Top Marketing Tool Picks for Small Business
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about how golfers are socially engaged, but many golf courses are not. The same is sadly true for small businesses in general — their customers and prospects are all over social media, but they, at best, play lip service to it. Lack of time is often the biggest excuse.
This week instead of dwelling on the “why not” I thought it would be more helpful to give a few tips on how small businesses, start ups, those in non-profit industries and, yes golf courses, can step up their marketing game with some great free or almost free tools to make their online marketing and social media management easier.
Social Media Management Tools
HootSuite is a tool I couldn’t live without in my day-to-day management of my social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+, etc.) and those of my clients.
It’s my social media “dashboard” where I can view and manage all of my accounts simultaneously across a clean, user-friendly interface.
Monitoring the latest news and hot topics of interest to your audience, scheduling tweets, building lists to manage influencers and finding, following and engaging with prospects and customers is all done through the dashboard. It couldn’t be simpler.
So stop flipping back and forth through social media websites wasting time and energy. The free version of HootSuite is all you need to turn hours of frustration into an engaging labor of “likes”.
An alternative solution is TweetDeck – a social media dashboard just for Twitter. If you’re new to social media and want to start with just one network, Twitter might be a good way to get started using this tool. It’s easy to use and actually offers more information than HootSuite in some cases – such as notifying you when someone follows you.
Content Discovery and Curation
One of the biggest frustrations small businesses have using social media is finding things to tweet and post about. Many of them mostly tweet about themselves, which can appear as spam to followers or potential followers.
You’d be surprised how many times I’ve thought about following a business on Twitter, but abandoned the idea when I checked out there tweets over the past few days.
Limit self-promoting tweets to every 5th or 6th post. Fill the rest with tasty bites of news that would interest your target audience.
There are a number of great tools out there to help you discover relevant content and news quickly and easily. Feedly is my personal favorite.
I follow dozens of golf bloggers and media within my Feedly account and enjoy browsing their headlines with coffee in the morning so I’m ready to post the most interesting articles on my social sites with a little commentary of my own to get a conversation going with my followers.
To make it easier for you to get started, Feedly lets you import what they call an OPML file of feeds from someone else. Here’s my golf feedly OPML file – it’s all golf news, all the time! Just download the file from my Dropbox and import it into your feed.
Start with my list and add your own favorite sites as well. Remember to organize them in a way that makes sense to you and don’t forget to include the feeds from your competitors so you can stay on top of what they’re up to.
If your business isn’t in the golf industry and you need help creating your Feedly list, I’d be happy to help get you started.
Oh, and by the way, HootSuite allows you to import your RSS feeds into their HootSuite Syndicator app so you can view it within your dashboard and share stories directly with your fans/followers.
If you want to find out what’s hot and trending in your industry, try out Buzzsumo. It’s an amazing tool for discovering what stories have been shared the most on social media sites. Here are the “golf” trends today. Notice the top story is all about 9 hole golf combined with firearms and archery. Now that’s thinking outside the fairways!
Visual Content Sites
Today it’s almost impossible to engage with readers for any length of time without some serious eye-candy. It wasn’t that long ago that the only free way to share compelling images was if you shot them yourself.
But today there are a lot of great image sites with free or nearly free images for you to use in your content marketing.
Most people know all about Getty Images, but few small businesses ever thought they could afford to post Getty photos on their websites. But that’s all changed.
Getty has opened up its vaults and is letting businesses embed a selection their media files on websites/blogs for editorial purposes only. The embedded image already comes with all the attribution information so it’s easy, fast and legal to share photos that were once out of reach for small businesses with small budgets.
And don’t forget that you can use these sites to market your own business by sharing your photos for the whole world to see.
If you could only do one thing to kick-start your marketing today it would be to grow your prospect email list and communicate with them regularly through eNewsletters.
Email lists filled with real subscribers are gold. So make sure your communications with them includes high value content in an easy and entertaining format. There are a lot of good email management systems including cloud-based ones. I’ve used a few different ones for my small business clients. The most popular among those clients has been Mailchimp.
Mailchimp offers an easy way to create branded eNewsletters for little or no cost. It also provides some useful tools that allow you to grow and manage subscribers, customize templates, create opt-in forms and auto-responders and schedule newsletter blasts.
It also provides comprehensive analytics (e.g. open and click rates) so you can measure the performance of your eNewsletter campaigns and continually improve them.
There’s an old idiom that says, “You can’t improve what you don’t measure.” And it couldn’t be truer in marketing and social media.
If you’re sending your social following to your website, you’ll want it to be maximizing every opportunity to convert those fans into customers. Start with Google Analytics and Google’s Webmaster tools so you can track, measure and improve your website performance.
If you have a Facebook page then make sure you’re paying attention to your “Insights” to know when your audience is active so your posts are published at the optimal time.
Find out what posts are getting the most reach and engagement and tailor your content based on what’s working well. Facebook Insights provide that and a whole lot more. Here’s a good Guide to Facebook Insights to get you started.
Twitter used to keep our performance and follower information behind an advertising pay wall, but no longer. Finally, they’ve opened up all the research data they’ve been collecting on us and our followers over the years. So go and check out how your tweets are performing and learn more about your followers. You might be surprised or delighted.
All social media sites have some level of analytics so make sure you take advantage of the free intelligence they can provide. HootSuite also offers analytics for social media, but it can cost a pretty penny if you try to access something outside the basic Twitter report, so I tend to stick to what’s free.
These are just a few of the tools I use to make my marketing efforts more effective with less effort. If you have some tools you like to use, please share them below in the comments.
And remember, if you have questions, feel free to contact me at any time. I’d love to hear from you!