If you are not careful, you can get stuck in "tech paralysis" or "tech-overload" and soon find yourselv signing up for service after service. Word of advice, before you start investing in every new tech tool you see, start with a foundation and look at what you really need. Think about how you will use each tool, the time involved in using it, and how each tool will increase your revenue or benefit your bottom line.
Here are 5 essential tools to grow your business online:
1. Web Presence
I’ve heard people say, “I built my business without a website,” or “I don’t need a website.” If you were going shopping, you might do a Google search to locate the right product or service, so follow the same process for your business. You do not need to have an elaborate website, but you do need some type of web presence. There are 5 main pages you need on your website:
- About Us – This is helpful for website visitors to learn more about you, your company, and what you can do for them.
- Contact Us – What is the point of having someone on your website who’s ready to work with you if you don’t have a contact page? Be ready for business!
- Call to Action – This is a mistake that I know I’ve made on blogs I’ve created in the past. You want to tell your ideal client what they need to do next when they come on your website. Do you want them to stay and linger or Do you want them to sign up for something?
- Email or Opt-in Form – I totally hate email opt-ins but the truth is they work. You know those big pop-ups that come up when you’re on a website and it tells you, “put your email address here for more info”? It can be annoying but building an email list will help you be prepared if your website goes down or if Facebook or other social media platforms go down. With an email list, you will be able to communicate with clients or potential clients no matter what happens to your website or social media.
- Social Media Links – It’s imperative for you to be on social media. Provide people with all the places they can find you so they know where you hang out. Also, spend some time to find out where your clients or potential clients hang out too. If your clients follow you on your social sites you’ll want to invest time and do a bit more research to connect with and engage with them.
Also, please make sure your website is mobile friendly. Google now ranks non-mobile friendly sites lower and 60% or more of people view internet applications from a mobile device.
You need email marketing, an email service to send personal emails, and an email opt-in. Email is a great way to build the know, like and trust factor (“the money is in the list”).
You can use a free service such as Mailchimp especially if you are just getting started. There are free popups like Appsumo that you can use on your website. There are different ways to collect emails and use opt ins and pop-ups on your website. Once you start building your email list, you can start sending regular email marketing campaigns.
3. Document Sharing
Because things have become so mobile and cloud storage-based you do need a document sharing tool. Document sharing is a simple way to store your documents, pictures, files, videos, etc. I’ve heard of people’s computer crashing or going down and any document saved on their machine was lost because they never backed it up to a cloud storage-base program. With document sharing, you do not have to host all your documents on your website. Use a third party app like Dropbox or Google drive, making the sharing process much easier.
My favorite: Google Drive
4. Social Media
Social media is my ultimate favorite business essential! Social media will help you build authority, help you listen to your ideal clients, allow you to connect with current & future clients, and share your message.
Think about the people you have followed on social media or the best interactions you’ve had on social media. Think about why you’ve followed others. Was it because they built a sense of authority and information that stands out? How have you found some of your clients or how have you purchased products and services? Think about how social media has affected your personal purchasing power. This will give you an idea of how it’s going to affect your ideal client(s).
Good social media sells itself. Some people get frustrated because they’re not making money right away. It will not happen right away. If you stay consistent with it, you will build a sense of authority and build relationships with people. People will begin to like what you have and they will eventually share it or recommend what you have written on a blog or your services.
My favorite: all of them, I'm a social media strategist remember
5. Payment Processing System
Do you have a hobby or a business? This determines if you're getting paid or not. You could use a card reader like Square to swipe credit cards on the spot if you have a local shop or selling in person. Some other options are PayPal and Stripe which allow you to send a link online so that you are ready to send a payment link and start working right away. Square also allows the option to send a payment link online that has a feature for auto-billing.
Bonus (because I like bonuses)
There will be additional systems that you may want to add on to be successful. Don’t be business tools happy meaning every time you see a new business tool, you get it. Write down what you do so that you are clear on the next tool to invest in.
Here are some other helpful tools to consider:
I - Project management
Use a project management system like Asana, Basecamp or Trello for sharing information and tracking projects with clients individually or with a team.
II - Calendar system
If you run a business, you must have a calendar for tracking marketing tasks, meetings and even personal appointments to avoid time conflict. Don’t have a calendar yet? Use Google calendar for free. It’s robust yet simple to use.
My favorite: Google Calendar
III - Appointment system
An appointment system is really good for people who are coaches or work one on one with clients. This allows you to send a link with designated time slots so it syncs with your calendar. You could use this by giving clients access to schedule discovery sessions, training and one on one consultations with you.
IV - Automation tools
Automation tools are especially handy for Social Media. Block off time on your calendar to schedule your Social Media content for the week or month. Using a scheduling tool like Buffer for example will post your content at the designated time.
My favorites include: eClincher and IFTTT
What are your favorite online business tools or which essential business tools will you add to your toolbox?
P.S. - Feel free to join us in The Social Business Café. It’s a free Facebook group that I created for entrepreneurs and small business owners.