14 FREE BUSINESS TOOLS FOR 2017
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Being a business owner and entrepreneur means wearing many hats, all the time. Fortunately, in this ever-advancing age of technology, there are a multitude of valuable, web-based tools to help you efficiently and effectively manage your business. Here are some of the best:
14 FREE BUSINESS TOOLS FOR 2017
Our articles now have a new home, and can be found at www.equineofficesolutions.com. Geared toward the equine industry, we're offering the same great business administration and marketing information in a new location.
Come on over and visit us there!
As business owners, we wear many hats. But no matter how organized and hard-working we are, our approach to marketing can ultimately make or break our business. Consider these top 4 marketing strategies to help you gain an advantage in your industry’s competitive business environment:
A PROFESSIONAL QUALITY WEBSITE
Your website is your business’s face to the world. These features will help assure that you are continually presented to your target audience in a positive and inviting manner.
Design - A clean layout & easy navigation invite your readers in and encourage them to explore your site while learning more about all your business has to offer.
Branding - Consistent branding throughout your website, and all other marketing materials creates instant recognition.
Lead Qualifying - Include adequate information about your business/ products/services to assure your visitors can easily determine that you have what they are looking for.
Blog Component - Integrated blogging capability is highly recommended as a key component of your website to assure successful content marketing and effective SEO.
Capturing the email addresses of your target audience will allow you to stay in direct contact, providing future offers and information.
Lead Capture - Include a dedicated landing page on your website that incorporates a subscriber opt-in form.
Subscriber Incentive - Offer a free report or ebook containing valuable information for your prospective customers.
Email Marketing - Integrating your lead capture system with an email marketing system such as Constant Contact or Mailchimp, will help automate the entire process. Just set-it all up once and let the system do the work for you!
The content you publish and share with your audience and subscribers are what keeps this whole system in motion. It draws in new customers and keeps your audience interested.
Blogging - Draw traffic to your site and enhance your SEO by consistently publishing content rich blog posts.
Email Marketing - Email your subscribers regularly with links to your blog posts, and include inviting offers and other valuable content.
LinkedIn's Publishing Platform - In my opinion, this amazing promotional tool has not received nearly the recognition it deserves. Each post published there is categorized and made available to ALL LinkedIn members.
Content Curation - Other reputable sites such as Reddit or EzineArticles will publish your content for free, producing valuable backlinks to your website.
News Releases - Publishing professional news releases on a regular basis can be the single most effective way to get your name out to your potential market. It’s best to determine several key media outlets and develop a working relationship with each, so they recognize and take note of your news when it is received.
Networking is the #1 marketing strategy for any successful business. It is a daily activity whether we choose to recognize it or not. Approach every business contact as an exercise in relationship building to ultimately grow your business beyond any other standard marketing tactic.Determine where your target market is, then become a visible participant there.
Groups - Join online networking groups dedicated to your niche market, and join in the conversations with supportive replies and helpful, informative posts.
Influencers - Watch and learn to determine who the most influential professionals are in your field, and then introduce yourself.
Events - Meeting other professionals in person is the most powerful way to grow your business relationships. Look for local seminars and other targeted events on your area. Then attend with a professional, friendly attitude (never with the intention to “sell”) and be sure to bring lots of business cards!
CRM - A comprehensive CRM (contact relationship management) system will take your networking from average to supercharged! The most valuable aspect of a quality CRM system is its ability to streamline and strengthen your follow-up efforts. Because without follow-up, networking and relationship-building efforts are practically meaningless. Enter each new person that you wish to stay in touch with, then assign one or more “tags” for sorting and filtering purposes. Most systems will also automatically integrate with your email creating an ongoing record of your correspondence with each contact. You can also schedule email or text reminders to help keep you on track.
Incorporating these key systems & strategies in your basic marketing plan will allow you to grow and maintain an increasingly successful equine business.
Progressive Business Solutions provides administrative and marketing support services designed to relieve workload pressure, streamline systems and maximize marketing results!
For additional business and marketing resources, visit our main site at www.EquineOfficeSolutions.com, and grab your free copy of The Zero Budget Marketing Plan For Equine Business Owners! The tips and tools provided are designed to serve ALL business owners no matter what industry you serve.
