach your audience with more immediacy than ever before.
But to conquer social media, you need to be active on several platforms at once, and it can be difficult to juggle all that work. Hootsuite is the answer. It puts your social media profiles under one dashboard (Twitter, Facebook pages and groups, Google +, Linkedin, Wordpress blogs, Instagram profiles and Youtube channels) and then lets you post updates live or schedule updates in advance.
Thanks to a 30-day trial, you can get to grips with the system free of charge. After 30 days, a basic membership costs a reasonable $20 a month, grants you 10 social media profiles and gives a single person access to the dashboard. (Of course, you can always share the login details with someone else if you don’t mind being logged out). Choose the “team” membership plan and 3 users can be logged in concurrently, though you’ll be paying $100 a month.
Either way, a free trial is a good way to start.
Getting an overview of what people are doing on your site - Crazy Egg
Crazy Egg is one of the coolest tools on the web and absolutely essential if you’re selling online.
The app syncs with your website data and generates visual reports called “heat maps”. These diagrams accurately plot where people are clicking on your site, with each click represented via a heat signature. The more clicks, the hotter it is.
Heat maps are a great way of seeing what people are interested in, and whether the product you’re selling needs to be displayed more prominently.
Crazy Egg also gives you a “confetti” report. Here you can see every click and even drill down into the data: how did the person find you, where did they come from, what did they search for?
Finally, a “Scrollmap” shows off how far people are scrolling down your page.
Armed with this information, you can tinker with the layout of your site to get clicks that count, and make more conversions in the process.
Making the most of email marketing - MailChimp
Email marketing is one of the best ways to get yourself noticed, and with MailChimp at your disposal, it doesn’t have to cost a cent.
The world’s favorite email marketing service lets you fire off mails in bulk, and you can even use pre-set templates to make them look good too. The service is 100% free if you’re sending in bulk to 2,000 people or fewer.
If your brand is growing and your database is ballooning, you’ll want to consider the paid option, but with prices starting at $10 a month, MailChimp represents value-for-money in spades.
There’s a reason MailChimp is used by millions of small businesses the world over.
Designing, without needing a designer - Canva
Ah, Canva. Ever wanted to be a designer but struggled to get to grips with Photoshop or InDesign? Canva is the answer: a designers’ paradise for people who can’t design.
This free tool is an absolute godsend if you want to make nifty Instagram images, create cool stuff for your emails (sent via MailChimp, above), design awesome posters, invitations and more. Simply head over to canva.com and choose a template to get started. The site lays out all the most popular options - Facebook and Instagram posts, Facebook cover photos - in the correct dimensions, but you can even create an image that’s exactly the size you want.
From there, choose a predesigned template you like and experiment with adding or removing images, tinkering with the font, or creating something from scratch.
The app is incredibly versatile and if you create a free account, all your designs are saved in the cloud.
Some of the best templates do come with a $1 price tag attached, but that’s a small price to pay for a kickass design that’s entirely royalty free.
This comes heartily recommended.