Top of the list is feedly.com. This is a content curator tool or RSS reader that keeps all the content you might want to share on social media in one place. As a start up business is important to build your social media profiles by sharing insights and information your target customer will engage with. Some of this content should be your own, such as blog posts, but you can also align your business with content from influencers within your sector.
By curating content from influencers, news outlets and other trusted websites, you can easily access the most recent articles and thought pieces in your sector, and share them with your target customers. Feedly is my preferred RSS reader as it’s really easy to use.
It is also very useful for watching trends and finding inspiration for your own content. If other people are talking about subjects that are relevant to your business, may be you should be too.
With all the content you need to publish on your business’ social media profiles to attract, engage and build awareness of your brand, it may seem like a never ending task to keep posting updates and Tweets. Many businesses will outsource social media management to an agency since it’s such an vital but time consuming job.
However, Hootsuite can help relieve the burden and give you time to pursue other activities. With this app you can schedule your social media updates to be published whenever you like. I recommend putting aside some time once or twice a week to schedule your updates and keep your social media profiles active. Conveniently it also integrates with other tools like Feedly, so you can share content directly from your RSS reader to your Hootsuite account.
Of course, it doesn’t replace all your social media activity you will still need to engage with your followers in real time when they comment or send a message; but it will certainly help you maintain an active presence without consuming all the hours in the day.
- HubSpot Website Grader
It’s important to keep an eye on how well your website performs as for many businesses this is the shop window and first touch point for many prospects. Slow websites and those that are not mobile friendly not only give a poor impression but also attract a high bounce rate; visitors are just not prepared to hang around and wait for your site to load, or put up with a poor user experience.
The HubSpot Website Grader is a useful tool to check how your website is performing and for identifying areas that need improvement. The app ranks your website for performance, mobile, SEO and security and then suggest ways to improve it. Really useful when you first launch a website, especially if you’ve commissioned a web developer to get this right for you, and for monitoring your site long term.
- Google Analytics
Another useful tool for monitoring how well your website is performing, is Google Analytics. Amongst other things you can get metrics on visitors to your website; where they came from, what page they viewed, for how long, and where they went next.
This information can then be used to optimise your website and other digital marketing activities for conversion. If you find all your visitors are coming from social media, rather than search engine results, you will know that there are opportunities here.
Opportunities to improve your SEO to get more visitors from SERPs, but also opportunities to attract more visitors from social media.
Measuring website visitors’ behaviour once they land on your website is also very important. Did they bounce? Did they visit another page on your site? Did they fill in a form or look at your contact page? With this information you can improve individual pages to increase conversion, and replicate your successes in other areas too.
Although you may have a beautifully designed website, with carefully thought out pages featuring all your services and products, there are times when you will want specific pages to convert prospects. These are called landing pages and typically they will include a form to capture email addresses so you can market directly to that potential customer in future.
Wishpond allows you to easily create landing pages whenever you need them, such as for a download like a whitepaper or eBook. Or you may need a landing page from a pay-per-click campaign, ensuring that when a prospect clicks on your link they are taken to a highly relevant and targeted page.
It also integrates with customer relationship management tools like SalesForce and Insightly, which leads me onto…
Once you’ve started to build a base of customers, and prospects, it is important that you manage that relationship by having a clear view of all your contacts. Managing them in your email account or in a spreadsheet is not effective, especially as that list begins to grow; instead a CRM tool like Insightly is the best place to manage these relationships.
This tool provides an overview on each of your contacts including their relationships with other contacts – such as other decision makers within a company. It also includes sales pipeline management and workflow automation so that once set up you will never miss a milestone or opportunity because you didn’t follow up.
As with most of the apps listed here, Insightly has a free entry level product with a clear upgrade path, and integrates with both Gmail and Microsoft mail and also other useful tools.
As well as managing your leads and customers, you will also need to manage your workflow and your teams’. Project management tools can help you do this by having one place where all activities are monitored and tracked. For this I like Asana as it can be used for all sorts of different activities and functions.
Generally I use the campaign management tools for marketing activities. However Asana can also be used for recruitment and HR, product development, sales, IT and top level business objectives. This makes it a bit of a one-stop-shop for a start up company, giving you access to a comprehensive suite of project management tools.
Another bonus is that there’s a free entry level product so you can try before you decide whether you want the all singing and dancing version!
- Intuit QuickBooks
With all your marketing activities covered you might expect your order book to be busting at the seams and therefore you may need some help with bookkeeping and accountancy. Accountancy software like Intuit QuickBooks helps small business owners keep on top of their company’s finances, and avoids some of the costs of professional services.
Most importantly it saves you time, ensures that you know exactly how your business is doing, and means you can get paid faster by handling the invoicing yourself. It can also bring down the cost of accountancy services by reducing the number of hours your accountant will be able to invoice if your books are in order!
- Google Maps
Another essential app in my view is Google Maps. I spend a lot of time travelling to meetings and being late is never good for business. I use Google Maps to find a route to addresses I’m unfamiliar with, and I love the traffic jam buster function. While everyone else is sitting in a traffic jam with their smartphone telling Google that they’re stationary, I’m on an alternative route ensuring I get to appointments on time!
Many of the tools listed above have a free entry level product and can then be scaled with your business as it grows. Even when you do decide that it’s time to outsource or recruit expert support you’ll find that digital marketers like ourselves are using the exact same tools, and therefore on boarding is straightforward.
Let me know how you get on and if you have any questions about digital marketing for small businesses and start ups, please leave a comment or get in touch directly.