A successful company is built by hard-working entrepreneurs that know their business inside and out — and it always helps to have a little creativity on your side. When it comes to online tools, there are some incredibly useful options to get the job done — whether those are used for sales prospecting, project management, email scheduling, social media, video production, photo selection or time management.
Here are 11 helpful resources designed for entrepreneurs — all recommended by experts in business training and entrepreneurship.
Every business can become video production experts using Wistia. Short form video has skyrocketed to the top of shareable content, and you may get a lot more use out of this content creation tool, with both free and paid options available that can help get your message across to your customers.
Find the perfect time of day to send out social messages — and learn when your target audience will engage with you the most. Buffer will even schedule messages for you, so you’ll save time and still stay connected.
Pexels is a powerful (and free) stock image site that lets you easily discover and use new photos and illustrations for your website or blog — all without having to pay for royalties or license fees. Their ever-expanding library of 25,000+ images is a bonus for any online entrepreneur.
This tool makes the cut for many lists of helpful tools, and for good reason. Google Analytics (GA) is a free tool that is easily added to any website, giving you instant feedback on who is visiting your site, what pages they’re visiting and for how long. Get even more insights by exploring all the rich data within this easy-to-learn platform, then make use of the reporting features to reveal your key metrics.
Online and offline payments just got easier. Use the Square point-of-sale app and hardware (including a contactless payment pad) to accept credit card and Interac payments from anywhere, anytime and right from your phone. Have different employees login with personalized codes, then track your profits with less paperwork or manual processing. You can even view a variety of useful reports on itemized sales.
More tools: Get more suggestions from Host Gator’s list of 15 essential tools for Internet entrepreneurs.
A Gmail add-on, this tool’s most important feature lets you schedule emails to be sent at a later date and time. This is perfect for when you’re working late into the evening or on weekends when you don’t want to risk your message going unnoticed. Pick a day and time, and Boomerang will send those messages automatically in the future.
Any sales pro knows the challenge of contacting the right person with the right email address. With Voila Norbert, you can find any contact’s corporate email address with this tool. Just enter their name and company, and Voila Norbert shows you their address.
This Chrome browser extension is a brilliantly simple way to keep you focused. By reminding you of your main task to complete each day, Momentum limits your distractions when opening new tabs on your browser — plus it includes stunning photos to make your browser extra stylish.
Ever search for the perfect photo but just can’t find it? Now create your own for free with a combination of royalty-free images, well-designed icons and stylish fonts using the free site, Canva. Download the images and voila — you’ve got the perfect image to share on social media, your website or blog.
Asana is “the ultimate tool for managing your projects more effectively.” Consider this a simplified project management app that syncs across all your devices and can be used with all your team members. Never lose track of tasks to complete a project, timelines, feedback and ideas. You’ll be able to see all the progress you’ve made at a glance, and what needs to happen on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.
Ask your clients and prospects what they really think of a product, solution or service using Typeform, which lets you easily design beautiful forms, surveys and quizzes. Using interactive answer modules, they are designed to be fun to use and quick to complete — getting you valuable answers to improve your business.
If you’re craving even more tools for your online toolkit, Entrepreneur also compiled their list of 17 must-know tools for budding business owners. They include several of our selections plus some classic favorites such as Google Docs and Dropbox — helping to make sure your files are always safe and synced.
No matter which tools you use, make sure you explore your options but keep your toolkit lean. There’s no use adding a new tool if you won’t have time to use it, so the first consideration should how much value it will add to your business. Will it save you time, improve operations, connect you with new customers or improve sales? If so, it may be worth adding to the mix.
Part 2 of the “Do-it-Right Email Marketing” series. (Read Part 1 here.)
Your email marketing program has just launched, and your first campaign has shown some exciting results. Firstly, it enticed two former customers to reach out and restart a conversation. Several current customers and colleagues also sent you a note to say ‘nice job.’ And you were encouraged when you saw prospects who have been ignoring your efforts to connect in other ways have now opened this message.
This is a good start. So what’s your next step?
Get to know how to take your strategy to the next level and follow these email marketing best practices:
Manage your email lists
We frequently hear people say, “I’ve got a stack of business cards on my desk…” It those contacts aren’t properly organized in a digital format, you’ll miss out on the majority of their value.
Keeping lists current is tedious and time-consuming — so it’s no surprise that it’s often ignored. But adding, removing and updating your digital contact list, which includes the cleanup of bounced emails that don’t get delivered, should be an ongoing endeavor. Carve out time before and after each email campaign to work on your lists. You’ll always have attrition, so adding new contacts and updating old records on a schedule will keep your time spent to a minimum.
Keep your design simple
If you’re unsure of what constitutes good email design, do some research. For example, you can view 15 campaigns highlighted by HubSpot as well as Campaign Monitor’s Top 100 campaigns. Start to pay close attention to the emails you receive. The most inviting ones probably limit the use of fonts and colors, feature properly-sized and scaled images, draw you in with copy that flows from top to bottom, and prominently display a call to action.
Before you schedule release, test your campaigns in multiple email clients such as Outlook and Gmail, as well as on different devices — desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones. What you’ve created isn’t guaranteed to render that way on all platforms and devices. By testing, you may discover that you want to move elements around or that the phone number in your footer changes to a color that isn’t easy to read.
Create content your audience will enjoy
Remember, it’s not about you. All those vital selling points about your products and company? Give it a rest. Wait until your audience steps up and says, “OK, tell me more.”
For now, develop content that will help your audience and create genuine interest. Include photos, videos and links to useful articles. Tell stories. Surprise and delight your readers. Even transactional emails that acknowledge orders can be playful and memorable.
Embrace the technology
Often once we master the basics of software we leave it at that. But Email Service Providers are continually enhancing their platforms to help users generate more engagement and get better results.
For instance, your platform probably has the option to set up auto-responders — a series of emails that release automatically each time you add new contacts to a designated list. It may also provide integrations with your CRM, website or social media accounts to simplify adding new subscribers to your email account. There are bound to be useful features you can use, so check them out.
Carefully craft your subject lines.
Don’t slough off subject lines as unimportant. While studies show that emails are opened first based on who they are from, the subject line comes in as a close second.
When you’re drafting ideas, strive to create urgency and curiosity. Tailor your text so it’s relevant to your readers and tease with what makes your email an interesting read. For inspiration, read 164 Email Subject Lines to Boost Your Email Open Rates.
Set reasonable expectations
Most companies launch an email program for two reasons:
- They need a system for keeping in front of their existing buyers
- They want to generate new business.
Some email programs quickly lead to inquiries and conversations that turn into sales. When that happens, it’s easy to think, “Wow – that email accomplished a lot. We need to send more emails.” But your email program on its own will never be a rainmaker.
No matter how engaging and stunning an email campaign might be, it isn’t solely responsible for generating sales. If you think it is — or should be — you’re setting yourself up for disappointment in the months to come.
It’s more likely that your first email served as a catalyst, leading a select group of people who already knew about your company, your quality offerings and your strong customer support, to reach out. Fortunately, now that you plan to build on that experience, you’ll have a good understanding of how to make the most of your new email program.
Cathy Cain-Blank is President of CC Marketing and Communications, specializing in developing and deploying effective email marketing campaigns for businesses across North America.
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