I’ve diligently searched the web this past year to gather valuable information to help you run a more efficient and successful business. If you follow me on social media you know that aside from my monthly blog posts, I also frequently share articles from around the web that I believe you will find useful as well. I’m happy to share some my favorites with you below:
5 Ways to Grow Your Email List With Social Media
The Facebook Conversion Formula: A Blueprint for Turning Fans into Customers
16 Smarter Ways to Use LinkedIn to Build Your Business
Adding a Facebook "Like" button to your e-mail marketing campaigns is super easy with Mailchimp!
Facebook ads have undergone some changes over the last few months. Learn how those changes will affect your page. http://buff.ly/J3e6Ml
How to create perfect social media posts http://buff.ly/16cCkcM
Social media is not a bullhorn for broadcast but a coffee shop for conversation."http://buff.ly/13Oih1P
Top 10 Worthwhile Uses For Tablets. http://buff.ly/1fepyQo
How to Use Photoshop: The Ultimate Guide for the Design-Impaired Marketer
Know What Software To Uninstall With Should I Remove It? - MakeUseOf
Beyond Google Apps: The top 10 related cloud services | ZDNet
How To Use Google Analytics To Create Killer Content https://www.openforum.com/articles/how-to-use-google-analytics-to-create-the-ultimate-content/
Content Marketing Tools for Every Budget
20 Quick Tips on Writing Great Blog Posts : @ProBlogger
10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work | Copyblogger
5 Tips To Writing Irresistibly Clickable Blog Titles : @ProBlogger
317 Power Words That'll Instantly Make You a Better Writer
Build a Content Calendar, Customers Will Come - VR Marketing Blog
An effective resource box helps build backlinks and drives traffic to your website. http://buff.ly/WQ727k
How to write an effective resource box to help build backlinks and drive traffic to your website. http://buff.ly/WQ727k
Mindfulness: When Focus Means Single-Tasking
8 steps to make more time in your workday - Organized Entrepreneur
Seven Ways to Manage Email So It Doesn't Manage You
Why Multitasking is Unproductive
Getting Motivated When You're Feeling Anything But! - Entrepreneur On Fire Business Podcasts
23 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Know - Forbes
6 Things We Learned From Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg at TechCrunch Disrupt 2013
Best free accounting software: 8 recommended programs
Confidence, Excellence and Independence: Business Lessons From 4 Great Leaders
3 Smart Investments You Should Not Hesitate to Make in Your Small Business | Small Business Bonfire
The Resources You Need to Be an Awesome Email Marketer [In Under 100 Words]
The Advantages of Segmenting Your Email Lists
10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work | Copyblogger
A simple tip to increase your email signup rate
5 Golden Rules to Creating an Email Newsletter
13 Things to Check Before Hitting 'Send' on Your Next Marketing Email
HOW TO BUILD A LARGE, ENGAGED AUDIENCE - Progressive Business Solutions
"The 5 Steps to A Consistent Flow of Customers" By Dov Gordon
This free seminar is well worth your time!
Customer Journey Management - Optimizing a Unified Experience
7 Simple Ways to Convert Your Visitors Into Customers
5 Quick Things You Can Do This Week to Fix Your Marketing | Copyblogger
Power Networking: Use Your Power Base to Grow Sales
A good press release is still one of the best forms of free advertising
30-Day Challenge: 8 Little Changes to Your Marketing That'll Make a Big Impact
Create Trackable Links - an invaluable component of any successful marketing campaign!
What business or marketing topics are you interested in learning more about? Perhaps you're curious as to how we might work together to grow your business. Drop me a line anytime. ~Carol
As business owners, it seems we're constantly switching hats between marketer, accountant, receptionist, service provider, webmaster, etc. Believe me, I understand, and it’s always my goal to help you find ways to simplify work processes and enhance your results.
This month’s post contains three resources that I personally recommend. They’ve made a difference in my business and I believe they can make a difference in yours as well. Read on, then give them a try and let me know what you think.
BASIC GRAPHIC DESIGN SIMPLIFIED
When it comes to marketing, the saying, “a picture’s worth 1000 words” is so true! Although, sometimes a slight amount of image editing is needed to send just the right message. When this is the case, you could outsource the task to a graphic designer for a fee - but wouldn’t it be nice to have the option to handle some of these little design projects yourself? There’s now an excellent resource entitled "How to Use Photoshop: The Ultimate Guide for the Design-Impaired Marketer" by HubSpot. This extremely user-friendly guide will take you step-by-step through the basics of using Photoshop and other similar design software. Further, if you don’t have Photoshop on your computer, this article outlines some great options to consider: 10 Photoshop Alternatives That Are Totally Free.
