When you're running a service-based business, keeping up with online marketing can be a big burden but staying on top of it makes for smooth sailing.
You have a business to run and, if you're like most people, you put off working on your business to work in your business – doing all the daily tasks that are required for it to run rather than working on it to improve operations and profitability.
Marketing is usually one of the first things to fall by the wayside, and when your business is going well you may not even notice adverse affects because you're so busy with current customers and cashflow is good. Eventually, though, it'll become impossible to ignore and you'll hit the famine part of the feast/famine cycle and be left scrambling to bring in new business.
The good thing about digital marketing is that there are so many online tools available to help you reach your goals.
But that's also the bad thing: the sheer number of tools available can make it overwhelming to figure out which to use, especially for the average business owner.
Everything you do to make your business run more efficiently, though, also makes it more valuable to a potential buyer if you ever decide to sell. Investing in setting up apps that can work together is a great step forward in improving your business to make it easier and more profitable to run, and in making it more marketable to other potential owners.
Below are 7 online tools that I highly recommend to clients looking to improve their digital marketing and/or business operations, each with a free plan available.
The free plans don't have all the features of paid plans, but they're still better than nothing.
- Drip is email marketing on steroids, providing marketing automation and Customer Relationship Management (CRM). In addition to typical features like personalized emails, you'll have access to advanced features like customer timelines to see what each customer has done (e.g. filled out a form, clicked on a link, bought a product), and lead scoring to help you identify warm or hot leads. This is invaluable in helping you know which customers or leads to concentrate on, and in uncovering site content that needs improvement.
- ManyChat is a visual chatbot builder for Facebook Messenger that lets you set up automated sequences, autoresponders, and broadcasts to communicate with prospects, clients, and subscribers. You can view a chatbot demo in the video below, or view the demo with audio explanations here.
Messenger chatbots let you reach people where they already are, on Facebook, and messages average over 80% open rates. With Manychat you'll have access to broadcasts, scheduled posting, analytics, and many other features. The free plan allows 2 broadcast sequences and 4 growth tools, including the Facebook Comments Tool that lets you convert users who comment on a specific post into Messenger bot subscribers. Subscribers can be tagged so you can send messages only to certain segments of them. You can also create bots that help you prequalify leads so you don't waste time on tire kickers, or send out regularly scheduled content like new products or real estate listings each week.
- Acuity Scheduling lets you easily set up client self-scheduling, saving you the time of emailing back & forth or playing phone tag. Sending people to your booking form automatically blocks the time off in your Google calendar so you won't accidentally schedule something else at the same time. Your client can save the appointment to their own calendar, and can cancel or reschedule it themselves rather than having to contact you to do it. You can also set up buffers before and after appointments, to give you time in between them.
- Google Drive is part productivity suite and part file-syncing, online storage, and backup service. It lets you create, edit, store, and collaborate on documents and spreadsheets. You can store project files on Drive servers, synchronize files across multiple devices, and share the files with only those you invite. You can also manage who can just view files versus who can make changes to them. It's great when you're working with someone else to write an important letter, complete a project proposal, or even create the content for individual pages for your website. You can edit a document right in your browser and other people it's shared with will see your changes immediately.
- Zapier – One of my very favorite tools, Zapier lets you automate tedious tasks by connecting the tools you use most together to save time and get more done. For example, with the above tools, you can automatically add ManyChat subscribers or Acuity-scheduled clients to your Drip CRM so you have a central database of all customer information; no more manual entries or importing! You could also have answers to a series of ManyChat questions sent to a Drive spreadsheet (e.g. series of questions for prospective clients).
- Sumo offers free tools to automate your site growth. The free plan lets you grow a list of up to 200 subscribers with tools like List Builder, Welcome Mat, Share buttons, and Smart Bar. Use these tools wisely, though. I often see sites that have gone overboard and include so many in a page that it's irritating to site visitors (like multiple popups).
- Canva is a simple drag & drop editor that you use in your browser. Whether you need an Instagram post, Facebook header, photo editor, pic collage, wedding invitation or poster maker, you can create it yourself through Canva. Tons of templates make it easier for the non-designer to create something that looks good.
So there you have it – 7 of the online apps I recommend most often to clients. Sign up for free accounts yourself and give them a shot to see what you can do!
Or, if you have a mental block as to how you could use them, I offer 1-hour “pick my brain” consults where we can talk about the types of things you could be doing to market more efficiently and effectively while adding value to your business at the same time.
This lets you spend your time on the things you're good at rather than spending it trying to figure out things on your own.
Remember – invest in working on your business to improve profitability and efficiency instead of working in it, and you can end up making more money while working less.