I’ve been in a tools and apps frame of mind lately. After all, if there’s something that can make my work as a business owner easier, I’m all for it.
So if you’re looking to grow in the coming year (and who isn’t, right?), below are four more tools you can use to do so.
The Right Social Media Platform (+ Strategy)
Social media sites on their own can be considered tools, but I like to work smarter. My go-to is Hootsuite, which lets me manage my Twitter and Google+ accounts as well as my client accounts. I choose not to manage Facebook or LinkedIn there, but it can be done.
I don’t have to visit each site to update profiles. I can even schedule posts to go live at a later date/time. I like spending an hour scheduling for the upcoming weeks so I don’t have to do it daily. You might prefer Social Sprout or Social Oomph. Whichever tool you choose, it won’t do you a bit of good if you don’t have a smart strategy in place.
After all, why are you using social if you don’t have goals?
My social media strategy tips:
- Figure out what you want to achieve. Are you looking to increase followers? Get clicks to your site? Convert to sales?
- Set measurable goals (get 5% of our site traffic from Facebook efforts).
- Set specific times during the week to schedule updates or see who’s tweeted you.
- Decide who should manage the accounts.
I’m no financial whiz, so I rely on QuickBooks to help me send invoices, track expenses, and pay taxes. I’ve heard good things about FreshBooks, too. The more organized your finances are from the start, the easier they’ll be to manage down the road.
My tips for smarter accounting:
- Create a business checking and savings account. Mixing business with personal finances will create aggravation later.
- Set up categories for the spending you do. That might deviate from what your software sets up as the default categories.
- Track everything. Quite honestly, I don’t keep a lot of receipts anymore, because most of my transactions can be found under my accounts online. Just make sure each transaction is allocated to the right bucket.
- Pay your taxes throughout the year. I recently incorporated and have been paying payroll taxes each month. So in April, my tax bill won’t be ginormous.
Email Marketing (+ Strategy)
You must must must have a long-term email marketing strategy. It’s one of the best ways to stay on top of the minds of your contacts and customers, so when they’re ready to buy, guess who they’ll think of?
That’s right: You.
Again, strategy is a key component of your success with email marketing. While services like iContact are great for helping you create newsletters and promotional emails, ultimately your success depends on what you put into those emails, who you send them to, and how frequently you send them.
My email marketing tips:
- Decide what you want to achieve with each email. Just brand awareness? Increasing sales of a particular product? Measure results after you send it.
- Write copy like you’re writing to a friend. Stuffy, formal emails are so off-putting.
- Send one newsletter and one promotional email a month. That’s it.
- Provide valuable content. Include articles and tips your readers can benefit from.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software
If you’ve got just one or two clients, you can probably remember all the conversations you’ve had. But as your business grows, it becomes harder to remember which conversation you had with what client. CRM platforms like Zoho and Insightly help you by creating profiles for companies and individuals, tying in email correspondence you’ve had with each, and letting you take notes for meetings.
Here are my tips for maximizing your results from CRM:
- Set to-dos and assign them to the appropriate team member.
- Track milestones so you stay on task for important deadlines.
- Take copious notes for any client call or meeting. From those notes, decide which tasks need to be taken care of (see bullet 1).
I love that we live in an era where more and more tools are popping up to help us do more – don’t you?
Growing with Tools Photo via Shutterstock