AN EBOOK NO BUSINESS OWNER SHOULD BE WITHOUT
There's a brand new eBook on email marketing that just came on the market. It's called "Email Persuasion" by Ian Brodie. The Table of Contents below really says it all:
INTRODUCTION: Why email is the world’s most powerful marketing tool
1. WINNING CLIENTS WITH EMAIL: The foundations of effective email marketing
2. SIGN ME UP: Quickly building a valuable list of email subscribers
3. READ ME: Effective strategies to get your emails opened and read
4. TALK TO ME: Writing emails that engage and persuade
5. BUY ME: Turning engaged subscribers into paying clients
6. AUTOPILOT MARKETING: Using “auto responders” to automate your email marketing
7. TAILORING YOUR EMAILS: Using List Segmentation to get the right message to the right subscriber
8. PERSUADING WITH EMAIL: Learning the science of influence
9. MEASURING AND TESTING YOUR EMAIL MARKETING: A simple dashboard to measure the effectiveness of your email marketing
10. EMAIL MARKETING TECHNOLOGY: A guide to tools and technology to support your email marketing
11. YOUR NEXT STEPS
Click here for the Kindle version on Amazon.com
EASY, FREE FORM BUILDER
The free file storage and sharing application FilesAnywhere, now offers an online form building application included as part of its free version. It’s super easy to use, and includes storage and reporting for all of the form submissions you receive. Google drive also offers a similar form building app.
If you think about it, there are so many situations when a basic digital form would be extremely helpful for your business while providing added convenience for your clients. Here are some ideas off the top of my head of ways you could use custom forms - I’m sure you can think of more:
Basically you can use these for any form or survey that does not require a legal signature. So the next time you need someone to complete some information, don’t send a standard word document, create a simple, digital form and send it as a link. Your clients will be impressed and you will love having that data at your fingertips!
Visit our website for information about our email campaign services, form building and other administrative support services designed to enhance your marketing results. Is there a particular business topic you would like more information on? Contact our office and you’ll receive a reply directly from me, usually within just a few hours.
Dedicated to Your Success!
~Carol M. Aldridge
By: Carol M. Aldridge
I recently attended a teleseminar by Dov Gordon that changed my view of marketing. I realize that’s a significant statement to make, but it’s true. The information outlined in the presentation provided a clear view of how to best shape your marketing message to significantly increase conversion rates. I’m happy to share some of the key concepts with you below.
“The purpose of any marketing message is to answer the #1 question on your prospect’s mind at just the right time.” This is quite a profound statement if you really think about it. Many times we shape our ads and promotions from a perspective of the services or products we provide and what we think our audience wants to hear. More often than not, this doesn't answer the #1 question on our prospect’s mind. Our job is to find out what that question is at any given time.
Dov suggests that to do this, you make a list of all the problems you help solve and all the results you enable. Be specific. You may even poll your best clients to ask them what they value most about the services or products you provide. Then pick one of those problems or results as the focus of your marketing message, and be sure to articulate it in your ideal client’s language so he’ll be sure to immediately understand your point. Avoid the temptation to outline all of your skills and services at once. This will only dilute your message instead of attracting the laser focus of your audience.
Once you've grabbed their attention and piqued their interest, the question on their mind will be, “Can I trust you?”. One way to begin to gain their trust is to create a unique free offer that will begin to solve the problem or gain the result that you addressed in your original marketing message. Although providing value, this free item should leave them wanting more.
Finally, present an irresistible paid offer that speaks to the emotions of your audience and is attainable in their eyes. Watch The Power of Words video and you’ll begin to see how a slight shift in message presentation can result in a major transformation of results.
To get your free offer noticed, use one marketing tactic at a time. Thoroughly package and present it to the audience there, then when complete, move on to the next tactic or venue. Your message will be much more effective and concentrated than if you try to present it across multiple platforms, venues and audiences at once.
The last and possibly the most important step is to follow-up. When someone signs up for your free offer, wait a couple of days and then contact them directly to ask if it was helpful and if you can help them further. Whenever possible follow-up individually to provide a personal touch before automating the process.
In Closing, here are three keys to successfully implementing this marketing system:
1. You don’t need to know everything, and probably never will. Master your current knowledge and then move on.
2. If you are teaching your audience something, be sure they understand the core concepts first.
3. Be sure you have the proper tools, systems and support in place to build your successful marketing system. If you need consultation or specific education, get it. The ultimate value will far outweigh the cost.
For more information, sign up to receive your free copy of THE FIVE STEPS TO A CONSISTENT FLOW OF CUSTOMERS By: Dov Gordon, The Alchemist Entrepreneur.
Image courtesy of TeddyBear[Picnic] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Did this article help shape your marketing plan? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section or email me directly at Carol@ProgressiveBusinessSolutions.net. I would enjoy hearing from you and you'll always receive a reply. Let's start a conversation!
“The idea of hiring an off-site support specialist is foreign to many equestrian business owners,” says EquineOfficeSolutions.com founder Carol M. Aldridge, “but a consultant and support specialist working remotely can deliver the same key services as an on-site employee and in a more efficient, cost-effective manner.”
The language of business, Aldridge observes, hasn't always translated into the business of horses. Ongoing demands for staffing -- who understand the industry's specific terminology and needs -- compounded by constraints in office space and/or budgets, present a horse-related business trying to hit its stride with more of a marathon than a smooth ride to success. Factor in juggling the responsibility of caring for multiple animals on a daily basis while simultaneously managing operations, and most business owners will agree: there simply aren't enough hours in the day to get it all done.
“Consequently,” she says, “many administrative and marketing tasks are not given the attention they deserve and their business suffers as a result.” In an effort to help more equine businesses 'train up' to their potential, Aldridge launched Equine Office Solutions, a one-stop resource to give professionals better remote control over their services. “Through the use of cutting-edge software, time tracking tools and industry-specific support packages, Equine Office Solutions bring business owners more opportunity than ever to decrease administrative costs while significantly increasing productivity. Let’s face it, the horse industry has a language all its own, and it helps if your business consultant knows the difference between a forelock and a fetlock!”
Only those who have shaped their lives around horses know the unique joys and challenges this lifestyle presents. Finding a healthy balance between the barn and the office can be difficult. Now, Equine Office Solutions is here to help, so you can get out of the office and back in the saddle again!
Carol Aldridge, owner and founder of Progressive Business Solutions and its equine division, Equine Office Solutions, is an administrative consultant and support specialist with more than 25 years experience in equine business management. Progressive Business Solutions serves clients in niche business industries across the U.S. and Canada through email marketing, project and event management, list building, website updates, e-book and desktop publishing, blogging, social media and contact management. Learn more at EquineOfficeSolutions.com or call (859) 361-9416 for a complementary consultation and learn how to receive the new Zero-Budget Marketing Plan
By: Carol M. Aldridge, Equine Office Solutions
Whether you realize it or not, your audience is already using Pinterest on a regular basis to shop and explore their interests. So if you’ve been holding back from promoting your equine business there, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Horses are visually appealing creatures, and the equine community is extremely dedicated. So it’s only natural that Pinterest has developed into a profitable marketing tool for the equine industry at large. Not only can farms pin images of their horses, but other product based businesses will find successful marketing opportunities through Pinterest as well. Think of it - tack stores, equine jewelers, authors, artists, trainers, retailers, etc. There are currently over 70 million users on Pinterest, and 9 million of them have connected their account to Facebook, which means every pin and repin appears there as well. Don’t you want a piece of that pie?
TYPES OF BOARDS
REGULAR BOARDS - these contain pins that you include for your followers to see.
SECRET BOARDS - these can only be seen by you. Therefore, they’re ideal to keep track of your personal interests. Note: Pinterest only allows three secret boards per account.
GROUP BOARDS - normally you can only pin to your own boards. But group boards are unique in that they allow you to collaborate with other pinners on boards.
SUGGESTED BOARD THEMES
Of course you’ll want to post images of your horses or products. But it’s important to keep your followers interested, so it’s important to give them some variety. Here are some suggested themes for a few creative boards you may want to consider. I’m sure if you think outside the box you can come up with others as well.
RESOURCES - Rather than just showing off your products, create a resources board to share informative content. Perhaps include pins on famous horses, “how to” articles and videos, etc. Give your followers valuable information and they’ll keep coming back.This would be a great place to promote your blog posts!
OUR CUSTOMERS - Creating an “Our Customers” Board can go a long way in building trust with your audience. They will enjoy seeing the other people who are in your circle. Include testimonials, customer profiles, their business websites and recommendations. Of course, you’ll want to get their permission first, but everyone enjoys some free promotion. You could even make this a group board and let them contribute to it directly.
ABOUT US - Consider creating a board dedicated to information about your company. Include images and stories about you, adding some tidbits about your personal life, like a “get to know me” section. Consider including, pictures of your promotional booth at shows, business travels, awards & recognitions, your pets and even your location and town.
PRODUCT CATEGORIES - Each category of product should have it’s own unique board to further target the potential market. Also, be sure to use key words wisely so anyone searching for your items will easily be able to find them.
OUR FAVORITE REPINS - Use this to repin images from other boards you are following. This will give your followers a better idea of who you are and your unique interests.
USING ANALYTICS TO INCREASE CONVERSION RATES
The data contained in your analytics is extremely valuable and will tell you how much traffic was driven to your website from Pinterest, how many of your images were pinned and when, the most repinned content, most clicked, etc. Here’s an article outlining the basics of using Pinterest analytics: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/pinterest-analytics/
GROW YOUR NETWORK OF FOLLOWERS
SHARE, REPIN, FOLLOW, COMMENT & REPLY
Remember, Pinterest is first and foremost a social media site, so it’s important to interact with the community. The more you engage with your audience and other members there, the more visibility your pins will receive, generating greater awareness for your brand and business.
Pinterest is a website referral machine! If you think you don’t have the time to manage another social media platform remember, it takes just a few short minutes each day to pin fresh content and produce awesome engagement, promotion and results. And if managed correctly, you’ll be amazed to see how quickly your website traffic will skyrocket!
(Article originally appeared as a guest post and reprinted with permission from www.bitsandbridles.com.)
Carol Aldridge is an Administrative Consultant and Support Specialist serving the equine industry for over 25 years. As founder of Equine Office Solutions, her clients across the United States enjoy customized administrative services designed to relieve workload pressure, streamline office procedures and maximize marketing results. Learn more about Equine Office Solutions and find additional informative articles at www.EquineOfficeSolutions.com.
If you rely on social media for any part of your business marketing, I recommend that you check out the Conversation Prism, by Brian Solis. Much more than an infographic, Brian has spent the past two and a half years developing this enhanced, fourth edition social media map.
Brian writes, “For those unfamiliar with The Conversation Prism, it is an evolving infographic that captures the state of social media, organized by how important social networks are used by professional and everyday consumers. It was created to serve as a visual tool for brands to consider unforeseen opportunities through a holistic lens.”
The results of his research are extremely informative and enlightening. Since the last version of the prism released in 2010, 122 services were removed and 113 were added. This confirms that the social landscape is evolving at a dizzying pace, and only those businesses who make an effort to stay ahead of the curve will be successful.
You can read more about the Conversation Prism and the work of Brian Solis in his recent article: The 2013 Social Media Landscape.
If you’re like most small business owners today, you depend on your online presence to reach your potential customers. Top web marketers agree that the best road to success is to grow your online reputation and gather a dedicated list of contacts who are eager to hear what you have to say.
These key tips and resources will help you gain a significant following for your online business:
Define your target market- Targeting your marketing efforts allows you to be more effective in your presentation and yields increasingly successful results. This doesn’t exclude others from doing business with you, it simply increases your conversion rate. People are most likely to respond when they need your services and can relate to your style and offerings. Reference: 10 Questions to Ask Before Determining Your Target Market
Produce unique, valuable content - Research, research, research. What needs can your product or services fill for your target market? What topics are of interest in your industry? Once these factors are determined, you'll be sure to grab their attention. Resource: Free Content Creation Kit from Hubspot
Be visible where your market hangs out -Participate in online communities, guest post for larger blogs and share your blog posts and articles on your key social media networks. Remember to check back often to address any comments. Slideshow: Engage Your Audience With Social Media
Build individual relationships - Now more than ever, marketing is about relationship building. People don’t want a sales pitch, they want a direct message that addresses their individual needs and makes them feel safe and confident in the buying experience. Reference: Build Better Business Relationships
Establish an opt-in system - Present a strong value proposition then create an enticing opt in incentive offer. Be sure you lead your respondents to an inviting landing page with a clear call to action. Reference: Creating an Effective Opt-In Landing Page
Infographic by Mashable: Build an Engaged Audience
Creating a large, engaged audience isn’t rocket science, but it can take a lot of work. Take the process step by step and stick with it - your efforts will yield worthwhile results, and your audience will love you for it! If you have questions or would like assistance with any of these steps, contact our office. We're always available and will be happy to speak with you!
Image courtesy of ponsuwan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net